Tumblr Celebrates Black History Month

As a general rule, I try not to post a whole lot of negative stuff on this blog, unless it’s directly related to Pop culture. There has been a lot of racist fuckery, just this month, that we’ve been dealing with. I am, at this point in my life, inured to (i.e. tired of) the abject stupidity of the American public when it comes to the subject of race, and hey! it is Black History Month! What I’m not gonna do is turn this blog into a space that chronicles White wtf*ery towards Black people. There are plenty of places on  the internet that already do that. Let’s celebrate some positive/happy stuff. Like I said before, “Don’t bring me no bad news!”

I’m going to focus on the positive, like the first, recorded, Black, onscreen kiss. They are so cute!

GERTIE BROWN & SAINT SUTTLE

“Something Good-Negro Kiss,” the newly discovered William Selig silent film from 1898 is believed to be the earliest cinematic depiction of African-American affection. Thanks to scholars at the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California, the footage is prompting a rethinking of early film history. The performance by cakewalk partners Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown is a reinterpretation of Thomas Edison’s “The Kiss,” featuring May Irwin and John Rice. The film was announced December 12, 2018 as a new addition to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry—one of 25 selected for their enduring importance to American culture. The 29-second clip is free of stereotypes and racist caricatures, a stark contrast from the majority of black performances at the turn of the century.

 

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Bayard Rustin has been largely erased from the Civil Rights struggle. I wonder why.

dicksandwhiches 

Bayard Rustin was an openly gay Black man who was Martin Luther King’s right hand man. He planned the Million Man March and was subject to scrutiny for his sexuality and deemed a “deviant” and “pervert”.

Bayard Rustin can be found in nearly every picture of MLK yet he has undoubtedly been erased from history. We have to fix that.

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Well then, let’s bring that name back.

Bayard Rustin, openly gay, human rights activist, proud black man.

(the guy on the left in case you wondered)

Yeah he was literally the guy who was the head of planning the March on Washington.

If you want to learn more about him, there’s a great documentary on him called Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin

 

You can watch the full documentary here (until March 31st, 2016)

I did a research project on him, Ella Baker, Claudette Colvin and Stokely Carmichael comparing their contributions to the Civil Rights Movement to the lack of recognition and misrepresentation they received in commonly used high school American History textbooks. All of these people played major roles in the Civil Rights Movement—almost on par with MLK—yet they go largely unnoticed or unfairly pushed aside not only during their time, but even now in classes on American History. These men and women deserve to be remembered.

 

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There has always been a thriving Black film industry, especially for comedies and romances. Movies like Black Panther are not new, and it is mostly an outlier because of its sheer scale. But there a lots of beloved films about everyday Black life and romance that have little to do with the  stereotypes of mainstream Hollywood.

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I couldn’t wind this up without a shoutout to my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Black LGBTQ+ Resources

It’s February, which means it’s Black History Month! Similar to how I made an LGBTQ+ resource post for Native American Heritage Month in November, here are some resources for Black LGBTQ+ people (as always, feel free to contribute if you have more resources!)

GLSEN Pages:

Historical information from the US National Park Service:

Some Black LGBTQ+ Creators:

Other Helpful/Informational Links:

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Some Exciting Trailers!

Doom Patrol

I’m actually enjoying Titans, which is something I’ll talk about later, but one of my favorite episodes was number four, which featured the superhero group, called Doom Patrol. Yes, they are comic book characters. No, I never read any of the books. I sort of knew about Doom Patrol in passing, but never actually picked up any of the books. Occasionally, I’d stumble across that Robot guy, but I’ve never heard of the team beyond Cyborg.

In the Titans episode clip below, Beast Boy takes Raven to meet his family. I have this thing about depictions of family dynamics, so I was on board right from the beginning. The team, as it will in the show, consists of Negative Man (the guy with the bandages), Elastic Woman (who can shift her looks), Robot Man (who used to be a race car driver before he lost his body in an accident), Cyborg,(we met him in Justice League), and Jane (who has 60 different personalities, all of whom have a different superpower).

