Mini Reviews From Firestick TV

I got an Amazon FireStick for Christmas, and so far, I’m having good fun with it. I’ve been doing this thing, where I go to random apps, and try them, or just watch whatever movies or shows get recommended to me on Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu. I’ve watched movies on Terrarium TV, and and an app called Showbox, but I’m not gonna talk about those today. I’m sticking with Netflix, and Hulu, for now.

 

Kill Order

One of the  fun things to watching movies on the Firestick, is you get to watch low budget, never heard of, movies, and this is the case with Kill Order. I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before watching it. Had never even heard of it. Although some elements of the plot are somewhat confusing (requiring you to pay close attention to some horrible acting), the plot is fairly straightforward.

The plot involves a superhuman teenager, David Lee, played by Chris  Mark, on the run from the shadowy scientific Organization that  experimented on him. David is prone to nightmares and anxiety attacks. When he’s attacked in his classroom and his home by assassins, and his adopted parent is killed, he has to outrun more of them,  sent after him by The Organization.

There’s shades of Logan in the plot, because David is an experiment, who was freed by one of the doctors working on the program. He’s been infused with some type of elemental energy from another  world, and when he becomes stressed, or concentrates hard enough, he can access this energy to be faster and stronger than human. Unfortunately, many of the assassins out to kill him are also successful experiments and can access this energy too.

I thought the acting was atrocious, but I loved the kinetic energy in this movie. I think it was worth watching, for the action scenes, although a couple of them lasted just a tad longer than they should have. The action is really fast, brutal, and bloody. My major complaint about that, was that so many of the fights took place in public spaces, well within view of spectators, who did not seem at all puzzled to see black garbed killers flailing swords around, at the park. I mean it is a fairly unusual sight in this world but I guess maybe not so much in David’s.

Kill Order is available on Hulu, and is not related to the Maze Runner series, by James Dashner, as far as I know.

 

Pose

I heard about this show on The Root, and thought I’d give it a try. It’s a new show, from the creator of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy, and is loosely based on the 1990 movie, Paris is Burning, about the gay Ballroom scene in 1980s New York. I enjoyed that movie, and have been fascinated with Ballroom culture ever since, and this show is an interesting glimpse into the lifestyle, that comes from a place of authenticity, as many of the actors are actually transgender.

I was a little put out by the opening of the movie, as I don’t particularly enjoy watching characters be mean and bitchy to one another, but apparently that was just  setting up the (loosely named) villains of the show, House Abundance, which is the rival to House Evangelista. There’s also a B plot involving the economic boom issues going on in NY at the time, involving the rise of  Donald Trump, (although he is not featured in the series).

House Abundance is run by Dominique, who was once the House mother for Blanca, who left her (becasue she wasn’t getting any respect), to start her own House, and we get to watch as the two Houses compete in various shows, how Blanca builds her own house, and the contrast between how the two houses are run. The show also tackles issues of teen/LGBTQ homelessness, as Blanca adopts a young man from the street, whose family abandoned him.

For those of you unfamiliar with all this, here’s are some  brief primers on  Ballroom culture and voguing. You’ll hear about the two Houses, La Beija, Xtravaganza, and Ninja, which were the focus of the movie, Paris is Burning, and some of the dance moves, like The Duck Walk, and the Death Drop. The New York Black and Latinx LGBTQ Ballroom culture is where the original meaning of “Shade” and “Reading” people came from. (None of this has anything to do with the dance form which was co-opted by Madonna in the 90s.)

I’ve only spent some time watching the various clips from this move, because it just hurts too much, to watch it, in its entirety, multiple times. The stories really move you. You start to root for certain characters, only to find out they were murdered in a hate crime, a few months later, or died of Aids. it can be hard to watch, but its worth it to glimpse a culture you may have never seen before. I try to be respectful, and keep in mind, that I’m not a part of this culture, and  a spectator to all it. I just admire it from afar.

 

Here is one of my favorite moments in Paris is Burning, about the philosophy behind voguing, realness, and authenticity:

 

I enjoyed the first episode a lot, and I made a promise to myself to catch some  more episodes, although I’m not yet devoted to it. But I do love the idea that this even managed to make its way to Primetime TV. I can actually see something like this being made in the 80s for  television, but not in the 90s, which was a lot more conservative. If you have been wishing for more LGBTQ content on TV then this is your show, this is your hour, this is you! The show discusses a lot of transgender issues, which makes this show absolutely groundbreaking!

This show wasn’t recommended to me from my Firestick, although I think you can watch it on Hulu, if you don’t have cable, or satellite TV.

 

The Outsider

I was prepared not to like this movie, which is newly available on Netflix. Netflix recommended I watch this, because I’d watched several Chinese Action movies (?), and put several more on my watchlist. So, even though I was dubious, because it starred Jared Leto, I took a chance, and gave it a try.

For the record,  I am, apparently,  one of the five people on the entire planet, who does not hate Jared Leto. I’m just occasionally wary of his presence in something, mostly  based on the stories I’ve heard about him, that I should, but I’ve always been contrary. I think he’s a perfectly okay actor, and I’ve liked him ever since he got his ass beat by Brad Pitt in Fight Club. I even liked him in this movie, although he turns in, what is for him, a rather subdued performance, which is also completely unnecessary to the plot of this movie.

I have a confession to make. I am a fan of historical movies, and books, about Westerners travelling, and living, in Japan. I will watch, or read, just about anything on that subject. That said, though, I have never understood Hollywood’s need to add White men to stories that do not actually require their presence. I don’t  object to  such things per se, but sometimes, I don’t feel like looking at White guys in Asian media. I’m told this is an economic choice, because White Americans are too stupid to watch movies without any White men in them. Personally, I think that’s a grave insult to the reasonably smart White people who actually watch foreign films, with nary a White guy in sight, (and if the American school system hadn’t spent so many decades turning its citizens brains into ignorant mush about the rest of the world, this would never have created a problem, that needed to be pandered to.)

This is an acceptable movie, and Jared Leto is fine in it, as an American criminal, imprisoned in Japan, just after WW2. While there, he meets, and saves the life of, a Yakuza member. When the two of them break out of prison, he goes to work for the man whose life he saved, the son of a Yakuza leader, and gets accepted as a low ranking member of the clan, despite the protestations of his friend’s brother, who is set to inherit the title of clan leader. He meets a girl, and gets involved in some drama, that results in the entire clan being killed, after which he’s exiled.

This story could just as easily have been told without him, because the politics and infighting of Yakuza clans is fascinating, all on its own. I don’t know if the director is Japanese, but I didn’t get much of a sense of Japan in this movie, beyond the usual surface signifiers, like Sumo scenes, neon city streets, and  dancing geisha. If you’re looking for some depth of setting, like a travelogue, this is not that movie. Leto looks distinctly out of place, but I guess that’s the point of putting him in this movie.

The setting felt more like the industrial wasteland of 80s Chicago, than 50s Japan, so there could’ve definitely been some more work done on the time setting. The trailer looks more Japanese than the actual movie, and I have no idea how a director manages to accomplish such a thing.  It’s a very dark film. It’s very gloomy. There’s a lot of sitting around in bars, gambling, and drinking, while giving people shifty looks, talking smack about the American, some macho grandstanding, and some short, brutal, fight scenes, which Leto performs satisfactorily, without ever seeming as if he is a dangerous person. I think it’s because he has this wide eyed innocent look, (he is exceptionally pretty), that works against what he’s trying to portray. He really needs to work on looking more shifty eyed, unless of course,  that was the point of his character.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a spectacular one either. I liked the visuals, but I like the visuals of any movie set in Japan, so that’s a very low bar. There’s nothing in it that stands out in particular, beyond the mood, and setting, and this one White guy, that the other characters keep saying doesn’t belong where he is. If you’ve got some time to spend on a Saturday evening, with nothing much to do, and you don’t mind watching Jared Leto, and some Japanese imagery, for 90 minutes or so, then it’s an engaging enough film, but if you choose not to watch it, don’t beat yourself up over that decision, too much.

 

 

Travels With My Dad

I have a pretty close relationship to my Mom, so I’m always fascinated by other peoples real life, adult, relationships with their parents. I actually really liked this show. It wasn’t recommended to me by Netflix, but eventually it would have, because I like travel shows, and I enjoyed watching the show, An Idiot Abroad.

Jack Whitehall is a British comedian that I know nothing about. I’ve never seen any of his performances, so I came into this completely clear of any expectations beyond the show’s premise. The show is about him taking his dad,Michael, along with him on a world tour. The two of them do some father/son bonding, and have some mildly amusing adventures, as Jack attempts to connect with his dad. I would say his objective is successful, and occasionally deeply amusing, as his dad is not the kind of man who minces words, makes it clear the things he will, and will not do, while still having a sense of whimsy, and being game enough to try new things.

In fact, I really loved the show, and I’m not sure what this says about me other than I’m older than Jack or American or a woman or something, but I kinda identified with Michael for most of the show. Like his dad, I was often exasperated at Jack’s attitudes about things. When they first get to somewhere in SE Asia, Jack wants to stay at a hostel, but Michael is having none of that shit, and I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t either. I would not travel halfway around the world, to live in a small room,with a bunch of strange White people, who look none too clean, or trustworthy. (Also, I have a phobia about falling asleep in the presence of White people, because apparently,  I’ve watched far too many bad comedies.) Like Jack’s dad, I’m gonna stay at a nice hotel, like a civilized human being. If I’m gonna be robbed, I want that shit done James Bond style, with class.

Michael and Jack visit a temple, and a house of dolls. Or is it the same thing? The idea behind the dollhouse is that people have these very realistic dolls made, that are supposed to House the souls of actual children. Well, they get a doll, and Michael carries this little doll around, for the rest of the show. The point is that you’re supposed to treat the doll like an actual child. I thought this was both creepy and cute. Jack just thought it was creepy. Michael named the doll, carried him openly everywhere, and doted on it, just like he was supposed to, but eventually lost the doll, when he gave it to another little boy to hold,when he went on a sort of train ride. That’s something you really have to see because it’s not actually a train, and is a deeply inefficient form of travel, that Michael absolutely hated.

But it was a very  fun show. I adored Jack’s parents. His mom has got a bit of salt in her too, which I liked. Michael would call her every evening, and they’d talk about what he’d done that day, and she would give him no nonsense advice on things to say and do with Jack. If you’ve got parents, (especially if you’re their primary caregiver), you should probably watch this show with them. I didn’t watch this with my mom, but I’m thinking about it.

 

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Weekend Holiday Reading

Just in case you find yourself with nothing in particular to do this Memorial Day, here are some articles I found interesting this week. They don’t actually have anything to do with Memorial Day but I liked them, anyway. This also doesn’t mean they were published this week, just that they were new for me. (For those of you who are not US citizens, Memorial Day is one of those martial holidays that America celebrates by taking off from work, to burn various meats, over open flames, in our backyards.)

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*This is a song I’m going to keep singing until people memorize the lyrics. I’ve noticed this is a trend throughout a lot of science fiction, where White people, for those are the ones primarily writing these futures, are oppressed or terrorized in the same manner that they have historically oppressed others.

I read somewhere that the reason why the opioid crisis happened the way it did in the US, is because White people cannot envision any future in which they do not maintain primacy. They can only imagine the future as a dystopia for themselves, whereas marginalized people are hopeful about the future because we’ve already experienced the worst.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/04/why-sci-fi-keeps-imagining-the-enslavement-of-white-people/361173/

In Terminator, as well, the fact that the robots are treating us as inhumanly as we treated them doesn’t exactly create any sympathy. Instead, the paranoid fear of servants overthrowing masters just becomes a spur to uberviolence (as shown in Linda Hamilton’s transformation from naïve good girl to paramilitary extremist). The one heroic reprogrammed Terminator, who must do everything John Connor tells him even unto hopping on one leg, doesn’t inspire a broader sympathy for SkyNet. Instead, Schwarzenegger is good because he identifies with the humans totally, sacrificing himself to destroy his own people. Terminator II is, in a lot of ways, a retelling of Gunga Din.

