White Men: The Pandering Pt. One – History

This is part one of my three part rant? essay? discussion? of racism in pop culture,  how for much of its existence, the demographic it was aimed at was middle class (sometimes Working class) White men between the ages of 17 and 40, and how this manifested in our entertainments. I can’t  cover everything, or even as much as I like, (for example Art and Sports I’m going to have leave out of this discussion. I’m not knowledgeable enough to speak on the Sports issue, and the Art issue is a separate topic of its own), but I’m going to try to cover as much as I can, in as  coherent a  manner as possible.
This first part will give a quick primer into how and why cultural tastes changed, and try to relate it to the culture  wars we’ve been witnessing in the last twenty years.
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White men have had a nice long run as the arbiters of this nation’s cultural tastes, in music, books, TV, and movies. I’m mostly going to talk about the last forty years of pop culture, although I do discuss the precedent for a lot of the bad behavior we’ve been seeing, throughout the history of popular culture.
Pop culture is something that impacts all our lives. It is the books we read, the music we hear, the TV shows we watch, and the movies we see. It is so ubiquitous as to be nearly invisible, and everyone participates in it, and is affected by it, (especially those who think they are not just because they got rid of their TVs.) And since its invention, it’s been entirely controlled by straight, White, middle-class, cis-gender (American) men.
When television  finally reached a mainstream audience in the 1950’s,  much of it was aimed at middle class, White audiences, the only people who could afford it, and it was largely family oriented. What wasn’t geared towards children, was geared towards middle aged men, (with a nod towards White women here and there) most of whom had just come back from the war, were entering the jobs market  again, and had families to support. This helped to create what we now call Primetime TV,  those two to three hours between getting home from work/commute, and going to bed at 11 or 12 at night. Most daytime television was actually geared towards women (and small children) who were being encouraged to leave the job market after the war,and  go back into and take care of the home. What we think of as the modern Soap Opera appeared around this time, and also show’s specifically geared towards small children like Howdy Doody, (which appeared in 1947), Lassie, and The Mickey Mouse Show.
During the 60’s though, many forms of media began to aim for teen audiences, but tastes were still led by the White middle class, and much of American  culture was aimed at appealing to them. Black artists, especially in movies and music, had their own venues and many of them did quite well, while appealing to Black audiences. Just like now, young white  people often appreciated and appropriated Black culture, and every time they did that, their parents hated it, forming counsels to suppress and demonize it. From Swing and Jazz in the 20’s and 40’s, to Comic books in the 50’s, to the beatniks in the 60s, to Rap music in the 80’s, every time young people latched onto some new pop culture interest, the powers that be (the White men that owned all of media) found a way to suppress that interest by casting it in a negative light, or appropriated it in order to mainstream it to a wider audience, to make money  for themselves.
In the 60’s, White adults lost the war against Rock music because Rock music was aimed at young Whites  who, by that time, were controlling the cultural tastes. Music was darker and edgier, with messages of social justice prevalent  in Folk music, and the topic of drugs and sex in Rock. These are the things young folk were interested in and the different media industries crafted product to appeal to the disposable income of straight, middle class, White teens and young adults.
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Television shows, while still consisting of largely sitcoms and Westerns, became edgier and darker, too. Many shows (such as Star Trek in 1963) began promoting messages of social justice and free love that was being espoused by young adults of all races at the time, and the Westerns and sitcoms of the 50’s, with their bland messages about moral authority, were joined  by  much darker police procedurals,  science fiction,  and detective shows. The plots and humor of these shows was more sophisticated and complex. Much of this darkness came about because of the violence against racial justice movements, coupled with a progression in technology. The handheld camera and the steady cam brought images of racial and social unrest directly into the home. Corruption in the White House, and the Korean and Vietnamese Wars brought images of wartime atrocity into the home as well.
By the 70’s, the battles against music, and (comic) books, and movies, had pretty much been lost. But new ones were beginning. There was the rise of Disco, a musical style that was created and promoted within social circles  frequented  by Black women and  Queer Poc, which arose out of the free love movement of the late 60’s, coupled with the Stonewall Uprising in 1969.
In the above article, Arthur Chu lays out a history of White male outrage, from the 1970’s, to now. What we’re seeing now, all the tantrums and harassment, and shitty behavior IS NOT NEW!  When White men don’t like the direction in which the pop culture is turning, they always go into a paroxysm of violent and antisocial behavior to correct that direction. It happened to Rock music in the 60’s, against Disco in the 70’s, against Lilith Fair in the 90’s, they tried (and failed) with Rock music again in the 80’s, and Rap music from the 90’s til now. Mainstream America hated beatnik poetry, comic books, and even tried to ban Harry Potter books, and they worked  hard to censor movies as well, until the studio system was overturned in the 60s, which ushered in a new wave of movies with social messages, sex, and violence, which they also roundly hated.
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It appears that every twenty years or so, we must all suffer through the existential angst of the next generation of entitled White males discovering they are not actually the arbiters of American tastes, as they begin to grow older,  and 20-25 years from now, we’ll probably  go through this all over again, over some new subject. Each successive generation of White men discovers, as they grow older, that corporations involved in Pop culture, that used to appeal to them,  are now  appealing and responding to younger, more progressive (and browner) audiences, and in each generation there is a backlash against that, that they ultimately end up losing, as they age out, and cease to be of relevance to corporate America.
We are also seeing a rise in generational resentment as Millenials come under fire for the destruction of industries previously appealed to by the Boomers and Generation X’ers of the 20th century, like the motorcycle and housing industries. This form of generational warfare is also not new. It happened in the 50’s, and the 60’s, with adults vilifying teenagers for liking Rock music, and again in the 80’s, when the generation that ushered in Rock music, hated the British New Wave, Punk, and Rap music flooding radio airwaves, along with their genderbending styles and fashions.
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In every generation, White men are exultant to win a handful of skirmishes in the culture wars, just as they were happy at their brief victory over Disco,  and their routing of the female led Indie Rock scene in the 90’s, (called Lilith Fair), but they always eventually lose these wars, (and they’re going to lose this one too, I suspect.) Disco survived to become Dance music in the 80’s. The destruction of  Lillith Fair resulted in a huge Indie music scene, led by marginalized people, thanks to things like digital music streaming, Vevo, and Youtube.
The progression of  pop culture goes hand in hand with the progression of technology, and the Internet  has thrown a monkey wrench into practicing their current  outrages, even as it has given them new ways to show it. Their “victims” can now push back in ways they couldn’t in the past, and can now also isolate themselves in “safe spaces”, away from their meddling. Ironically, those musical styles that didn’t receive quite as much cultural pushback, have faded into  obscurity, like Punk, and New Wave.
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White (male) prioritization existed before television and movies, but I want to talk about how Pop Culture and the various media have aided and abetted it. I’m going to talk about the history of White (male) Prioritization in Pop Culture, what it is, what it looks like, and how we all reached the point where White male fans are, once again, doing that thing that White men have always done, attempting to turn the culture in the direction that suits them, as they begin to age out, and their opinions become less relevant to the corporations that seek to ever appeal to younger and Blacker audiences.
This is an especially appropriate topic considering Nike’s new promotional stance behind Colin Kaepernick as their new spokesman. Nike knows which side of the  bread their butter is on, and they’re putting their money behind athletes like Kaepernick, Serena Williams, because they appeal to the younger, progressive, more inter-racial, and socially savvy Millenials whose dollar  Nike wants. It is Black and Brown people who are driving cultural tastes and have been for the last thirty years, (from the 60’s through to the early 80’s, it was primarily White teens. Probably in another twenty years the arbiters of cultural taste will be Latinos). Black has always been cool, but now there’s real monetary power behind that idea, and that shows in the way the country’s musical, literary, and visual tastes have changed since the 80’s.
Side Note: Violent White male cultural outrage  goes back much  further than Pop culture. It is well documented that during reconstruction, after the Civil War, White men went into a paroxysm of lynching and terrorizing of Black people, (the KKK was invented to do just that), and the same during/after the Civil Rights era, and after Brown vs. board of Education.  Every time PoC made any kind of social progress, Whites responded with violence. they reacted just as violently sometimes to changes in Pop culture, too. White men behaving badly, when society is not heading in the direction they want for  themselves, is as American as apple pie.
The move technically only affected South Carolina and Louisiana but symbolically gestured to the south that the north would no longer hold the former Confederacy to the promise of full citizenship for freed blacks, and the south jumped at the chance to renege on the pledge. The end of Reconstruction ushered in a widespread campaign of racial terror and oppression against newly freed black Americans, of which lynching was a cornerstone.
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White men (and not a few women) have spent a not insignificant amount of their time in this country finding (and making up excuses) to violently terrorize women and PoC. From lynchings, to the harassment of marginalized people in online spaces, to mass shootings, it all stems from the same mindset, the maintenance of White male entitlement and supremacy. But this maintenance of White supremacy has also taken many other forms over the decades. One of those methods is White Prioritization. White men have traditionally been the ones to define reality for themselves and everyone else. They got to create the narratives,  name the out-groups, and determine their life choices.
OPPRESSION
The systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of the more powerful social group. Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson state that oppression exists when the following 4 conditions are found:

  • the oppressor group has the power to define reality for themselves and others,
  • the target groups take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them),
  • genocide, harassment, and discrimination are systematic and institutionalized, so that individuals are not necessary to keep it going, and,
  • members of both the oppressor and target groups are socialized to play their roles as normal and correct.

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The media (especially popular media) is often the  means of  disseminating this information throughout  the rest of society, (and the world) and one of the major ways this works is through:

White Prioritization:

To treat or consider as of greater importance than other matters.
The Entertainment Industry is entirely  owned and controlled by straight, White, cis-gender, middle-class men, from its creation, to its distribution, to advertising and consumption, and of course, men being men,  they would  prioritize their own interests, desires, and tastes, mainstreaming all the things they consider to be normal, while marginalizing everything and everyone  else.
*Stitch’s Media Mix outlines how White Prioritization is enacted in fandom:

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MaryAnn Johanson

about 3 years ago… “Did you honestly think that every poster showing a strong, handsome male lead holding a gun and getting ready to do some damage wasn’t designed to appeal to your need to feel and identify as powerful, and that making the lead actor white would make that connection easier?”