I’m looking forward to watching this soon.

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Fast Color

One of the things I like about the new year are all the interesting new trailers for films no one has mentioned, or I’ve never heard of. This is Fast Color, about a Black woman who has superpowers, who goes home to discover her daughter has abilities too. I really like Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I’ll watch anything in which she stars, so if this is playing in my area, maybe I can talk Mom into going to see it with me.

 

 

Avengers Endgame

This is the latest trailer for the new Avengers movie, airing during the Superbowl. I’m very excited to see this movie mostly because I’m deeply curious about the interactions between characters who have never met before.

It seems that we’ve been reduced to the first five, or so, original Avengers, in the direct aftermath of the loss of so much life, so there’s a distinctly melancholy feel to the movie. I don’t mind, as long as I get to see most of my favorites return.

 

 

The Twilight Zone

I’m a huge fan of the original TW, and the various reboots weren’t too bad either. I’m a big fan of Jordan Peele, who has already shown us his horror bonifides with his first movie, Get Out, and his newest release this Spring, titled US. I think he’s just a Producer on this, which is cool. I already have the CBS All Access App for watching Star trek Discovery, so I might as well take advantage.

 

 

Hanna

I can’t say I’m a fan of the movie, which turned out not to be the full on action fest I thought it would, but turned out to be quieter, and more contemplative, than I thought. I did not dislike the movie this came from, but I didn’t love it either, probably because my expectations, and the payoff were so wildly different.

The movie is a bout a young girl raised by her adoptive father to be lethal, her escape from his pursuers, and her attempts to live as a normal teenager, when she meets another young woman looking to be friends. If the show follows the movie, then be prepared for some really good action scenes, alongside a great deal of  coming of age drama. I’m curious about this. one of the  standout things , from the movie, was Hanna’s relationships with the normal teens, and their reactions to who and what she is.

So, I’m going to check it out and let you know what’s going on here. Hanna airs on Amazon Prime. Tbh, I haven’t watched a single one of Amazon Prime’s many original series, so maybe I’ll break that record with this one.

 

 

Toy Story 4

I’m probably not going to the theater to see this, but then I’ve said that about other movies, so don’t take me at my word on it. After all, I have several nieces and nephews who all love Toy Story, I’ve seen all the other ones in theaters, and I could be easily persuaded to take them to see it. My family has discovered that I am notoriously easy to be talked into seeing movies I had no plans to watch, (and I’m pretty sure my Mom is just taking shameless advantage of me.)

So, we’ll see.

 

 

Game of Thrones

Season eight is coming.

 

 

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

I remember scaring myself to death with these books as a kid, so I’m mildly excited about a movie based on them. For me the scariest parts of the books are the illustrations, but some of the stories are pretty effective today, too. Apparently this movie is produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who rarely goes wrong when it comes to Horror, so I’m looking forward to checking this out.

 

 

 

Hobbs and Shaw

I’m not really a Fast and Furious fan. I’ve maybe watched half of the movies, but the inclusion of Idris Elba, as a total badass, has my complete attention, Since my Mom is a huge Idris fan, and will actually go see movies featuring The Rock, and for some  reason that is unbeknownst to the rest of her family, has become enamored of Jason Statham’s Transporter movies, I’m pretty sure I can talk her into going to see this movie with me.

It looks like a helluva lot of fun, too.

 

 

The Secret Life Of Pets 2

I though the original film was just sooo cute! My favorite character is Gidget because  her name reminds me of those Gidget Beach movies I watched as a kid. This new trailer is really funny, so I’m sure I can be talked into going to see it by my sister’s kids.

 

New Trailers! YIPPEEEE!!!!!!

Here are a few of the new trailers I was waiting to get a look at when I did my watchlist last year. I waited so I could collect all of them in one post. I’m very excited about a couple of these (and a couple of surprises) and just wanted share my love:

 

John Wick 3

Why yes, I am a John Wick fan. I consider these to be some of Keanu’s best action films ever. This franchise just fits him so well. I actually got my Mom to watch the first movie, which she seemed to enjoy, even though she said it was a crazy movie, and was upset about the dog. And this next movie in the trilogy looks hella fun. In the last movie John broke some rules which had him being hunted by the assassin’s guild of which he was once a member. I’m here just to watch Keanu Reeves riding horseback though.