 

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*I really enjoyed this post discussing why the lack of racial diversity in the Bladerunner movies, is so troubling. The only show I can think of that comes close to getting it right is the BBC series titled Humans. It has a diverse cast of robots, and deals with the same things, but as is usual, for shows written from a White person’s point of view, it falls short of discussing the racial implications. (Of course Britain has a different relationship with racial slavery, having abolished it much earlier than America did.)

https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/10/06/25457531/race-and-blade-runner-2049

BLADE RUNNER 2049: White Appropriation of Black Oppression

White audiences watching a white character being subjugated to sci-fi racism can invest safely. We’re obviously now in the land of make believe if anyone is randomly pulling over Ryan Reynolds. Moviegoers can pick and choose what parts of the African-American experience they want. They cheer the underdog, they hiss at the police force, but once the movie’s over, they will go home, and post #blacklivesmatter from a distance.

 

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*I wanted to write this long piece about how the lyrics of Donald Glover’s This is America cannot be divorced from the visuals, without losing their meaning. For example, most of the lyrics are about the usual gangsta rap subject matter, with the same lyrics being repeated over and over. Get your money! Get your money! Get your money! But these typical admonishments from rap music take on new meaning when being joyously sung by the church choir in the video. Just as there is the veneration of guns in the video, that scene represents  the veneration of money and capitalism as well. The Church of the Holy Dollar! This makes the video  not just an indictment of America’s gun culture, but a critique  of the capitalist system which fuels it. This article is about how Black Americans sell their pain to get money. Black pain, and trauma, is the only currency we have, and it’s what sells.

https://www.rollingstone.com/donald-glover-childish-gambino-this-is-america-video-visual-w519895

A child is the one to handle Glover’s weapon after each shooting, and it’s children who sit in the rafters above, recording the bedlam with their phones. Our normalization of racist violence has come at the cost of not only black lives, but black innocence.

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*Genius breaks it down a little bit more, although it still doesn’t touch on the  the very first lyrics, “We just wanna party, just for you”. I think this is really telling, because these are your usual “let’s party” rap lyrics, which are then contrasted with the violence. We want to party FOR you, not with you, is important in this context. Even Black violence is entertainment for a White audience. 

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*This article is about how creators of fantasy and scifi seem to   have no problem approaching the topic of sexism, but cannot seem to approach the topic of race, with any depth. 

White people like to reimagine history as a peaceful time in which they never had to think about race, hence the nostalgia for times past. But really what they like about the past was the  unobstructed dominance of White supremacy. Nostalgia for the past and fear of the future seems to make up the bulk of  White people’s imaginings in speculative fiction. 

http://www.vulture.com/2017/08/why-dont-dystopias-know-how-to-talk-about-race.html

 

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*This article touches on all the points I made in my review of this film, and I’m glad I found it. I was irked because critics were so focused on the romantic relationship, that they were neglecting to see the wider social messages of the film. It’s nice to know that someone else got it, while tying these themes to the movie’s broader critique of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, which I didn’t see.

http://msenscene.com/2018/04/04/the-shape-of-waters-strickland-as-the-ur-american/

The reproduction of consumer capitalist values is taught to all Americans; you simply can’t not participate in capitalism (unless you want to starve, of course). But the film goes further than just a surface-level critique. We get to see how marginalized people assimilate to cultivate respectability at the expense of their peers. 

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*I realized this while I was watching the movie. Ronan’s motivational speeches about what a genius he is, and how he is unappreciated, basically boils down to, “The world didn’t kiss my ass like I wanted, so now everyone must die.”  Its one of the reasons online fanboys hated this movie, because Ronan  is a direct indictment of them.

https://www.bustle.com/articles/172212-the-ghostbusters-villain-is-basically-an-internet-troll-its-a-brilliant-way-to-silence-the

Most of Rowan’s dialogue reflects a feeling of entitlement and that of someone seeking out revenge for some past hardship. But much like the supposed oppression that trolls and MRAs feel, Rowan’s hardship doesn’t actually exist, at least to the extreme he makes it seem like it does. Rowan may have been bullied, of course, but that, nor being a janitor or not having a girlfriend isn’t warranted cause to unleash havoc on the public or cause harm in order to get “revenge.”

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*I was a huge fan of the HBO show Oz. Its been off the air for some time now, but during its time, it was groundbreaking, for its depiction of a homosexual relationship between two men, Tobias Beecher, and Chris Keller. What I found most fascinating about the relationship is Beecher’s psychology in falling for Keller. Here was a man who probably had always thought of himself as being straight, and was, due to circumstances, in a relationship with a known killer.

View story at Medium.com

http://www.newnownext.com/oz-ten-years-later/07/2007/

Being set in prison, however, the show also dealt frankly with the sexuality of prisoners who did not consider themselves gay, yet were driven into same-sex relations either through loneliness or through rape. One of the primary ways these themes were explored was through the character of Tobias Beecher. Beecher was a wealthy, middle-class lawyer, husband and father, who found himself in Oz (the nickname for the Oswald State Correctional Facility) after accidentally killing a girl while driving drunk.

Bladerunner 2049 (Part II)

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

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

Symbolism &Themes

The Soul

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Women as Commodity

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

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

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

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

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

 

Slavery

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

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

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

*From Medium. com: 

BLADE RUNNER 2049: White Appropriation of Black Oppression

Nicholas Podany

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

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Environmentalism

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Wealth Inequality

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

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

 

Memory & Self

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

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

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

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

 

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Cinematography

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

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

 

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

Costumes

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

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

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

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

 

Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Hey! I Watched Infinity War!

This Review Contains Many Spoilers!!!

This Review Contains All The Spoils!!!

I’m About To Spoil This Movie For You!!!

So…

My mom and I have started this thing where we either go to lunch, or a movie, on Sundays. This is our version of going to church, only without having to dress up. We just went to see Infinity War, and we had some feelings about it.

I’m going to talk about this, again, through the lens of my 67 year old mom, because you need some background on the experience of the two of us seeing this movie.

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I am a Marvel Fan. My mom is  a DC fan. She has never read a superhero comic book in her life, though. I, on the other hand, have read a lot of Marvel comics. Mostly X-Men, The Avengers, and the occasional solo book. I’ve seen most of the MCU films and am familiar with the characters backstories. My mom…not so much. She hasn’t watched any of the MCU movies, outside of Black Panther, (although she did recognize Hulk, and Spider-Man.) I just started getting her to watch DC characters like Black Lightning and The Flash. She does like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, though, mostly from TV shows. I did get her to watch Logan one day. I consider that a win.

She was very confused by this movie. I did warn her that it would be confusing, and she might get bored, because she doesn’t know any of the characters, and so won’t understand why things are important. She thought it was exciting though, and loved seeing Wakanda (and Okoye) onscreen again. She was very upset about people dying in the movie, but I think I sufficiently explained that this is only the first half of the movie, and that Black Panther will return.

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I remain unphased by this movie because I’ve read enough comic books, (ie. Infinity Gauntlet, on which this movie’s storyline is loosely based), and have enough actor background that I’m reasonably sure about whose gonna return and whose gonna stay dead in the second film. Also, characters from the comic books are forever being resurrected, so I’m not all that upset. It’s not that I didn’t feel things. I didn’t like watching the characters go, but I also paid close attention to things that were said by characters like Dr. Strange, and Spider-Man.

Let’s get the ending out of the way first.

Yes, most of our heroes are dead at the end, with the most heart wrenching ending being Spider-Man’s. He’s just a child, he didn’t want to die, and he went out apologizing for being an inconvenience to his mentor, which is what Parker always does, (apologizing for being a burden to everyone.) The theater, which had been making its usual cracklings and rustling noises through a lot of the movie, was dead silent during this scene.

Unlike the hysterics on Tumblr, I’m not crying about this because I got reasons, and also I’m an optimist when it comes to movie narratives. The movie isn’t actually over yet. Its like that Lord of the Rings trilogy, which isn’t really a trilogy at all, but one long twelve hour movie. I consider this to be only half a movie.

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One of the reasons I’m not too upset is that a lot of these characters stories aren’t finished, and some of them have franchises. I know they’re gonna be back at some point because those actors signed contracts.

Also: We don’t know that these characters are dead. They’re gone, and we have no fucking idea what gone means in this universe. Some are definitely dead, like Loki, Heimdall, and possibly Gamora, because we watched them actually get killed, and those actors might decide to not come back for later movies.  Gamora’s death is  up in the air, because that actress is contracted to star in the new Avatar franchise, and she’s already in Star Trek, so, she’s got a lot on her plate. She may not want to come back. Black Panther and Spiderman just made several hundred people their house payments, so I don’t see them staying dead. I think the heroes who got “dusted” are  coming back. (They kind of have to if they expect to make a third Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which ended on something like a cliffhanger.)

Also: Characters are forever being resurrected in the comic books. Just because you think a character is dead, doesn’t mean that they are. Hell, Phoenix has died every time she got her own comic book, and Lord knows how many times Wolverine has been resurrected. And there is precedent for it in the return of The Red Skull, who resides in the world of the Soul Stone featured in the movie. For those of you who are confused, anyone who touches the Soul Stone, which is what the Red Skull did in that First Captain America movie, gets sent to SoulWorld, this is where Gamora currently lives, (which is why Thanos was able to visit with her later in the movie.)

Also: Dr. Strange claimed to have reviewed every possible future, and in all of them The Avengers lost their fight with Thanos. Of the fourteen million plus futures he claimed to have surveyed, he saw only one in which they won, and Strange being the kind of man he is, would immediately have aimed himself at creating that particular future, which is why he gave Thanos his stone. Apparently, for Thanos to be defeated, all of the Infinity Stones need to be in his possession.

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If you’re looking for character development and depth, you’re gonna have to wait until Avengers: ????? is released next year.  Unlike some people, I’m not gonna beat this movie up for not giving me something it never promised me. The trailers told me the movie would be exciting, there’d be some angst, a lot of great fight scenes, certain people will meet who have never met before, and there will be some jokes, and that’s exactly why I went, and it’s exactly what I got. I do not understand shitting on a movie for not giving you something it never promised to give you in the first place. (Although, I do understand if the movie promised you something, and then didn’t give it to you. I’m looking at you Star Wars!)

 

Things that made me happy. 

I have always trusted the Russo Brothers when it comes to action scenes and they did not disappoint. They are so good at crafting a coherent story from all these different bits and pieces, and I was impressed. I am extremely glad that Joss Whedon was involved in none of it.

I got a kick out of characters meeting each other that I always wished would meet. I’m a big fan of crossover comic books, so that part was a lot of fun for me. I also liked a lot of the humor.

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I loved the fight scenes especially the ones featuring Spiderman. I just love how he thinks in a fight, and I also  got a special kick out of the new suit, which is right out of the comic books, btw. I really did enjoy the visuals, and  the fight scenes are all just different enough that I didn’t get bored with them, although sometimes, I’m sure my mom did.

The Guardians continue to  be some of the funniest characters in that universe. One of my favorite scenes is a romantic interlude between Peter Quill and Gamora, that’s interrupted by Drax eating some chips, and claiming to be invisible. He is not.

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And when Captain America is introduced to a small talking tree, he merely takes that in stride, and introduces himself. He remains unflapped, and this is why I love that character. This is the same guy who, when told that Thor and Loki were gods, just said, “Nope!” and kept it moving.

I lived long enough in this world to see Okoye team up with the Scarlet Witch, and the Black Widow, and watch the three of them kick some alien ass, which was fucking awesome! I had no idea I needed to see that shit until it happened. Now, I want an all female version of The Avengers, featuring the Dora Milaje, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Valkyrie, The Wasp, and Captain Marvel. I want! I want it! I want it!

I was getting really sick of Loki. I hope he’s actually gone, so I can enjoy Tom Hiddleston in some other franchise. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate the guy, but I reached Peak-Loki, several sequels ago.

I was left with several questions like: How the hell is Tony Stark gonna get home with no ship or suit? Assuming she’s still alive, who is gonna explain what happened to Peter, to Aunt May? Will we get to see Captain Marvel in the next Avengers movie?

I loved the conversation I had with my mom after the movie, where I tried to explain to her that the people she liked are not actually gone forever, and she explained that what happened in that movie would not have been an issue if The Flash and/or Superman had been involved, which ticked the hell out of me, because I never expected to be having a conversation with her about the merits of various superheroes.

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Later that day, I found some of my favorite pastries at the local Walmart and  got to watch two of my favorite shows.

It was a good day.

