The Truman Show (1998): Questioning Reality

During the late 90’s there was a spate of existentialist movies, that asked questions about the nature of reality, the self,  and questioned our sense of who we were. Movies like Dark City, The 13th Floor, Pleasantville, The Matrix, Existenz, and yes, The Truman Show, all questioned if the world we lived in was truly real, if we were real, and if nothing is real, does anything we experience matter.

The Truman Show didn’t just question reality. It asked questions about freedom, and self determination, as well. Truman is a man who has been imprisoned in a pleasant middle class, artificial, bubble his entire life, with a pretty blond wife, a non-descript job, one close friend, and a tragic past that’s specifically designed to hold him in place, and keep him from moving forward. His life is comfortable and certain. It is difficult not to see parallels to our own lives in Truman and his circumstances.

Truman has a daily routine. He does the same thing every day, with the same catchphrases, ordering the same food, the same magazines at the newsstand, driving the same route to and from work. Truman is mostly happy with his life, but its not an exciting life, so he fantasizes a lot.

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One of the first images we get of Truman is his childlike fantasy of being an astronaut. Truman longs to do something different, go somewhere else, be someone else, but he is trapped in place, as so many of us are, by our jobs, our circumstances, monetary concerns, our families, and other obligations, that we consider more important than our freedom to do as we please. Like Truman many of us fantasize about being  someone else, someplace else, and for most of us, fantastical visions of riding dragons, or pretending to be a favorite cartoon character, are enough.

Many of us live in comfortable bubbles, occasionally  chafing at our restrictions, and any attempts to break free of those restrictions can get you branded with labels like mentally ill,  mid-life crisis, or hysteria. Your desire to  break free, can often make other people deeply uncomfortable, and can prompt them to deploy tactics that will get you back into your bubble, to be quiet, and complacent, once again.

Truman is a man who has been held in captivity, since he was born, by an avant-garde filmmaker, named  Christof, who adopted him, kept him imprisoned in a fake world, with actors and actresses as friends and family, and put his entire life on live television. Everything in Truman’s life is manufactured, his job isn’t real, his marriage was carefully orchestrated, his best friend is an actor, his father was conveniently killed when he was a child, and he has been socialized with a number of phobias (aqua-phobia) that make it near impossible for him to leave the fake set.  In other words, his world is carefully designed to keep him in place, keep him from questioning it, and keep him from growing, changing , or progressing.

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Many of us live the kinds of lives we are reluctant to leave, it can be difficult for us to grow and move forward because we’ve become used to how our life is. It can be difficult to try new things, or make big changes in our lives, even changes we need to have, because we fear the unknown future. If you’re someone who has a great fear of the unknown, then moving into a future you cannot see, would be very difficult. This is how Truman engages with the world in the first half of his life, until a monkey-wrench called “first love” throws everything he knows into question. He falls in love with a young woman named Sylvia, who wasn’t chosen for him, and she is, rather traumatically, removed from his world. Truman developed such a special longing for her, that she came to represent the one thing in his life he didn’t have, uncertainty, and the unknown.

He begins to question the world he lives in. In other words, he starts to wake up, especially after  he experiences a series of strange events. like seeing his supposedly dead father, chunks of sky falling on his car, a photo of his wife with her fingers crossed behind her back (which indicates that she was lying). Truman attempts to express his nascent suspicions to his wife, mother, and best friend, who only try  to gaslight him, with temporary success. Over time, Truman begins to test his theory, and finally reaches the conclusion that the world he lives in, and the people he knows, is not real.

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Truman only begins to ask the right questions, after he sees the patterns around him, and starts putting those patterns in the correct order. When he sees his dead father on the street, the man is immediately whisked away by a group of strangers. Later that week, there is a radio mix up, where he hears one of the camera men narrating what he is doing. He notices a pattern in the people who cross in front of his house. He notices  patterns and reaches proper conclusions. He begins to see the artificiality.

For example, he suspects that he is being watched, that the people in his world are fake, and  don’t know what to do when he does  unexpected things. So he disrupts his routine in small ways, like walking into a different building, or deciding to accompany his wife (a nurse) to a surgery that was made up in an attempt to explain something he saw earlier that day. By behaving unpredictably, he has introduced uncertainty, and the unknown to the set, which disrupts everyone else’s routine, as well.

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Ironically, many of us suspect that the world we live in is a facade, as we seek to explain the uncertainty of our life, rather than the certainties. This theory was especially popular during the last years of the 20th century, which accounts for the popularity of  films, in which the protagonists question the randomness of their lived experiences. In the Matrix, Neo tells Trinity about a number of events that happened to him when he was unaware he was in the matrix, and asks her what that means. Trinity’s answer is that the matrix cannot tell you who you are. She is in essence telling him that when he lived in the matrix, that he was not his true self.

Since the events that occurred to Neo can be said to have been contrived by computer programs, his reactions to those events were inauthentic, and not evidence of his true self.  Another argument that can be made, however, is that such contrived events are not any different than random events contrived by a god, and if we can accept that our authentic self is in evidence when under the aegis of a mythological figure, than why can we not accept the authenticity of self while under the control of an AI?

One of the reasons that Truman gives for desperately trying to escape Christof’s prison, is that he wants a real life, an authentic life. Christof tries to talk him into staying in his artificial world by telling him that life is no more authentic, in the “real” world, than it is in his fake one. he tells Truman that there is no truth, thereby  illustrating a fundamental misunderstanding of Truman’s motives. Truman is not searching for truth. He is searching for “the real”, which is not the same thing.

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But, as we all must do, if we hope to move forward, to progress in our lives, Truman takes a leap of faith, into the unknown. At some point, if we hope to meet our real selves, we must all walk through a mysterious door, into an uncertain future. Truman has no idea what is on the other side of the door he’s about to walk through, but like Red, from the Shawshank Redemption, he hopes to see Sylvia, and take her hand. He hopes to find himself. He hopes to be happy. He hopes to find love.

He hopes.

And so must we all.

 

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It’s A Black Thang!

I’m not saying that Black people are the only ones who can watch these shows, but this is pop culture that is unapologetically aimed at Black audiences.

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Dolemite Is My Name

Some of us are old enough to have actually watched some of Rudy Ray Moore’s movies, like Dolemite and The Human Tornado, which they don’t show on Tv much anymore ,for…reasons.. Some of my younger readers would have encountered his movies as parodies on MadTV, or Key & Peele. They were often laughably bad in and of themselves but they were groundbreaking because Moore was one of the only Black independent filmmakers of the 70s, and was one of the primary directors in the Blaxploitation era.

The first time I saw a Rudy Ray Moore movie, it was at the Drive-In. I was maybe nine or ten years old, and the movie was The Human Tornado, which I wasn’t supposed to be watching, because I was supposedly asleep in the backseat with my two brothers, and because his movies ARE NOT FOR KIDS!!!! I don’t think I can stress this enough. Well anyway, I watched it and I don’t think my mom ever realized i saw the movie, and I haven’t ever told her. I suspect if I told her this, I’d be subject to this:

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Now couple that information with the return of one of the greatest comedians of the 80s and 90s, Eddie Murphy, who hasn’t been relevant in some time, and this is looking like a comeback role, in a classic film. Actually what it is is the making of Dolemite from Moore’s point of view. There are some other great actor/comedians in this, and even more importantly, this is airing on Netflix in September.

The Black Lady Sketch Show

The Black Lady Sketch Show is now airing on HBO, but you can watch select sketches on YouTube. This is such a great show, and I say that even though I don’t subscribe to HBO anymore. The sketches are soooo funny, and some of them are spot on.

Check out Invisible Spy for example. I’ve always thought that women of color would make exceptional spies, because so few people pay attention to us, especially when we’re doing something stereotypical, like housekeeping! The spy in this sketch is invisible all the time, and thats a commentary on how being fat, and dark skinned, renders a person irrelevant. Even her coworkers don’t know what she actually looks like , even though they’re looking right at her. I got that, as I’m always being compared to some other Black woman that people know, someone they went to school with, a cousin, or somebody’s neighbor.

But one of my favorite sketches is the Ball for Basic Bitches! I’m far too contrary to ever be considered “basic”, I think, but I perfectly understand it, though, and Basic Bitches can be fabulous too, only a lot more quietly, I guess.

Got to Youtube to watch the surreal Dance Biter, which stars my favorite comedian Quinta B, the hilarious Invisible Spy, and a sketch about how obsessed America is with beauty standards, called A Day With No Makeup.

 

 

The Rundown w/ Robin Thiede

Robin Thiede is currently one of the stars of the Black Lady Sketch Show, but if you want to see the kind of work that led up to her starring in the above show, then The Rundown is where you need to see it.

The Rundown aired on BET, and showcased different comedians, although Robin was the star. I never watched the show itself, and only just saw a few episodes because they were recommended after I viewed TBLSS, and frankly, I’m impressed. This first sketch is based on the show Stranger Things, and the character of Eleven, and is what I like to call , uncomfortably hilarious, a style that Key and Peele often specialized in.

My favorite though is this video for the Weak Black Woman, because not everybody can be woke and strong, Some of us are too tired from working on those spreadsheets for the Stevenson account, I guess. Not quite as pointed as the Basic Bitch Ball, but close enough. And the second is a parody of the series Stranger Things, that I laughed waaay too hard at.