 

 

Umbrella Academy

OH!!!, this looks like so much fun! I like the characters already, and I was always a fan of Ellen Page.  I did read the comic books, (although it was a long time ago) but  I’ve been a Gerard Way fan ever since. (He also wrote Spidergeddon, and Doom Patrol for a while.). And yes, that is indeed a monkey in the second part of the trailer. I sort of remember that from the books. This is airing on Netflix on February 15th.

 

 

Little

This movie is so cute. Normally, I’m not a fan of movies where adults exchange places with children, because they are usually done so badly, but I did like the Tom Hanks movie, which is the opposite of this one, called BIG. I just love the little actress here, and I’m a fan of Issa Rae, and I think the trailer is pretty funny.  I have plans to take my 13 year old niece to see this, becasue the young lady in the movie helped produce it, and hired a female director, and writers, to work on the  film.. She has the distinction of being the youngest producer in Hollywood.  I don’t normally go see comedies, but I’ll take this over the next Madea movie my family forces me to go see.

 

 

Spiderman: Far From Home 

I was already excited about this movie because I actually am a Spiderman fan, and the addition of Mysterio just clinched it. Now, to find out that the movie does indeed take place far from home, and that Aunt May is also on board the Spiderman train, (and she and Happy appear to be making some kind of love connection, which is not anything like in the comic books), well I am here for it.

And yeah, I think MJ (Michelle) has always known that Peter is Spiderman. Go back and watch the first movie. Whenever Peter and Ned are discussing Spiderman in public, she always seems to be nearby, (also Peter and Ned lack the ability to whisper), and I’m pretty sure she recognized Peter as Spiderman when the class visited Washington. But that’s a topic for another post, so here we go:

 

 

 

Polar

I don’t know, this looks like a total ripoff of John Wick, but I don’t care because its on Netflix, and it stars Mads Mikkelson as a total badass, which is always fun. I’m always up for watching movies about assassins, for some reason. This is airing today on Netflix.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Making The Chosen Family

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I love ensemble movies that are done well, and James Gunn is exceptionally good at writing, not just the characters, but the relationships between the characters. GOTG isn’t just a movie about blowing shit up real good, it’s about the creation of a family, specifically the family that one chooses for oneself, something which is layered, threaded, and  referenced repeatedly, throughout both movies. The character’s adoptive families have proven to  be either unreliable, or openly abusive, and  it is  their chosen family, their found family (each other) that  turn out to be more trustworthy, and caring.

But they cannot truly be a part of their chosen family until they deal with their traumas, learn to take care of themselves, learn how to treat the others, and in a couple of cases, atone for past misdeeds.

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In the first movie, we meet all the characters separately. We get to know their flaws and issues. We are to understand  that these characters are assholes, who can’t get along with themselves, let alone each other. They each have personal issues that prevent them from  being close to others. Peter Quill is an arrogant, immature, and reckless man, who is also a carefree womanizer. We later learn that he was kidnapped from Earth, and raised by an emotionally abusive alien, named Yondu. Peter is still suffering the trauma of his mother’s death, some twenty years before, which he has never truly dealt with. All of the characters, except for Groot, are suffering from some parental trauma that prohibits them from forming healthy relationships with the others.

Peter is immediately smitten with Gamora, but she is too beset by her own issues, and he is inadequate as a partner, so the two of them cannot be together. The two of them are too damaged. Their issues need to be brought out into the open and dealt with first.