Forthcoming Movies 2018

Hey there! Here’s my list of movie trailers  I found interesting for this Summer (and one in Oct.). I left out some of the biggies, like Jurassic World, and Infinity War, although my Mom and I do have plans to see those. I know for sure I’m going to see Deadpool and The Incredibles. I’m less certain about The Cured, and Upgrade, but I still liked the trailers.

Deadpool 2

I will probably go see this movie alone, becasue I’m not sure its entirely appropriate for a 13 year old niece. or watching it with my Mom. I don’t think she wants to see this anyway. I was a bit dubious, at first, about Zazie Beetz as Domino. I only knew her from the show Atlanta, and Domino is a White woman in the comic books. I didn’t know if her character would be anything like the comic book version, but she looks great here. I’m not a big fan of Cable from the comic books, but Terry Crews is in this and I just can’t resist seeing him on the big screen, and I genuinely like Ryan Reynolds, who seems to have found his perfect role.The movie also just looks like a helluva lot of fun.

 

Incredibles 2

The first movie is, hands down, one of my all-time favorite Disney movies, so yeah, the Potato and I are going to see this. I like that Frozone is playing a slightly larger role in this one, and that it’s  Elastigirl who gets to take center screen. I loved her relationship with Edna in the first movie, and of course I’m glad to see more of Edna, and the Baby.

 

Venom

I do plan to go see this. I don’t know that I will see it, but I plan to. It looks disgusting, btw. I have a thing about sentient snot, so this plays as a horror movie for me. Plus despite some other people’s inexplicable distaste for Tom Hardy, I actually really like the guy and won’t miss a chance to see him onscreen.

I’ve read maybe three or four graphic novels about Venom, and I did read the  origin story,  from the first Secret Wars books, when it attached itself to Spiderman. I’d say this is a pretty faithful rendition of the monster. Although, I suppose now in the comic books Venom is more accurately called an anti-hero.

 

Upgrade

I was deeply confused when I first saw this trailer, becasuse the guy in this movie looks suspiciously like Tom Hardy. In fact, I still want to see Tom hardy when I look at him, even knowing for sure that it’s not him. It turns out he’s the asshole who  gets killed by The Vulture in Spiderman: Homecoming.

I see this as a kind of superhero type movie. The one drawback I have is the vigilante angle, where his wife, or his girlfriend, gets fridged, and he responds by beating up some Black guys, and this is supposed to be funny, I guess. (Not when  I can watch Black guys get beat up by the police, for free, on the internet, without the one liners.)

On the other hand I like movies where people transform into other things, so I’ll check it out at some point, but probably not in the theater though.

 

The Meg

My Mom and I already made plans to see this because Hey! giant shark! I despair of her ever getting out of her Sharknado addiction, and gong to see this with her may be enabling, but I’m gonna do it. I know she’ll love it. I am surprised that she knows who Jason Statham is though, and when I asked her about it, she said she saw him in The Transporter. I find it less disturbing that she knows who he is, than that she sat all the way through The Transporter.

 

Equalizer 2

I have tried to get my Mom to watch the first movie but so far, no luck. I did like the first movie but I could have done without the sex worker angle, which seems to be a staple of these type of vigilante rescue movies. Denzel does a really good job of playing an older, retired man, who is just tired of killing, but keeps having to do it, because people need help.

I feel like not enough people realize that this  movie is based on a TV show. I remember watching a few episodes as a teenager. The main character was played by an older White man, and I feel like the only way they got away with race-bendng this character, is not  many people know about the TV show and, of course, its Denzel.

 

The Cured

I think there was a British TV show loosely based on the concept of zombies who have been reclaimed, or cured, and are being slowly integrated back into society. This looks much more intriguing than that show.

Tumblr Discussions #167

 *Sometimes you get some interesting discussions to eavesdrop on over at Tumblr. This one is about how the western ideas of approaching the rest of the world  always seem to depend on conquering and collecting other countries, and simply stealing the resources, rather than relying on trade.
People often forget that some five hundred years of history, after the fall of Rome, seemed to have consisted of endless warfare between the various city-states, that came into existence afterwards, and when they finished warring among themselves, they began to compete with each other for who could gather up most of the rest of the world and own it.
It almost seems like colonization, genocide, slavery, and conquest were the hideous byproducts of various European nations competing among themselves, to prove who was the  more superior group of White people.
What’s  galling is, while engaging in this behavior ,Europeans managed to displace their barbarity onto the backs of the people they conquered and destroyed, as a reason for conquering and destroying them. (Sounds familiar doesn’t it?)
What’s sad about this is that most White Westerners cannot conceive of any other way of approaching the rest of the world, except through  dominance and submission. It is a philosophy that finds its way into everything from entertainment to politics.
  doublehamburgerjack
It’s really hard for people to understand that everyone had boats, exploration, and trade interactions without the same level of murder, colonization, and violence that the Europeans did. It’s really hard for people to get that.

 ami-angelwings
This is important for the knowledge/history aspect, but also because of what was said above, that exploration/seafaring/technological advancement does not automatically mean conquest, colonization, and genocide.  It’s one of those myths that an annoyingly large amount of people pass around to justify white supremacy: that everybody wants to conquer and wipe out everybody else, and that white people just got the technology and exploration level up first to do it.  They like this myth for several reasons: 1) it frames genocide, slavery, conquest, etc, as natural results of human development, SOMEBODY would have eventually done it regardless 2) it frames evil acts as “human nature”, it implies that the victims of those acts would have done them if they could, and that the people doing it were only acting on “nature” 3) it implies that because white people did these things therefore white people must have had the highest technological level and 4) because white people had the highest technological level therefore white people deserved their place in the world as conquerers and colonizers and enslavers.

Of course none of this is true, but it’s something our society likes to believe and the narrative is distributed through “common knowledge” and through our media, where non-white cultures in “historical” dramas are framed as “primitive” or warlike or both, and all the various dystopia fiction where “the oppressed become the oppressors” and what not (i.e. everybody wants to conquer everybody else, so SOMEBODY has to be on top).

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*I want to get rid of the argument about “Historical Accuracy” when it comes to defending lack of diversity in fantasy worlds. That concept needs to be taken out back, and killed with fire, because I no longer want to hear that PoC did not contribute  to the European historical record, and that  somehow has relevance for their existence in fantasy worlds, that are based on particular European time periods.

“To put it yet another way, in my country where Dukes are actually a thing, there are a grand total of 30 (6 members of the Royal family, 24 others), and while the amount of Duchies in the Kingdom has varied a bit over the years, this number has remained relatively stable.  By contrast, although I don’t have access to hard census data for the 19thcentury, Google reliably informs me that there were 2,651,939 people in London in 1851. And, if we take the extremely conservative estimate that only 0.1% of them were people of colour, that means that in the mid-19th century there were 2650 POCs in London compared to about 30 Dukes in the whole country.

So, from a certain perspective, a historical romance about a person of colour set in England in the mid-19th century is 88.3 times more plausible than one about a Duke. But because we’re used to seeing stories about Dukes in the 19th century and we aren’t used to seeing stories about people who aren’t white or heterosexual in the 19th century,  stories about the absolutely tiny number of high ranking members of the landed aristocracy seem natural and normal to us while stories about the proportionally much larger number of marginalised people living in England at the time feel implausible or disorientating, even though they’re actually more reflective of the lives of real people.”

-Alexis Hall, Obligatory RITA post (with added mu

 

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*This is about the devaluation of art done by women, and the prioritization of female nude art, created by, and for, a male audience. Bet you never gave this one much thought before, have you? Hell, I studied art for two decades, and it never occurred to me that the value of certain types of art is biased in favor of the male gaze.

http://anewdomain.net/paint-naked-women-male/

Could the reason for 83 percent of the New York Metropolitan Museum’s nudes being female have anything to do with it being run predominately by men? And who collects art?  Rich people, right? And who is rich enough to collect art?

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*This particular discussion highlights how  fashion does not exist in a vacuum. Clothing is just as political as any other part of our culture from hairstyles to music. This also ties into something discussed in an earlier post, about how, before the Civil Rights Movement, juvenile delinquency was coded as being White, (before that it was Italian and Latino) was heavily romanticized, and was almost never associated with Black teenagers. After the Civil Rights Act was passed, juvenile delinquency (and violence) became associated with Black and Brown youth exclusively, (reaching new heights during the nineties, with the invention of the Super-Predator.)

Greaser was a derogatory term for a Mexican in what is now the U.S. Southwest in the 19th century. The slur likely derived from what was considered one of the lowliest occupations typically held by Mexicans, the greasing of the axles of wagons; they also greased animal hides that were taken to California where Mexicans loaded them onto clipper ships (a greaser). It was in common usage among U.S. troops during the Mexican-American War.

why are greaser aesthetics still used to depict “bad boys” in art and media, when it hasn’t been that way since the 50s. this is a real mystery, i’m a serious scientist.

And the response:

 

it’s a so frustrating because greasers were originally  Mexicans or other latinxs, or Italians – either by subculture reclaiming, or slur. “Greasers” started out as the object of white fear.

Ethnically, original greasers were mostly composed of mostly Italian Americans in the Northeastern United States and Chicanos in the Southwest. Since both of these peoples were mostly olive-skinned, the “greaser” label assumed a quasi-racial status that implied an urban lower class masculinity and delinquency. This development led to an ambiguity in the racial distinction between poor Italian Americans and Puerto Ricans in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s.[6] Greasers were also perceived as being predisposed to perpetrating sexual violence, stoking fear among middle class males and arousal among middle class females.[8]

What most people remember is NOT the actual era of the greasers, but instead the 60′s and 70′s “sanitization” of who they were, why they were stereotyped against, and why they were used as villains.

Hell, before greaser was ever recognized as a “subculture” it was explicitly used as a derogatory term against mexicans. (That link references The Greaser Act, and lots of Hollywood movies which used the word.)

so before the 40′s-50′s, greaser was heavily used to portray a racist stereotype of a Mexican/Chicano man as violent/aggressive. (at least in media). This term also got used against some other latinxs in general, as well as Italians and sometimes Greeks. At least in hollywood this “greaser” type promoted mexicans as bad/dangerous and while also promoting latin lover stereotypes:

The Mexican Government soon objected to Hollywood’s portrayal of its citizens as “bandits and sneaks” and threatened to ban all films produced by companies which offended its people. This 1922 threat caused screenwriters to treat their neighbors to the south with more care. The “greaser” swiftly lost his Mexican nationality in the attempt to diffuse potential complaints, but his ghost still haunted new screenplays which concerned Hispanic characters.

Clever subterfuges often placed an unnamed “greaser” in a new locale. Rather than use the name of an actual country and risk offending its inhabitants, screenwriters began to create mythical cities and nations. “The Dove” (1928) provided an obvious example. The film concerned Don Jose Maria y Sandoval (Noah Beery), who considered himself “the bes’ damn caballero in Costa Roja.” Costa Roja, as the title cards explained, was situated in the Mediterranean!

The flimsy guise fooled scarcely anyone. The Times critic commented: “Taken by and large, Jose is perhaps a screen character to which the Mexican government might have objected, for he is greedy, sensuous, boastful, cold-blooded, irritable, and quite a wine-bibber, but he does dress well. He hates to have his luncheon spoiled by the noisy victim of a firing squad.”

(movie image, and its sound remake)

those images don’t look super like what you’d think of as “greaser” subculture, but…when you go forwards a decade or two, and then look at the actual people:

Zoot Suit(er) after arrest during the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots in LA. The Anglo police officer is inspecting his hair.

Wikipedia mentions that the Mexican American community was then…investigated to see if they had ties to the Nazis. (Yeah.)

On June 21, 1943, the State Un-American Activities Committee, under state senator Jack Tenney, arrived in Los Angeles with orders to “determine whether the present Zoot Suit Riots were sponsored by Nazi agencies attempting to spread disunity between the United States and Latin-American countries.” Although Tenney claimed he had evidence the riots were “[A]xis-sponsored”, no evidence was ever presented to support this claim. […] In late 1944, ignoring the findings of the McGucken committee and the unanimous reversal of the convictions by the appeals court in the Sleepy Lagoon case on October 4, the Tenney Committee announced that the National Lawyers Guild was an “effective communist front.”[15][27]

so that 1940′s look becomes this over time:

three Cholos showing off their outfits (1950′s). why? because zoot suits were deemed horrifically unamerican and “wasteful” during WWII.

but then ofc bitch ass racist white boys and motorcyles co-opted the look, add in a little bit of Travolta white washing of the radical pushback against racism in the origins of this stuff, and now we’re here.

