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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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/



Black Panther has a lot to say about politics:

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The Revolutionary Power of Black Panther




*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.



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.




*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.








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.)


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


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.








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.

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





“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.




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


*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:





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.


Movie Essays Weekend Linkspam

Here’s a collection of some of the better themed movie essays from the  last few weeks:

The Last Jedi

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The Last jedi was a very polarizing film, apparently. It’s one of those films that seem to have no middle ground. Either you hate it for ruining your childhood, or you love it because it was some fun and  unpredictable filmmaking. On the other hand there’s some really wrong character shit going on in this movie, that is completely at odds with what happened in the last one. And then there’s the emphasis on Space Fuckbwoy, Kylo Ren. That was just deeply, deeply 🙄 Meh!

Despite all of the above, I actually enjoyed the movie, though. I went into it expecting a lot of action, some laughs, and a little bit of depth, and that’s mostly what I got. There were definitely parts I didn’t care for (I thought the Rey and Kylo scenes were  cringeworthy, and the movie could have used more Rose, Finn and Poe, acting like normal people, the way they did in the first movie,) but overall, the movie was watchable, with lots of action, some moments of pathos, and bravery, and just plain awesomeness, and many people seem to really love it. I’m giving those people the side eye, just a tiny bit 😳but they love it, so okay. I think it measures up to the first trilogy pretty well, (but with better acting from Mark Hamill, who I loved.





“This is Not Going to Go the Way You Think”: The Last Jedi Is Subversive AF, and I Am Here for It





Media and Race


Image result for hallmark xmas movies *A post about how White those Hallmark Xmas movies are. There are a handful of movies with African-Americans in them, that are about Xmas, but this post questions why Hallmark movies are so alike, as to be interchangeable.

https://thewalrus.ca/the-unwatchable-whiteness-of-holiday-movies/ strong>

Posts about the Whitewashing of the Old West:

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/10/how-the-west-was-lost/502850/ strong>


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*Whenever possible, I like to read reviews by PoC, especially when the movies they’re reviewing have prominent people of color in the casts. I intend to do this for Black Panther, just as I did for Luke Cage, and Beyonce’s Lemonade, not because White people don’t have anything to say, but because reviews by White critics will be easily accessible, and I want to signal boost the opinions of the people these movies are about.

The latest Star Wars movie features three MoC,  and finally, a WoC , and I want to hear what those critics have to say about them. Coco is a Spanish language cartoon centered in Mexican culture and I want to hear what actual Latinx critics have to say about the movie.


http://remezcla.com/lists/film/latino-film-critics-star-wars-last-jedi/ strong>On the consumption of Black pain as entertainment:



*A lot of Asian Americans were not happy with the depiction , and treatment, of Mantis in this movie, and I have to agree. I found the character’s  treatment the absolutely cringiest part of the film:


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*Why are there so few WoC in the horror genre, as supernatural beings, and the handful of times they are, they’re treated badly?


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We’re getting so many posts about Black Panther long before the movie is released. Expect a flood of them afterwards.


‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Is Just As Important As Black Panther


Media and Gender

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Star Trek Discovery successfully tackled the subject of male rape and trauma, in its first season, while Brooklyn 99 tackled the subject of bi-sexuality, when one of its most prominent characters, Rosa Diaz, came out, paralleling the  decision of the real life actress.





View story at Medium.com


The Mist Movie Review

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

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

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

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

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The Grey Widower

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

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

The Stephen King Multiverse

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The Leviathan

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

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


David Drayton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edward Norton

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Carmody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bladerunner 2049 LinkSpam

<i>Blade Runner 2049</i> Knows You Aren’t Special

Hey there! Have some weekend reading on one of my current favorite films: Bladerunner 2049. Yes, I have read all of these, but there are quite a few out there that I haven’t had a chance to read, so if you have a link that’s not listed here, please feel free to post it in the comments! And just a word of warning, since so many of the articles deal with social issues, you should probably avoid reading the comment sections, if you want to keep your blood pressure at a manageable level.  The White Nonsense Faction was out in full force for a lot of them.