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*It is White men who get to decide what movies. songs, and TV shows will be a priority, and what everyone else will be watching and listening to, and the priority has always been for White men:
Casting Jordan over a white actor is pandering to black people and white guilt, as was casting Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor. Making Ms. Marvel Muslim in the latest comic series is pandering to tolerance. Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn finally having their romantic relationship acknowledged as canon is pandering to the gay agenda. Michelle Gomez as a female Master in Doctor Who is pandering to feminists. So much pandering. Why must companies pander, oh why, screamed the straight white male whose only motivation is the unencumbered execution of art free from social issues and something something ethics in video-game journalism?
*It isWhite men who decide what roles will be played by whom, and in what movies:
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*It is primarily White men (with few exceptions) who decide whose stories are going to be told, who will be telling those stories, what gets said in those stories, as well as who is doing the saying, putting  words in the mouths of Blacks, Asians, women, and Queer people, or deciding if those characters will speak at all:
*These same men get to decide which movies will get made, receive critical acclaim, or win awards:
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*Publishing is not quite as bad although the situation is nowhere near parity, and there are still enough  White fan gatekeepers who will act foolish about various social issues:
*The music industry is almost as hopeless as the film industry. While there are increasing numbers of men of color calling the shots in this industry, so far all they’ve done is replicate the  intersectional version of sexism and patriarchy in the songs, performances, and music videos of the medium.
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*And as for the Gaming industry, White male Prioritization has been its watchword from the beginning;

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The Culture Wars

Basically, the culture wars we are witnessing today are not new. They have always been a part of American culture, and most often consist of Americans arguing among themselves over who gets to control cultural tastes, who gets to control the narrative and what is getting said. Whose voice takes precedence.

The ways in which these culture wars have been fought can manifest in different ways, but most often its through bullying, intimidation and violence from the dominant culture, after marginalized people begin speaking out about their representation (or in some cases, like with Disco, just enjoying themselves too much).  Sometimes this control is state sanctioned through censorship, banning of the items in question (like certain books), and even arrests, and lawsuits.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/08/03/culture-war/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ae4a595344c7

And since I’m an intersectional ranter, I don’t want White women to feel left out. Over  the many decades, there have been more than a few White women (and even WoC) willing, and eager, to jump on whatever cultural outrage bandwagon that White men were able to dream up, often in an effort to “protect the children” from certain music, books, and movies. We witnessed this during the ‘Gay recruitment of children’ phase in the 70’s, led by Anita Bryant; the ‘Rock music is corrupting the children’ hysteria during the 80’s, led by Tipper Gore; and the ‘Rap music is corrupting our children’ phase during the 90’s, which was, rather unusually, led by a Black woman named C. Dolores Tucker.

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Lately, it has been a common refrain from white male fans that diversity and inclusion is “being shoved down their throats”. (Why this particular euphemism is so prevalent is an ironic mystery, especially when used to refer to LGBTQ characters in movies, books, and games).  Every time some dust-up in Pop culture is caused by White men being angry about the inclusion of marginalized people, into spaces they have always thought of as theirs, I am reminded of Samuel R. Delaney’s essay about Racism in Science Fiction, which was written waay back in 1998, but is especially relevant today:

 As long as there are only one, two, or a handful of us, however, I presume in a field such as science fiction, where many of its writers come out of the liberal-Jewish tradition, prejudice will most likely remain a slight force—until, say, black writers start to number thirteen, fifteen, twenty percent of the total. At that point, where the competition might be perceived as having some economic heft, chances are we will have as much racism and prejudice here as in any other field.

And he was correct, because this has happened in every part of the entertainment industry that White men had claimed as their own.

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In Music:

Music that was already heavily influenced, or created, by Black innovation, experienced increasing degrees of demonization by the mainstream public, only to later be accepted by that same mainstream when the source material was  deliberately appropriated by White performers, and its initial audiences reached full adulthood. This has happened with every form of musical genre created by Black artists. Young White people love it so much, that they can only respect it by taking it and making it theirs. Unfortunately, their appreciation has a tendency to result in the devaluation and erasure of those who originally created the style, such as happened with Rock music. We’ve been watching this happen to Rap music for the last 20 years, but its happened with other genres:

Jazz/The 1920s

Disco isn’t the first musical style to win White people’s ire, because it was being performed by groups of people they didn’t like, (although some Whites were fascinated by these new cultural sounds), only to be appropriated, and made famous by White performers later:

https://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1069&context=constructing

White phonograph companies refused to record Negro jazz because of
the traditionalist opposition ~o jazz music in the general white population.
Traditionalists, usually Protestant middle-class Americans of Anglo-Saxon
ancestry, connected jazz to the Negro brothels, where it had first become popularin New Orleans. Milton Mezzrow, a jazz clarinetist, wrote that, in the twenties,Negro jazz “was called ‘nigger music’ and ‘whorehouse music’ and ‘nice’ people turned their noses up at it.”6 They refused to accept jazz because they believed it was immoral.

The Blues (1960s)

https://www.shmoop.com/blues-history/race.html

Phillips played an instrumental role early in the careers of the bluesmen Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King, but he is best remembered for being the first to record Elvis. One of the most repeated quotes in the history of American popular music is Phillips’ fateful musing that if he could “find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, [he] could make a billion dollars.”16

That man, of course, turned out to be Elvis Presley.

Rock Music (1950s)

Often, White people treat other cultures as if they were the local Stop and Rob. The internet makes it so much easier for them to eavesdrop on other cultures, watching closely to see what cultural nuggets they can mine from marginalized peoples, from food, to hairstyles, to language, and they pounce the moment they think they’ve found something that can be White people’s newest hot take on…whatever. Incidentally White people never call any of this appropriation. They like to call it “sharing”.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/music_box/2016/10/race_rock_and_the_rolling_stones_how_the_rock_and_roll_became_white.html

—Harper’s magazine published an essay by future Pulitzer Prize winner Margo Jefferson titled “Ripping Off Black Music.” The piece was partly a broad historical overview of white appropriations of black musical forms, from blackface minstrel pioneer T.D. Rice through the current day, and partly a more personal lament over what Jefferson, a black critic, had come to see as an endless cycle of cultural plunder. The article’s most striking moment arrived in its penultimate paragraph:

The night Jimi died I dreamed this was the latest step in a plot being designed to eliminate blacks from rock music so that it may be recorded in history as a creation of whites. Future generations, my dream ran, will be taught that while rock may have had its beginnings among blacks, it had its true flowering among whites. The best black artists will thus be studied as remarkable primitives who unconsciously foreshadowed future developments.

And that’s exactly what happened, as almost nobody remembers that Rock music was invented by Black artists.

Disco (1970s)

Another one of the forerunners to our current culture war was White male outrage at Disco Demolition Night in 1979. Disco was a music primarily engaged in, and created by, Hispanics, Blacks, and Women. Until this too was appropriated by groups like Abba and the Bee Gees, White men raged an all out assault against this music they felt didn’t speak to or represent them.

This resulted in a full-on riot at Comiskey Park in 1979.

https://aeon.co/ideas/the-night-when-straight-white-males-tried-to-kill-disco

http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2016/09/disco-demolition-introduction

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180403-why-disco-should-be-taken-seriously

Rap Music (The 80’s)

There was also a White backlash aimed at Rap music, when it was reaching popularity in the late 80’s, and there were many attempts to brand it as demonic, illegal, immoral, and therefore worthy of censorship :

https://www.thedailybeast.com/when-nwa-terrified-white-america

The Great Rap Censorship Scare of 1990 – Medium.Com

View story at Medium.com

In Gaming

This culture war began  with Anita Sarkeesian (2012), who only had to make the announcement that she wanted to critique gaming from a feminist perspective. This eventually morphed into Gamergate, which pulled in  more women who were involved in gaming (2014), and eventually this  formed the backbone of the Alt-Right. The culture that harassed Anita Sarkeesian in 2012,  is of the same 4Chan mindset that birthed  the current ongoing campaign of harassment of women of color, Queer people on social media.

https://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/internet/2012/06/dear-internet-why-you-cant-have-anything-nice

(There was a second article by this writer detailing some of the harassment that Sarkeesian endured, which I have not linked to, because it contained violent and pornographic images of her.)

https://www.vox.com/2014/9/6/6111065/gamergate-explained-everybody-fighting

https://www.cnet.com/news/gamergate-donald-trump-american-nazis-how-video-game-culture-blew-everything-up/

In Movies/Fandom

Actor Harrasment

Since Hollywood has been listening to marginalized people, and begun the barebones acknowledgment of other audiences besides White men in their narratives, there has a been a concerted backlash against many of the actors involved in diverse, or  race and genderbent TV and movie productions, and characters, with Candace Patton from  the CW series The Flash, Kelly Marie Tran from The Last Jedi, and Leslie Jones from the all female  Ghostbusters of 2016, being the forefront. This has continued with Ana Diop, a Black actress who was cast as an alien named Starfire on the CW’s Titans TV series.

https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/6/5/17429196/kelly-marie-tran-instagram-deleted-harassment-star-wars-rose-last-jedi

https://www.thecut.com/2016/08/a-timeline-of-leslie-joness-horrific-online-abuse.html

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

https://www.vox.com/2018/7/27/17618954/teen-titans-starfire-racism-anna-diop

https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2017/12/27/black-women-are-besieged-on-social-media-and-white-apathy-damns-us-all/#7e22ea9e423e

In Publishing/Comics

The Rabid Puppies/Science Fiction

In the SciFi/Fantasy genre of publishing there has been a meltdown from writers who, just as Samuel R. Delaney stated, feel that there is TOO much diversity in the genre, that as straight White men they’ve been ignored, and that the genre has been taken over by SJWs, who are only giving awards to the like-minded. The less radical version of this group is called The Sad Puppies.

http://www.jimkelly.net/blog/2018/2/3/dont-read-the-comments

There has always been a certain level of diversity in comic books, but in the past five years Marvel and DC have made an all-out push for gay, transgender, Black, Asian, Muslim and other characters as the primaries in their own stories. A number of ” Legacy” characters have been replaced by women and PoC. Iron Man is now a Black woman named Riri, Thor, Wolverine and Hawkeye were replaced by women, Spiderman is now a young Black man named Miles Morales, Captain America has been replaced several times by Sam Wilson,  several DC characters, like Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, have come out of the closet, The Hulk’s new name is Amadeus Cho, the smartest person in the universe is a little Black girl named Lunella Lafayette, and one of Marvel’s biggest selling books features a Muslim girl in the role of Captain Marvel.

https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/the-culture-wars-come-to-comic-books/

High-profile writers of colour like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay joined Marvel’s roster of creators. In response, Marvel and those creators have faced online harassment. “They are legitimately frightened by harassers who threaten to come and find them at conventions, at stores, at their homes,” wrote comic legend Mark Waid in a Facebook post. “One was told she should be burned to death. Another was told that she should be put down like a dog. And those are examples of some of the less hateful attacks.”

https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/expertcomment/comicsgate-backlash-and-the-future-of-the-comics-industry/

https://www.thedailybeast.com/comicsgate-how-an-anti-diversity-harassment-campaign-in-comics-got-uglyand-profitable

Books and Magazines

Fireside Publishing has an entire series, titled The BlackSpecFic Report, which gathers the numbers on how  Black writers are being published less often than White writers, in speculative fiction, along with a series of articles by Black writers discussing how the problem manifests, and how it can be remedied.

https://firesidefiction.com/blackspecfic

https://firesidefiction.com/blackspecfic-2015

http://blacknerdproblems.com/fireside-and-fiyah-bringing-visibility-to-black-writers-in-speculative-fiction/

“Just admit your market’s discerning tastes skew colonial and that you’re fine with it, but stop insisting that apparently 100% of the stories you receive from Black writers just aren’t good enough.”