 

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I have been wondering about the depiction of Tony Stark in the MCU vs. the comic books. The comic book version of Tony has at least some redeeming qualities, much like the version in the Iron Man Trilogy. He’s not a great character in the trilogy, but he’s less awful than in  The Avengers movies, for example.

When Tony is depicted in other movies in the MCU, besides his own, he’s often written as a callous, misogynist, asshole, who is thoroughly unlikable. For example, I got the impression that the Russo Brothers deeply dislike Tony Stark, because he doesn’t come off looking good in Civil War, at all, and even manages to look  several degrees worse in Spiderman: Homecoming.

https://wordpress.com/posts/my/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com?s=captain

A lot of what this guy says about Tony’s lack of moral center, I already talked about, in an earlier post, comparing him to Steve Rogers.  In that post I expressed some doubts about my assessment of Tony’s character, and  its nice to know I wasn’t the only person getting that take.

 

This was something I specifically stated in my post:

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*I have always wondered about this narrative, being put forth by the media, that these killers deserve sympathy because they were victims of a society that didn’t understand them. It turns out that they are, just as I suspected, mediocre, entitled ,white boys, who go on killing sprees because the world refuses to worship them for being the special snowflakes they believe themselves to be.

I like how she ties this into the racial aspect, where white men receive sympathy for killing others, (and the benefit of the doubt), but Black men who kill…don’t. 

Also read up on the topic of “Wound Collectors, which is a fascinationg insight into how some mass killer’s minds work. Just about every mass killer, according to many of the writings they have left behind, seem to fit this dynamic.

These individuals use these wrongs, slights, or wounds, to then justify their beliefs or behaviors, or to help them deal with their own psychological or social distress. What is the definition of a wound collector or wound collecting?            
Wound collecting is the conscious and systematic collection and preservation of transgressions, violations, social wrongs, grievances, injustice, unfair treatment, or slights of self and others, for the purpose of  nourishing, fortifying, or justifying a malignant ideology, furthering hatred, satisfying a pathology, or for exacting revenge
Apr 7, 2013

 

More on the point about Columbine: Eric Harris was actually a relatively popular kid.  Not with the “popular kids” but, when it came to the more obscure cliques in the school, Harris was actually relatively well liked even for a kid who was, as was stated, an ACTUAL psychopath.  Dylan Klebold was less popular, but only because he was more of a follower who mostly just wanted to hang around Harris.

Neither one of the Columbine shooters was bullied.  They literally WERE the bullies.

 

Klebold’s own mother has been vocally debunking the narrative that they were bullied and “the real victims” for years. Her book, “A Mother’s Reckoning” is worth reading. It counters everything in the media. Kid was well off, wanted for nothing, wasn’t abused, neglected or bullied. What he was was radicalized by Harris, a neo-Nazi.

And just as “Walk Up” types don’t suggest showing compassion for poor Black or brown kid at risk of joining a gang, they don’t acknowldge that white radicalization is the root of a lot of America’s problems, more so than non-Westen radicalization that is readily accepted as dangerous.

Telling kids they should be kinder to the creepy kid who does Nazi salutes in the hallway is in fact making them more susceptible to radicalization. “Walk Up” is not only misguided, racist, misogynist and ableist, it makes things worse. Painting the Columbine shooters as the real victims set off the era of school shootings, and the more people call for more empathy toward angry white men who fit the profile (and again, in many cases these kids are actual neo-Nazis), the worse it gets.

 

Do your research properly or don’t have an opinion.

“According to Lee (2013), there are two leading causes of school shootings: bullying (87%), as well as both non-compliance and side effects from psychiatric drugs (12%). Most school shooters claimed or left evidence behind indicating that they were victims of severe and long-term bullying. The majority of bullying victims experienced feelings of humiliation, which resulted in thoughts of suicide or revenge (Lee, 2013). Additionally, of those school shooters who had been prescribed psychiatric medications, 10% displayed medication non-compliance (failed to take drugs prescribed). Many school shooters who were taking psychiatric drugs for their disorder experienced side effects of the drugs prior to carrying out a violent act (Lee, 2013). In fact, there have been 22 drug regulatory warnings on psychiatric drugs citing effects of mania, hostility, violence, and even homicidal ideations (Lee, 2013). There have been at least 27 school Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2015 4 shootings committed by those taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs, which has resulted in 162 wounded and 72 students and/or faculty killed (Lee, 2013). However, there has yet to be a federal investigation in the United States on the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of school shooting.“

American Counseling Association

 

That 2013 data completely ignores the rise of white radicalism over the past five years. I read through the link, they didn’t even include rates of known white supremacy or radicalization. 76% of the attackers were white (with a 8% gap where race isn’t specified) according to their data, 99% were male and many left “cryptic messages,” a detail typical of neo Nazi mass killers like Eric Harris and Dylan Roof. That they didn’t analyze possible radicalization was a pretty major oversight.

Angry young white men believe they are the most persecuted, it’s not a surprise that attackers frame themselves as bullying victims. There’s a more a accurate term for it that hadn’t yet been coined in ‘13: wound-collectors.

In essence these are individuals who go out of their way to collect social slights, historical grievances, injustices, unfair or disparate treatment, or wrongs—whether real or imagined (Dangerous Personalities (link is external) 2014 Rodale Publishing)

At some point, we’re gonna have to stop pretending they’re “fighting back.” (X)

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Hellotailor (who I love btw! Please check out their website where they discuss the meaning of clothes and fashion in various movie franchises.), caught a lot of shit for writing this about Ready Player One. I don’t dislike the movie (it looks hella fun, and it is Spielberg!), but that doesn’t  mean they’re wrong.

Ready Player One could be the most hated movie of 2018. Considering the fact that it’s a Spielberg film with relatively respectable reviews, that’s quite an achievement. But like Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s based on a bestselling book that lends itself well to embarrassing viral quotes. Ready Player One has come to represent a certain kind of toxic fanboy mentality, and no amount of positive reviews can change that now.

At this point, the film’s quality is almost irrelevant to the backlash. Opponents are going after Ready Player One’s basic concept, because it’s such a perfect illustration of Big Bang Theory-style geek culture and its obsession with masturbatory trivia.

It simultaneously caters to the idea that white male nerds are underdog heroes, while proving that they’re actually a dominant force in Hollywood.

[READ MORE]

The Problems With Netflix’s The Titan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for the titan movie 2018

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

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

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

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

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

A Quiet Place Review

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

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

Image result for a quiet place gifs

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Unexpected Pleasures

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

Curiosity is my middle name, I guess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raising Arizona (1987)

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Samurai (1954)

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

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

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

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

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

Cabin in the Woods (2011)

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

I gave a review of this here:

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

Mystery Men (1999)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paddington (2014)

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

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

Dr. Strange (2017)

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

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

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

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

The Accountant (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Troll Hunter (2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring It On (2000)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yep! Even Mom.

The Mist (2007)

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

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

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

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

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The Grey Widower

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

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

The Stephen King Multiverse

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The Leviathan

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

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

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David Drayton

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

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

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

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

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Eventually, the only survivor is David, and he realizes the futility of what they’ve done after he steps out of his vehicle, intending to just give up and be eaten by whatever monster finds him first, only to encounter the retreat of the mist, and the American military destroying any monsters left over. That was something that infuriated a lot of people. David and the others having given up too soon. Had they waited just another hour or two, they would have all survived. But my theory was that this is all an illustration of how hopelessness works. It’s immediate and intense, and must be taken care of right away. Hopelessness is a liar that has no patience, and believes there is no time.

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

 

Edward Norton

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Andre Braugher is absolutely incredible as Edward Norton. He perfectly  captures Norton’s officious resentment, from the book, and even manages to add an uncomfortable racial component, to his discussion with David in the market. Watch that scene again, where he insinuates that people are racist, without actually saying people are racist towards him.. In the book, he becomes the leader of the Flat Earth Society, a faction of people within the store who simply refuse to believe that the mist is  dangerous, or that there are monsters.

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

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

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

Mrs. Carmody

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

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

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

Her scene with Amanda gives new perspective to her actions in the market. She is not as certain of her strength as she seems, not as sure she’s doing the right thing but she forges ahead anyway, and since you get the subtle impression she has just as much contempt for the townsfolk ( they are all horrible sinners) as they do for her (as the town crazy), we have to question her motivations for calling for more and more extreme ends to deal with the  mist. Her way of dealing with the mist is to try to appease the deity, from whom she believes the mist comes, but she goes about it the wrong way, as she becomes increasingly desperate to bring these folks to heel, and submit them to God’s will.

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

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

There’s only one response that saved anyone from the mist.

Surrender.

For example, Melissa McBride’s character, a nameless store customer, is one of the few people who actually survives walking out onto the mist, and I suspect it’s because she doesn’t  negotiate with it, or try to run from it, or fight it. She surrenders to it with faith, and humility, that she will be safe to save her children. She believes the mist is dangerous, but leaves the market anyway, to save her kids, and hers is one of the few motivations which is pure, and not entirely self serving. At the end of the movie, we see her riding with the soldiers, both her children with her. It is interesting that David survives only after he does what she did, which is knowingly surrender himself to the  the mist, and simply walk out into it.

 

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Ollie Weeks

Ollie Weeks is one of the truest characters from the novel to the movie. He is written as a soft and unimpressive looking store clerk, a little overweight, with hidden skills, which is exactly how Toby Jones portrays him. Ollie is a calm, stable, but melancholy presence, with the skills of a marksman, and David Drayton makes a point of stating how useful he is several times in the narrative. At no point does Ollie give in to hysteria or fear, remaining levelheaded and brave thoughout the entire movie. He seems resigned to the awfulness of the situation in the book, neither fighting ,nor retreating from reality. In the movie he turns out to be an enormous asset for the survival of the group, until he is killed in the parking lot during the groups escape from the store.

It’s interesting to note that Ollie Weeks dies just after he kills Mrs Carmody. He is not a prideful character, and seemed to genuinely regret killing her, and even though he had a very good reason for doing so, it is still murder.

 

Amanda Dunfries

Amanda isn’t that different from the novel version of her character. The movie version is a bit more naive and trusting but its an acceptable difference. In the story the characters spend a not inconsiderable amount of time arguing about the Carmody situation, and whether or not she will resort to human sacrifice. Amanda is one of the few people, along with Ollie Weeks, who elects that she will, but in the movie, Amanda argues against it, insisting that human beings aren’t that crazy.

I remember watching this [particular scene and feeling frustrated because Amanda is speaking from a deep well of white, middle class,  feminine  privilege, believing in the best outcome of the situation. Amanda is a conventionally attractive woman, who has probably known mostly kindness throughout her life, and that  is probably what forms the basis for her opinion. In neither the book or them ovie does she have a great role to play. She mostly follows David and Ollie’s decisions.

The Monsters

But the standout is the movie’s special effects and its realizations of the monsters from the books. The movie actually improves on the ones from the book making them a lot scarier, and the half seen quality of the mist makes then especially frightening.. The scene where Norm the bagboy is eaten by tentacles is an exact duplicate from the book. And the tentacles are filmed exactly as they’re described.

The creatures that were greatly improved upon from the book are the spiders. In the movie they are called Grey Widowers. (The book gives no name for them.) There is the giant lobster clawed creature that has taken up residence in the store’,s parking lot, and kills several people, including Ollie Weeks and one of the soldiers. But the most impressive creature is the realization of The Behemoth, a multistory creature that David and the others encounter after leaving the store, and is one of the highlights of the book.

As good as the book is, Frank Darabont has crafted a gorgeous retelling of it for the movie. And it is well worth the watch, AFTER, you read the story however.

 

This was first published on November 27th. I’ve since re-written it to be a bit more focused.

The Wakanda Reader

Here are two full length lists of all the think pieces written about Black Panther. Its been five weeks and the movie is still going strong and breaking records. I’m going to try to bring you interested parties as much reading material on the movie as possible. This also explains why I have been remiss in my review of this movie. There’s not much point in reiterating what better, more eloquent, writers have said about it.