Missy Elliott and Lizzo

I’m a huge Missy fan, and have been since that first song. Now I have a new heroine, Lizzo, who is fat, Black, and absolutely, unapologetic ally, who she is, here she teams up with Missy Elliot, and Megan The Stallion, to celebrate some more “Hot Girl Summer”. I wasn’t outraged by the dancing but I was bothered at the idea of these ladies wandering around a public parking lot, at night, in bikini wear. Well, theyre wearing fur ,so I know they won’t get cold, but apparently that was a bridge too far. (See what I mean about me being sort of Basic?)

Black Girl News

https://www.thedailybeast.com/lashana-lynch-a-black-woman-is-taking-over-as-james-bond-its-about-damn-time

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/lashana-lynch-007-james-bond_n_5d2c59b1e4b02a5a5d5df896

So, James Bond is still in the movie, but there is a statement by the creators, that she is a Bond Woman, (since the term Bond Girl is no longer being used), and that the code name 007 is used for multiple characters. So Daniel Craig is still in the movie, and isn’t actually passing the torch to a new face, but Lynch is playing an Agent with his status.

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Bond 25, as its being called will not be released until 2020, and the director is Cary Fukunaga and also stars a very diverse cast with Rami Malek as this episodes villain, Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny, who is an agent in her own right, and Jeffrey Wright as Felix Letter, who has starred in at least two other Bond movies.

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A Black Little Mermaid

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So this happened last week, the announcement that the star of the live action Little Mermaid is being played by one Halle Bailey, who you have to admit is just cute as the dickens.

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The Little Mermaid is one of my all time favorite Disney movies. I did grow up with the usual Disney princesses, none of which struck any kind of chord with me. I don’t even remember watching any of their movies as a child. That’s how little impression they made on me, but I saw The Little Mermaid when I was an adult and I was simply “shooketh”! Apparently I was at just the right age to appreciate it. A few years earlier, or later and I would have paid it no mind because that’s sometimes how films work.

I loved both female leads in the movie. I learned all the words to Ursula’s song, which is probably one of the saltiest songs ever sung in a Disney movie, and I loved Ariel’s plaintive song calling for a different life, in the typical Disney “I Want” song, that’s featured in every Alan Mencken written film, from the Little Shop of Horrors, to Beauty and the Beast, to Mulan. I think The Little Mermaid was the first Disney film that ever brought me to tears (although, Pixar has done this consistently, for the past twenty years!)

Predictably, a certain percentage of White people reacted very badly to this news, and showed their whole and  unvarnished asses. I think. Its still up in the air exactly how many participated in this, and  whether or not the reactions, including the hasty creation of a hashtag that showed up a little too conveniently, is  believable. Someone, (its believed that this is fake) even started a petition to have Ariel be White!!! According to an article in Salon, and in online magazine reason, the backlash was faked, and the overwhelming response was one of support. The reason the hashtag trended is because people were protesting the #NotMyAriel! Personally, I consideer more than some of this completely laughable, but you know what, now they relaly got something to cry about with Lashana Lynch.

 

https://reason.com/2019/07/09/ariel-little-mermaid-backlash-black-halle-bailey/

It’s true that a few Twitter users seemed genuinely upset about the casting. But the overwhelming majority of people tweeting #NotMyAriel are doing so in support of Bailey and expressing outrage that anyone would be offended by a black Ariel. Their fury is well-intended but largely unnecessary.

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For those people who insisted that mermaids are White, well mermaids have only ever been depicted as White, but there have always been Brown mermaids. Just because White people don’t know about them doesn’t mean they lore isn’t there, and there have been folklore about them in every country, like the Caribbean version called:

Mami Wata

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The image of Mami Wata, also a water spirit, has taken on many forms, including a mermaid.
Mami Wata represents the finer things in life, such as luxury goods. Her story began long before Europeans crossed the ocean to Africa’s shores.
When people saw the European ships’ figureheads, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art Deputy Director and Chief Curator Christine Kreamer said they saw a powerful, long-haired. The African people linked her beauty and her relation to the Europeans to powers that could bring protection and wealth.
“These are depictions as imagery that came across and set into an existing set of beliefs,” she said. “These images that we look at as mermaids fit into to an existing sort of broader belief of powerful water spirits, and then how that’s picked up in the visual arts changes over time.”

https://face2faceafrica.com/article/mami-wata-the-most-celebrated-mermaid-like-deity-from-africa-who-crossed-over-to-the-west

And throughout history:
An indigenous painting of mermaids

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-11/mermaids-across-the-world-arnhem-land/9846210

 

 

 

Beyonce’s Spirit

Beyonce’s new song for the Lion King is an excellent example of her general aesthetic, with over a dozen different wardrobe changes.

https://theglowup.theroot.com/beyonce-made-so-many-costume-changes-in-the-spirit-vi-1836447151

https://thegrapevine.theroot.com/watch-can-you-feel-beyonces-spirit-tonight-1836444318

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Sasha Obama Statue

This week a statue of Barack Obama was unveiled for South Dakota’s City of Presidents, depicted while holding his daughter, Sasha’s, hand.

New Barack Obama Statue Unveiled and its Full of Black Girl Magic

https://www.becauseofthemwecan.com/blogs/news/south-dakota-unveils-new-barack-obama-statue-and-its-full-of-black-girl-magic

 

 

Missy Elliott

https://www.marieclaire.com/celebrity/a28250119/missy-elliott-new-album-2019/

Missy is one of my favorite performers. Ive loved her style since that first vidoe. Well, she is finally getting her due respect, in that was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in June of this year, and Monday was the 22nd anniversary of the release of her first album Supa Dupa Fly. Here she is stylin’ on the cover of Marie Claire, and in her first genre challenging video “The Rain”.

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

Swamp Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

+

Good Omens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NOS4A2

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Ma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New And Exciting Trailers (May 23rd)

Terminator: Dark Fate

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

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

 

 

Star Trek: Picard: (CBS)

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

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

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

 

 

Downton Abbey

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

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

 

 

Crawl

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

 

 

IT: Chapter II

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

 

 

Judy

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

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

 

 

Batwoman (CW)

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

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

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

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

 

 

His Dark Materials (HBO)

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

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

But who knows?

 

 

The Dark Crystal

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

 

 

Border

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

Let’s Go Waaaay Back

Now and Again (1999-2000)

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I remember this show aired for one magnificent season, waay back in the 90s, before its very abrupt cancellation. I was totally in love with this show and it was my first huge disappointment in standard network TV. This was a little while before Firefly ever happened. At the time we didn’t have the vast internet systems in place to save worthy shows, so while there was a bit of an uproar, the show didn’t have that vast following of teens and twenty year-olds, with social media accounts, because this was before Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Interestingly enough, the show also has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so somebody’s heard of it, and been watching it. I do know that several of the episodes are available on Youtube, so check them out.

The first episode stars John Goodman, as Michael Wiseman (get it?) as a tired businessman, who gets killed on the NY subway one night, leaving behind a wife and daughter, played by Margaret Colin, and Heather Matarazzo. He’s given a brand new bionic body (sort of like Steve Rogers) in the person of Eric Close. He is now an asset of the US government, his handler played by Dennis Haysbert.

The show ended on a cliffhanger, as it was abruptly (and by abrupt, I mean absolutely no fucking warning at all) canceled, after Michael Wiseman had, illegally,  teamed back up with his wife and daughter, and would have been on the run from the US government. Its been twenty years, and I still feel some type of way about getting burned like that. I learned a valuable lesson from that, and to this day, I keep my distance from most of network TV.

I was initially interested in the show solely because of the song from the trailer. A couple of years earlier, Janet Jackson had a hit song, using the same melody that was used in the trailer, and since I loved that song (I played the hell out of that song all year), I loved the show, and I made sure to tune in to watch the opening credits, since I didn’t have a DVR back then. The opening credits are gorgeous and I think the lyrics were specially written for the show.

The best parts of the show are the dialogue, and acting, although the plots were ridiculous. It doesn’t hurt that Eric Close is a fine looking White man, and Haysbert is just icing. Somewhere somebody is shipping these two characters. I just know it! The weakest part of the show are the uneven characterizations of some of the characters, and the occasional weird plot points, that raised more questions than were answered.

I loved the show for the interaction between the characters. Haysbert’s Dr. Morris, and Michael, had the most interesting and volatile relationship, as Morris, the head of the program that created Michael, was alternately threatening and very protective of his subject. He tried desperately to keep a tight rein on Michael, but Michael insisted on interacting with his past friends and family. The Wiseman ladies are the real heart of the show, especially Margaret’s Lisa Wiseman. Colin had to carry a lot of the episodes, sometimes entirely on her own.We spent a lot of time with her, and her relationships with all the other characters is key to the mood of the show.

There’s something about all these shows that aired before Buffy that is incredibly shippable, often consisting of two handsome men, of any race, and usually  opposite  personality types, who got on, either very well together, or not so well, but with great chemistry. The two men usually spent a lot of time together, often living with each other, so that a certain level of intimacy was expected. For some reason this happened in a lot of  the less well known SciFi /Horror type shows, and this show was no exception. At any rate, you cannot convince me that at least some of these shows weren’t trying to have LGBTQ representation, in a kind of low key manner, during an era where Gay and Lesbian characters were  forbidden to be out on mainstream TV.