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Gamora is the adopted daughter of an abusive father, Thanos, the villain from Infinity War. She hates Thanos for good reason,  but she is also estranged from her adopted sister, Nebula, because of Thanos’ abusive upbringing, which pitted the two of them against each other. One of the most telling moments about the nature of their relationship, is Thanos, while in conference with the movie’s villain, referring to Gamora as his favorite daughter, as Nebula is standing directly in front of him, while  we get a closeup of her facial expression. Gamora was so caught up in surviving being Thanos’ daughter, that she never had time to protect her little sister from him, and the two of them never formed bonds.

This is a staple dynamic of siblings that have abusive parents, especially if one of them is considered to be  favored over another. I would wager that that was very probably Thanos’ agenda in treating them the way he did, to keep them from finding solace in each other, so as to keep them from turning on him. Both Nebula and Gamora  are icy in their demeanor, stiff, closed off , and unapproachable. Nebula spends most of the movie trying to kill her sister, although after having reluctantly spent some time with the Guardians, we realize her hatred of Gamora may not be as deep as she thinks, or reciprocated.

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Drax is suffering from the loss of his wife and child through the machinations of the movie’s villain, Ronan the Accuser. Drax is, paradoxically, the most emotionally open character in the film, as he frankly discusses the love he had for his wife and child, and how much their deaths pained  him. Of all of the team, Drax is the one who is at least willing to acknowledge that he has trauma, but Drax spends most of the movie in revenge mode, as he tries to attract Ronan’s attention, often endangering his team mates in the process. Drax is not malevolent, however, he is deeply insensitive to the feelings of others, and somewhat clueless. After Groot saves his life, and  Rocket  calls him to task for his reckless actions, Drax is contrite and apologetic. It is he and Groot, (with Rocket’s reluctant agreement), who make the decision to save their teammates (who have been taken by Yondu).

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Of all the characters though, it is Rocket who has the deepest trauma. Rocket is an experimental animal subject, who was abandoned by his creators, (i.e. his parents), when his usefulness to them was over, and most of his negative personality traits stem from that events. He is impatient, mistrustful, arrogant, callous, hurtful, aloof. He pushes people away because he fears getting close to anyone he thinks may leave him. Many of Rocket’s worst character traits also come from the   crippling insecurity of being what he is, and being the only one of his kind in existence. Outside of his relationship with Groot, who is non- judgmental, he is profoundly alone, with no family, no culture, and no race that he belongs to. He is very sensitive to being spoken down to or treated as less than he is. These are things he is only willing to acknowledge when he’s drunk.

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Groot is the most well adjusted of the team. He is a fierce and awesome fighter, but he is also gentle and giving, when the occasion presents itself. We first notice this when we see him offer a small flower to a little girl. He  is the most “even tempered” of the all characters, and is usually unperturbed by the events around him.  His most altruistic moment is when he knowingly gives his life to save his teammates.  It is through his act of love that the other character become aware  that they are indeed a family. Like Drax, he is emotionally open, the one most willing to admit these others into his  life, care about them, and admit they are his family.

James Gunn, the director and writer of GOTG, and its sequel, does us one better. Not only does he introduce each one of these characters with their traumas, but he shows them moving past them to acceptance of each other, working together as an effective team, and then finally trusting each other, across the two films. Slowly, bit by bit, Gunn builds each  moment between the characters, until the  end of the movie, when we see all of them come together to save Peter, and the galaxy,  by managing the Power Stone.

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At first, they are together because its convenient. The other characters have something they want. Later, they are together because they want to be.  The action scenes don’t just serve to blow things up real good, but to help tell the story of the development of their relationships.

At the beginning of the first movie, the action scenes show all the characters pitted against themselves, or each other. By the time the characters land in prison, they are in the second stage of, at least, being willing to work together to accomplish the goal of getting out of prison, at which they are successful. But  they do not yet realize they are a real  team.They’re not friends yet, and  are still very selfish individuals, who are only together because of what they can do for each other. At this point in the action, they are at least  in a place where they are willing to acknowledge they need each other, but not where they trust and like each other. By the time they fight with the Nova Corp against Ronan at the end of the movie, they are together because they want to be, they actually trust each other, and realize they can accomplish more with each other, than against each other, which culminates in Groot’s sacrifice for his friends, which he makes clear is an act of love. His statement, “We are Groot.”, is his declaration that he loves them, they are his family, and he is willing to do this to save them.