 

The Collection

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/miranda/la-et-cam-pantherpedia-black-panther-essays-20180308-htmlstory.html

 

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If you haven’t seen the Marvel superhero movie Black Panther yet, you must be at least a tiny bit mystified about all of the chatter and story-sharing happening on your timelines, particularly the ones about something called “Wakanda.” If you have seen Black Panther, perhaps the only thing that mystifies you about Wakanda is why we don’t have anything like it today.

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/02/the-wakanda-reader/553865/

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And for you dedicated enthusiasts here’s a Google Doc of nearly every think piece written about Black Panther in the past three weeks. Just look under the terms Black Panther Reader to find nearly 16 pages of goodness. (Are you kidding me,? I haven’t  finished the list myself.) Many of these are written by PoC, but there are some surprisingly eloquent pieces written by White writers, and I was actually glad to read those, (despite my badmouthing of White journalists) because they approached the movie from a perspective no one else did, and those writers understood that.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/167vHXdc6fNXTJY-Id3UgRqPeE-c58q2ZHYyYRAaNcGY/edit

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But no matter how much money or how many awards films like “Black Panther” and “A Wrinkle in Time” amass, our research strongly suggests another reason they’re important: Children need a diverse universe of media images. And for the most part, they haven’t had one.

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/10/why-it-is-so-important-for-kids-to-see-diverse-tv-and-movie-characters_partner/

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This is an essay I especially enjoyed because it was written by a White woman. White feminists have been largely silent about the feminism of Black Panther, although last year they were lauding the feminism of Wonder Woman, as being of benefit to ALL women, and  for being so groundbreaking. This essay breaks down how Black Panther gets it right, and where WW went wrong, on this particular issue. 

There are far to many White women, who don’t see WoC as women, forget we exist when it comes to issues involving feminism, believe  their experiences as women are universal to ALL women, that we all want the same things, and that Pop cultural media is going to affect us all the same way. They don’t ever seem to remember that we are not White, refuse to take into account that our priorities may be wholly different from theirs, and that representation for one group of women IS NOT representation for all women.

 

Black Panther is a more feminist film than Wonder Woman. And I’m going to show you how.

The Feminism of Black Panther vs. Wonder Woman

 

In spite of their lack of superpowers, Nakia and Okoye more than hold their own, using their adept fighting skills (not to mention resourcefulness with a wig and a high heel) to fend off Klaue’s men. When they follow him into the streets, they get a helpful assist from T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, who drives a high-powered car remotely from her Wakandan tech lab. Ultimately, they fail to bring Klaue to justice—T’Challa allows CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) to take him into custody—but the staging of the showdown, with all four working together as a cohesive unit, subtly illuminates how groundbreaking the movie is within the Marvel universe. Black Panther confidently performs the tricky balancing act of writing fully realized women characters into a traditionally male-centered narrative by wholeheartedly believing that they are integral to the storytelling.

https://slate.com/culture/2018/02/black-panthers-feminism-is-more-progressive-than-wonder-womans.html

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Black Panther is a more feminist film than Wonder Woman. And I’m going to show you how.

The Feminism of Black Panther vs. Wonder Woman

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In the Intercept piece, one group of Afro-Brazilians coordinated a rolezinho to watch Black Panther at one of Rio de Janeiro’s most exclusive high-end shopping malls, Leblon. As the writer notes, Leblon is couched in one of the most affluent areas in Brazil and is also a predominantly white space in a country where the majority of the population now identifies as black or mixed race.

https://thegrapevine.theroot.com/black-panther-inspires-black-brazilians-to-occupy-white-1823524868

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It is uncomfortable for many institutions to even broach the subject of the museum’s complicated relationship with audiences of color, but Black Panther has created an impeccable opportunity for institutions to begin a dialogue with their community. So many people will see this film; the scene may only reinforce their conception of museums, or it may open their eyes to the realities of the complicated relationship between the universal museum and colonialism, and museums need to be prepared to actively engage with this topic rather than avoiding the uncomfortable truths that are now out in the open on cinema screens.

Why museum professionals need to talk about Black Panther

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That unflinching eye is what makes Ryan Coogler’s first two feature films, Fruitvale Station and Creed, such deeply resonant and truthful evocations of the Black experience in America. His protagonists, a drug dealer and a boxer, respectively, are foundational archetypal figures in 20th and 21st century America’s perception of blackness.

http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2018/02/13/the-fleshing-out-of-black-masculine-archetypes-in-ryan-cooglers-films

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I began to recognize that white people and institutions writ large had never fully recovered from the lies they told themselves to put black people on par with the footstools and sets of china they bequeathed to their children. In college, I was growing into a consciousness I did not yet have words for, so I simply wore my pink and green T-shirt that proclaimed “Black to the Future” on a plane while wearing microbraids, listening to Eric B. and Rakim on my Walkman and making Don’t even try it! eyes with the people in first class. This was pre-internet and I didn’t realize there was a nascent movement that captured exactly how I was feeling.

https://theundefeated.com/features/watching-black-panther-commentary-sharing-wakanda-guarding-against-cultural-appropriation/

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The Characters

https://blavity.com/eric-killmonger-is-not-a-super-villain-he-is-a-super-victim-of-systemic-oppression

http://www.vulture.com/2018/02/how-black-panther-crafted-erik-killmongers-compelling-arc.html

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/black-panther-how-tchalla-avoids-toxic-masculinity-1085741

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/on-killmonger-black-panther-s-american-villain

https://www.theringer.com/movies/2018/2/20/17032166/tchalla-killmonger-black-panther-debate-wakanda-politics

Editorial: You Love Killmonger At The Expense Of Black Women

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/03/01/forget-the-abusive-killmonger-wakandas-women-are-black-panthers-true-black-liberators/?utm_term=.40a4a0cd6a8d

https://www.theringer.com/movies/2018/2/20/17033330/winston-duke-mbaku-black-panther-breakout

https://blavity.com/eric-killmonger-is-not-a-super-villain-he-is-a-super-victim-of-systemic-oppression

 

 

The Politics

)ne of the more interesting dialogues I’ve seen come out of viewing this movie is the response from immigrants, especially first generation ones African and Asian immigrants, who seem to have found some type of resonance in Killmonger’s character, outside of his revolutionary ideas, (not that people haven’t had a lot to say about that too.

https://www.tor.com/2018/02/28/building-bridges-black-panther-and-the-difference-between-rage-and-revolution/

https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/marvel-black-panther-review-race-empire-tragic-heroes

http://progressivearmy.com/2018/02/18/important-moment-black-panther/

https://www.gq.com/story/black-panther-and-the-search-for-home

http://africasacountry.com/2018/02/i-have-a-problem-with-black-panther/

https://thebaffler.com/latest/black-comic-universe-philo

How Black Panther Asks Us to Examine Who We Are To One Another

https://www.theringer.com/movies/2018/2/16/17020582/black-panther-marvel-mcu-history-iron-man-captain-america

https://www.vox.com/conversations/2018/2/26/17040674/black-panther-afrofuturism-get-out

 

The Look

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/02/22/black-panther-choose-your-weapons/

http://www.vulture.com/2018/02/black-panther-costume-designer-ruth-e-carter-on-8-looks.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/why-fashion-is-key-to-understanding-the-world-of-black-panther/553157/

 

 

 

 

Why I Watched The Movie “Annihilation”…

This review contains spoilers!!!

Apparently, the one thing that can get me to watch something I really had no hard plans for viewing is…CURIOSITY. 

I guess I’m just a big nosy-ass, because when the opportunity came for me to stream this, I simply could not resist, even though it was 2AM, and I knew I had to get my ass up out the bed at 7:30. (Extreme curiosity is pretty much my go-to motivation for watching a lot of stuff.)

So,  I watched this, and I have to admit, despite my trepidation, I actually kinda liked it. For my definition, it is more of a horror movie, than a Scifi movie, not because horrible things happen in it, (they do), but because the haunting feeling of melancholy, and dread, from the book, was perfectly captured, so I can’t actually call the movie enjoyable, in that sense. Its a mood that sticks with you long after the movie is over.The best horror movies present as many questions as answers and that ‘s what the director, Alex Garland, does here.

In my last post, I remember asking if this movie was un-filmable, and yeah, it  is, because this movie is not the book, in the sense of the events happening as they do there. The movie, because of its nature, has to present a sequence of events that lead to other events, in a linear fashion. Garland does make a good effort at this by flipping back and forth in time. Unlike the book, we’re not privy to the narrator’s disturbed, and disturbing thoughts, and the director had to substitute with mood, instead.

On the other hand, the mood of the movie  is perfect. Jeff Vandermeer is one of the primary authors in the New Weird literary genre, along with China Mieville, and M. john Harrison,and it’s especially difficult to film and market such a genre, because so many of the stories are simply unfilmable. The purpose of New Weird is to upend stereotypes, and overturn tropes, and movies are kind of built on that type of shorthand. And even if you could film one of these weird novels, you’d have to change so much of it for the audience to understand it, that it would no longer be the book. I mean how do you film, for a mainstream audience, something like Perdido Street Station by Mieville, which involves love scenes with insect headed women? But Alex Garland seems to have captured the spirit and intent of the book, if not the exact details, because the ending is completely different, and if you’ve read the book, the events that happen at the Lighthouse are interpreted very differently. This movie is not for everyone. If you like understandable ,concrete endings, this is not for you.

The movie begins with Natalie Portman’s character, Lena, being interviewed about her escape from what the  characters call The Shimmer, and what the book calls Area X. In the books, the characters don’t have names. They’re known by their roles within the expedition team. Lena is The Biologist. Tessa Thompson as Josie, and Gina Rodriguez, as Anya, are the anthropologist, and paramedic. Ventress is the team leader and a psychologist. And there’s another scientist named Shepard.

The book’s subplot, of having the psychologist control the others with hypnotic suggestions, has been jettisoned, and Lena’s memories of her husband, who previously ventured into the Shimmer, are told in flashback. In the film, all the women have existential reasons for volunteering to go into The Shimmer, all of them are self destructive, and this motivation plays a large part in the theme of the movie. Lena is self destructive over her marriage, Ventress is suicidal because she has terminal cancer, Anya self harms, Shepard lost her daughter and is depressed, and Josie suffers from depression, as well. They are the kind of people who want to opt out of life, and The Shimmer preys on that to some extent.

No reason is given for what The Shimmer is really, or why it’s there, at least not in concrete, nailed down terms, in the first book, which is more concerned with thoughtful exploration. In the movie, it’s an alien life form, not-conscious, not intelligent, whose purpose is to simply change other life forms, merging, reflecting, and refracting them. The team encounter hybridized creatures, like a mutated bear which screams in the voice of the colleague it killed, (Shepherd), and an alligator with a mouth full of shark’s teeth.They also come across the bodies of hybridized and refracted humans, whose bodies have  merged with nearby buildings, or have become plant like statuary. The imagery is fascinating and terrifying.

The first hour of the movie is mostly spent exploring Area X and establishing Lena’s reasons for volunteering.  Thanks to the trailer, I was worried that the movie would be dumbed down, and be another vehicle to have women be chased and attacked by a monster, but that turned out not to be the case. The movie is smarter, and more emotional than that.

You’ll be happy to know these women are also pro-active, and kick some ass. There are no fainting damsels here. Lena has military experience and all the women are well armed. They end up in vulnerable situations because they have walked into the unknown, and have no idea what to expect, not because they’re waiting around to be attacked. The bear sequence takes up only a small part, in the middle of the film, and then its done. That’s not the movie’s focus. I do wish the director had been a woman though, because the relationships between these characters feel somewhat antiseptic. There’s deep emotion on an individual level, but not as they relate to each other. These are professionals doing a job, and I wanted just a little more emotion between them. (Not drama, which lazy writers often substitute, but emotional connection.)

In the book there’s a creature called The Crawler, which writes strange poetry on the walls of the lighthouse, and  kills one of the team members. I didn’t think it was possible but the end of this movie is stranger than the book, and that’s why I feel that the intent of the book was captured so well. We get a lot of answers during the film, and the conclusion appears satisfying, at first, but we’re also left with a big mystery at the end, too.

There are about fifty different words that mean “weird”, and the movie draws on all of them.The most disturbing part of the  movie wasn’t the mutated bear, although yes, that was terrifying. It was the scene where Anya, in a fit of extreme paranoia, takes the rest of the team hostage, and threatens to kill them, after she finds out Lena’s husband was on the previous expedition. She has very obviously gone insane, and  the  helplessness of the other characters is enough to have you sitting on the edge of your seat. I feel like this scene takes the place of the unreliable narrator scenes from the book.