It was the abrupt cancellation of this show that made me start examining the making of TV shows, and start looking closer at which shows got made, which ones, got renewed, and which ones got popular, and why. I also never fully trusted the Fox network ever again, so by the time that shows like  Firefly and Sleepy Hollow were getting  canceled, I was mostly calm about it, while for other people, this was their first time getting burned by that network.

 

The Others (2000-2000)

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I’ve been looking for this series forever, having only memories of the basic plot. I remember that I liked the show, but I couldn’t remember the names of the characters, or the dates it aired, or even the title. Well, I went on an all out search recently (I really just googled the plot and linked it to IMDB) and finally stumbled across the title.

The Others is about a small group of psychic individuals that get brought together to fight some nebulous evil that eventually takes human form, and approaches them in the form of a red-eyed woman, who confronts them with their worst fears and insecurities.

The group consists of a young girl just coming into her psychic abilities, played by Julianne Nicholson, an older gentlemen, who tries to be her mentor and teacher, as he’s an old hand at interpreting psychic phenomena, played by Bill Cobbs, a handsome standup looking guy, with formidable mental powers of his own, played by Gabriel Macht, Kevin J O’Connor plays the groups resident unstable flake, and a pretty young thing played by Missy Crider, who is the only character whose name I remember, Satori. The group, which most of the time acts as a kind of support group for psychics, is led by John “Neelix” Billingsley, who, I don’t believe, had any mental powers, at all.

I clearly remember liking this show, and I was fortunate enough to find all the episodes on Youtube. The show only aired in the year 2000,  lasted for 13 episodes, and then it was quickly forgotten.

*Sigh* I seem to remember a lot of forgotten shows.

 

Wild Wild West (1965-1969)

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The Wild Wild West is another show that originally aired before I was born, from 1965 to 1969, but that didn’t stop me from watching the re-runs of the show when it aired on weekend afternoons during the 70’s. I told you about how I used to watch Westerns with my Mom, like Bonanza. This wasn’t a show she watched, but I was inspired to watch it, because I liked TV westerns, and by the time I started watching it, I was into my SciFi phase, and this show had gadgets, (and funky theme music), like Lost in Space.

It starred the very handsome, Robert Conrad as Jim West, and his smarter and less handsome partner, Artemis Gordon, played by Ross Martin. It also starred the little person, Michael Dunn, as the villain Dr. Loveless. For me, one of the highlights of the show was the technology and gadgets created by Gordon and Loveless. Jim West had clearly been modeled after James Kirk, because his job was to finesse his way out of the various traps created by the show’s villains, and romance various female characters, who showed up to distract him from his job.

In hindsight, this show is clearly in the  Steampunk genre, and yet another one of those eminently slashable shows where all of the proper elements were there but, for some reason, the show didn’t get the Spock/Kirk treatment. You’ve got two handsome White guys living together, and  a merry go round of female characters, who have no intention of ever becoming permanent, but something about this formula was just a little bit off, possibly the show’s timing in the aftermath of the cancellation of Star Trek, and the show never really took off, even though it lasted four years.

I do remember that though Loveless was the villain, none of the things he did was ever alluded to his size, and for some reason that stuck with me. He wasn’t a villain because he was  a dwarf. He was just a man  who kept coming up with  nefarious plans that Jim West kept getting in the way of.

 

 

Millenium (1996-1999)

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Chris Carter isn’t only known for having created the X-Files. He created a couple more shows that were X-Files related in the sense there was a thematic dialogue between all of them about paranoia, state cover-ups, and government conspiracies. Millennium was more along the detective show spectrum and aired during the end run of the X-Files, when Carter’s star had reached its highest point.

Millennium aired in 1996 and lasted for three years. It featured one of my all-time favorite actors Lance Henriksen of Aliens fame, as a forensic profiler, with an uncanny ability to suss out paranormal conspiracies and serial killers. This uncanny ability is presented as the ability to see though the eyes of serial killers. He was retired from the FBI and worked as a consultant for his friend, played by Terry O’Quinn, who worked in the local police department. He had a beautiful wife, and a maybe psychic daughter, named Morgan.

I remember watching the show ,and I even liked a few episodes. I was mildly upset at its cancellation, but I wasn’t too put out, as the show really had run its course, and there were times when the show was a little too grim, and dark, and gloom-filled. Since it was something of an offshoot of the X-Files, this was to be expected. America was going through a specifically angst filled moment.  Some shows are only meant to run for a specific length of time, and then stop, and it was clear that in the third season the show was trying to figure out what to do with itself.

I think one of the shows biggest drawbacks was the acting of the side characters. Henriksen’s acting  was okay, but his wife and daughter were especially cringeworthy. Everyone on the show was deeply, deeply, serious, and dedicated to never smiling about anything. Also, that whole angst filled era, in the 90s, of dark conspiracies and government cover-up-itis, was starting to wind itself up, and seem less urgent. Millennium is one of those shows that, unless you were a huge fan of the X-Files, you didn’t even know existed, or you forgot about, the moment the show was canceled.

The most memorable moments for me was a brief crossover with the X-Files ,and the show opening credits which were suitably creepy, and the shows theme song. I have a head full of theme songs from long extinct shows, and this one is at the top somewhere in my mind. The creepiness factor is something that permeated the entire show, and every character interaction, no matter how light hearted the actors tried to be.

Frank’s interactions with his wife and daughter rang false, and a lot of the characters seemed weighted down by the show’s heavy gloom. This is not a show that was ever going to last. I think audiences just eventually got tired of that level of grim and gave up on it. I gave up in the second season, only tuning in to catch the occasional episode that hinted at Frank’s daughters psychic abilities.

Frank’s denial of his abilities, by the way, were the only funny highlight in the show, as he kept insisting to people that he was not psychic. In fact, I do wonder if the creators of Hannibal the TV series borrowed heavily from this show. Frank’s abilities were never illustrated,  so I’m not sure how they worked. It was only shown that he had a strange ability to encounter killers, which he did in nearly every episode of the first season. By the second season, the conspiracy stuff starting creeping in, and by then I think the audience had simply had enough of Carter’s doom and gloom. That doesn’t mean it was a bad show. It’s definitely worth watching, but  maybe not a weekend binge-watch. Small doses is  the key here.

 

Brimstone (1998-1999)

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This show had one season and during that time made quite an impression on its fans despite its low ratings. People loved the show, and wanted more of it, but there just weren’t enough of us watching it. Satan walking around and interacting with people is clearly a very popular concept, or we wouldn’t have shows like Lucifer or Sherlock, and if this show had aired anytime in the past ten years, especially during our current social media boom, it would have taken off like a rocket.

The show’s major claim to fame was its secondary star, John Glover, who was a really hot actor in the 90s, and who played a very laidback and snarky Lucifer. The lead character was played by Peter Horton as Ezekiel Stone, a cop who ended up in Hell for killing the man who murdered his wife. When 100+ evil souls somehow manage to escape from Hell, Zeke gets suckered into hunting all of them down, in exchange for a second chance at life on Earth, and the potential of getting into Heaven. The Devil is powerless on Earth, but seemingly has no problem harassing Zeke at every opportunity, and watching Zeke grow ever more irritable, and flustered, at his interference, especially since he and the viewers are the only ones who can see him. The two of them had great chemistry, and watching their interactions is  really the best part of the show. Plus its always fun to see John Glover just be snarky. It wasn’t always snark though as the two of them would have some fairly deep discussions about Heaven, Hell, Good and Evil.

Every week Zeke would hunt down some new bad buy, the most memorable of which was the soul of the man he killed, just before the series end. There were a handful of complaints  read on a few message boards about how he was only hunting evil men, most of whom had been serial killers in the world, and some viewers wondered if there were not  female serial killers. Well the writers had to have thought of it because later in the season there was an evil female who, according to my memory of these events ,was eiter a Bonnie and Clyde type character, or some form of a Typhoid Mary. Let me look it up…

Okay, there were several women souls that were hunted and returned to Hell. One of them was a partner in a Bonnie and Clyde type situation, and the other was a Typhoid Mary type, who caused diseases and pestilence. There was also a young French girl who killed the men who raped her in 1458.

That’s another thing. The souls spanned all of history. I particularly remember Richard Brooks being in an episode as a Roman soldier, and some of the souls had backgrounds that were not dissimilar to Zeke’s, in that they were sympathetic, and did not believed that they belonged in Hell because they were righting some wrong that had been done to them, like the French girl. And there were some who were just evil.

At any rate someone put a lot of thought, not just into the interaction between Zeke and the Devil, but into the creation of these one time character’s backstories, and I thought that was pretty cool, as I wasn’t expecting that. I expected the characters to just be one thing. I didn’t expect to care about any of them. If any show that’s ever been on TV is rife for a remake, or re imagining, its this one, but as I said, it may already have been done in the show Lucifer, which also mixes crime investigation and detectives, with the Devil.

Daenerys Was Always Bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds about right.