Comedy

Even Comedy has experienced a backlash from (primarily) White male comedians who have found that the version of comedy that may have launched their careers, has no place among today’s audiences. Thye complain that audiences have become too PC, and that not laughing at their old jokes is a form of censorship.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/gqm5wj/a-history-of-political-correctness-killing-comedy-615

https://franklycurious.com/wp/2015/06/18/whiny-comedians-are-just-growing-old/

https://www.laweekly.com/film/old-irrelevant-comedians-whine-about-censorship-in-can-we-take-a-joke-7169509

Some of these backlashes against cultural change are still ongoing, while some were lost long ago. I wanted to give short primer on the history of the Culture Wars, how it isn’t a new thing, and that this too shall pass, most likely to be replaced by some new one in about ten to twenty years. It is almost always generational in nature with the previous generation taking some crude stance against against a younger more Progressive generation. In this NY Times article the author compares two backlashes, from two different eras, and their similarities.

In the second part of this series, I’ll discuss how White Prioritization manifests itself within the narratives we consume, sometimes in ways that are invisible to the viewer.

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Django Jane by Janelle Monae

Happy Monday to everyone! (And if it’s not happy, then at least have a better one.)

Earlier this year Janelle Monae released her latest album called Dirty Computer, and it has taken me a little while to get to the listening part, so some of y’all might already know all about this, and I’m a little late (although I don’t believe there’s any such thing as being late when it comes to the culture, all that matters is that you’re here for it).

I am so impressed with this album. We had Beyonce’s Lemonade back in 2016, and earlier this year we got Childish Gambino’s This is America.  Black music is entering a new period of social relevance. We never actually stop doing that type of music, but there’s a lot of fresh new music happening on this front now, thanks to things like the Black Lives Matter Movement.This type of music tends to be overwhelmingly positive and galvanizing, and I always love it when we get art  like this. On the other hand, it’s unfortunate that we seem to produce some of our most relevant cultural art when we’re in the most pain.

This is what’s currently playing on my phone and MP3. I haven’t always been the most diligent fan of Janelle Monae. I’ve been sort of keeping quiet about it, while clocking her career. I’ve been impressed with her dedication to politics and music. Janelle has a long track record of addressing Black issues in her work and she continues that here.

I love that she was endorsed by one of my all-time favorite artists, Prince. When I heard about that, I really perked up because Prince was a major part of my teen life ,and I still really miss him, and he did not endorse people lightly. I listened to the entire album, and I could just hear all those little elements of Prince in the background.

If you have not watched the hour long video anthology of Dirty Computer you can check it out on Youtube. I love her flow and delivery, but it was the lyrics that really captured me.

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Django Jane is a spirit that will never die. Every black woman—every woman—should feel like, “Well, OK, Django Jane is a part of me.” I don’t think it’s just me that feels likethey’re tired, they’re upset. Tired of protesting, tired of having to see patriarchy speak all the time. It’s like, “Shut up, get away.” When I wrote these lyrics, it was coming of a place of, if women, if black women had the mic, what would we wanna say? 

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Westworld/Into the Badlands Season Reviews

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

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

Into the Badlands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Westworld Finale:

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Opening Credits/Themes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Finale

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maeve:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dolores:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978): The Loss of Self

 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) 115 min – Horror | Sci-Fi

As a general rule, I like to avoid reviewing and analyzing  horror movies that are already heavily reviewed. My thinking is that there is little for me to add to the discussion, beyond what’s already been said. I think this year I may make an exception, and cover some of my favorites, and I can at least explain why it is I like them so much. Sometimes, in examining my tastes in visual media, I realize I have a type of film that I gravitate to, or find out what it is that is really scaring me, and such is the case with Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

 

In order to understand why this movie works so much better on me, than the others, I have to put things into historical context. America was just coming out of a period in the 60s, where people were greatly consumed by the idea of community. People had this idea that world peace could be brought about by a lessening of the concern for the individual, and more concern for those outside of oneself, something which  could only be achieved by living communally, also known as communitarianism. But this was a failure, and as a result, there were many  failed communities, with the most infamous being The Jonestown Massacre, in the late 70s, which marked the end of that particular era of thinking.

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/jonestown-massacre-what-you-should-know-about-cult-murder-suicide-w512052

The Jonestown Massacre took place in 1978, and really was the last gasp of the Hippie/Free Love Generation, cementing the idea that communitarianism was a complete failure. By the time of the massacre, most of the hippies had given up that lifestyle, and America was fully enmeshed in the Me Decade. I was old enough to understand what happened at Jonestown, and  have the distinct memory of watching the news stories about it. A few years later, I watched, with horrified fascination, the Made-for-TV movie, while my mother explained the details of it to me, in ways than I was more able to understand, than when I was 8.

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In the Me Decade of the 70s, the focus was on the improvement of the individual self, the development of, and getting in touch with, one’s better nature. People took up esoteric hobbies like Chinese cooking, in order to better themselves, they went to see psychiatrists for fun, and they joined movements, like transcendentalism, to reach their higher mental self. Dr. Kibner, a psychiatrist played by Leonard Nimoy, is the embodiment of this idea. But you can see elements of it in Matthew Bennell’s lifestyle, as he darts around his kitchen, frying up dinner in a wok, and in the everyday life of the Bellicec’s, who run a mudbath/spa.

https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/culture-magazines/1970s-me-decade

Economic and political shifts help to explain much of the change. From the end of the World War II (1939–45) until the end of the 1960s, the American economy had enjoyed one of its longest extended periods of growth. That growth came screeching to a halt in the 1970s, and matters got worse as the decade continued. An Arab oil embargo halted shipments of oil to the United States, forcing gas prices to raise dramatically and forcing rationing. Another oil crisis in 1979 continued the economic shock…. Many Americans turned inward and focused their attention on their economic problems rather than on problems of politics or social justice.

This version of The Bodysnatchers sits squarely  in the center of the Me Decade, with its insular focus on the self, and captures all  the dread and fear  in losing that sense of individuality, which the aliens represent. This movie could not have happened in the 80s, in the same way,  as  self development had advanced into narcissistic self involvement, by that time, and was called the Me First Decade, or Decade of Greed.

Several times in the movie, characters state, that when a person is duplicated, all the person’s memories are left intact, but since the fibrous bodies of the pod people are not organic, in the same way that human bodies are, the chemical rush of emotional connections are missing. You’re still an individual, but lack any ability to care, and there is no emotional connection to anything, which  would have seemed nightmarish to people who had spent the past decade caring very, very, deeply about everything.

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I have spent a lot of time and effort in developing who I am as a person. As a young girl, I decided there was a type of woman that I wanted to be, (a combination of Grace Jones, Nyota Uhura, a dash of Ellen Ripley, and my Mom), and pointed myself towards being that person, with varying degrees of success. So developing and understanding who I was, am, and meant to be, is of huge importance to me. My formative years were during the 70s and 80s, when self discovery and enlightenment was of primary importance in popular culture. It helps that I saw this movie during that ten year time period, when I was discovering  what qualities I considered important for being my best self. I definitely think all of that  informs my reaction to this movie.

I have lost track of how many times I’ve watched this movie, and it has never NOT been scary to me. Unlike the first movie, where the emphasis was on the fear of  sameness, and conformity, the primary theme, of this story, is the loss of the  self, a loss of the uniqueness of self. A subtle, but important difference, although both movies contain elements of both themes. The 1978 version is able to  capture this better than any of the other versions, because it’s so well situated in the center of  the ME Decade, in the original city of self love, San Francisco.

The opening credits are interesting. It’s one of my favorite parts of the movie, because its one of the more unique versions, depicted on screen, of an alien invasion. And also because later in the movie, Nancy Belicec acknowledges this, by asking, “Why do we always expect metal ships?” And she’s  right. There’s no reason to assume that aliens cannot transport themselves through the vacuum of space in some other manner. In this movie, it happens in the form of spores, that travel along solar winds.

https://www.space.com/5843-legged-space-survivor-panspermia-life.html

The revelation that tiny eight-legged animals survived exposure to the harsh environment of space on an Earth-orbiting mission is further support for the idea that simple life forms could travel between planets.

This idea, called panspermia, is not new. It holds that the seeds of life are everywhere, and that microbial life on Earth could have traveled here from Mars or even from another star system, and then evolved into the plethora of species seen today.

 

 

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The Bodysnatchers is horrifying, not just because of the inevitability of the invasion, but because its horrifying to watch this happen to the funny, quirky, vibrant individuals in this movie. For as little screen time as we get to spend with Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Geoffrey, we still  get an idea of what a vibrant, and energetic, person he is. The actor, Art Hindle, imbues him with such an  amount of character, in such a short time, (he’s an asshole), that his change after his duplication, (into a completely different type of asshole), is as jarring for us, as it is for Elizabeth, and we start to identify with her through her anxiety over this change.

Elizabeth becomes increasingly suspicious that Geoffrey is not Geoffrey, as she follows him to his appointments, stalking him through the city. There’s a scene of her striding swiftly through the downtown streets of San Francisco, the swish of traffic, and the low rumble of human chatter, the only sounds, as the camera pans jerkily around, illustrating her wound up emotional state, her paranoia, and her disconnect from the rest of humanity. The first part of the movie is full of such scenes of chaotic city life, as the camera jitters and shakes. The city is energetic, and loud, and vibrant, and these scenes show the disconnection between people, that city life encourages. People don’t actually know each other in the city, the population is too transient, and no one is really close to anyone. Well, the duplication process,  simply amps this quality up to eleven. As a Pod Person, you aren’t just disconnected from others, you’re no longer connected to yourself either.

Matthew Bennell works for the city health department, and is very obviously in love with Elizabeth, although it is unclear if she is aware of his feelings, his friends are certainly aware of his feelings, (including Dr.  Kibner). Elizabeth is either unaware of what he feels, or unaware of her own feelings. One of the more tragic moments, for me is, after Kibner has been duplicated, he declares  love to be irrelevant, and Elizabeth’s immediate response is to turn to Matthew, look him in the eye, and matter of factly state that she loves him, because she knows  she’ll be incapable of saying so, after her duplication. She knows that not only will she not love him, she won’t be capable of loving him, and what’s more, she won’t even care. According to the Pod people, she will remember that she once loved him, but she won’t be capable of caring that they used to care about each other.

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Part of the horror is watching these friends fight against their inevitable duplication, as they argue, and love, and laugh. Then, as they are duplicated, one by one, we can see that the duplication process is not as peaceful as the Bodysnatchers would have their victims believe. They are alive, in that they appear to be who they once were,  but that essential part of who they were, what made their life worth living, is all gone. (I think this is where the other movies fell flat for me. I was not invested in the characters, or what happened to them.)