I think the saddest, most unexpected, scene was Thompson’s anthropologist, who just wanders off to become part of the scenery. Literally! She just gives in to the whole thing, and seems entirely at peace with it. I identified more strongly with Lena, than I did with her, but I found that scene especially horrifying. If that were me, I don’t know that I could just give up like that, which is ironic, considering I suffered from my own bout of suicidal depression in my early twenties, where I would’ve been happy to give up. My reaction to that scene is probably informed by my recollections of that time. I think I identify more with Lena, especially now, because she never stops fighting what’s happening to her, all the way to the end.

A large clue to understanding one of the themes of the movie, and what The Shimmer is, is in Lena’s biology speech at the beginning of the movie, and her basic message is that all life came from one source, one cell, and what would happen if we devolved back to that one source. Early in the movie, one of the books she’s caught reading is The immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, about a black woman whose immortalized cancer cells are the foundation of cancer research in America. Lena also has conversations, with her husband, about how humans could never achieve immortality because we have a strong self destructive streak.

The return of Lena’s husband is told in flashback. It’s been nearly a year, when he simply walks into the house, and into her bedroom. He has no memories of how he got home, or where he’s been. He has a seizure and falls into a coma, and that’s when Lena discovers he’s not supposed to be back at all. The current expedition comes across videos left by the previous team, and that’s how they begin not only to understand that something is happening to them, but what happened to the last team, including Lena’s husband.

When the last of the team, Ventress and Lena, reach the lighthouse, Ventress gives herself over entirely to the alien Shimmer, and Lena discovers the body of her husband, and video footage of how he actually died. (He committed suicide.) Ventress’ death has the unintended side effect of releasing a kind of genetic doppelgänger of Lena, that tries to become her, and duplicates her every move. Realizing that the double is a version of her, with her genetic code, Lena tricks it into holding a phosphorus grenade, and escapes before it burns up, taking the lighthouse, and alien Shimmer, along with it. There are a lot of theories out there about what this scene means, with people speculating that she passed her suicidal, self destruction to the alien, and that this possibly makes her immortal, now. I don’t know about that, but at least she’s no longer suicidal, at the end.

She somehow manages to find her way back to the Southern Reach, and her husband, although she realizes it isn’t her husband at all, and he can’t seem to answer that question. For Lena, it ultimately doesn’t matter, because she was infected by the alien Shimmer before it destroyed itself, and she may not be as human as everyone thinks she is either. This is indicated by her and her “husband’s” shimmering eyes before the final credits. Is the alien dead? Are they still human, but changed? Not human at all? Is Lena immortal? And what does this mean for her, her “husband”, and the rest of humanity?

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide for yourself if this movie is for you, if you trust my description of it. It’s definitely an acquired taste,and not for everyone. If you suffer from bouts of depression, this may actually trigger it, as one of the movie’s primary themes is depression and suicide, and it’s a cross between The Thing, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s much more thoughtful, and introspective in mood, because the answers aren’t simply handed to you, or over-explained. You have to pay close attention to what’s being said. The feeling of dread is vague, undefined, and quiet, and sneaks up on you as you begin to realize what it all means, punctuated by moments of terror.

Yeah, it’s definitely weird.

I don’t regret having watched it though.

The Shape of Water (2017]

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I am a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro. I’ve seen every one of his films, and loved  all of them, with the exception of Crimson Peak, which wasn’t a bad movie , (merely unequal to his other films.)

Guillermo is the kind of director whose films all have meaning. Every image, every line of dialogue, even the costumes and color choices,  have  a  personal meaning for the director,  or propel  the narrative, or examine a character, and he always has something interesting to say, a point he wishes to make, a message to impart to his audience. He makes fantasies that parallel and contrast the real world.

In many of his films, he chronicles how the world of fantasy impacts the real world. In Hellboy 1 & 2, there’s a discussion of real world reactions to the existence of supernatural creatures, and what place someone like Hellboy can make for himself in it. Blade 2, despite all its fantastical elements, takes place entirely in the real world, with the same technology, music, and culture. The vampires in that world have adapted very well to human ingenuity, and in Pan’s Labyrinth, a young girl’s horrifying  real world life, under fascism, is juxtaposed against a fantasy world, in which she actually holds power, and importance, and agency.

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I’ve read many reviews of this film, and not  one of them has mentioned how the fantasy elements of this movie contrast, and impact, the real world, of the sixties Civil Rights environment, in which it takes place. This movie is rich with social commentary that I’m not seeing reflected in any of its reviews. Most of the reviewers focus on the romance between  Eliza and her Fishman paramour, or the set design, or the special effects,  never bothering to go deeper, into what the film actually means for Eliza’s character, or the villain’s motivations. No one has discussed the time period in which it takes place either, which I find frustrating, because the villain’s motivations arise precisely out of the Jim Crow era in which the movie takes place, and informs how Eliza and the Fishman are treated, and the decisions Eliza makes.

The movie sits smack in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, and  although it isn’t something explicitlyshown,  this is a statement, not just about what’s happening with the characters, but a message to us today. As in all his films, Guillermo is telling us something about ourselves right now.  Guillermo says that he chose that particular time period because it’s a direct reflection of what’s happening in the US today, from the re-emergent Cold War, to the various social rights movements like BLM, and the casual racism, sexism, and homophobia, which has reared its ugly head again.

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Just as in the sixties, there is a clash of ideologies, which is often brought about, and exacerbated by, emergent technologies. The internet has allowed marginalized groups to push-back against, and challenge, the narratives of White supremacy, in ways they couldn’t before. Social Media allows marginalized groups to organize, and protest with an immediacy that was once lacking, and online communities allow them to disseminate news and information in real time, as with NoDAPL. In the sixties, it was the handheld camera, that brought the Civil Rights movement, the Korean War, and  the Vietnam War right into people’s livingrooms. It was the Space Program that heated up the cold war between Russia and the United States.

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Michael Shannon, as Strickland, is the physical embodiment of “White male rage, and entitlement”, existing at a period in time in which his cultural supremacy is being called into question by external forces,  that his oppression helped to create. He doesn’t just take his rage out on the amphibian captive, on whom he liberally uses a cattle prod, (his captive does push back against his rage and violence) but takes his hatred and contempt out on both Eliza, and Octavia Spencer’s character, Zelda, questioning her, in a smugly racist tone, why she doesn’t have any siblings (because that’s not common for HER people), which forces Zelda to reveal the tragic loss of her mother when she was born. At the same meeting he loudly asks if Eliza can hear him.

He has the best kind of life there is, with a  loving wife and children, a brand new model car, and a house in the suburbs, yet seems to resent all of it, showing no affection towards his wife and children, even though they dote on him, and he appears to be in a rage at even his “happiest” moments.  This is a man who can’t even find joy in fucking his beautiful, blonde,  trophy wife. The only time we ever see Strickland smile, in the movie, is when he’s contemplating, or bringing harm,  to someone else. Strickland also  lives in a world that is beginning to change, and he can see a future in which he can no longer express his rage and fear at those he deems as less than himself. Just like today, those “people” are talking back to him, and need to be put back in their place of not questioning his supremacy, and again, like today’s form of bigot,  all he has at his disposal is violence. He leads a miserable and rage fueled life.

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Eliza’s neighbor, Giles, is an older gay man who loves musicals, dancing and key lime pie. One of the first musicals we see in the movie is The Little Colonel, starring Shirley Temple, and Bojangles, and is an example of the time period romanticized by the White people of the sixties, just as the early sixties are heavily romanticized today. At one point, Giles entreats Eliza to turn away from the images of civil rights rioting on his TV, to a happier image of  Bojangles,  smiling, and dancing, and happy. Directly after that scene, Eliza and Giles do a little tap dance, while sitting on the couch, and maybe this is Guillermo’s way of pointing out how oppressed people have always tried to maximize what little joy they can find, in the face of so much misery. Eliza and Giles are both single, they don’t own a fancy home or car. In society, she and Giles have nothing, and are nothing. Now contrast Eliza and Giles simple pleasures of pie, movies, and dancing,  with Strickland’s joyless existence.

Dancing is also Eliza’s escape. There’s a surreal daydream about her and the Amphibian dancing in a musical. Guillermo’s message here is about the power of imagination, and how the oppressed find power and happiness. This is something clearly expressed in his movie Pan’s Labyrinth, where the little girl, Ofelia, dreams of escaping her brutal existence, as a Queen of the Fairies,  through the use of her imagination. This is also a statement about Del Toro’s  personal life. He grew up poor and  escaped poverty  through film, through dreams

 

. Eliza wants to escape the circumstances of her life too, and at the end of the movie, she is more than happy to do so. (Although, I must point out, that though Eliza has managed to escape, and Strickland is gone, Giles, and Zelda are left behind to pick up the pieces.)

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https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/guillermo-del-toro-confronting-childhood-demons-surviving-a-real-life-horror-story-1053205

There are several interactions between marginalized people that speak to the lack of unity of that time period. Giles is white and male, but every bit as powerless as Zelda, and Eliza, especially after people find out about his private life. Earlier, Giles is emphatic about not watching racial unpleasantness on his TV, but later, he attempts to defend a black couple who try to eat in the diner he frequents, but get kicked out by the counterman. Giles cares enough to come to their defense, but not in the moment, and we realize just how powerless he is afterwards, when he makes a pass at the waiter, and is kicked out of the diner was well.  Note that Giles is all alone when he does this. Guillermo quietly  illustrates how all these different  outsiders are trying to make it on their own. The message here is that unless  they all unite to stand against their oppressors they can accomplish nothing.

My biggest issue is the lone Black man in the movie, Zelda’s husband David. He is perhaps the weakest character in the movie. He is of no use to Zelda, (who speaks of him often and seems to love him), and he does not come to Zelda’s aid when Strickland bursts into their home and bullies them for Eliza’s whereabouts. He also does not aid in the Fishman’s escape from the lab, tries to talk Zelda out of getting involved, and is so cowed by his environment, that he rats her out to Strickland.

My overall impression is that David gave up fighting long ago, and  that he doesn’t really love Zelda, since he was not only  completely unwilling to fight for her but gave up Eliza as well. I have mixed feelings about this character, and I don’t think Del Toro thought him through very well, or took into account how this would look to any Black men watching this film, who would be infuriated at the depiction. On the one hand, it wasn’t necessary to have the only Black man, in the entire movie, be an example of  what the system of Jim Crow was meant to do, which is drain all the fighting spirit out of Black men, keeping them terrified, and submissive. On the other hand, if he were not those things, it would’ve become a very different type of movie. I feel he could have been eliminated from the plot altogether and the film would largely be left intact.

Strickland wants to destroy the Amphibian, a creature of the natural world that he often refers to as an abomination. He tortures and abuses the creature, to no purpose, but his own petty enmity. When the Fishman is slated for an autopsy table, Eliza teams up with Zelda, a German researcher, and Giles to thwart Strickland. In the end, they all come together to take down Strickland, and I feel like the message here was that only through the unity of  outsiders, can such an overwhelmingly oppressive force, like him, be overcome.

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In all of Guillermo’s films, you have a villain who attempts to destroy the natural world for vengeance, greed, entitlement, and/or short sightedness. In Blade 2, the natural order of the world is disrupted by a quest for power, and the  destruction of humanity is averted by the hero fighting with the very beings he’d made a profession of killing. In Hellboy, the villain wishes to disrupt the order of the world by calling down The Old Gods of Lovecraftian mythology, and in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, faded fairy nobility wants to avenge the destruction of the natural world by human greed. And in The Shape of Water, Strickland is destroyed by the the very sort of people he most hates and fears.

The message of the outsider being more noble, more self sacrificing, and more compassionate is woven throughout many of Guillermo’s films. Since Del Toro himself is a Mexican immigrant, he has always felt himself to be one of the outsiders, and most of his films are seen through such a lens, recognizing the power of those who stand outside the mainstream. All of Del Toro’s protagonists are pieces of himself. Unlike most fantasy film directors, he is willing to address social issues in his films, and reviewers need to give the man his proper respect for doing that, and acknowledge that in their reviews.