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And from Medium.Com:

Daenerys Targaryen Acts In Character

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

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The Breaker of Chains Is a Narcissist, Not a Hero

Mark Ptak

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

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

A (probably) unpopular Game of Thrones opinion …

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

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

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

The Trauma of Daenerys Targaryen

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

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

Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, Torcher of Innocents

 

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

The Mad Queen Was Always Inevitable

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

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But Then There Is This

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

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

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

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

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And Finally:

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

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

Has Arya Added a New Name to Her List?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Am I Watching

Here’s a list of shows I’m actually watching and ones I plan to watch. Here are also some shows I’m interested in watching but may never get around to for some time, as I’m afraid my dance card is quite full.

Gentleman Jack (Sun.9P/HBO)

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I had only recently heard about this show when I saw the ad on HBO, and I watched the first episode and now I’m hooked. It was so much fun watching the lead character, that I watched the next two encores.

The show is set in the mid-1800s, and is based on a true story about a woman named Ann Lister, who lived her life openly as a lesbian at the time. The show is based on her diaries that chronicled everything about her life, including the women she loved, and the one she actually married. Like a lot of Queer people, I’m off the Tragic Gay Stereotype. I really don’t want to see any more gay and lesbian characters in pain or getting killed just for fun.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/28/anne-lister-blue-plaque-lesbian-marriage-church

“She never experienced any difficulty in reconciling her lesbian sexuality with her Christianity,” said Helena Whitbread, who has studied Lister’s diaries for 35 years and is writing a biography. “Her firm belief was that as God had endowed her with her sexual nature, it would be wrong to act against it.”

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I loved her character immediately, especially  her outfits. In the first episode, Ann comes home to find her father too ill to collect rents from their tenants, and sets out to do it herself. This is a lot of the reason why I liked her. She is always being admonished to behave in a womanly manner, but she is the kind of person who sees that something needs to be done, and when no one steps up, simply does it herself. When we first meet her, she is recklessly driving a coach through the streets of the nearby town after the driver was injured.. When she was asked why she did it, she just says that no one else stepped up to do it, and she didn’t want to wait for the injured driver to get better.

She discovers that a  coal seam has been discovered on her land, and she decides, against everyone’s judgement, that she wants to mine it, so she can make that paper. She is having an affair with a local woman, whose husband leaves her alone too much, and yes, there are sex scenes. The show is not shy about it, and its filmed very matter of factly, rather than in some kind of soft porn type of way. Her future wife (yes, there is a happy ending) is a shy young woman, who lives in the nearby town, and Ann makes a strong play for her affections. It also doesn’t hurt that the woman is very wealthy.

I actually liked most of the supporting characters, except for her harridan sister,who keeps telling her what she can’t do. Ann usually just explains things, or waves her away.  She lives a very open life, and everyone knows her business, and her aunt and neighbors try to set her up with eligible young women, especially after they find out about her recent breakup with a young woman who loved her, but bowed to tradition, and  chose to marry a man.

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I can see the show is setting up some interesting issues for later. She has a bi-racial, Ladies Maid, who is secretly (or maybe not) pregnant, and one of the house servants keeps giving her significant glances, which makes me think that Ann maybe dallied with her once, or twice, and the servant is jealous to see Ann in relationships now. From time to time, Ann breaks the fourth wall ato address the viewer. She is very bold, and charming, and brash, and I liked that about her. The show packs a lot of information into that first hour, becasue the series is  only about eight  episodes long, and is written by Sally Wainwright.

There’s  some brief discussion of social issues like voting rights for women, and some of the show is taken up with plotlines that have her come fact to face with men seeking to thwart her aims, and her finding ways around them. At one point, she almost comes to blows with one of her tenants, who is trying to cheat her out of her rent money.

https://www.indiewire.com/2019/04/gentleman-jack-hbo-review-anne-lister-1202126654/

So, if you’re looking for some wlw representation, then you need to check it out.

 

 

What We Do In The Shadows (Wed. 10P/FX)

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This show is, hands down one of the funniest vampire shows on TV. Of course it helps that there are only a few of those on TV, at any one time. It’s based on the movie, What We Do In The Shadows, which stars Jermaine Clement, and Taika Waititi (the director of Thor Ragnarok), and centers around four vampires, who are  living as flatmates in Wellington, New Zealand, and are being followed by a film crew. This is the second spinoff from the movie. The first one was called Wellington Paranormal, and centered around the police, and a film crew, dealing with supernatural creatures and events in the city.

This second spinoff from the movie repeats that formula, but makes some significant changes, centering around four vampires, who  live on Staten Island. The characters are rough equivalents to the ones from the movie, except that the writers learned from their mistakes from the rather low budget film, and added a female vampire, who is one of the smartest and funniest of the group.

There’s Nadja, her husband Lazlo, and their flatmate, Nandor the Relentless, who is relentlessly obtuse. There’s also a new type of vampire, an emotional vampire named Colin, who is both incredibly funny, and tremendously boring,  but that’s his superpower. There’s  also the addition of  Nandor’s long suffering, put-upon, familiar, Guillermo, and a recurring character, the several thousand year old Baron, who has come to oversee the group’s takeover of NY.

I don’t think I can express how much I love this show. Almost as much as I love Brooklyn 99. I usually get into a show through my attraction to the characters, and I was immediately drawn to, of all people, Colin. This is probably because I work in an office space, and have met plenty of Colins.

All of the characters are well drawn.. The each have their own adventures, which is the hallmark of a good multi-cast show. Nadja gets restless and occasionally cheats on her husband, with various humans she finds attractive. She turns a young woman she is attracted to, and at some point this is something that’s going to come back to bite her in the ass, as Nadja and the others are unaware this has happened.

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Nandor seems to think he’s actually in charge of things. He’s neat, fussy,  and detail oriented. He’s the one who comes up with ideas to do certain things, or go certain places. Sometimes he remembers to be nice to his familiar, Guillermo, who he’s been stringing along for ten years. His most recent adventure involves losing his Witch’s Hat, which he refuses to believe is cursed, and a fight with a local werewolf pack, who are every bit as lamely funny as they are in the movie. Nandor enjoys trimming the shrubbery around the house into various animal, and erotic, shapes, and  is constantly hypnotizing their neighbor into not noticing the things going on at the vampire’s house.

Lazlo is the most hapless and clueless of the group. He’s completely devoted to Nadja, who was the one who turned him. Lazlo is not the brightest vampire. His most recent adventure involved turning into a bat, and being unable to change back, so he gets captured by animal control, and locked in  a shelter. The other vampires have to go rescue him, while Nadja decides to ignore the whole thing, and go off to have an affair with a parking garage attendant, that she believes is the reincarnation of a past lover.

Colin Robinson is a non-descript vampire that feeds off other vampires. He’s incredibly boring and also kind of petty. He openly delights in the other’s misfortunes, actually feeding off their unhappiness. The subjects he uses to drain people of their vitality are boringly hilarious. He drains other vampires, so the others always try to avoid him, or disavow knowing who he is. He loves to tag along on their adventures anyway, often just inviting himself. He mostly feeds at work, or goes to public civic meetings.

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Colin’s latest adventure involved meeting another psychic vampire. At first they try to drain each other, but then have the great idea to team up. and  end up draining the entire office too much. Its a testament to the writers that she is a different type of emotional vampire than Colin, Colin just drains a person’s will to live, while she feeds on sympathy, by  being pathetic. Something horrible is always happening to her, like dead grandparents, a dog with autism, getting kicked out of her apartment… In some ways, vampires like her and  Colin are the most ruthless, as they are completely opportunistic, and will feed on anyone, at any time, anywhere.

One of the most recent episodes was groundbreaking, in that it featured vampire guest stars from other shows and movies. Those vampires that didn’t show up in the show were name checked by the others, in a kind of Vampire Council, headed by the three actors from the original movie. The three primary actors used their character names, but the other actors just used their regular actor names, Wesley, Tilda, Paul, Evan Rachael Wood, and Dave Bautista. Once again we get to meet some more familiars, and its always funny when they all get stashed in a room together to talk about their particular vampires.

I like that the show remembers that other types of vampires exist besides the White ones, and its hilarious how they call attention to/call out, the different types of tropey modern  vampires, including two sisters who aren’t actually sisters, and a hip-hop Asian vampire, who only talks in rhymes. The trio also meet other types of supernatural creatures, including the werewolves, and of course they have a fight.

The show has just been renewed for a second season.

 

Of Interest

Now Apocalypse (STARZ) is a show about various pretty, gay, people having adventures in LA, while trying to avoid the coming apocalypse, that only one of them can see coming.

 

 

Barry (HBO) is about a former assassin who is attempting to leave that life to become an actor. He takes acting classes, but keeps being drawn back into his former life by his classmates, and the people he used to work for.

 

 

Shrill (Netflix) is about an oversize young lady, along with her Black, lesbian, roommate,  having various love adventures. The show is surprisingly positive about her size, and actually, pretty funny and uplifting.

 

 

Killing Eve (BBC) is a show I keep meaning to watch, but never actually getting around to, outside of a single episode a season. I love the two lead characters, and Sandra Oh absolutely deserves her Emmy. She is incredible in the show. This show heavily reminds me of a female version of the show Hannibal. There’s  a love/hate/fear relationship, developing between the two leads that’s fascinating.