The aliens keep emphasizing that the process is painless, and that all the memories are left intact, and you can tell by this statement, that they lack  any ability to understand why the  humans are defiant, or why they might be afraid of the process, attributing their fear to pain, or loss of memory. The aliens are often puzzled by the emotional defiance of the humans around them, and  incapable of  understanding  that memories, without any emotional context, are  meaningless, and are an erasure of the “self”. Kibner flatly states, “We don’t hate you.” None of this is a personal thing for the aliens, and they are often mildly baffled at the personal reactions of the humans, to being duplicated.

In the scene where Elizabeth first meets Kibner, they are at a party, and a woman is having an emotional breakdown, as she insists that her husband isn’t her husband. She knows this because he got his hair cut short. He has a scar on the back of his neck that he always used to cover up by growing his hair out, but now, he no longer cares about the scar. There’s no emotional context for a habit he kept up for, possibly, decades. He simply doesn’t care. He can’t. That is the tiny erasure of a personality quirk that his wife understood, and possibly found endearing,  and that itty-bitty erasure of self, is for her, the clearest indicator that he is not who he claims to be.

During this woman’s  breakdown, the other party goers look on with detachment, some of them with faint distaste. These are Pod people. They don’t know, care, or begin to understand this woman’s hysteria, and just want her to stop making a scene. Actually, the aliens do have emotions…of a sort, but they are very faint, and very far away, a distant  memory of what they used to be. They all  display a faint,  muted, (as if through a thick wad of cotton batting), contempt for humanity.

 

Ironically, contempt for other people is such a part of Kibner’s natural human state, that one can see little change in his behavior after his duplication.When Kibner first meets Elizabeth, he engages in the worst sort of psychiatric practices, telling her what she’s feeling and thinking, instead of listening to what she says. This entire scene is infuriating  to me, having been on the receiving end of more than a few armchair psychiatric diagnoses, of whatever pathology that someone decided to slap on me, because I was doing something unexpected.

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When Kibner is  counseling Elizabeth, he interrupts her,  and doesn’t  listen to what she’s trying to tell him, as if he knows better than she does, what she’s feeling, and why. Instead of helping her to explore why she thinks what she thinks, he already has a theory handy, and applies it to her circumstances. He tells her  she wants to get out of her relationship with Geoffrey because she’s frightened of having one, and that what she’s saying about Geoffrey is just an excuse to do so. It’s  the  same advice he gives to the hysterical woman at the party,  diagnosing their problems as  societal ones, rather than  personal ones, based on his newest book.

The scene where Kibner is counseling Bennell’s  group of friends is fascinating, because you don’t realize Kibner has been duplicated. He comes across as just a more sedate version of the man we saw at he party the night before, and it is not until after he leaves the meeting, that we realize he is an alien. This makes  sense of how uniquely unhelpful he is to the Bellicecs during that scene. Calming them down is not his objective, because, as a Pod person, he can’t do that. He has no understanding of their emotions, so can’t possibly counsel them. He only causes them to become more upset, and he is, once again, mildly baffled by their hysteria. Afterwards, Kibner says to the Geoffrey duplicate, that the duplication of Bennell, and his friends, can’t happen soon enough, and says it in  a mildly disdainful way. Those messy emotional humans!

The Belicecs are my favorite characters in the film because they really do seem like a quirky, odd couple, who also happen to be deeply devoted to one another. After they thwart the duplication of their entire group at Bennell’s home, they are pursued into the streets by Pod people. It is Jack who uses himself as a distraction so that his wife and the others can escape the crowd. Nancy, however, is having none of that and, refusing to be parted from her husband, chases after him.

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Surprisingly, it is Nancy (played by a superb Veronica Cartwright) who turns out to be the most resourceful. Its surprising only because  you are not invited to think this way about her during certain scenes,  although in hindsight, all the signs of her pragmatism are there. She runs a successful business, and compassionately, but firmly interacts with the customers. As one of them pressures her to turn off the spa’s music, she resists, saying its good for the plants (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the pods, I think). She may have a head full of fringe ideas, and her reactions are a bit extreme, but she knows how to take care of herself, and is the only one who figures out how to successfully trick the aliens into thinking she’s one of them.

We spend the rest of the movie with Matthew and Elizabeth, as they  attempt to outrun the invaders, getting caught and drugged by Kibner at one point. They escape Kibner, and a duplicated Jack Belicec, but the drug eventually kicks in. Elizabeth falls asleep, and  gets duplicated. The pointlessness of all that fighting and running, their defiance of the inevitable, is what fuels the horror, because everyone has to sleep, eventually. Matthew, in a fit of spite after Elizabeth’s death, manages to burn down a couple of warehouses full of pods, but that act is meaningless. The pods and their caregivers have had at least a couple of days to ship them everywhere. Eventually Matthew is himself captured, and duplicated.

The first time I saw this movie, I still held out hope that maybe Matthew had  managed to escape his fate. Part of the reason I got my hopes up, was at the end of the movie, he is seen walking aimlessly around the the areas he frequented when he was human, quietly observing the activity around him, engaging in his usual hobby of cutting up newspaper articles, or going to work, and I remember Nancy’s ability to fool the aliens. I hope that’s all Matthew is doing but how realistic is that?

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We can see what life is like in Pod-land, when Matthew goes to work. At the beginning of the film, he started his day with newspaper clipping, and he does so at the end of the movie as well. This is just a habit he remembers doing, and it makes me wonder if the articles he clips, when he is a pod-person, are different from the ones he clipped, when he was human, and it’s also sad, because without any emotional tie to what he’s doing, it’s just as pointless as his fight against being duplicated.  After all, whatever he’s clipping can have no emotional resonance for him. He wanders into Elizabeth’s department, and the two of them look at each other, through each other,  and don’t acknowledge each other’s presence. Elizabeth slowly reaches over and turns off a Bunsen burner, as if in dismissal of Matthew’s presence, and he slowly walks away, as if he’d forgotten why he stopped there. The  clicking of the burner, as it slows and stops, feels like an acknowledgment of the death of their relationship. There’s nothing to see here! Move along!

Ironically, Kibner’s theory about people moving in and out of relationships too fast, and searching for excuses to get out of them, has actually come to pass. Being duplicated is the ultimate relationship killer, and it also perfectly illustrates one of the movie’s premises about living in the city. People really are disconnected from each other now. Imagine the horror of  not being able to feel anything for your kids, although you certainly remember they’re your kids. Or your spouse. Or your parents. You remember that you have relationships with these people, but you don’t care. No one  acknowledges anyone else’s presence, as they all glide slowly through their routines, with the blank expressions of robots. A bell rings and everyone rises in unison for the exits. It’s time to go home, and do what? They are all just going through the motions of living.

This brings up a point that was well illustrated in a scene from the 2007 version of the movie. In that scene, several pod-people are having dinner, as  television news reports are heard of the Middle East Peace Agreements, and the de-nuclearization of other countries.  In such a world, everything that arises out of human emotions is meaningless. Jobs, money, bills, all of the usual anxieties of life are gone, but then so are all of life’s biggest issues. There are no wars, no pogroms, no rape, no domestic abuse, no violence of any kind. For what reason do people have to harm one another, in a world in which nobody feels anything for,or about, anyone? Kimberly says it best, it is a peaceful world, a world without strife or anxiety.

Recall what I said in my last review of these films, that the next remake of this movie should be done from the point of view of those right in the middle of some crisis, and not, yet again, from the  point of view of comfortable, middle-class, white Americans. What happens in an environment, (or to protagonists), who actually welcome the alien invasion, because it means an end to their suffering. The war has suddenly stopped. No more police brutality. No more racism. The prisoners have all  been freed. Your husband no longer hits you. Can you still make a horror movie out of such a theme? What if there’s world peace, and your personal crisis is over, but you don’t feel relief or happiness, because you  no longer care. What price to pay for this? This is part of the horror.  What if the revolution occurred and nobody cared?

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*(Hey! You there! I love, love, love this movie, and writing this was a labor of love, so let me know if you loved it, too. Like it and leave a comment (if you’re not too shy!) let me know if I should keep doing these long form film essays. The topic for this series is The Foundations of Fear.)

Siren: Season One Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Freeform/Sergei Bachlakov

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

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

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

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

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

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

Westworld Season Two: So Far

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

We’ll start with the tiger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Now for the Geekery!!!

I loved this episode. It was fucking awesome!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Same Bat Channel. Same Bat Sandbox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Bladerunner 2049 (Part II)

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

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

Symbolism &Themes

The Soul

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Women as Commodity

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

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

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

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

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

 

Slavery

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

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

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

*From Medium. com: 

BLADE RUNNER 2049: White Appropriation of Black Oppression

Nicholas Podany

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

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Environmentalism

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Wealth Inequality

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

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

 

Memory & Self

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

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

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

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

 

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Cinematography

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

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

 

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

Costumes

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

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

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

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

 

Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Geeking Out Recommends:

Thelma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thelma is available on Hulu.

 

Blade of the Immortal

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

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

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

Blade of the Immortal is also available on Hulu.

 

Harlots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Batman Ninja

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

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

It is nothing like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from I09:

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

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

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

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

 

Full Metal Alchemist

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ritual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ritual is available on Netflix.

Just Geeking Out About It!

 

This is just a fun post where I can geek out about some of the shows I’ve been watching. I have been watching shows, but haven’t been posting many reviews about them, and then there are the shows I’m greatly looking forward to this month, such as, Into the Badlands, which looks awesome as always, and Westworld, which, naturally, airs the exact same night, and time ,as Badlands.

Later this week will see the airing of Orbiter 9 on Netflix, a Scifi love story of some kind, which I may or may not care for; Troy: Fall of a City, yet another retelling of the legend of Troy; the return of The Expanse, in its 3rd season (one day I’m actually going to watch this show); and the remake of Lost in Space, about which I feel some type of way, since I didn’t particularly care for the movie remake, and there’s a random, token Black woman attached to this cast, which feels kinda weird.

This week I’m also  watching  Black Lightning, The Crossing (this is new), Siren ( I have a lot of good things to say about this ),  and The Terror.

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* Introducing: Thunder
AKA Anissa Pierce, the daughter of Jefferson Pierce, who is also known as Black Lightning. Thunder has the ability to increase her body’s mass while preserving volume, which effectively increases her density. In this state she is near-immovable, almost completely invulnerable. A mob enforcer once suffered a compound fracture after trying to punch Thunder in the face. Notably, she can make her skin strong enough to withstand bullets. Just by stomping the ground she can create massive shockwaves. —Wikipedia
She is also the ONLY out, gay, Black, female superhero, in the entirety of the DCEU (and the MCU, too.)
 