*One of the primary plot points in the new Bladerunner is Ryan gosling’s character, Officer K believes he’s the special child born of a replicant from the first movie, Rachael. He believes tihs because of an uploaded real memory, something forbidden to replicants. He finds he’s not as special as he seems, when he discovers other replicants also hold  the same memory. He becomes more human when he moves past this need to feel special. And so would we:







*Do the Bladerunner movies predict the eventual outcome of capitalism run amok?


*Are we tired of dystopian narratvies yet, considering that we might well be living in one? And does that fatigue acoount for Bladerunner’s poor run at the box office?


Whether Harison Ford's character is a replicant has far-reaching implications for the film series — and for what it says about our own society.



Bladerunner has been criticised for doing a lot of borrowing, mostly of  Asian aesthetics,  and Black American cultural narratives. 

As critic Angelica Jade Bastién recently noted at Vulture, mainstream dystopian sci-fi has always been obsessed with oppression narratives. While it returns over and over again to the downtrodden-rises-up-against-the-subjugator model, the genre has always had a remarkable ability to overlook the persecuted groups—people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities—whose experiences it mines for drama. White creators, men in particular, tend instead to whitewash their casts, imagining themselves as both villain and hero. Rather than simply putting the real thing in the story, their tales become metaphorsfor the real thing. Blade Runner 2049 falls into this trap: Even as Wallace grandstands about “great societies” being “built on the backs of a disposable workforce,” everyone the movie deems powerful or worth exploring is still white and almost 100 percent male, relegating those disposable workforces’ descendants to the story’s incidental margins.

———–   https://www.wired.com/story/blade-runner-2049-politics/







By contrast, in both Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, the notion of white-skinned replicants as escaped slaves does not fit the historical and representational iconography that we associate with slaves as being both black and engaged in menial labor.  Neither film gives us a glimpse of the ‘slave labor’ that the replicants were engaged in on the off-world colonies.  Therefore, the written preamble in both films about replicants being used as slave labor in off-world colonies does not become a significant theme in either film.  From the perspective of dispassionate black spectators, all we see are white people killing other white people for somehow not being authentic white people.  The replicants are near perfect reproductions of white people that even the authentic white people in pursuit are unsure about until after they have been killed. It is in this way that one might consider both Blade Runner films as mediations about white-on-white crime.  “Do white people kill other white people for not acting like authentic white people,” might be an alternative title for both films.  Furthermore, does being a slave for the benefit of white people automatically revoke one’s status as human? 

—————–   https://shadowandact.com/blade-runner-2049-slavery




One of the themes in Bladerunner 2049, is the commodification, of  not just labor, (which has always been so), but women . Of their bodies, their sexuality, and in the case of Niander Wallace, the commodification of reproduction.

There are also all the issues surrounding the character of Joi and her relationship to Officer K, what she is, what she thinks, and does any of it matter if she’s not real.

There are also issues stemming from the films excessive use of the male gaze and how that impacts the film’s message.





The Actors

I disagred with a lot of this article. The author completely dismisses the role of of the holographic Joi, in K’s existence, and her projection of a certain type of mindset onto Robin Wright’s Lt. Joshi, but otherwise, this is a nice solid article on how well Gosling captures K’s quiet inner life.




A philosopher expounds on the film’s deep questions about knowledge and genetically engineered life, and offers some clues as to its ambiguous ending.





*This new movie seems set to duplicate the box office results of the first Bladeruner. In this article, the author of Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson, wonders why that is, and ponders the new film’s thematic content.



28 Days Later (2002): The Evolution of Selena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It won’t be October, but I’m still going to do that last review, which is N’Bushe Wright from Blade.



Bladerunner 2049 Review (Part I)

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

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


Warning For Spoilers


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


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The Plot:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



The Characters:

Officer K

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Sapper Morton 

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

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


Rick Deckard

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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


Niander Wallace

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

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

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

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


Dr. Ana Stelline

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

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

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



The Girl with All The Gifts (2016)

This is the first of my five posts reviewing horror movies where the stars are Black women, all part of the Graveyard Shift Sisters posts on 31 Black Women of Horror, for the month of October.