 

 

Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix) just got canceled after two seasons. I had been meaning to watch it, but never got around to it, about a woman who becomes a flesh eating zombie, who gets aided and abetted in her hunt for human flesh by her husband. In the meantime, they deal with perfectly mundane neighborhood and household issues.

 

Good Omens (May 31st/Amazon) is something I’m really looking forward to at the end of this month. It stars David Tennant.  I’m always up for watching what he’s getting up to, and the original story was  written by Neil Gaiman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Gods Season Two: Finale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If he believes.

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

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Yes, Shadow!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for american gods season 2 gifs/bilquis

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Defense of The Village

 

 

For the me, there’s more than a movie just being good or bad, whatever that means, because,  as a Black woman, I am not the audience for a lot of movies that get made, so I have to find different ways of connecting to a movie. In doing so, I  sometimes  find gems where others don’t, or end up liking  movies others are set on hating (and yeah, sometimes a movie just stinks.) On this blog, I’m not necessarily here to tell you what to like. That’s a reviewers job, and I’m not actually a reviewer, although I do reviews. I consider my job to provide a fresh perspective on a movie, a way you may not have thought of before, so that the next time you come across it on TV or Netflix, you’ll remember ,and give the movie a try, maybe see it with fresh eyes.

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I’m going to talk about two films that were hated by its critics, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, and (in the next post) Shyamalan’s After Earth. I see value in these films that other critics don’t because they are not looking at these films through the same lens that I’m using. (Caveat: Some of them don’t have the luxury. They are film reviewers and must go see movies I can happily reject. I can pick what I want to see, so I can remain positive about a lot of movies, in a way they may not be able to.

These movies resonated with me on an emotional level, and because of that, I am reluctant to say that they are “objectively” bad or good, which is a favorite word for armchair movie reviewers on Youtube. I’m not saying movies can’t be considered bad or good, but often that those words are sometimes wrongly used to describe movies that just did or didn’t emotionally resonate with the viewer, or did or didn’t do whatever the viewer wanted the movies to do. This doesn’t always mean the movie was bad. Sometimes it just means the viewer wasn’t the audience for that movie, or just didn’t get what they wanted out of it because of the critical lens through which they watched it. I have sometimes found that a movie isn’t actually  bad, but that the reviewer had very different criteria for liking it, or viewed it through a very different lens than I did.

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For that reason, I generally avoid hate- watching movies and shows. I want to like what I see, and if I dislike something, I try to have a concrete reason behind why I didn’t. But sometimes I don’t have a reason. Sometimes, I simply wasn’t in the mood to watch it at that time, and when I come back wearing a different emotional, or critical lenses, I may enjoy it, as was the case with  the movies Ravenous,  The Descent, and My Cousin Vinny.

Sometimes, I will develop an undying hatred of a movie, such that no amount of lens polishing will allow me to enjoy it, like the movie Prometheus. This doesn’t mean that Prometheus was a bad film. It just means it was exasperating for me to watch it, and someone else might get enjoyment out of it. If you like it that’s great. If you can clearly explain to me why you do, I’ll watch it again, with your lenses on, and try to see what you saw in it. On the other hand, and as I’ve said before, just because critics hate something doesn’t mean I’m not going to like it, such was the case with Suicide Squad, and just about any movie by Zack Snyder.

I have also seen  situations where public opinion on a movie changes over a length of time. Movies that were panned when released were, in time, lauded as being the best whatever of their genre, and I have found that I’m usually correct in having loved the film at that time. As a result, I’ve gotten pretty confident about my taste in movies, (and dismissive of critics ideas about movies I happened to enjoy), because I usually get proven right, at some later date. This happened with a number of eighties films, (The Thing, and  Bladerunner, for example), that were disliked at the time, only to be considered Classics of the genre, twenty and thirty years later. (No, I didn’t hate E. T. I was indifferent to it, at the time, and still mostly am.)

 

The Village

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I love stories and characters, and movies are just another way to tell stories. I  get into a movie through its characters. I have to like them. I’m also attracted to certain types of stories, but it’s not the minutiae of the story, like pacing and technical aspects, so much as what type of story, and if it’s an appealing story to me. I tend to love GRAND ROMANTIC stories. Not stories with romance in them , but stories with huge, grand, idealized philosophies, and if I see that in the story, chances are I will probably love the movie.

And this was the case with The Village. Yes, it does have a romance in it, but it also contained wider, broader themes about the human condition, that just appealed to me personally, (because ultimately, any movie experience is deeply personal). When this movie was released, it was panned by everyone, with some people jumping on that bandwagon because they hated the director, who started his career as a media darling, but public opinion  turned on him, after a series of failed films.

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When I’m watching a movie, I’m mostly concentrating on how the movie made me FEEL. When I’m reviewing a movie, I ask myself different questions that help me evaluate what the movie means to me, what did I like in the movie, what was it about the movie that resonated with me, and why did I feel that way. From the micro, to the macro.

What is the point of the story? What is the theme of the movie?

Things can get complicated, just at this one point. According to the trailers for The Village, most of the people walking into the film expected it to be a horror movie, and they focused on the idea of monsters because that’s what the trailer told them to focus on. But the movie was not about scary monsters, and a lot of the audience walked away disappointed. Rather than accepting what was given to them, they focused on what they were not given: monsters. I wanted monsters too, because that’s what I was told would be in the movie, but finding out there was no monster was a pleasant surprise for me.

The Village is not a horror movie, in the strictest sense of the word, and apparently,  I was one of the few people who were okay with that at the time. I didn’t leave the theater upset because  I didn’t get to see monsters. Would I have liked the monsters in the movie to be real? Sure. But The Village turned out to be deeper than I expected. It had a grand, overarching, theme that resonated with me. It’s a meditation on unrequited love, grief, and loss, and I was pleased that I got that instead. If one disregards the trailer, than the movie accomplishes exactly what it set out to accomplish.

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I  try to walk into a movie viewing experience with only loose expectations, like, “What type of story is it?” and “Will this be entertaining?” Based on what I think the movie may be about, I try to go in open to anything that may happen in it, without trying to place my agenda (what I want the story to do for me) onto the movie. But I do want to feel something, while I try to keep in the forefront of my mind, what is the creator trying to tell me, what do they want me to know, and what purpose might that serve.

What I  expect, on the most basic level, is to be emotionally moved by the characters, and entertained by the plot. I’m going to go wherever the movie wants to take me, and accept whatever scenery I’m given. I don’t worry about plot holes, or pacing, or musical cues, and stuff, (although, if I notice them and like them, that’s a huge plus, like with the movie Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse). Was the movie entertaining? Did I stay engaged the entire time? Was there a point to the story? Later, I can ask myself deeper questions like why was it entertaining for me, or what was it about the movie that made it fun for me, or scary, or funny.

What you should always ask yourself is: What did the story do for you?

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The story in a movie is like being on a driving tour. That tour has a theme,  sometimes several. The driver is the storyteller, and he/she directs the action, decides where we’re going to go, and what we’ll be seeing on the tour. The characters onscreen are the other passengers on the tour, or just some people on the scene.  I like the other passengers, and  I enjoy watching them do things I didn’t expect, and see things I wouldn’t have found on my own. Sometimes the other passengers are terrifying, but it’s okay because they can’t actually hurt me.

If I think it’s a Horror movie, (if the driver has told me I’m going to be scared on my trip), I expect the journey to scare me. If I wasn’t scared, then the driver lied to me, but if I was given more than  just a scare, I consider that a bonus. That was the case with The Village. I was told (although I was not told that by M. Night Shyamalan/The Driver, himself, but a third uninvolved party, the people who made the trailer and marketed the movie), that I would be scared, and I was a little bit, but at the same time, the journey was worthwhile because of the movie’s other elements. I got something deeper, and much more unexpected, than just a scare. As I said before, I like Horror movies to have something extra, whether its romance, or comedy, or intellectual depth.

If I have been lead to believe it’s an Action movie, then I expect to see thrills, and spills. If a movie delivers on its basic foundation, but adds something extra, I can and will overlook all manner of faults, like plot points, pacing,  bad characters,  timing, or even whether or not it delivered on what I expected.This was the case with Suicide Squad, a movie critics absolutely hated, but I (and a bunch of other people) really enjoyed. Why? Because I genuinely liked the characters, who did exciting and interesting things on screen. I enjoyed their interactions with each other, and I liked a lot of the action scenes, which were just plain fun. There are a lot of perfectly legitimate criticisms of this movie, but the reason I love it is because it was a really fun trip, and other people’s problems with the movie were not enough to keep me from enjoying it.

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What is the theme of the film? What is its message?

Understanding the message of a film often requires multiple viewings. There’s the initial impression, and based on whether or not I liked my initial impression, there will be multiple viewings, which will allow for greater insight. My mind is just really, really, good at recognizing patterns. That’s all it is, and anybody can develop that skill. I do it through lots of repetition.You cannot gain greater insight into a movie with only one viewing, because the insights  are often in the details you didn’t notice that first time. If there is something  I didn’t care for in my initial impression (like all the characters being unlikable), there are unlikely to be repeat viewings.