Oldest daughter Anissa is a medical student, activist and part-time teacher at Garfield who is fed up with police brutality and corrupt gangs. She takes a hands-on approach to dangerous situations and reminds her father that little has changed despite years of Black peaceful protest. Every MLK and Fannie Lou Hamer quote from Jefferson is met with Anissa’s rebuttals about everyone being “sick and tired” of no results. She’s the quintessential older sister—a bit overbearing and fiercely protective of her younger sibling Jennifer. Their relationship can be argumentative, but there is love and respect amongst the pair. 

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*Siren

 You have to watch this show just for the novelty of seeing the only Black mermaid in existence. (More on this show later.) Siren airs on the Freeform network, on Thursdays.

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 *The new season of Into the Badlands looks tight! The creators have promised that the world is going to get a lot bigger this year. We’ll see more of the Badlands, and the areas outside the Badlands as well.
This is Pilgrim and Cressida, who have come to bring the Badlands to heel, by force, if necessary.
This is Baron Chau’s brother played by Lewis Tan.
Aramis Knight returns a M.K.
Tilda is on her won this season, having separated from her mother.
Sherman Augustus returns as Nathaniel Moon, now in the employ of The Widow.
Ella-Rae Smith is a very powerful young woman who was adopted by, and is working for Pilgrim.
 Baron Chau returns and kicks off the war in the Badlands.

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*Let’s have a Grace Jones Interlude, just because…

Here she is from the 1987 movie Vamp, where she plays the almost totally silent, Queen Katrina, whose circumstance have been reduced to working in as a stripper, in a divebar, in the red light district, of some unnamed city.

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*Troy: Fall of a City is not getting good reviews, but that may have something to do with its depiction of Zeus, Achilles, and Patroclus as Black men (something I’m here for). The show is also doing something else rather radical, by showing Achilles and Patroclus as lovers, as had been alluded to in Homer’s Iliad. So, we have a canon gay, Black, male relationship in this show.

Now that television has starting pushing for diversity in all manner of roles, we’re seeing that Samuel R. Delaney’s Quota Rule has begun to kick in.

http://www.nyrsf.com/racism-and-science-fiction-.html

As long as poc numbers remained below a certain level ,white people seem to be okay with that, and can claim there is no racism is such and such industry. But once poc start starring in unconventional roles, roles their not used to seeing us in, and/or actually being the stars of shows and movies, they’re going to start showing their whole ass. (Not half their ass.  Not a quarter of their ass. But the whole ass.)

This era of pushback is not going to be over soon. We have an entire generation of people who are only used to seeing us serve the needs of White people in the narrative, as sidekicks, main character support, and the help. They need to get used to seeing us doing other things, and being in the narrative just for ourselves,with our own stories. (Black Panther is a huge leap in that direction.)

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/02/2018 - Programme Name: Troy - Fall of a City - TX: n/a - Episode: Troy - Fall of a City episode 1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Zeus (HAKEEM KAE-KAZIM) - (C) Wild Mercury Productions - Photographer: Patrick Toselli BBC, TL

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*I love this interview with the actor who plays Zeus in this show. Unlike American actors, British actors, as a general rule, have zero fucks to give, and absolutely no patience, for foolishness and stupidity, from movie and TV show fans, and do not mince words when interacting with them and  I find that refreshing.

http://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-03-10/troy-fall-of-a-citys-hakeem-kae-kazim-calls-out-deep-insecurity-of-blackwashing-critics/

 

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And on a more serious note

On TV’s return to nostalgia for shows of the 90s, only the show’s are specifically about White people. Notice that none of the dozens of shows about PoC, that were hugely popular during that time, are getting reboots.

The ‘90s were a heyday for black sitcoms, but you wouldn’t know it based on the reboots and revivals currently in development.

No one can blame A-lister Will Smith for ruling out a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion or Jaleel White for his disinterest in donning Sally Jessy Raphael frames once more in a Family Matters comeback. But why aren’t we reading about deals to bring groundbreaking, fondly remembered hits like MartinLiving SingleA Different WorldSister, Sister and countless other beloved black comedies back to the air? A few breakout stars — like Smith, Queen Latifah and Tracee Ellis Ross (whose beloved Girlfriends just missed the ‘90s cut-off date by debuting in 2000) — are keeping busy, but most cast members are not. So the time has come to ask: Is there something problematic in the industry’s embrace of Roseanne, Will & Grace and The X-Files, but not the iconic black sitcoms that also made the Clinton years an exhilarating time of experimentation and representation?

Given that TV’s nostalgia projects now number in the dozens, it’s worth asking if the trend has yielded any unintended consequences. The intended ones are evident enough. Netflix has generated staggering amounts of press — and apparently pleased many a viewer — by footing the bill for new seasons of Arrested DevelopmentGilmore Girls and Full House (now Fuller House). Twin Peaks: The Return seemingly inspired more think pieces than any other series in Showtime history. And Will & Grace and The X-Files’ attempts to retake their perches atop pop culture were met with much hoopla and huge ratings, at least for their premiere episodes.

But it’s hard not to interpret the current iteration of nostalgic programming as a backlash to TV’s increasing diversity — a throwback to the days of Friends and Frasier when people joked that “NBC” stood for “No Black Characters.” Yes, these reboots and revivals comprise only a handful of the hundreds of scripted shows on the air, but many of them tend to be TV’s highest-profile projects. The fact that, in their totality, they inadvertently re-entrench the normalcy of all-white casts while erasing women of color and queer people is notable and worrisome.

[…]

There’s no denying that spending time with old friends feels good. But it’s also important to observe how the past is being misremembered now, and why. Some ‘90s stars are collecting paychecks again, while others are not. Certain families are presented once more as “all-American,” while others are not. There are those who have the luxury of remembering the past fondly, and those who do not. Never has it been clearer that our nostalgia has consequences.

But it’s important to remember that sometimes our memories fail us, and that our ’90s friends — except for the ones on Friends — never looked as monochromatic as TV is telling us they were.

Read more

#Metoo Issues and the White Male Panic About False Accusations

*Warning for graphic images of lynching.Image result for paragraph dividersThis is one of those conversations that is not being had in mainstream media, and I don’t ever expect that, considering who owns the media. The idea that maybe there’s a reason White men are panicking about being falsely accused of sexual assault. Would that reason have anything to do with being participants in the false accusations against men of color? White man after White man has written article, after article, and endless op-eds, calling for the end of this movement, praising the backlash against it, and calling it an extremist movement that seeks to destroy all men.

 

From a historical perspective, it is only men of color who can have a this legitimate complaint against this movement, but they don’t own the newspapers which keep printing op-eds about the movements destruction, or own the media conglomerates that give air time to White men in a panic over whether or not they will face accusations from some virulently  man-hating contingent of women.

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For decades now, White men have witnessed (and been participatory in) the vigilante attacks that occurred  whenever  a Black or Brown man was accused of rape or sexual assault, by a White woman. They have been the strongest advocates for the incarceration, terrorizing, and brutal killings of Black and Brown men, simply for the crime of existing near the White women, over whom they claimed ownership. Do they really think they’re going to be on the receiving end of such behavior from women, or are they just protecting the “good name” of those who have historically been the perpetrators of sexual assault against everyone: Black men and women, White men and women and  children, both girls and boys?

The Real Reason Why We Can’t Just Believe All Women

Carolyn Bryant. It’s a name everyone should know.

To know her story is to know why women of color do not have the luxury to just #BelieveWomen without question. To know her name is to know that we live in a world where sexual assault is both real and politically weaponized. To know her name is to know that the boundaries of sexual morality are drawn so that white men are able to claim that all accusations made against them are false, while simultaneously asserting that no accusation made against a person of color go unpunished.

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The #metoo movement was started by a Black woman named Tarana Burke, but has slowly been taken over by White women in Hollywood, like Rose McGowan, who has promoted herself as a spokesperson for it. A lot of the people standing up for this movement are White privileged actresses. I can’t help but see in them the kind of women who, historically, have most benefited from lobbing false accusations of rape at men of color, to cover for the  assaults perpetrated against them by White men, in order to protect them, or to cover up their own duplicitous behavior.

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Its also exceedingly precious to me that White men are in such a clear panic about being falsely accused of rape and sexual assault, since historically, those men have been the ones most likely to have engaged in it, while laying the burden of that  sin onto the backs of Black and Brown men. I’m not claiming that Black and Brown men never commit sexual assault, but that it is White men who created the racist stereotype  that they’re the only ones who do.

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https://thedailybanter.com/2018/03/white-lies-matter-when-black-men-are-falsely-accused-of-rape/

One of the many horrors of American racism has been the persistent effort to criminalize black men and the convenient utilization of this racial narrative by some white women to cover up their personal failings or to incite white male rage… Texas is the latest example of a white woman inexcusably putting black men’s lives at risk for violent retribution, incarceration or death.

According to a hundred years of popular media, at least since the release of D.W. Griffiths Birth of a Nation in 1915,  it is only Black and Brown men (and Indigenous men) who are willing, and capable of the sexual assault and rape of White women. Naturally, Black and Brown women, Asian women, indigenous women, transgender women, they’re victimization isn’t considered in this discourse, because they do not matter to such men.

http://melanoidnation.org/while-we-are-discussing-cosbycan-we-also-talk-about-all-the-black-womenraped-by-white-men/

They are considered, by the White men who rape and assault them with impunity, to be un-rape-able, because of convenient stereotypes that have been created about them, by White men. These stereotypes, and accusations, that Black women are hypersexual, Asian women are submissive, Latinas are hot and spicy (and all these women are just begging for it) has regularly been espoused by a White male owned media, in movies, TV shows, books, and song, in order to absolve White men of their sexual improprieties towards them. (It is also interesting to note that the stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman”  has reached popular prominence only after the prolonged period, from the 70s onward, in which Black women felt they could sexually refuse White men.)

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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5723655/

https://spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/josi.12248

According to mainstream media, no crime is too awful, too atrocious, or too heinous, for a Black man to commit. And the prevailing thought is that once a man of color has been accused that he should be thoroughly punished for it. Such is not the case with White men, who have developed a variety of  strategies to help them escape the consequences of any crimes they commit.

https://theundefeated.com/features/being-black-in-a-world-where-white-lies-matter/

Whether it’s a woman in Michigan falsely claiming that a group of black men kidnapped, beat and raped her; another woman claiming a black man kidnapped her 3-year-old and 14-month-old sons(whom she actually killed); the infamous Amanda Knox accusing a black man of the heinous murder she was initially convicted of; or even a man claiming that black men stabbed his wife to death (whom he actually killed). In each instance, the initial story was believable because of the troubling belief that a black man is capable of such a thing.

White men have lead a very successful propaganda campaign of equating rape and sexual assault with Black and Brown men, and the mainstream media has always aided and abetted this, since it is, in fact, owned by White men, who have a vested interest in not having their race be equated with any of the criminal sexual behavior in which they have historically  engaged.

https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2015/04/09/racial-bias-and-media-coverage-of-violent-crime/

Where does the cognitive belief that black people are dangerous come from?