Okay, despite the fact that I read the book, I still didn’t know what to expect from the movie. I should have because the movie is mostly very faithful to the source material. It had not occurred to me that the filmmakers would do the thing, and make Melanie a little Black girl. I loved the character’s voice in the book and was looking forward to whoever they would cast as she would be carrying the movie, and I’m glad the director made that decision.

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When the writer, M.R. Carey was asked about the development of the movie he stated:

‘We went a slightly different way in the movie, especially when it came to point of view. Where the novel moves between the five main characters and lets us see what’s going on in all of their heads, the movie sticks with Melanie all the way. And there are no Junkers in the movie. The base falls to a hungry attack. But it’s a case of two different paths through the same narrative space. The ending is absolutely faithful to the book.’

— M.R. Carey, in an interview with Mom Advice[7]

The plot of the movie is very faithful to the source, so if you’ve read the book, you know the ending. Most of humanity has succumbed to fungal spores and become what are known as “Hungries”. ( Basically they’re zombies. They attack and eat people. (This is not  unprecedented in nature, as there are actually fungal spores that infect hosts, and force the hosts to  propagate itself.)  Some of the zombies are intelligent, and Melanie is one of the smartest ones.

Melanie, and a group of like children, all of whom were infected in utero, are being taught, studied, and experimented on, at a specially guarded facility, by Dr. Caldwell, played by Glen Close. She is attempting to find a cure for the fungal infection by vivisecting  the children’s brains, and Melanie is her star pupil. One of Melanie’s teachers is Ms. Justineau with whom Melanie develops a close  relationship.

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Melanie is played by the unknown Sennia Nanua, and she is absolutely perfect. She doesn’t try to play Melanie as sinister, or evil. She’s just like any other regular little girl, smiling, curious about the world , and happy, until her hunger is triggered. Those scenes are shocking in their viciousness. We watch Melanie attack and bite people, and at one point she captures and eats a cat. Although the movie has kids in it, it is not for children. Her behavior isn’t sugar-coated  or glossed over, and the soldiers are correct to be afraid of Melanie, as her Hunger appears to be something she seems to control. Gemma Arterton is great as Justineau, and I enjoyed seeing her relationship with Melanie.

Justineau doesn’t try to control, or change Melanie, seems to accept Melanie just as she is, and unlike the soldiers, seems unafraid of her. She doesn’t seem to want Melanie for what Melanie can provide for her like Caldwell. Seeming to genuinely love and care for her, worrying about her safety when she’s not around. The two of them seemed to have formed a real and loving bond, and that bond between them, goes a long way towards the audience accepting Melanie for who and what she is, too.

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Justineau was constantly cautioned against attaching herself to the children she is teaching, but  she seems unable (or unwilling) to do so with Melanie. There are several scenes of the soldiers being verbally abusive to the children in their care, in order to teach Justineau to avoid them, but Justineau always behaves towards them with dignity and respect.


When the facility is overrun by Hungries, Melanie and Justineau escape inside a mobile lab, with some other soldiers. Caldwell, who has been bitten by one of the Hungries has developed sepsis, but still continues her experiments. The soldiers are wary that Melanie will turn on them so they make her wear a muzzle ala Hannibal Lecter.

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They soldiers fear her but Melanie is useful because she can walk among the infected with impunity. In their travels, they use Melanie to lure the Hungries away from them so that they can more successfully forage for supplies. Melanie uses that time as an opportunity to feed. During her explorations she encounters a group of feral infected children who have formed a gang to hunt  any wayward humans.

In one of the movie’s most exhilarating moments Melanie challenges and kills the gang’s leader, and commands the gang afterward, keeping them in line with the threat of her strength and ruthlessness. I’m not sure how to feel about these scenes. On the one hand, I applaud Melanie’s ability to survive and be a leader. On the other hand, I’m witnessing children committing shocking acts of violence, which is something I’m just not used to seeing. I generally avoid movies where children are killing each other. Melanie’s leadership of this gang is something that will come into play at the end of the movie.