 

 

Quick question:What is Guillermo Del Toro’s fascination with Germans? Every one of his films has a German character in it. Can you spot them?

*Note: My second review of this movie will be a discussion of sex and disability.

 

Black Panther Selected Readings 3

*Since this movie blew up the theaters there have been a metric ton of think-pieces and examinations about it. I’ve tried to collect as many of these as I thought were interesting, leaving out all the contrarian negative stuff. I know I promised to write a review, but there’s nothing I would say in it that isn’t already covered by the three lists of think pieces I’ve collected. (Maybe later, I’ll jot something down about my feelings for the various characters or something.)

*But first up, I thought this essay was related to the idea of Wakanda having never been colonized, versus how we are all taught by popular media to think of the continent of Africa. You can read this first ,and then play a drinking game of how many times the writers do these things in the following articles:

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

—-   https://granta.com/how-to-write-about-africa/

 

Politics:

Black Panther has a lot to say about politics:

Image result for black panther movie politics

https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/2/27/17029730/black-panther-marvel-killmonger-ir

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/the-provocation-and-power-of-black-panther/553226/

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/black-panther-and-the-invention-of-africa?

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/black-panther-review/553508/

https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/2/26/17029572/black-panther-marvel-politics

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/the-passionate-politics-of-black-panther

The Revolutionary Power of Black Panther

https://www.theroot.com/when-wakanda-was-real-1822745590

https://www.theroot.com/america-wakanda-for-white-people-1823224399

https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/a18241993/black-panther-review-politics-killmonger/

*I didn’t agree with this review but I’m including it here because some of you will find it interesting, and the author does make other salient points. I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback by the depiction of the lone African American in the movie. I was deeply saddened by Killmonger, while agreeing with much of his philosophy. I get why he was angry. I was also saddened by the fate of the only African American woman in the entire film, and I wish the director had put more thought into it. I get the point he’s trying to make, but it still felt pretty bad to watch that point being made.

http://bostonreview.net/race/christopher-lebron-black-panther

 

View story at Medium.com

5 Lessons from Black Panther That Can Save Our Lives — and Transform Black Politics – Medium.com

Dear Fellow White People: Go See “Black Panther” – Medium.com

Here are six reasons. Do it this weekend. Seriously, just go.

 

*This article is about people who are trolling the movie. As the movie began to take off last weekend, there were a number of alt-right trolls who posted fake tweets demonising the movie’s fans, and claiming that white people had been beaten up at theaters. 

I put this here to point out the utter futility of their efforts in trying to disparage and destroy this movie. Their efforts will always meet with failure, not because they’re awful, (because yeah,  they are) but because, by the time they are resorting to  efforts to sabotage these movies, it’s already too late. These acts are purely defensive, and only illustrate how little control such people have over mainstream media.

All they have in their arsenal to combat progress is more of the same lies and vitriol against black people that they’ve always espoused. Their messages are not new, and not effective.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/02/black-panther-loved-by-the-world-hated-by-trolls/

 

Psychology:

*Not all of these essays were written by Black reviewers, but even so, I thought the reviewer, regardless of race, had interesting things to say about the philosophies of, and psychology behind, the film’s characters. Just becasue White reviewers can’t (or won’t) talk about race,  doesn’t mean they have nothing worthwhile to say on other topics.

https://www.theroot.com/on-the-duality-and-double-consciousness-of-black-panthe-1823260321

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/black-panther-erik-killmonger/553805/

https://www.theroot.com/killmonger-was-wrong-and-ya-ll-know-it-1823134207

https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/indepth/opinion/black-panther-pilgrimage-180218151402202.html

https://io9.gizmodo.com/director-ryan-coogler-explains-the-identity-issues-at-t-1822937410

https://melmagazine.com/what-black-panther-teaches-us-about-when-fathers-lie-to-their-sons-183113d95520

http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2018/02/13/the-fleshing-out-of-black-masculine-archetypes-in-ryan-cooglers-films

One Tribe: Black Panther’s Altruism

 

The Women:

Let’s face it, women are the backbone of this movie, holding it down and keeping it 100. I was surprised to find that my favorite female character was Nakia. (I thought it would be Okoye.)

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I was watching and after Okoye was called the general a boy next to me said : “I didn’t know girls can be generals!”
That’s why representation matters

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One of the best things about was definitely the women. Shuri, our princess is cheeky, charming and a fcking genius. Okoye could kill me and I’d gladly thank her. If I have even an ounce of Nakia’s compassion, I would be a better woman that I am now.

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https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/02/black-panther-who-plays-shuri-letitia-wright-profile

https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/another-reason-why-shuri-is-the-greatest-disney-princes-1823136306

https://io9.gizmodo.com/black-women-are-black-panthers-mightiest-heroes-1823205912

http://blacknerdproblems.com/blackpanther-movie-review/

https://io9.gizmodo.com/wakandas-indomitable-culture-is-why-the-women-of-black-1822923859

 

From Tumblr:

 

The Making of:

*Everyone wants to know everything about the making of Wakanda, and Ruth Carter’s  major influences on her designs for the film.

Ruth Carter is a Hollywood costume designer who grew up in Springfield. Her career spans a long list of major motion pictures, and she is best known for her work on Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” and Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad,” receiving Academy Award nominations for both films. Carter’s most recent work can be seen in “Selma,” a film about the trio of marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

Image result for ruth carter

Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ is a broad mix of African cultures—here are some of them

https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/how-black-panther-composer-ludwig-goransson-found-the-sound-of-wakanda-interview/

 

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 darkdamiaknight

“The PanAfrican flag is red, black and green, so when you see Okoye, T’Challa and Nakia in their covert looks, you’re seeing the PanAfrican flag.” – Ryan Coogler, director of Black Panther.

 

 

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Oh, yeah. The hair thing:

 

The Fans:

*This essay was originally written as a response to Beyonce’s Lemonade but many of the writer’s arguments can be equally applied to any media that is made by, and speaks to, a Black audience, including Black Panther.

Beyoncé’s Lemonade: A Lesson on Appreciating Art That Wasn’t Made for You

 

*This is what Tumblr fans are saying about representation:

*Took my african dad to see Black Panther

theghostwasblue

*no spoilers*

He does not like superhero movies and normally he falls asleep in the cinema. But not this time, he was on the edge of his seat and he said that he didn’t wanna miss a single moment. He absolutely loved the movie, the first thing he did when we got home was to call his african friend, yelling at him to go watch it as soon as possible. The second thing he did was ask me when the sequel will be out.

I asked my dad what he liked about the movie and he said everything. He loved that almost everyone was black and that they spoke Xhosa. He was so happy that they captured what life is actually like in many african cities in those scenes when they were walking around in wakanda. Seeing the people sit in cafes, buying food from food stands, kids running around with school bags, just people living their everyday life all the while being unapologetically african. He said he felt as if he was back home. And he was so happy that there finally was a movie where africans weren’t starving, or warlords, or dealing drugs. He told me that this is the kind of movie he has wanted to see for years, not alluding to the superhero stuff but the fact that they portray africans the same way that most if not all movies portray white people and not criminalize or dehumanize them but uplifting them. He loved every single character and especially M’Baku but his absolute favourite was the Queen mother Ramonda because she was so calm and collected while simultaneously being this strong queen. My dad, coming from a culture that really uplifts and value mothers and holds them above all, felt like the movie really captured that in Ramonda and that’s why he loved her.

He loved the soundtrack and how they mixed in djembe drums and traditional african singing with modern western music and he loved the costumes because a lot of the clothes look like the things people are wearing at all the african parties we go to.

The only complaint my dad had was that the sound was to high, which was his own fault for insisting that he sit at the end of the row right next to one of the speakers.

So yeah, representation do matter. I’ve never in my life seen him so happy about a movie. And he wanted to talk about it after it had ended which never happens normally. We joked around with the idea of him being a wakandan wardog stationed here and we did Shuris and T’Challas little handshake saying that is the only way we will now greet other africans. This movie gave my dad pure joy and happiness and it gave us a bonding opportunity because we finally have something that we both could geek out about.

Source: theghostwasblue
*Hollywood needs to start getting itself together:

*This needs to be said…

After Black Panther, and Coco, and all the other great films that have come out and boasted great representation (and great Box Office returns) I hope all movie studios are aware that nothing can every go back to the way it used to be.

Like, you know how when you’ve had something high quality, and you just can’t go back to the bargain brand again because you know what this product is supposed to be?

Well, Black Panther and Coco just introduced an entire generation of people (young and old alike) what positive representation is supposed to feel like.

People aren’t going to stand for “This character couldn’t be X because it’s a stereotype.”

People aren’t going to stand for “This character had a small role but it’s fine because X”

People ain’t gonna stand for “Finn can’t be written well because there’s no place for his story to go”

People aren’t going to stand for “Iron Fist couldn’t be Asian-American because it perpetuates a stereotype.

People aren’t going to stand for “We couldn’t find the right type of actor so we just went with a white person.”

People aren’t going to stand for “Let’s make the black woman a frog for the entire movie.”

People aren’t going to stand for “There weren’t any people of color in this era. It wouldn’t be historically accurate.”

People aren’t going to stand for “Well…it’s close enough, isn’t it? Why’re you complaining?”

Movie studios  thought it was bad before? Honey. Buckle up.

 

*The Alnur African Drum and Dance Troupe as The Dora Milaje

The Fans

 

In Africa:

I loved the African reaction to this movie:

 

*And the windup:

https://bidoun.org/articles/how-to-write-about-africa-ii

 

 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Vs. … All The Rest

There have been three other iterations of the original 1956 movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Hollywood keeps rebooting this movie (in fact, there is yet another remake of this movie in the works), despite diminishing returns on its efforts. I blame this on a lack of understanding, by the last two directors, of the core themes.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

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The first film is based on Jack Finney’s novel of the same name, which was written in 1955. I haven’t read the book since I was a very young child, (like 9 or ten),  so I can’t speak to the authenticity of the plot vs. the book, but Hollywood has been fascinated with it for over six decades now, remaking it every twenty or so years, to less audience enjoyment.

The 1956 version was directed by Don Siegel, and starred Kevin McCarthy, and Dana Wynter. This version is very much a product of its time, so to understand its themes, you need to understand something about the era during which it was made.

A simplified version: Just after WW2, America and Russia were not on good terms with each other. The Russians were still reeling from the devastating 1941 German invasion, and America had just used its first nuclear weapons on Japan. So both countries were paranoid from the war, and shit talking each other in the media.

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During this time, the Red Scare, as it was called, was  ramped up to hysterical heights in the American media, by Senator Joseph MCCarthy. Called McCarthyism, there was increased paranoia that America was full of Russian spies, that they were everywhere,  and their goal was to destroy American democracy, and make America a communist nation.

American society was inundated by the media  ‘…with stories and themes of the infiltration, subversion, invasion, and destruction of American society by un–American thought and inhuman beings.’

… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Scare#Second_Red_Scare_(1947%E2%80%9357)

There were numerous congressional hearings, the federal government targeted Hollywood as the bastion of communist thought, popular actors were accused and blacklisted, careers were destroyed by even the smallest whispers of private disloyalty, people were encouraged to tell if any of their acquaintances were disloyal, and many of the movies from that time period reflected, not just the paranoia of the American government, but the fear that Hollywood actors  lived with, that at any time, they could be accused, and have to defend themselves against accusations of UnAmerican Activities. Just associating with the  accused, could put a person in the spotlight.

‘Some reviewers saw in the story a commentary on the dangers facing America for turning a blind eye to McCarthyism, “Leonard Maltin speaks of a McCarthy-era subtext.”[17] or of bland conformity in postwar Eisenhower-era America. Others viewed it as an allegory for the loss of personal autonomy in the Soviet Union or communist systems in general.[18]’The general consensus over the decades, is that the movie’s primary theme was anti-communism, even if the creators say there was no particular political allegory involved.

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In the movie, Dr,Miles Bennell is approached by patients who all claim their family members aren’t really them. Ironically, this is an actual mental illness known as Capgras Delusion, a psychiatric disorder in which a person believes that the people closest to them have been replaced by imposters. While investigating these delusions, he and his companions keep stumbling across pods, and duplicate bodies, and come to the terrifying realization that the delusion is all real, that humanity is being slowly duplicated and replaced by aliens spawned from seed pods.