Partly, it comes from the media. A new study by Color of Change found that, while 51% of the people arrested for violent crime in New York City are black, 75% of the news reports about such arrests highlighted black alleged perpetrators.

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Even now, Trump is a perfect example of this phenomenon, in microcosm, a media mogul who attempts to portray  an entire culture of Brown men, (Mexicans) as violent rapists, in order to deflect public attention away from the sexual assault accusations that have been dogging his footsteps for over two decades.

https://journalisms.theroot.com/how-media-have-shaped-our-perception-of-race-and-crime-1790885677

“Many media outlets reinforce the public’s racial misconceptions about crime by presenting African Americans and Latinos differently than whites — both quantitatively and qualitatively,” concluded the report, “Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies.”

“Television news programs and newspapers over-represent racial minorities as crime suspects and whites as crime victims. Black and Latino suspects are also more likely than whites to be presented in a non-individualized and threatening way – unnamed and in police custody. . . .”

In 1915 the movie Birth of a Nation was released. Directed by D.W. Griffith, it is one of the  highlights of cinematic history, but one of the horrific side effects of this film was the equating of Black men with miscegenation, and the rape of White women, (even though it had been largely White men who engaged in both). That stereotype has been the foundation of the demonization of Black and Brown  men ever since. Suspiciously,  it was not until after the Civil Rights Act was passed, that the idea of Black criminality (equating the word “thug” with Blackness, for example) became firmly cemented  in mainstream media and popular culture. The word “crime” became synonymous with Blackness, in a way it had not before the Civil Rights Act was passed. People can’t say n****r without pushback, but they can call Black men “thugs”, and mean the exact same thing. They can’t call Black men rapists without censure, but they can call them”super-predators”, and have that mean the same thing, thus  has such a successful connection been made between Black men and sexual assault.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_stereotype_of_African_Americans#History

According to Marc Mauer however, although African Americans have been consistently stereotyped as “biologically flawed” individuals who have a general tendency towards crime, the depiction of African Americans as criminals became more threatening only in the 1970s and early 1980s- with the evolution of the stereotype of African American males as “petty thieves” to “ominous criminal predators”.[22] 

I will say that I do not trust White women to be the head of this new movement. For far too long they have historically not called out (and even in some cases, been complicit with) white men who have been accused of assault. 68% of White women voted for Alabama representative Roy Moore, who had been accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls.

https://www.usnews.com/opinion/civil-wars/articles/2017-12-14/roy-moore-donald-trump-and-white-women-voting-for-misogyny

In fact, women who regularly interact with misogynistic men are frequently praised and rewarded by those men for their complicity. When they ridicule other women who take to the streets to challenge inequality, they’re praised for being “real” women. When they brush off vulgar comments about other women as mere “locker room talk,” they’re praised for knowing how to “take a joke.” When they question the veracity of sexual assault allegations made by other women, they’re praised for sending a clear message that they stand by and with the men in their lives, no matter what. When they openly support candidates like Trump and Moore who seek to silence women, they earn praise for their ability to see past trivial “women’s issues.”

This is just one of the  problems with this movement which no one is discussing:  The racial implications to Black men, and White men’s reasons for panicking at the thought of the movement’s success. The White female proponents of this movement are not taking into account the effect this particular movement would have on men of color, and that it could be weaponized to victimize Black and Brown men, even more.  Or that what this movement appears to be doing from the point of view of panicky White men, is move the burden of sexual assault, and rape accusations  onto those to whom it truly belongs: White, cis-gender, straight men.

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/perpetrators-sexual-violence

5 circle graphs that represent the percentage of perpetrators by race or ethnicity. 57% of perpetrators are white, 27% are black, 8% are of an unknown ethnicity, 6% are other, and 1% are mixed.

 

 

 

The Problems With Netflix’s The Titan

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Despite the fact that this movie involves Sam Worthington, I was really looking forward to seeing it. I don’t like Worthington, not just because he’s a lousy, one note actor, but because I’m still mad at him for playing a disabled man in Avatar, a movie I hate. (My problems with Avatar run deep, btw.) I was looking forward to watching this movie. I like movies about people being transformed by alien DNA ,and  I was lead by the trailers to believe that’s what this movie would be about.

It is not about that, and that’s not my first disappointment, in this movie.

My first problem was with the basic premise. Humans have so fucked up Earth that one of the ideas they come up with for helping the human race to survive is moving to another planet. Specifically, humanity makes plans to move to one of Saturn’s moons, called Titan.To that end, the plan of the lead scientist in the movie is, to genetically modify human beings to be able to survive on Titan. The movie’s volunteers are given a series of injections and surgeries to change their bodies to be able  to live on Titan. And no, no alien DNA was involved at all. It involves genetic resequencing or something. I don’t know anything about that, but the movie didn’t do a good job of selling me on it, as a legitimate science.

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I objected to this premise because no matter how much I love space travel (and yeah I do think we should move off Earth eventually) I don’t think our motivation should be abandoning Earth because we treated it like a garbage dump, while we were on it. I don’t think humanity needs to get in the habit of moving from planet to planet, like a plague of locusts, after we’ve used up a planet’s resources, and that’s exactly the premise of this movie. In the movie they spend several million dollars trying to get a handful of people to Titan, rather than using that money to fix the planet they’re already on.

Now, just because I’m an artist doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy science, and I do know something about the moon Titan. I did not get the impression that the makers of this movie knew anything about Titan, or the importance of any of its physical attributes, in crafting a creature that could live there. There’s a lot of emphasis on people holding their breath underwater, and being able to swim. I didn’t  think either of these skills would be helpful on Titan, which is cold, with a really dense atmosphere full of nitrogen. Scientists think there’s liquid water on Titan, and despite all the breath-holding, and swimming, I didn’t get the impression the creators of this film knew that.

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The program calls for  twelve volunteers, only one of these volunteers survives to the end of the movie, which is disappointing to say the least. One by one, the volunteers die horribly, or go insane, until only Worthington;s character is left. He then gets chased by the scientists who created him, before he gets captured, and sent to Titan by himself,  because he’s not physically equipped to live on Earth, which defeats the purpose of the entire chase sequence at the end of the movie. Frankly, I  think all of the volunteers should have started dying in Earth’s atmosphere the moment they started transforming. You would think the kind of lifeform that could exist on Titan is not going to be able to run around causing too much havoc on Earth without some kind of life support.

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What’s Worthington gonna do on the planet by himself? How the hell is he gonna make more of his kind? Are more of them coming? We don’t know and  I have no idea, (or I wasn’t paying close enough attention.)How is humanity supposed to survive with this one guy on Titan? Of course, now that he is on Titan and transformed into a conveniently humanoid creature that lives there, then he really isn’t human anymore, as far I’m concerned. He’s just a human offshoot, who is all alone on this planet, unless the scientists who created him have other plans to torture some more people into being able to live there. The volunteers were all young, pretty, and fit human beings, and they all died.

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We also don’t get to see any of the environmental devastation the movie claims to be about, and everyone looks pretty healthy. I mean everyone, their kids and wives. Even in Bladerunner we got some idea of the environmental devastation that humans are escaping to the offworld colonies for. The Titan takes place in a kind of desert oasis set aside for the purposes of the Titan program. We are simply told about Earth’s ecological devastation, and shown not a single visual of any of it. We spend our entire time at the scientific oasis, so we have  nothing to compare the volunteers present living conditions , to whatever it was that made them desperate enough to volunteer for a mission they most likely wouldn’t survive. What are they escaping from? What made each of them volunteer? None of this is explored very deeply in the movie, which would’ve made it much more interesting to watch.

What is not interesting though is watching the lead characters wife. We spend most of our time chronicling her growing mental and emotional anguish at watching her husband transform into a being  unable to communicate with her, and I get that it would be upsetting, but I really started to get exasperated with her. It was my understanding that she sort of knew what she was getting into when she and her husband volunteered for the program, so all of her histrionics rang a bit hollow, and pointless, for me. She swings uncomfortably close to the stereotype of the nagging wife who argues that she needs to keep her heroic husband all to herself and her family, because he’s given enough to the world, and not enough to his family. This trope is seen in just about any movie about a married man, who gets tasked with some dangerous activity, and I’ve seen it in everything from Red Dragon, to World War Z.

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The Titan doesn’t work as a horror movie because there’s no horror in it, (Alien) and it doesn’t work as a science movie because none of the science makes any sense, or is very convincing (Europa Report), and it lacks any sense of awe, (2001: A Space Odyssey). It doesn’t work as a drama either (Gravity) because the dramatic tension feels pointless, and contrived.

The Titan also  requires that the audience go along with the basic premise of the movie, that we abandon Earth as a species because we fucked it up. Although, I guess there is a certain amount of hope here, because the  Titans think so differently from human beings, that they won’t do to Titan what humans did to Earth. The movie managed to get that idea across, at least.

A Quiet Place Review

Mom managed to talk me into going to see this movie, which I had no plans to see, at the theater. I didn’t want to see it, not because I thought it was going to be bad, (I was really intrigued by it), but because sometimes my anxiety likes to ramp itself up, and I can’t leave the theater. When you’re at home you can turn off the TV, or pause a disc, but its a lot harder to call time out in public. I told her this, but she really wanted to see it, and it really did look good, so we agreed that I could hold her hand if I got too scared.

I loved it, actually. I love scary movies, but usually only only watch them when I can control my reaction to them. I didn’t get too scared, though. There were a couple of moments where I was white knuckling it a bit, because I really did like the characters, and empathized with them. One of the ways of controlling my anxiety is telling myself is that its okay, I’m not actually in any danger, and this is what I’m supposed to be feeling during such scenes. This is a process that may, or may not, work for you in public, but I have many, many years of practice at managing such this.

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Also, one of the reasons I didn’t get too worked up is because the movie isn’t exactly what I expected. It has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Normally, I don’t give a fly what a movie’s rating is on that site, but in this case, I understand why it’s rated so high, and I see why people are crazy about it. It really is very good, just not what I was expecting. I was expecting more bombast, more jump scares, lots of monsters, but the writers did more interesting things.

If you’re going to see this for the monster, or for gore, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s not much of either, beyond the occasional blink and you’ll miss it shot. You do get a good look at the monster eventually, but  the monsters are not the focus of the movie. Like the movie Alien, the focus is the relationships between the characters, and how they’re dealing with a horrific situation.

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The Earth has experienced some kind of alien invasion, most of humanity has been killed, and the ones left alive mostly live underground, and can’t make any noise, or the aliens, which operate solely on sound waves, (they don’t have eyes) will attack them. The aliens are extremely fast and brutal, with long legs, and giant claws. They don’t eat their victims it seems. They just kill them. I think they just dislike noise. I had the impression that they view loud noises as some sort of attack, rather than as a source of food.

The movie follows a family with a deaf daughter, and a hearing son, who are navigating this world with its new set of rules. They go barefoot, along sand trails that have been set down by the father, to the places they most often frequent. They use American Sign Language to communicate. They wear headphones to listen to anything. They live above ground during the day because the father has been working to perfect a radio system to communicate with any other people.