I have to admit I felt some type of way about watching this little Black girl kicking ass, and being so vicious, because that actress looks so sweet and innocent, when she’s not doing those things. I can only guess that’s why this particular actress was chosen. There’s also the stereotype of the vicious Black brute, who is uncivilized and must be controlled, restrained, and made useful, which is illustrated in Melanie having to wear a plastic muzzle for at least half the film. All of Melanie’s captors are White, and with the exception of Ms. Justineau, they are all deeply frightened of her, which gives this movie a  disturbing racial angle, that it would not  have otherwise had, if Melanie had been cast as a little White girl. Her Blackness gives the end of this movie  a wholly different meaning, which I’ll have to discuss in another post.

There’s very little wasted space in this film, which is less than two hours, but feels   longer because the director takes time to have quiet moments to explore Melanie’s world from her point of view. She is in nearly every frame, she is the one around which the other characters revolve, and she moves the plot forward with the decisions she makes, especially the last one.

I considered giving away the ending of the movie, because I wanted to discuss how groundbreaking this is, but if you’ve read the book you already know it, and if you haven’t, I really don’t want to rob you of your feelings (and you will have some) when you see it for yourself, as everything that happens in 90 minutes of the movie is what leads up to Melanie’s final decision.

This is an excellent movie to watch on Halloween night along with, 28 Days Later, and Train to Busan, two other films that have WoC dealing with a zombie apocalypse.

28 Days Later will be my next review.

ETA: The Website featuring this list is available at the Graveyard Shift Sisters.




Weekend Linkspam: Television

Here, have some more interesting article links.

On Hannibal: The Series


I loved this mashup video of all the different iterations of this specific scene in Hannibal.








On Whitewashing and Other Concerns

The Seven Strategies for Defending Your Problematic TV Show or Movie—and Why They Don’t Work



On American Gods:




On Popular Media and Racism Vs. Historical Accuracy





On The White Savior Trope

Oh Come All Ye White Saviors



 On Daredevil and the Yellow Peril Trope

Black Mask, Yellow Peril: Anti-Asianism in Netflix’s Otherwise Brilliant <i>Daredevil</i>



On Furiosa and  Disability in Film

Cover Photo: Frock Flicks







Weekend Linkspam: Film

Just a collection of interesting articles and posts for the weekend. Pick a topic. Enjoy!

On Race and  Film

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The Yellow Peril Trope









Scifi Film Analysis





Get Out:

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Alien Series:

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On Gender and Sexuality



Horror is the only film genre where women appear and speak as often as men


Fight Club






The Problem with White Critics

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need more critics of color.












Watchin’ Movies: I’ve Got Mini Reviews

Now see, if I was as mean as everyone says, I would insist that you watch these movies because my eyeballs looked at them, but I’m not like that. I’m doin’ this for y’all, so you can go about your lives unhindered by whether or not you’re missing out on greater things.

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Actually these movies weren’t really  bad. A couple of them had pretty good reviews, and I actually liked  all them just okay.  I had the opportunity to watch Ghost in the Shell, but the reviews for it were so awful, and the premise left such a bad taste in my mouth, that I know I can’t watch it with any degree of “fairness”. So, I opted out. I know my limitations and sitting through that movie is one of them.

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage:

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I watched this movie one idle weekend, and yeah, its ridiculous. The stunts are so over the top they’re laughable, and the dialogue isn’t worth remembering, but nevertheless I kinda enjoyed it. It stars one of my favorite action stars, Donnie Yen, who you might remember from Star Wars Rogue One ,as Chirrut Imwe.

Normally, I like Vin Diesel, but I feel like he was just phoning most of this in, except for the stunt scenes, in which he seemed to be having too much fun. I didn’t care too much for the ass shots of various women, at least not without some compensating shots of Vin Diesels’ or Donnie Yen’s asses,  and the plot made no sense at all, but who the hell is paying attention to the plot in a movie like this. B

Basically, Xander Cage is after some type of McGuffin,that was stolen by Yen’s team of rogue operatives, or something, and he has to infiltrate their little gang, learn the objects whereabouts, and retrieve it. There’s some double crossing that requires that he come clean to the rogue team, and then they all have to work together to save the world, or maybe just America, since that’s who they all nominally work for. I was mostly here to watch Donnie kick some ass though.