The original story takes place in a small town in California called Santa Mira, and ends with the lead character, on his own, trying to warn the rest of the populace of the threat.The lead, Kevin MCcarthy, and the director, Don Siegel, both went on to make cameos in the 1978 remake.

The 1978 version manages not only to perfectly replicate the paranoia of the original, but build on it, by setting it in a large city, and  touching on themes of existential dread, mental illness, and urban isolation. It is, like the remake of The Thing, an exceptional example of a film remake.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

“Invasion of the Body Snatchers is regarded as one of the greatest film remakes ever made.[11] The New Yorker‘s Pauline Kael was a particular fan of the film, writing that it “may be the best film of its kind ever made”.[12] Variety wrote that it “validates the entire concept of remakes. This new version of Don Siegel’s 1956 cult classic not only matches the original in horrific tone and effect, but exceeds it in both conception and execution.”[13] The New York Times‘ Janet Maslin wrote “The creepiness [Kaufman] generates is so crazily ubiquitous it becomes funny.”[14]Related image

This version has an all-star cast of Veronica Cartwright, who had yet to star in the movie Alien, but had been the young star of Hitchcock’s The Birds, playing Nancy Bellicec. A very young, and handsome, Jeff Goldblum, as her husband Jack, whose career was just picking up speed.  Leonard Nimoy, who was still working against being typecast as Mr. Spock, plays Dr. David Kibner, Donald Sutherland is Matthew Bennell, a city health inspector, and Brooke Adams as his co-worker and best friend, Elizabeth Driscoll.

Yes, this is a remake, although McCarthy’s cameo, as a panicked pedestrian screaming about the alien invasion, in the same manner that the first film ended, has prompted some viewers to speculate that this is a sequel to the original film. (No.) All of the primary plot points of the original are replicated in this film, only writ large. Part of the success of this film is the skill, and charm, of the actors who are at the top of their game here, especially the relationship between Matthew and Elizabeth.

One of the more charming things in the movie is the genuine friendship between Matthew and Elizabeth, with more than a little unrequited love on Matthew’s part, although that’s never specifically stated. Elizabeth is already in a committed relationship with one of the first of the pod people, her dentist boyfriend. In any other movie, a romantic relationship between her and Matthew would be inevitable, but that’s not the focus of the film. It has other messages to convey.

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This version improves and embellishes on the original in ways that feel entirely natural, while keeping all of  the basic elements of the plotpoints of the original. When humans fall asleep, duplicate versions of them are birthed from pods, and the original body is destroyed. (So, yes, even though the duplicate has all the memories and thoughts of the original person, it is not them because  all of their the emotions are lacking, and the original body is dead.) The movie  manages to keep the mood and messages of the first film intact, while tweaking and embellishing the relationships and characters.

From  the opening moments, there is the theme of urban isolation, which is the opposite of the original’s theme, which focused on the closeness of a small-town environment, where everyone seemingly knows everyone, an environment which makes it all the more horrifying to find that people have changed, and that what was once known, is no longer. In the remake people are already unknown to one another, no one is really close in the city. This urban isolation is juxtaposed against the intimacy of Matthew and Elizabeth’s friendship, and their relationships to their friends The Bellicecs.

In the remake, the aliens are able to finish what they couldn’t accomplish in the first film. No one knows anyone in the city, and everyone lives in such small personal bubbles, that’s it easy for the pods to make significant inroads into the population. By the time Bennell finds out about the invasion, it’s already far too late to do anything to stop it, and it’s a just a matter of time until he, or one of his companions, falls asleep, and are changed.

I’ll have to do a more detailed review of this movie at a later date, because “I got some thoughts.”

Body Snatchers (1993)

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This version is set up as if it were a sequel to the second film, although none of the characters from the previous remake appear. Apparently, its a parallel story of the invasion, happening on some other front, and according to this movie, humanity is gonna lose, no matter how many pods get blown up at the ends of these films.

The 1993 version loses a lot of the atmosphere, and messages of the first two films, although it does make a game effort.  All of the basic rules of the first two movies, are kept in place. People fall asleep, duplicate versions of them come out of pods, and the original person is killed. This one takes place on a military base,  and there is a vague theme that the aliens are successful because of military conformity, or because people are unhappy, or something, but this isn’t clearly articulated.

Just as in the second film, the aliens get to speak for themselves, stating that pod-ification of humanity will solve all of its troubles, and the screaming and pointing stuff, from the previous remake is kept intact. The way a person is duplicated is every bit as disgusting, involving what appears to be large worms, but unlike in the first remake, it’s not entirely clear how the worms are draining a person’s life essence.

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You have to pay very close attention to infer the themes of this movie, and you are, more or less, left to guess what was the point. Unfortunately, paying close attention to the dialogue (which is actually not bad) brings the actors lack of skills to the forefront. Billy Wirth and Gabrielle Anwar are just bad, and many of the other characters already act like pod people before they get duplicated, so its hard to tell whether or not they’ve been replaced. These particular actors just  are  not in the same talent realm as those of the  previous remake. Theyre too young, for one thing, and simply don’t have the talent, or gravity, to carry this movie, although Christine Elise does turn in an engaging performance as the best friend of the lead character, Marti, played by Anwar.

The core plot is centered around the Malone family dysfunction, as Marti and her family, which consists of her, her father, her stepmother and her baby half-brother, have moved to a new military base. I think we’re meant to sympathize with Marti’s displacement and isolation, from her family, and her surroundings, where she has no connections or friends, and is angry for having to start all over again. I see the parallels the director was trying to make, but I  don’t think it was very successful, because Anwar’s performance is so bad, and she has an annoying, and unnecessary, voiceover, as well.

There’s some surprisingly sedate, and creepy, acting from R. Lee Ermey, from Full Metal Jacket fame, Meg Tilley, and even a cameo from Forest Whitaker, who gives one of the more compelling performances, as an officer who is terrified of being duplicated. Both Whitaker, and Ermey do a great job in their scene together, making you wish the movie had been entirely about them, and leaving out Marti’s family melodrama altogether. These three actors (Ermey, Whitaker, and Tilley) are the highlights in what is otherwise a mediocre film. It doesn’t begin to reach the heights of the previous one.

I get that the pod people are not meant to have strong personalities, but Tilley manages to imbue her pod-Mom with just enough personality to be really creepy, while the rest of the pod people don’t. There’s just all kinds of different acting across this movie, so the pod people don’t seem like so much as a unified group, as much as they seem like a bunch of people who have all been lobotomized.

This movie mostly stars a cut-rate cast, that is very obviously sub par to the 1978 version. Most of these actors, who were unknown at the time, continue to be unknown today, with the exception of the colonel played by Forest Whitaker, and Terry Kinney. who went on to star in the series “Oz”, for HBO, and Gabrielle Anwar later starred in Burn Notice, and Once Upon a Time. Billy Wirth (from The Lost Boys) stars as Tim, a young helicopter pilot, who becomes an unconvincing love interest for Marti. It seems that every body snatchers movie must include a, not-quite-romantic subplot.

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This movie differentiates itself from the first two by depicting the alien invasion from Marti’s point of view. She, and her friend Jenn, are the only two people on the entire base whose personalities seem to be intact.

While the film has some occasionally creepy moments, (as when Marti’s little brother first attends school, and we realize his entire classroom has been duplicated), it is rather lackluster, and  kinda disappointing. The duplication special effects don’t evoke the same fear and sadness that the process did in the 1978 version, the soundtrack isn’t as memorable as the city/heartbeat sounds of the previous movie, and the sonic screaming of the aliens in distress, is mostly all that’s left from the ’78 version. This was directed by Abel Ferrara, who went on to make more violent indie movies in the 90s, like Bad Lieutenant, and The Addiction.

The Invasion (2007)

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In 2007, the film was remade, yet again, this time directed by James McTeigue, and starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. The atmosphere of this one is cool and emotionally detached, almost as if the viewer had been duplicated, rather than the actors. The messages and themes of this movies are even more vague and unstated, but a close reading suggests that the messages of urban isolation, and peace through conformity are still intact.

This time Dr. Bennell is a woman (Kidman) and there are some brief feminist themes mentioned because of this change. This time the film is from her point of view, but also viewed through the lens of a parental love, as she seeks to protect her son, who is immune to the effect of duplication.

Everything about the 1978 film is jettisoned from this movie except the occasional name, so this is a clear reboot. Even the aliens themselves get an upgrade. There are no pods in this movie, but rather a kind of sentient virus, brought to Earth from some space debris, like in the movie The Blob. Anyone who is infected with the virus gets possessed by a kind of alien collective, after they fall asleep, but their primary body is left intact.

Dr. Carol Bennell is a psychiatrist whose patients start to report that the people they love are not who they seem. Daniel Craig stars as her counterpart Dr. Ben Driscoll, and they too have a not-quite- romance type of friendship, which is about the only thing kept intact from the original films. Carol has a young son named Oliver who, because of a previous illness, is immune to the virus. The plot becomes a race against time for Carol to save Oliver from one of the pod people, her ex-husband, Tucker, who wishes to kill the handful of humans who are immune.

This is a better movie than the 1993 version, mostly because it has better actors, although I have never liked Nicole Kidman, considering her to be an actress who lacks enough warmth to be engaging. She is too formal and icy for me to care about her plight, or buy her relationship with Oliver, although she does give it some effort. She’s not a bad actress. She’s just too emotionally remote. This is something that worked well when she starred in The Others, but not here.

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In an effort to approach some of the mood of the 1978 version, McTiegue only makes the viewer feel detached , although there are some deeply creepy moments, like various pod people trying  to get people to drink various infected fluids, and a scene where one of the pod people vomits in Carol’s face to infect her,  along with a couple of exciting chase scenes.

One of my favorite moments in this film is when Carol, pretending to be one of the pod people, is invited to dinner by the possessed child of one her friends. While they’re eating you can hear snippets of news shows, in the background, as someone talks about the Middle East Peace Treaties that were recently signed. I feel like that type of political idea should have played a larger part in the plot. Most certainly the political situations of the entire world would change after humanity is possessed by an alien species, and I found that intriguing.

Another scene I found intriguing, was a scene on a bus, with Carol and several other passengers pretending to be possessed, because they don’t know who is or isn’t possessed. I thought it was a very effective scene. This scene also contains some of the few Black people with speaking lines, in any of these movies, (there is Jeffrey Wright, and a Black cop who gives Carol advice in an earlier scene) and I was intrigued at the possibilities of some highly imaginative future director making a movie about how  an alien invasion would affect PoC, and their communities. Would they notice, and would they care if they did? I would love to see a movie where an ethnic community’s reaction to such an invasion is unexpected, positive, or even ignored. There are 7 billion people on this planet and not all of the reactions we would get to  such an invasion would be “fight it out” with guns, and explosions.

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It’s unlikely I will ever see a film about people who have already experienced colonization by a foreign entity, experiencing a second colonization by another. Alien invasion movies are almost always from a  Middle class, White,  Western perspective, are almost always about White people’ s reactions to being colonized, it is always  coded as a negative, and it always involve fighting and explosions. One of the most intriguing lines from the 1978 version is Veronica Cartwright’s character asking why people always expect metal ships. What makes IotB unique is that it is one of the few alien invasions caused by space travelling spores.

Once again, there’s a cameo of an actor from a previous film, Veronica Cartwright, who probably should’ve been allowed to play Dr. Bennell in this one, because she’s the most emotionally accessible character in the movie. Daniel Craig is completely unmemorable in this movie, as a love interest, who is so removed, he barely affects the plot. He barely affects Dr. Bennell. Jeffrey Wright is  a scientist who comes up with a way to stop the aliens. He is never in any danger and is mostly wasted, as he’s only there to give exposition. (I suppose we should be grateful that he survives the movie.)

The themes of this movie are even murkier than the last remake, although I get the focus is on familial bonds. But again, the emphasis on rugged individualism, and its protection at all costs, is something very common in White Western filmmaking.

There is a new version of this movie in development, or so the rumor goes, and I’d like to see some of the above themes addressed in it, but I’m not holding my breath. Chances are, it will be written by, and from the perspective of a White middle-class urban professional, and just reiterate the same themes of paranoia, and the protection of individual identity that were addressed so well in the first two films.  These movies have become less effective over time, and one way of grabbing a new audience is by infusing it with different thinking. What I would like to see is this film, done by a PoC, and what messages they might have to convey.

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