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Most of this information you can get from paying close attention to what’s happening on the screen. There’s no sound for most of the movies running time, so there’s plenty of time to concentrate, and if you don’t like to read movies…too bad.. you’re to see this movie anyway, and like it!

The terror comes from the logistics of living in a world in which the slightest sound you make could get you killed. When you think about it, human beings are made up of nothing but noise. It seems to be our primary superpower, and kids and babies are noise personified. Getting above a certain decibel level attracts the monsters, and just because you hunker down and get quiet doesn’t mean necessarily mean they go away. There are work-arounds to be had, though. For example, natural sounds like running water, wind, storms, etc.do not attract them, and if you’re near something that’s a natural sound, that’s louder than whatever noise you’re making, you’re mostly safe. I enjoyed watching some of the father’s clever ideas of living within the rules.

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The movie is mostly about this family, their relationships, how they feel about what’s happening and how they navigate this world. The parents are genuinely in love, they love their kids deeply, and most of the film’s tension arises from their need to keep their children safe, and past guilts. At the beginning of the movie something horrible happens that the daughter spends the rest of the movie blaming herself for, and believing her father blames her and hates her for, too. Meanwhile, the mother also blames herself for it, and the son is just terrified of living in this world, in general.

I loved Emily Blunt here. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while now, and she really carries the emotionalism in this movie. The rest of the cast is good too, especially the little actress who plays the daughter. I really enjoyed her performance, although I could’ve done without the “kids wander off on their own” plot points. A lot of the plot points are predictable too, but the acting is so well done, you’re not particularly bothered by that. And the movie is just beautiful to look at. The country landscape is lush and green and…quiet.

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There were a few things I noticed that I had questions about, and a lot of things you can infer from the information onscreen. I understand why cities would have been abandoned. And we witness that any animal that makes noise will be attacked, not just human beings, which implies that most of Earth’s ground animals were probably killed. We can still see that there are some birds left, and that would make some sense.

My biggest problem was the ending, which was only disappointing in the sense that I wanted more of it. I wanted to see a big boss battle at the end. I wanted a little bit more closure. But I get why the movie ended the way it did. You get to tell your own ending and the one I made up was a happy one, that fits the last image we see.

Do You Remember Werewolf the Series?

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So I started watching this on Youtube and I was mostly struck by how bad the clothing is. This series was released n 1987, and I’m not sure why I don’t remember people dressing that bad, but they must have, and I just blocked it out or something:

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The series opens with a monologue, which is a really bad sign. I’m calling bullshit on it because its so full of  80’s macho crap, and I mostly just rolled my eyes. After that, there’s a scene at a night club, and you can tell its one of those 80’s movie nightclub scenes because the music sucks, its full of old white people who can’t dance, and I find it really, really hard to believe that women used to dress like that in da club. You could put someone’s eyes out with those shoulder pads.

So the young blonde victim and her date are walking to the car and they are talking about his job as a company manager or some bullshit, and I’m like, really? This is the shit you’re talking about? Were Yuppies actually this fucking boring that they went to the club, and flirted with each other about monetary futures, or network assets and shit? At this point I was rooting for the werewolf, that I knew was about to attack them,

in that completely empty, fog shrouded, parking lot, outside the club!!!

Anyhoo..

This show is like a cross between The Incredible Hulk, and Teen Wolf, where the lead character named Eric Cord, is bitten by his roommate, after he was bitten by a guy named Skorzeny, played by, of all people, Chuck Connors. Now my Mom watched this because… werewolves, and Chuck Connor, but you know I probably watched it because Eric, like most of the men on TV in the 80s, had a luxurious head of hair. See!

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This was most likely my impetus for watching a lot of shows in the 80s. At least that’s my excuse.

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Well, glossing over the plot really quick, after being bitten, Eric and his useless girlfriend, played by one of the hottest, flavor of the moment, TV chicks of the eighties, Michelle Johnson, go on a road trip to find the werewolf that bit his roommate, because only by killing the original werewolf can someone escape the curse. In the meantime, Eric is being hunted by a sheriff/bounty hunter, because he skipped out on his bail, after shooting his roommate, without explanation.

This show also heavily reminded me of the show Manimal, because each episode involved at least one scene where Eric turned into werewolf, even though the episodes were only thirty minutes long. That sounds really weird to those of us today, who are used to hour long dramas. Eric traveled around the country getting embroiled in other people’s stories ala Mad Max. Like Manimal, Eric had to occasionally solve a mystery, but unlike that series, Eric had no sidekicks. The 80s were a curious blend of shows with a combination serial, stand-alone format. There were individual events that happened from episode to epsode but they were all tied together by a common theme. Herer the common theme was Eric hunting, running into  werewolves, and various other creatures.

The highlight of the show was the werewolf transformation scenes, naturally,  that were heavily ripped off …erm, based on, the werewolf movie craze of the early eighties, An American Werewolf in London, which won an Oscar for its special effects, and its cousin, The Howling, which didn’t.

This show managed to last an entire season and  I most definitely watched it. I remember the pilot, and the transformation scenes, and even Chuck Connors growling his way through the script. So I definitely LOOKED at the show.

But I don’t remember nan’ detail of a single episode of this show beyond the pilot. But that’s okay becasue there a quite a number of the episodes available on Youtube, so they can now be forgotten by, yet another, entire generation of teenagers.

10 Unexpected Pleasures

Sometimes I sit down to watch a movie I had absolutely no plans to watch. I wasn’t going to spend money on it in the theater. I wasn’t going to watch it on cable. Yet there I am, looking at a movie I hadn’t planned on looking at. Sometimes I’m mad at the movie because the trailer was bad,  or the discourse surrounding the movie pissed me off, or the movie just doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but apparently, none of those reasons  has ever stopped my nosy-ass from watching some stuff. 

Curiosity is my middle name, I guess.

So here it is. The top ten movies I was surprised I liked.

Fantastic Beasts (& Where to Find Them) (2016)

Okay, this one was just me straight asking, “Oh hey, what’s this movie about?” It turned out to be an unexpected pleasure.

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I’d heard a lot of not so good things about this movie, and there are some things that are just irksome, and make me not want to watch something. One of the biggest turnoffs for me was the lack of PoC in turn of the century, Harlem Renaissance, New York. New York, like London, has always been very cosmopolitan and full of many different types of people, and it was kinda disheartening to see that the creators of this movie hadn’t even considered PoC,  as part of the fabric of this city.

In fact, one of the biggest drawbacks to my watching the movie, was I didn’t get any sense of New York as a hodgepodge of cultures. Everyone in the movie seemed like your standard, White, English speaking, suburbanite, instead of the Italians, Irish,  and various ethnicities  that were actually there. In the movie, the city feels curiously clean, and antiseptic.

Nevertheless, despite the absence of PoC, (and grittiness), it did have adequate representation of the kinds of women  who actually affect the plot. I liked most of the female characters, and thought they were intriguing, but I was also inspired to watch it because of a review I read on Stitch’s Media Mix, that talked about the treatment of Creedence, one of the primary characters.

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I fell in love with the two male lead characters, though. These two men, Newt Scamander ,and Jacob Kowalski, are written so differently than the way most men are written in action/fantasy films, that’ it’s a really pleasurable experience to watch them, something you don’t realize until after the film is over. The two of them are just sweet and likable characters. Even Creedence is less a villain than a victim.

Don’t get me wrong, the Fantastic Beasts of the title are, by turns, cute, terrifying, and deeply funny (and I now want a tiny, sassy, Mr. Picket for my own). But the real draw for me was the relationships between the characters, and Newt. I’m not a huge Eddie Redmayne fan, but he’s great as Newt, as he’s unlike your typical movie hero being, because he’s gentle, fearless, compassionate, slightly snarky, emotionally vulnerable, and unimposing. Redmayne also turns out to have great  comedic timing, as one of my favorite scenes was the mating dance of the Erumpant.

Raising Arizona (1987)

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/speaking-of-crime-raising-arizona-1987/

My best friend in college was the person who talked me into watching this film. Well, not talked, exactly. She mentioned it to me a couple of times, while I scoffed at her, (You don’t know me!), but eventually, she had enough of my  disrespect, and  forcefully pushed me into a chair to make me watch it. I wasn’t a Coen brothers fan back then. I didn’t know anything about them, but she insisted that this was a type of movie I would enjoy. I was very resistant to watching this, because she was so insistent and, like most housecats, I enjoy being contrary, just for the sake of it.

One Saturday, she physically pushed my ass down in front of her little 20 inch TV, and said, “Sit down! You’re gonna watch this movie!” I was a little huffy about this, and said so, but really, she knew I wasn’t doing anything important that day, because I was hanging out at her place, so she knew I had no excuses.

Lemme tell you, those were two of the funniest, most memorable, hours I’d ever had in her presence. Raising Arizona will probably always be the funniest Coen Bros. movie, ever. What captured me  was the music, and the language. The incongruity of Hi’s low class actions, along with his lordly manner of speaking, thoroughly tickled me, and the yodeling soundtrack was totally ridiculous.

She and I didn’t remain friends, but whatever her faults, bad taste in movies wasn’t one of them, because she also introduced me to:

Seven Samurai (1954)

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The same roommate, referenced above, was also the person who introduced me to this movie.  I watched this at her parents house, at their insistence. Until this movie, I’d only ever watched Chinese Action movies. The closest I ever got to watching something like this was The Streetfighter with Sonny Chiba, which is a much, much, shorter film. I hadn’t paid any actual attention to the samurai genre. Didn’t even know it was a thing, although I had watched those gawdawful ninja movies Hollywood kept pumping out during the eighties, that had nan’ Japanese person in them.

I fell asleep towards the end of the movie, but not because the movie was bad, or  boring. I was engaged right up until I could no longer resist the room’s temperature. Cold rooms make me sleepy, no matter what I’m doing. Add in  a crackling fireplace, and a comfy chair however…and sleep is guaranteed to occur. (Later that week, I watched it again, in the daytime, without the fireplace.)

Do you have any idea how many movies this influenced the making of over the years? Everything from Magnificent Seven, to A Bug’s Life, to the Three Amigos was a riff on this movie. If you loved any of the films that it influenced, then you have to see the original .

https://filmschoolrejects.com/legacy-seven-samurai/

Not only did I develop an appreciation of Samurai movies, I developed a love for the movies of Akira Kurosawa, (Drunken Angel, and Dreams are two of my favorites) and through him, a number of other  notable Japanese directors.

Cabin in the Woods (2011)

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My first instinct was to turn up my nose at this movie, thinking it was going to be your typical Agatha Christie type,  “ten little Indians” in the woods plot, where pretty, young people, who had planned on having Teh Sex, would be brutally killed by something, or someone. And yeah, there is an element of that in the movie, but it turned out to be so much more, I was kinda kicking myself for having passed it up for so long.