There’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo from Samuel L. Jackson, yelling at some guy in a diner, before he is unceremoniously blown up by a rogue satellite. There’s also a cameo from Ice Cube, which I didn’t pay much attention to because it was also  so short. This really should’ve been a team-up movie between the two triple Xs, or Hell, three triple Xs, Vin, Ice Cube, and Donnie Yen. That nobody in Hollywood put this idea into the atmosphere speaks to the thorough lack of imagination going on there.


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I saw nothing but bad reviews of this movie, but I didn’t  dislike it. It’s been unfairly compared to Alien, and that’s just not right, as this movie, while suffering from much the same Ten Little Indians plot, is a different animal. I actually thought the monster was kind of laughable at first, because at first it looks like one of those giant underwater ribbon snakes, and then later like animated white plastic sheeting, but the movie actually turned out to be pretty suspenseful. I mean I knew everybody was gonna die and I stil l was on the edge of my seat wondering how, so that’s something I guess.

While conducting some experiments in space, a crew of scientists discover an alien lifeform, which gets loose in their ship, and proceeds to eat/kill them. Their job is to keep it from reaching Earth. The creature is sort of like The Blob, as it grows exponentially as it eats, which makes more sense than the creatures from Alien, which gain their size and weight from nothing but air.

I can’t remember any of the actors from this movie beyond Ryan Reynolds ,and I think I saw Morgan from, The Walking Dead. I don’t think it’s spoilery to say that everybody dies! Is it worth viewing? Its okay, but if you don’t see it, your LIFE will not have been upheaved.

Saban’s Power Rangers

I heard so much on Tumblr about how great this movie was, and how it was a big win for diversity, that I had to check it out. It does in fact do diversity very well, but I wouldn’t say it was a great movie. Its too frenetic for that.It stars a poor Asian kid who is not great at school. His mother is dying in their trailer home and he’s worried aobut his future, and what wlll happen when she’s gone. There’s a couple of young WoC, who form a romantic relationship, I think, and a young Black man who has one of the Spectrum disorders. He was my favorite character. Naturally, the fine, upstanding, White boy is the leader, and of course his name is Zach. Why White boys in movies can’t have regular names, like William or Thomas, I don’t know.

I did watch the original television shows with my sisters as they were growing up. They were terribly addicted to the show, and because they loved it I ended up watching a lot of it too, even though I mostly found the show deeply funny. So, I’m familiar enough with the original to be able to understand what’s going on in this one, which feels like it was written for fans, rather than to bring in new viewers.

There’s a lot of exposition that if you don’t pay close attention, you will not understand, (and probably wont understand if you do). The names and some of the action is just as ridiculously over the top and laughable as the original show, too. So if you can get past names like  Goldar, or Rita Repulsa, you’re all set.

Lights Out

I love a good horror movie, but I was too scared to finish watching this beyond the short film it was based on, and its first twenty minutes. I told myself if I just watched it during the daytime, I’d be okay, but that didn’t work, because I went to bed with the lights on,  and then I was afraid because the lights were on, and they might go out, and IT might get me, whatever IT might be. This movie  creeped me out, in a skin crawling type of way, that’s usually only reserved for sentient slime creatures.

The people who made this movie also made another short, called Closet Space, that was both scary and funny.

Don’t Breathe

Apparently, I didn’t learn my lesson from trying to watch Lights Out, because I watched this one sunny Saturday afternoon, when there was nothing else on the TV. I think I liked it, although calling it a good movie would be excessive. Its a complicated movie because the good guys aren’t particularity good, and the bad guys are the ones in danger, so its hard to know who to root for, or even how to feel about what you’re looking at.

A group of desperate teens break into the house of a man they think is totally helpless, because he’s blind, but the tables are turned on them when they have to try to escape, because he turns out to be a serial killer, or something. They discover a young lady being held prisoner in the house, and attempt to rescue her, but she gets killed, after which he decides to kill the guys, and imprison the female member of the group, and forcibly impregnate her, as revenge for the loss of the other woman and her baby. So really, everyone in the movie is kind of repulsive.

I do remember thinking the movie went on for far too long after it should’ve ended. Its not a bad movie but it is one of those movies where the message is so muddled you have no idea what the filmmakers are trying to say, if anything, and you don’t know what to feel about it. If you haven’t seen this movie, and you’re a fan of ambiguity, then give it a try. If you like your movies with a more concrete moral code, then I suggest you give this one a pass.