This also ties into how my mind works as a visual artist/illustrator.  When I first watch a movie, its from a kind of  overhead viewpoint. I get into the emotions of the movie, the characters, and the overall plot. Subsequent viewings allow me to focus on the finer details. Later, I will fit those tiny details into larger and larger patterns. It’s really like putting together a puzzle. You see the finished picture on the box,  and you like it. You sort the pieces and then  put them together to create that final picture, (sometimes that final picture may be part of an even larger picture, as well.)

The messages I got from The Village were about love, sacrifice, and grief. It’s  a story about LOVE, with parallel tracks chronicling different types of love, such as romantic,unrequited, sacrificial, and possessive.. There’s the romantic type of love between Lucius and Ivy, the tragic love between their parents, Walker and Alice, and the possessive love that Noah feels for Ivy.  Ivy and Walker are examples of sacrificial love, as they are both willing to sacrifice their peace to save Lucius’ life. Ivy endangers her life for Lucius, and Walker is willing to allow Ivy to leave (and possibly lose her) because he loves Alice, Lucius’ mother.

At the beginning of the movie, Ivy’s sister declares her love for Lucius, but is rebuffed because Lucius prefers Ivy. There is a contrast in how Ivy’s sister reacts to unrequited love, which is sacrifice and moving on vs. Noah’s reaction, which is possessive violence. And then there is the unspoken love between Ivy’s father, and Alice. This is unrealized love. The two are in love, and according to the rules of the society they created, can never  be together.

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There is familial love between Ivy and Walker, and  Lucius and Alice. This type of love is emphasized through the character’s reactions to loss and grief. There are also  all the missing family members that the other characters mention, the loss of family that spurred them to run away from the world, to form a “utopian” society where they believed grief could not touch them. The movie opens with a funeral, and the death of a child. Grief can still access their lives. The pain is still going to happen, for example, witness how many times we see  shots of empty chairs throughout the movie.

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An empty chair in a movie scene is often meant to represent a space where someone should be. In this movie, the empty chairs, usually situated on porches, (or at dinner tables), which are, traditionally the site of familial gatherings, are meant to represent  the absence of loved ones. The entire movie carries a mood of unspoken grief and melancholy, which is only alleviated by its hopeful ending. The Elders of the community fled to The Village because each one of them has experienced the tragic loss of a family member, and  the point of the movie is that they cannot run away from loss or pain. The scattered, empty chairs are a constant reminder of their loss.

Critics and audiences completely turned against Shyamalan and started denigrating all of his films for not being as good as his first film, The Sixth Sense. They went into his next movies expecting all of them to have  surprise twists, and they do have surprise twists, just not the kinds of twists that were expected. (To be absolutely fair, Shyamalan definitely made some questionable film choices, though.) In the case of The Village, audiences were expecting a Horror movie, but since the monsters turned out to be false, some people decided that the movie was no good, because the trailer fooled them into thinking the monsters should’ve been real.

Many of these people failed to realize that the surface levels of Shyamalan’s movies are often not the point of the film, anyway. What appears to be the primary plot is often simply a backdrop for the telling of a different story altogether. The point of this movie isn’t the monsters. The  basic plot is just a backdrop for the examination of love and grief, just as the point of the movie Signs, isn’t the alien invasion. The alien invasion is simply a backdrop against which is being told the story of Reverend Graham regaining his faith in God. The story of Unbreakable isn’t about superheroes, but  about the disbelief in the modern mythology of superheroes, and one man overcoming that disbelief to take a leap of faith, and believe in himself.

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Now, I also must discuss here, the disturbing racial angle of some people’s criticism. Shyamalan is one of the few men of color directing big budget Hollywood movies. True, they are not always successful movies,  but audiences and critics did not seem willing to give his movies any chances after The Sixth Sense. They kept wanting him to repeat that first film, and some of them seemed to look no deeper into the motivations behind his stories beyond “the twist”. The Twist seemed to be all they wanted from him, and when he stepped away from that, to make other types of films, they vilified him for it.

I bring this up because I see the same thing happening in real time to Jordan Peele, especially after his comments in which he voiced the idea, that being a filmmaker gave him a platform, by which he could showcase actors of color, as leads. Its as if having been successful twice, there are people waiting in the wings for him to make a mistake, any mistake, which they can use to vilify his character, and bring him down. When men and women of color are highly successful, there is a contingent of White people who wait for them to make even the most minor of miscues, so that they can attempt to humble them. I witnessed this with Barack Obama, Beyonce, and I’m seeing it now with Ocasio – Cortez, and Jordan Peele. And I believe this is what happened with Shyamalan.

White film directors are given numerous opportunities to make bad films, some of them, have entire careers that consist of little more than mediocre flops, and yet the filmmakers have never received the sheer levels of vitriol that was leveled at Shyamalan by film critics. Some of them still manage to have great careers, or be considered critical darlings. Yes, he still manages to have a career, (so somebody is going to see Shyamalan’s movies), but critics insist on tearing apart all of his films, on the most minor details, no matter their quality, while sometimes excusing  just as shoddy work from some White filmmakers. And as I said before, some people use the failures and mistakes of PoC as an excuse to openly express the racism they’ve been taught not to express against an entire group of people.

 

‘Love, Death & Robots’ suffers from blatant sexism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting In The Twilight Zone

 

Sadly, this is the final season for Into the Badlands. It was not renewed for a fourth season on AMC, and surprisingly, I’m okay with that. Into the Badlands was groundbreaking in so many different ways, and I really did love the show, despite how it treated its one Black female character in season two, (and I explained in a previous post why that didn’t stop me from watching the show), but most especially in its representation. It had an Asian male lead, adequate representation of women and Black people, in an alternate future timeline, and the show has the distinction of having the only Black/Chinese- American woman, Chipo Chung,  kicking ass on this show.

I’m okay/ not okay with the cancellation, because it will be followed by a first class runner up: Warrior, which is airing on Cinemax. I gotta get my Martial Arts fix! Warrior is an homage to Bruce Lee, featuring a concept he came up with early in his career (and eventually became the show Kung Fu),  but was not allowed to implement, because Hollywood had no fucking idea what to do with Asian men back then, except mock them or erase them.  I’m a huge Bruce Lee fan, so I’m here for it. The representation is beautiful and accurate for the time period, and its just nice to see more Asian people in TV shows, (although now we probably need to see fewer of them doing something besides Martial Arts and Comedies. Hi, Sandra!)

Warrior

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Warrior is a complicated show, with a lot of depth and detail. Its based on an early idea Bruce Lee had for a story about a man from China, wandering  the  American old West. This was basically the premise of the show Kung Fu, which starred David Carradine, about a Shaolin Monk named Caine. Actually that idea was stolen from Lee,  it generally lacked Asians, and when they were present, it was only in supporting roles, in a show that was supposedly about Chinese immigrants. David Carradine is not Asian, btw.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kung_Fu_(TV_series)

This show is produced and directed by Justin Lin, of Fast and Furious and Star Trek fame, so I expect the most out of this, since I like Lin, and think he’s a good director, and he mostly does not disappoint, The show is very dense with meaning and action scenes. You don’t need to know anything about the history of San Francisco, Chinatown, or what was going on in China, to watch the show, but it helps if you have a little bit of grounding, and pay close attention to what the people say on the show, because they talk about things, even though all the ass kicking is distracting. It also helps if you’ve religiously watched any of Bruce Lee’s movies, because there are  more than a few very nice Easter Eggs. That outfit, for example, that Ah Sahm wears below is a callback to the outfit Lee wore in The Big Boss, (although in all his movies, Lee’s shirt gets artfully torn off. Later, Ah Sahm’s shirt gets artfully torn off, too.) I don’t know if that actor is deliberately channeling Lee’s  acting/ fighting stances, but he looks great doing it, and it made me smile.

 

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Check the stance!

The series is based on the real life events of the late 1880s, in Chinatown, when there were a series of Tong wars, mostly over the Opium Trade. At the time, in China there was the aftermath of the Opium Wars, and the beginning of the Boxer Rebellion (against the Qin dynasty). Into this stew of rivalries, steps Ah Sahm, a Martial Arts champion of some kind, who is in America looking for his sister. He finds her in the first episode, so that mystery is out of the way, but she wants nothing to do with him. She has a traumatic past,  and current secrets, like being married to the leader of a rival Tong than Ah Sahm works for, secretly working behind her husband’s back with an American, who wants to keep Chinatown destabilized, and going out at night as a vigilante to kill White men who harm Chinatown citizens. (At least I think this is her, or perhaps a character we haven’t met yet.) Her dance card is pretty full, and the last thing she needs is an appearance from her wayward brother, trying to save her. Plus, she hates him.

In fact, a lot of the women in this show live in complicated circumstances. The pretty blond wife of the town Mayor, (I think her name is Buckley), hates her husband, has compassion for the Chinese,  and is having a very open relationship with his secretary, or brother, or somebody , who lives in their house with them. It is unclear if he approves of their relationship, although he most certainly knows about it. Oh yeah, there are a lot of bare  titties in this show, so be aware of that, if you’re letting your kids watch this, although I suppose if you’re letting them watch all the hyper-violence and cussing, you should not have a problem with female presenting nipples. (There’s equity, too, as plenty of male presenting nipples are also on display. Okay, it’s mostly Ah Sahm.)