I gave a review of this here:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/tag/cabin-in-the-woods/

Mystery Men (1999)

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I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I sat down to watch this. I knew I liked Ben Stiller, that the characters were meant to have superpowers,  that they  didn’t actually have superpowers, except when they actually do have them, which was a whole lot funnier to me, than if the writers had simply been upfront about their powers. I do remember the trailers for this movie which emphasized Paul Reubens and Janeane Garofolo.

Supposedly this movie is based on some type of indie comic from the 80s, which I had never heard of, called Flaming Carrot, which features an image of a man with a giant carrot for a head, that is, naturally, on fire.

This movie turned out to be exceptionally funny, and I really liked all the characters, including The Invisible Boy, played by Kel Mitchell from the Nickelodeon show, Keenan and Kel, who can only turn invisible when no one is watching,  Mr. Furious played by Ben Stiller, whose only superpower is the ability to become really, really angry, and my favorite, The Bowler, or rather his daughter, played by Janeane Garofalo, who keeps her father’s skull encased in a clear plastic bowling ball.

We watch them become a team and defeat the villain, saving Champion City from Casanova Frankenstein as played by Geoffrey Rush, and his ridiculous henchpeople, The Disco Boys, lead by Eddie Izzard, who are conquering the world through the power of …well, Disco, I guess. They are aided in their quest for superhero stardom by Wes Studi, who is as baffling as his name states, (The Sphinx), and this movie’s version of James Bond’s Q, played by Tom Waits.

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It also stars Greg Kinnear as Captain Amazing, a smug Superman/Batman parody, William H. Macy as The Shoveler, who gets one of the best speeches in the entire movie, Hank Azaria, as the Blue Raja, Master of Silverware, and in one of his many quiet, comeback roles, Paul Reubens (PeeWee Herman) as The Spleen, Master of Flatulence. (I hope to one day grow up to be as cool as The Bowler,  although, according to my friends and family, I have already mastered The Shovel.)

With such a great cast, this movie really doesn’t get enough love. I chalk it up to timing, Had this been released five years earlier, or five years later, it would’ve been a real hit. People should recognize this movie more, especially since the whole superhero thing has taken off.

Paddington (2014)

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I had absolutely no plans to watch this movie, but it was on TV one night, and I didn’t change the channel fast enough, and just sat through it. I do have to admit to some mild curiosity beforehand, but not enough to make an effort to see it. I do remember watching the trailers, and thinking to myself that the little talking bear was kinda creepy, and who would watch something like that. Apparently, I will.

It turned out to be a perfectly sweet and lovely film, and now Paddington is one of my favorite bears, right up there with Pooh, and those  baby pandas on YouTube, that like to terrorize  their Chinese handlers. If you liked the movie Babe (a 1995 movie about the little pig that could herd sheep) than you’ll like this movie. (And now I want a meetup between Babe and Paddington.)

Dr. Strange (2017)

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I know I wasn’t supposed to like this movie, especially considering how much shit I talked about it, but it actually turned out to be pretty enjoyable, and not at all the grease fire I thought it was going to be, because of the whitewashing of The Ancient One, and the presence of Benedictine Cucumberpatch. (To be absolutely fair, I’m still not a Cumberbatch fan.) The man is a lofty twat, but then, so is Doctor Strange himself. I’m still not happy about the whitewashing either, because Lucy Liu (Or Michelle Yeoh)  should have been in this movie, and I’m still mad about the movie we could have had, with a Hispanic Dr. Strange, and an Ancient One of some type of ethnicity, other than pasty.

But this movie wasn’t bad. It was actually kind of fun. I mostly enjoyed the special effects, (I liked all the pretty colors), which were excellent, and the plot was not objectionable. My favorite character turned out to be Wong, played by, appropriately enough, Benedict Wong, who I’m excited to see has  been getting more roles in popular films. I just saw him last in the movie Annihilation, and he needs bigger roles, and should do more comedy. (I was glad to catch a glimpse of him in the Infinity War trailer.)

In my defense, I didn’t spend any money on this movie, beyond what I spent on Netflix.

(Seriously though, Wong, Peter Parker, The Falcon, Drax the Destroyer, and Shuri need to meet. I guarantee you, that would be one of the funniest discussions ever had by any five people on, or off, Earth.)

The Accountant (2016)

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Lets make this clear – I am not a Ben Affleck fan. I’ve disliked him since he messed up Daredevil, and I refused to forgive him enough to watch any of his movies, until I saw this movie, and decided maybe I can try to forget about Daredevil. (I’m still not gonna forgive him for it though.)

I had heard about this film but I wasn’t particularly interested in it until I saw the trailer on HBO, which was a little different from the mainstream trailer. Then I read about it in some magazine, and my curiosity got the better of me this time, (although occasionally, I do manage to wrestle it it into submission), and I was in. Also, it came on HBO, one idle Saturday, and I was too lazy to look for something else to watch.

This turned out to be a surprisingly good, and emotionally touching film though, about an assassin who is autistic, who comes to the aid of a young woman being set up to take the fall for a corrupt company CEO, because she knows too much about what happened. After he protects her, the company  hires an assassin to kill him (not knowing that is his actual career), and his brother, played by Jon Bernthal, is the one who takes the job. (His brother didn’t know this was his target.)

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There’s also a subplot with  J.K.Simmons, as a detective who has been on Affleck’s trail for years, and tells the story, in flashback, to his protege. This is interspersed with flashbacks of Affleck’s character as a child, being raised by his brother and father, while being taught the various military skills his father insisted the two of them learn. This is also connected to a special home, for children with autism, that the accountant secretly funds through his illegal activities.

I didn’t find the subplot to be especially interesting beyond Simmons acting,  but Affleck was very good in this film, and Jon Bernthal was pretty good too, and I wasn’t expecting the film to be quite as emotional as it was. One of my favorite scenes is when the woman he’s protecting tries to establish a romantic connection by kissing him, but that scene doesn’t play out in any typical way, which I found refreshing.

I can see why most people ignored it, or never heard of it. They probably would’ve just been confused by it, because the movie wants to be a drama, but has too much action to be thought of as such. Its not a thriller, either because there’s too much drama, and its kinda melancholy. This is not a loud, action-y type of movie, although there are some good hand to hand fight scenes, and some shooting, of course. Its more like a Jason Bourne type  drama, and the ending is especially low key, and I thought it was  really beautiful, as it involves a painting by Jackson Pollock.

Troll Hunter (2010)

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I was just being nosy again, when I watched this. It came up as a recommendation for me on Netflix, and it kept coming up, no matter how much I tried to ignore it. I’ve been fascinated by trolls since I was a little girl, reading about them in the school library. This was the very first book I ever read about trolls:

D’Aulaires’ Book of Trolls (New York Review Children’s

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So, despite my background in Troll-Lore, I refused to take the bait and watch the movie. I gave in late one night, as these things always seem to happen late one night. (I should really stop doing that, and take my ass to bed, like regular people, but then I wouldn’t be able to bring you guys this kind of quality entertainment.)

I thought it was going to be a comedy, because all of  the reviews I’ve read say it’s a comedy, it has  comedians in it, and its called a mockumentary, like the movie What We Do In The Shadows, but I didn’t find it especially funny. In fact, it was occasionally terrifying, but I liked it just fine, even though I didn’t laugh once.

This is not the animated cartoon of the same name. This is a Norwegian movie that was released in 2010.

The title is pretty much what its about. It’s set someplace cold, (there’s a lot of snow, which is always attractive to me), and its about an “intrepid group” of crew-members who have taken it upon themselves to not just prove the existence of trolls, but capture them on film, in their natural habitats. Its one of those live action camera type things, so if you hate those types of movies, watch it anyway, because even though it sounds typical, it moves in unexpected directions. I suspect it does so because its not an American made film.

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It consists of a series of interviews, and raw footage, of a man who hunts trolls, and thinks they’re a secret from the government, but the government knows all about them, and employs other people to keep the trolls a secret. I have to admit, I didn’t pay much attention to all that stuff. I mostly wanted to see the trolls, and I think Norwegian humor just  escapes me or something. Okay, I  did find the idea funny, that trolls like to kill Christians, so the group hires a Muslim woman, and aren’t sure how the trolls will react to her.

The trolls are genuinely scary, and I can’t imagine living in an environment in which such creatures happened to be real,  lurking around bridges and overpasses, or just wandering around in the woods. At one point there’s a mega-troll, that’s several stories tall, that gets blown up by a UV rocket of some kind, because remember, sunlight turns trolls to stone.

I thought this movie was a lot of fun, even though there was Norwegian humor in it.

Bring It On (2000)

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I only watched  this movie because one of my little sisters insisted that she wanted to see this. I held no hopes at all that it would be a good film, or even mildly interesting , although I liked both Eliza Dushku, and Kirsten Dunst. I wasn’t entirely aware that it was a comedy, either. I’d paid only peripheral attention to the trailers, although looking back on the trailers now, I don’t see how I could have missed that it was a straight up comedy, rather than the teen soap opera I expected.

It turned out to be a fairly pleasant experience and I can now count Bring It On as the only cheer-leading movie in my comedy lineup. I wasn’t expecting the performances to be so good, I wasn’t expecting any Black people of substance to be in it, like Gabrielle Union. I wasn’t expecting any of these very young actors to be especially funny, but there you go. I was expecting to fall asleep while my sister watched the movie. But I was actually engaged, and it was definitely the performances.

But then they had to throw some icing on top, and that was the theme of cultural appropriation. You have an all white middle class suburban cheerleading squad, called the Toros, competing to go to some national competition. When it turns out that all of their successful cheers were stolen from a Black cheerleading team in Compton, called the Clovers, the Toros have a decision to make. That decision is made a lot easier, when the Clovers show up at one of their home games, and embarrasses them by performing their entire routine in front of the school, after which the Toros fully understand they need to come up with a routine of their own. They figure the best way to make amends for what they’ve done is to help the Toros make it to the competition, but Isis, the team leader of the Clovers rejects their help, and she appeals to a television talkshow host, who grew up in Compton, to help finance their trip to the Nationals, where they win first place.

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The plot is just enough  to keep a person engaged, and the romantic subplot between Dunst’s character, the brother of the newest cheerleader, and one of the male cheerleaders on her team, is interesting for people who like romance. I  generally have no patience for romantic subplots (except when I feel like having some patience) and I was able to tolerate it, in this movie, solely on the basis of the actor’s performances.

It was also interesting to watch the cheer-leading parts of the show. I had never harbored the belief that cheer-leading was easy. Like most little girls, I was fascinated by it, and I had pom poms as toys, and learned how to twirl a baton, too, but I didn’t expect the choreography to be so good, and the music was fun.

This was not a deep movie, and it was a kinda silly, but still a lot of fun. The performances were good, and my little sisters both loved it, and all the women in the family have  watched it multiple times.

Yep! Even Mom.

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