Get Out: The Importance of Black Friendship

Over the years, its been a thing for White people to ask, “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the lunchroom?” A question that’s almost as famous as “Why is there no White history month?” When I was asked that first question, in my youth, I had no answer. I knew there was a reason for it, and I tried to articulate why, but in the early 90s, words like micro-aggressions, and implicit bias, had  either not been  invented yet, or were not widely known to the public.

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An analogy: In my last post about American Gods, I addressed the issue of why we’re never seen Shadow Moon interacting with other PoC, or human beings, and I connected that to how “marginalized people”  need each other to touch base with, and ground them in their sense of reality, as they navigate spaces that are not considered to be theirs. An excellent illustration of this is Shadow believing he is slowly losing his mind in the presence of the supernatural creatures he is surrounded by.  Shadow isn’t only isolated from a racial standpoint, he is isolated from a human standpoint.

However, as a Black man, Shadow has had many years of practice  navigating White spaces, and no experience, at all, navigating supernatural ones, as a human being, and as a result, believes he’s losing his grasp on sanity. Without other humans present to acknowledge the events he’s been experiencing, he can only rely on his own shaky understanding of reality, which is not strong enough to keep him from believing that he’s losing his sanity. He cannot hold onto his sense of self. He can  adopt the prevailing attitudes of the supernatural creatures surrounding him, (just give in and accept it, which he has done by the end of the season), or he can declare that none of what he has experienced is real, and that he is actually insane, or he can find some human beings to ground him, and shore up the  assurance of his own humanity.

And this is not unlike the kind of choices that PoC make when we have no option but to navigate White spaces. (By White spaces, I mean public places, primarily populated and run by White people, like school and work, where close contact between Whites, and PoC is encouraged.) Do we adopt the prevailing attitude of the people around us, even if it’s detrimental to our sense of self, and well being, or do we retreat to more comfortable spaces with other members of our specific ethnicity (i.e. run away).

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This is one of the choices that Chris has to make in the movie Get Out.  A choice between an assimilation that will destroy his sense of self, or flight. During the course of the film, Chris wavers between these two impulses, but it’s his relationship with his best friend Rod, rather than his romantic relationship with Rose, that prompts him to not only deeply question what is happening to him, but to make the choice to flee (almost too late.)

One of the reasons that movie has such a resonance for Black people is that  we recognize, not just ourselves in much the same situations, but our “ride or die” friends, who we often commiserate with, after being in such spaces. Our friends help us  confirm our reality,  and criticize, and fight back, against our experiences, when we’ve been pressured to conform, or accept, that what’s happening to us is normal.

In the movie Get Out, Chris has such  a “ride or die” friend in TSA worker, Rod, played by actor/comedian LilRel, who also functions as the movies comic relief, and another version of the Everyman, with which we’re meant to identify. Rod is the character who explicitly states what the Black audience is thinking, and you could also argue that  Rod is  the hero of the movie.  Chris, alone in the wilds of White suburbia, often calls  on Rod, to touch base, to check facts, to affirm his experiences, and to confirm his sense that he is not the one who is crazy. It is everyone else.

Chris calls Rod after every questionable event, and Rod makes an effort to assure Chris that not only are his experiences are real, they are not normal, thereby confirming for Chris that his feelings are valid.  If you watch carefully, Rose does not do this. Chris calls Rod after his first meeting with Rose’s family, and Rod warns him against being hypnotized, elucidating all the things that could go wrong. Although Rod’s suppositions are comical, his distrust of someone hypnotizing Chris is spot on. Rose, however,  considers hypnotism harmless, and makes no effort to talk Chris out of  his misgivings. Instead, she deflects their discussion of how he feels, to how embarrassed SHE is  about her family, thereby derailing the discussion onto her feelings..

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Chris also calls Rod after he meets the other Black people there, because their behavior is unusual, and Rod assures him that his feelings are correct. Their behavior is wrong. Rose, while agreeing that the behavior is unusual, makes excuses for why it happened.