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The show starts off with everyone speaking Cantonese, and gradually, during one long take, they start speaking English. That was done so smoothly, that I  missed it the first time. The residents of Chinatown have their own English language terms, their own slang, and it can be hard to know what some things mean. You pretty much get thrown into the deep end on this show, and if you’re not of Chinese descent, it can be a little overwhelming. Even though I know a little  something something about Chinese history, I was still having trouble keeping up, having to watch the  episode multiple times.

https://www.geek.com/television/the-story-of-warrior-bruce-lees-long-delayed-tv-series-1781391/

The title of the epis. is called The Itchy Onion, and I’m not sure what Onion means, except it’s a slur that some Chinese people were calling one another in the show. I know a slur when I hear one, and that’s exactly what it is. An “itchy” one is the equivalent of the Black people version of the word “froggy”.  As in , “Do you feel froggy? Then you just jump!”. Its a call out to a fight. And conveniently, Ah Sahm kept getting called out by everyone he meets. Some challenges he backed down from, but others he just jumped right in with gusto. Most especially, the first fight of the show, when he first gets off the boat, as he totally thrashes a trio of bullying White bigots. I stood and I applauded, because that is such a Bruce Lee thing to do, he could have written that scene himself. If you’ve watched any of his movies, then you know he hated bullies, and always stood up for the underdog.

And what glorious fight scenes we get! I’m telling you, I was tired after watching this show. Ah Sahm has several fights, all of them well done, and very cinematic, rivaling any scene in Into the Badlands. He also kinda has a big mouth and is well aware of his skills.

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Where the show falls flat is in the depiction of its female characters ,and some of the White characters are less than compelling. One of the most interesting of that group is a White police officer, who emigrated from Georgia after the Civil War, named Richard Lee, and played with a very  genuine sounding Georgian accent, by the very British Tom Weston-Jones. What is is with English men and Southern American accents? Anyway, he volunteers to be amember of a Chinatown Detective Squad after several of the residents are murdered by angry Irishmen, who are concerned about losing their jobs to foreigners. He is the only cop on the force with integrity apparently, and he does have some ass kicking skills himself. I’m looking forward to watching him team up with or face off against Ah Sahm, cuz you know it’s coming. They will probably team up though, because while Bruce was angry about a lot of things people did, he also believed that cooperation and unity between the races was a good thing, and he championed that in several of his movies, (most notably, Enter the Dragon.)

There’s a wealth of information out there about Bruce Lee, and an 8 part video series about the making of  the show. Each video is only about five to ten minutes long, but if you want to know more about Bruce Lee’s ideas about life and the show, there are several documentaries floating about Youtube, so check those out:

 

Further Reading:

Tao of Jeet Kune Do by [Lee, Bruce]

Bruce Lee Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom for Daily Living (Bruce Lee Library) by [Lee, Bruce]

Bruce Lee: Letters of the Dragon: An Anthology of Bruce Lee's Correspondence with Family, Friends, and Fans 1958-1973 (The Bruce Lee Library) by [Lee, Bruce]

The Twilight Zone

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I mostly skipped the first episode of this season, which seemed to have a The Shining vibe to it, as a man, Kumail Nanjiani, sells his soul and life in a comedy club. Its creepy and haunting, but didn’t really hit me much, even though Tracy Morgan gives a great performance, 0009199119299

and I’m not particularly interested in shows about comedians. I did watch the second episode, and I really enjoyed it, although I think it went on a wee  bit longer than it needed to.

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2019/04/with-the-comedian-the-twilight-zone-addresses-some.html

The second episode of the Twilight Zone, Nightmare at 30,000 Feet, is an homage to one of the every first episodes of the original series, and Jordan manages to pull this off very well, without me being able to predict what’s going to actually happen until a few minutes from the end, even though you’re told what’s going to happen at the end. The original story,  Nightmare at 20, 000 Feet was written by Richard Matheson and starred William Shatner, and I thought this episode would be a retread of that story. In the original story, one of the passengers sees a gremlin tearing apart the wing of the plane. He  has a panic attack, while trying to convince everyone on board that there is a monster on the  wing. This episode also managed to make its way into the Twilight Zone (one of my favorite) movie and starred John Lithgow.

In this remake, they change the story up a bit. Just as in the original, you  sort of travel around the cabin meeting various odd characters, as the lead character slowly loses his shit,  as he becomes aware that something is wrong with the plane.

Justin Sanderson tries to avoid Fate when he finds a listening device on the plane that is cued up to a podcast that discusses the loss/crash of the flight. He spends the rest of the episode trying to convince people that the flight is doomed, or trying to stop it, which, when you think about it, isn’t really his responsibility. This was more than a little frustrating to me, because I know the rules. In trying his best to stop it, he ends up causing the problem, and I could have told him that’s how Fate works.

Before this,  we get treated to some nice foreshadowing on the number 015, and he argues with his wife about the PTSD he’s been experiencing, after witnessing some shit go down in Tel Aviv. This gets the audience to question his sanity. So we learn a lot about him through dialogue, and he’s not an unlikable character, but there were times I wanted him to just sit his ass down, and stop trying to help, because I just knew HE was going to be the reason the plane crashed, and I also knew it would have something to do with that “extra” character on the plane, with speaking lines, who appears to have no actual purpose. But none of this weakened my enjoyment of the episode becasue it was just fun.

The character that does end up crashing the plane, a drunken ex-pilot named Bob, was someone who felt really off to me the moment I saw him. I was immediately suspicious of his presence on the plane, especially since he was so friendly with Justin, for no reason, and most especially after he said he was a pilot.

There’s a funny little moment when Justin confronts a couple of Sikhs, and tries to get them to stop speaking their language out loud,  or people would get suspicious. They just  roll their eyes at him and tell him they’re not Muslim, and to go away somewhere, which I thought was funny/but not funny. Jordan always makes sure to mention some social issue we’re currently dealing with in all his horror stories, and Muslims on airplanes is something (White) people are  still freaking out about in the US.

Jordan is very successful at upping the tension, especially in such a confined space, so in that sense, its as good as the original episodes, and well worth giving it a watch. And if you know little factoids about the original episode there’s some nice Easter Eggs in it.

10 Non-Spoiler Things We've Learned From Jordan Peele's 'Get Out'

But what stood out for me is Jordan’s summation at the end of these  episodes, in which he seems to be channeling the full spirit of Rod Serling. Standing there in a suit, holding either a glass of wine or champagne, with Serling’s vocal mannerisms intact,  this is more than a little creepy, and kind of funny. I’m so used to him being a comedian that I just expect him to burst into laughter at any second, as if he was just putting me on. I couldn’t help a nervous giggle.

For some reason people are so surprised at Peele’s turn towards Horror, and how he is so successful at it, but these must be people who didn’t watch Key and Peele. Peele has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Horror movies, and he was forever referencing them on the show.

In fact, a lot of the comedy on the show was clearly  horrific, with a punch line tacked onto them , like the episode, Das Negros,  where two Black men in whiteface pretend to be Nazis in order to hide from a Nazi officer looking for victims of the Reich. It’s a terrifying idea by itself, and it’s full of tension, but made hilarious by the idea that the officer is dumb enough to fall for their bad makeup jobs, and his silly stereotypes of Black people. Peele seemed to fully understand the idea that fear and laughter both spring from the same fountain, and can be turned towards one or the other by  the addition of the ridiculous. In the Twilight Zone remake, the tension and horror are still there, but the ridiculous has been removed, leaving a distinct unease.

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https://www.okayplayer.com/culture/jordan-peele-series-of-horror-films-get-out.html

I have four other social thrillers that I want to unveil in the next decade…The best and scariest monsters in the world are human beings and what we are capable of especially when we get together,” Peele said. “I’ve been working on these premises about these different social demons, these innately human monsters that are woven into the fabric of how we think and how we interact, and each one of my movies is going to be about a different one of these social demons.”

I’m so looking forward to Peele’s next work and the rest of his career. I’m also looking to the far future when he starts making those Dramas, that, like with  Cronenberg, I know live somewhere in his mind.

New Trailers In April

Joker

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

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

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Dead Don’t Die

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

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

 

Dora the Explorer

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

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

Avengers :Endgame

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

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

John Wick 3

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

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

 

Hellboy

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

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

Godzilla

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

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

 

Next week, lets review some TV shows! 

American Gods Season Two: House on the Rock

American Gods began its second season last week.

Let’s talk about it!

But first we need to have some behind the scenes discussion, just like in the show itself. Bryan Fuller is no longer the show runner for this season. He was let go after writing a couple of this season’s episodes.

American Gods is taking new steps forward today, though; Jesse Alexander, who worked with Fuller on Hannibal and Star Trek: Discovery, has been officially named as its new showrunner. Meanwhile, the six scripts Green and Fuller had already written for the show’s second season are allegedly set to be tossed out, with Alexander and Gaiman returning to square one as they fight to get the series back up and running for its anticipated January 2019 return.

  ——  https://www.avclub.com/the-bryan-fuller-american-gods-breakup-was-apparently-e-1822682450

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The new show runners are the author of the book, Neil Gaiman, and Jessie Alexander (who is also now out). I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ve never watched a show run by Gaiman before, but I am familiar with Fuller’s output. Those of you who watched last season are going to notice some differences in how the story gets told, and I am not confident that Gaiman will keep that same in your face attitude that was such a great part of the first season. Its possible the show may end up being little more than a lovely spectacle, but I’m not going to give up on the series just because Fuller isn’t on it. I’m really curious about what’s going to happen this season, and the show has already been renewed for a third, so even though I have some doubts that it won’t be as good as Fuller’s version, there might be other compensations. I’m sticking with it.

That Fuller is an openly gay man had a lot of influence on what was depicted on screen, most especially in the episode Head Full of Snow, where we met Salim and the Djinn. Fuller was also responsible for the many subtle layers throughout the season, as he is a master of subtext. There have already been some dramatic changes, because Kristen Chenoweth and Gillian Anderson left the show on Fuller’s heels, and the writers have had to accommodate that. So  we do not pick up where we left off at the end of season one, and Ostara’s actions at the end of that season seems to have had little effect on the world.

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Aside from a brief background news piece, this action has no clear impact on the world, and Easter has apparently turned her back on Wednesday because he ran over some of her bunnies.

And to explain Anderson’s absence from the show:

Meanwhile, the New God Media, who Anderson played with an overabundance of confidence as she threatened and cajoled heroes and villains alike, was apparently so shaken by Wednesday’s display of power that she’s gone into hiding to reinvent herself. 

——-   https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/10/18258816/american-gods-review-season-2-ian-macshane-gillian-anderson-kristin-chenoweth-starz

The story opens with Mr World bruised and battered, being ferried to a secret location by Technical Boy. Media has disappeared, after her run in with Easter, and TB is  tasked with finding her by Mr. World. Mr. World is in this secret location to visit Argus, a secret surveillance site (and an old god of some kind, which is the reason Technical Boy is not allowed to meet him. Mr. World can spy  on the old gods, thanks to the presence of Bilquis, and her tracking device.

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In the meantime, all the gods we saw from the first season make their way to the House on the Rock, along with a couple of hangers on. Sweeney, Laura, Wednesday, and Shadow all travel in the same car and their proximity to each other is not easy. Sweeney hates everyone, and Shadow and Laura are not comfortable with each other.There’s a lot more of the book dialogue in the episode, as Nancy ,and Wednesday talk about the history of the House on the Rock. Neil Gaiman wanted more of the book to be on the screen and he has somewhat got his wish.

We are  introduced to Kali, also known as Mama Ji who is one of my favorite characters from the book, even though she doesn’t get a lot to do beyond some ass kicking, and her speech in this episode.  I hope we get to see more of her this season. As a human, she works in a local hotel, in the humble position of a housemaid. She argues that she doesn’t need a war because her position as an Indian deity is pretty strong, due to the influx of Indian immigrants to America. As am extremely powerful True God, in her own right, she argues that she is in no danger of being forgotten. Whiskey Jack and John Henry also get name checked.

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Bilquis was sent by Mr. World to spy on the meeting of the old gods, and according to Mr. World, make her complicit in his act of betrayal later in the movie, which we’ll get to in a moment. Bilquis was chosen for this because she owes Technical Boy a favor for creating the dating app that has given her new worshipers, and she is definitely feeling her own power, (as we saw last season when she tried to seduce TB), and she is reluctant to do anything for the new gods. They need a way to keep her in line, and one their side, otherwise she is too powerful to control. So ironically, Bilquis ends up in exactly the situation that was talked about in the first season when she was exiled from her homeland, her sexuality now under the control of a men, to be unleashed when they only with their permission.

At the House, the Djinn, who is working security, is confronted by Salim, who tells him that he is following his heart and wants to stay with him. The Djinn wants him to go away because its too dangerous for him to get involved in this war. The Djinn issues everyone coins to a mechanical oracle as a kind of reverse entry fee to the meeting. Bilquis prophecy has something to do with Shadow because when she receives hers, she glances sharply in his direction. Notice the very warm greeting between her and Mr. Nancy vs. the one between her and Wednesday which is decidedly cooler, as she chastises  him that she is older than him, and he neglected to invite her.

Sweeney, Salim, and Laura are not invited to the meeting, and must wait outside, but Shadow gets a ticket and his prophecy is interesting:

Every ending is a new beginning
Your lucky number is none
Your lucky color is dead
Motto: Like father, like son”

If you’ve read the book, then YOU know what that prophecy means but Shadow is mystified.

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The gods all meet up just before the meeting which involves riding the Carousel. Bilquis expresses some interest in who Shadow is. Everyone is always curious about Shadow and what he’s doing hanging out with Wednesday. Bilquis and Nancy admire Shadow’s physique although of course Nancy takes every opportunity to belittle him. Nancy’s son gets a shout out, too. If you haven’t read Anansi Boys, then check it out. Its not directly related to American Gods,  but is related thematically for its theme of  relationships between fathers and sons.

Laura, even though she’s not invited, demands a coin for a prophecy too ,and the Djinn tries to refuse her but is warned away from making Laura angry by Salim and Sweeney. Her prophecy is blank, because she’s already dead. She has no future. Wednesday meets with the eldest Zoraya, The Evening Star, who looks lovely and is played by the magnificent Cloris Leachman, and her brother Czernobog, who is his usual profane self.

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The old gods all meet to ride the Carousel and invite Shadow to ride as well. As I mentioned last season, there are a lot of things the gods do that is related to their worship, like smoking, and prophecy. The act of or the idea of spinning is a theme across several religions, with the most famous being Sufi Whirling, or Whirling Dervishes of Turkey. Whirling in circles is a form of active meditation used  to touch the divine. Even some of the fundamentalist Christian regions mention spinning in circles as a way to connect with God, or a sign that one has connected with God.

This is the purpose of the carousel, as Shadow is connected to the gods by the whirl of the machine, he wakes up in a mental state in which he can see the gods true forms.  The old gods are reluctant to join Wednesday in his war against the new gods, but Shadow gives a rallying speech ,which Wednesday believes will sway some of them.

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After the meeting the old gods meet at a local diner where Shadow get gaslighted by the gods, who pretend the carousel event didn’t occur, and will not answer his question about whether or not they are all gods. Technically, some of the them are just Personages, not gods. I would call them Powers, like Mad Sweeney, and the Djinn. Shadow also  tries to ignore Laura exists, but she is somewhat compensated by Bilquis’ attention to her.

I have no idea if Bilquis has the ability to turn her seduction powers on and off, or if they are simply innate to her, or if they work, or don’t work, on some people. Certainly many of the gods, both old and new, seem able to resists her charms, but ordinary humans cannot. It’s hard to tell if her powers are working on them. First she tries to guess if Laura is some sort of god, because she recognizes that Laura is different from an ordinary human, and seems attracted to her, until she finds out that Laura is married to Shadow, and then kisses her. Beyond looking bashful Laura doesn’t really respond.

 

Bilquis leaves but has signaled the location to Mr. World , who has sent an assassin to take out as many of the old gods as possible. The primary casualty is Zoraya, The Evening Star, who dies in Wednesday arms. Her brother goes on a long rant about what he pans to do to the killer, and its an interesting speech. You  will recognize the prophetic content of it if you’ve read the book.

I really do hope we get to see the Zoraya sister again. Cloris Leachman is a favorite of mine, and her character was hilarious, and played to perfection.

Shadow runs outside to beat up the assassin, but gets abducted by what appears to be a UFO. This is the introduction of another character I do not remember from the book, Mr. Town. He works for the new gods and wants to get to the bottom of who Shadow is, and why he is with Wednesday.

So in the second episode we get to find out a lot about Shadow along with some new questions as well.

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*I am very late with these reviews, but life has a way of delaying one’s well laid out plans and that’s what happened this week.  So for the next couple of weeks, it’s just going to be reviews of shows I’ve been watching, rather than my usual essays. Next week is the premiere of the last episodes of the last season of Into the Badlands, and I’ll be focusing on those, and I have  reviews of Doom Patrol, Upgrade vs. Venom, and  Siren, coming soon.

American Gods Season One

The second season of American Gods airs this Sunday, and Starz has been showing season one non-stop since January. The show is available for streaming on Amazon Prime, Youtube, and Vudu, or the Starz app.

So here, for those of you who missed the first season, are all my reviews and recaps in one spot.

 

The Bone Orchard

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/american-%EF%BB%BFgods-season-one-the-bone-orchard%EF%BB%BF/

 

The Secret of the Spoons

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/american-gods-season-one-the-secret-of-spoons%EF%BB%BF/

Head Full of Snow

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/american-gods-season-one-head-full-of-snow/

 

Git Gone

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/american-gods-season-one-git-gone/

Lemon Scented You

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/american-gods-season-one-lemon-scented-you/

A Murder of Gods

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/american-gods-season-one-a-murder-of-gods/

A Prayer For Mad Sweeney

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/a-prayer-for-mad-sweeney/

Come to Jesus

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/american-gods-season-one-come-to-jesus-part-one/

American Gods: Of Gods and Shadow Moon (Come To Jesus – Pt. 2)

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https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/american-gods-of-gods-and-shadow-moon/