It is Rod who first warns Chris that he needs to leave, after he does a basic search on one of the Black people Chris met that weekend. Rod also confronts Rose about Chris whereabouts, when he can no longer contact him, and tries to trick her into giving herself away. He researches the other people Chris has met, and goes to the police with his concerns. When the police don’t respond, he takes it upon himself to find and rescue his friend, if that’s what’s necessary.

Shadow Moon, in American Gods, has no such friend. There’s no one to turn to to confirm the weirdness he just saw, and there’s no one to rescue him from an environment that is emotionally, and physically, dangerous to him.  Mr. Wednesday acts very much the way Rose does. He deflects , glosses over, and occasionally outright lies to Shadow, to keep him from fleeing the situation. Shadow eventually chooses to believe what’s happening to him. He assimilates. You can see the parallels to the victims who came before Chris,  but thanks to Rod,  he gets saved.

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Chris is in an environment where he is pressured to keep silent about his misgivings because he doesn’t want to make a scene, or upset Rose. Whenever he expresses doubts or misgivings, they’re rationalized away, not acknowledged, or dismissed as not being real.

Chris’ feelings are invalidated by the White people around him, with every one of the tactics used to discredit PoC feelings, in racial discussions with White people. The Black men and women  who are present, may look like him, but have been fully assimilated into that environment, and cannot be trusted. Chris needs Rod’s distance from the event,  emotional grounding, encouragement, and support, if he is to get out of the situation with his “self” intact. Shadow’s friends were killed (by Mr. Wednesday for the express purpose of isolating him from other humans), so Shadow has no touchstone, and the result  is Shadow BELIEVES, thereby ensuring his eventual downfall.

This is no different from Rose choosing her family’s victims based on how isolated they are from other Black people. The people she chooses don’t have close ties to their own family, or community. She chooses people that won’t be missed, that no one will look for. In Chris, she made a mistake in thinking him isolated. He has Rod, and she did not appreciate how far Rod would go for his friend. Rose’s brother isn’t so discerning. Lacking the ability to cajole, or seduce Black people, into being friends with him, he randomly ambushes isolated individuals. That was a mistake, because it’s his lack of discernment, that allows Rod to research his last victim. His family was looking for him.

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The movie resonates with Black people, in particular, because any one of us, who has been in such a situation, can identify with Chris , but we can also identify with Rod.There have been times when we’ve had to be that comic relief for a friend, the anchor that grounds their emotions, and lifts their spirits. Or we have had to be the touchstone that acknowledges that what happened to them that day, was actually real, and wrong. We have had to affirm a friend’s sense of normalcy, after a long day of working in a White corporate environment, where they are pressured to not speak out against the micro-aggressions lobbed in their direction.

It feels good to vent to friends about the insanity, and frustrations, of the job. It’s those Black friends who will  confirm that:

“Well, yeah, Becky was wrong to tell you to go get her coffee when you’re the only Black Executive Sales Manager, and she never makes that request of anyone else with your job description. ” (Confirmation of micro-aggressions)

“Yes, it is  horribly wrong for Coby, from Accounting, to keep calling you LaQuetta, when your name is Felicia. LaQuetta is the Secretary five cubicles down from you, is five inches shorter, three shades lighter, and has a French accent!”

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In the movie Hidden Figures, the women have not only a strong sense of their inner selves, Kathryn, Dorothy, and Mary, also have a strong bond with each other. There’s a scene of the three women drinking and dancing at home. Their friendship (something rarely shown of Black women in films) uplifts them, and confirms their humanity, in an environment that does nothing but try to undermine it. Many of us work in such environments, and its our friendships with members of our own race, that make such circumstances bearable.

For those who are absent a strong sense of self, or are unused to navigating White spaces, a lack of Black friends would have you thinking that sort of treatment was perfectly okay. It might have you joining in, instead of questioning, whether or not it’s a good idea to rub soup in your hair,  before your next date.

Black people have kept each other sane, supported each other, and confirmed our reality for each other, since our beginnings in this country, and it has helped us to survive tremendous hardship. Black friendship doesn’t just save one’s sanity, but in the movies, as in real life Black friendship can often save a life.









Lil’V aka Viv Lu

just someone writing fiction and giving opinions

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