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There is a quiet, but beautiful, moment when Drax comforts Rocket, in the aftermath of Groot’s death, while Rocket is mourning the loss of his friend. At first, Rocket is surprised, but eventually gives in to Drax petting him. No one has ever shown affection to him before. It is a mark of their friendship, not just that Rocket accepts this comfort, but that Drax offers it, because until this moment he has been deeply insensitive to the feelings of others having  referred to Rocket as “vermin”, and Gamora as a “green whore”. Rocket has not endeared himself to anyone, and has been openly exasperated with Drax for much of the film. In this one gesture, James Gunn deepens both their characters. Drax learns to recognize another’s pain, and not disregard it, and Rocket learns to accept comfort, when he’s in pain.

But Gunn doesn’t stop there, because that’s not the end of these character’s personal journeys. In the second movie, he builds on the idea of found family by adding the themes of understanding, forgiveness,  reconciliation, and atonement, to the character’s relationships. It’s not enough for them to trust each other, work together, and understand their choice to be a family, each one of them must admit their own pain,  recognize and understand  each other’s pain, and atone for past mistakes. Gunn does this by pairing specific characters together, like Yondu and Rocket, Nebula and Gamora, and Peter with his biological father, Ego.

At the opening of the second film, they are seen together as a team. They’ve been lauded as heroes of the galaxy, and have been together for some time, long enough for them to have grown to like Peter’s musical tastes, and crack jokes at each other. There is still some tension that is mostly resolved through bickering, but they  have accepted each other, even if they don’t understand each other. They cannot be at peace with each other though, because they are not at peace individually, but the title song, Blue Skies, indicates they’re in a good place from which to start the process.

The first action sequence exists to show them acting as a successful team, and parenting baby Groot.  Notice that each one of them gets a moment with Groot. (I especially liked Gamora’s hurried “Hi!”, after Groot waves at her, and Rocket’s diligence in making sure he doesn’t eat bugs.). Groot is still the warm center of the team. Later, we see Gamora reassuring Groot that she will return from an errand and that everything will be okay. As the group separates to go on different errands, the song, The Chain by Fleetwood Mac plays over that scene. No matter how far apart they are, the chain that binds then will never be broken. They will always be a family.

Over the course of the last movie, we witnessed Gamora being willing to show a softer, more caring, side of herself. Her sister, Nebula, isn’t in that place yet, but Gamora is in a an emotional place where she can finally hear Nebula’s pain. We saw the estranged relationship between Gamora and her sister, and we get some understanding of why.   Nebula attempts to kill her sister again, (although  we can see that she isn’t trying especially hard). At the end of their fight, she declares that she has has beaten Gamora, and this makes her the better daughter to Thanos. All we have seen of Nebula is that she is hard, cold, and jealous of Gamora, because every time she lost a contest to her sister, Thanos would forcibly replace one of her body parts with machinery, as  punishment. Gamora realizes she was so busy surviving  her own trauma, that she failed to see her little sister’s need for protection. It is her relationship with her chosen family that lets her realize she has failed to be a big sister. It is Nebula who turns out to be the sensitive one, who longed for a relationship with her sister, she could not have, because of their  shared trauma.

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Later, Gamora expresses the first real affection towards her that Nebula has ever experienced. Gamora has listened to her sister, and is ready to atone for her past mistake of not protecting her, (something we see play out in Infinity War) and Nebula, having had her pain recognized and acknowledged, is now in a place where she can forgive and trust.  Nebula’s acceptance of Gamora’s affection parallels Rocket’s acceptance of comfort from Drax in the first movie. Nebula and Gamora are not friends yet, because there is too much trauma between them, but they have reconciled, and have, at least, agreed to stop trying to kill each other. Gamora extends the idea  to Nebula that if she wants a family,  she and the rest of the Guardians will accept her.

Another moment of character growth occurs between Rocket and Yondu. A lot of people have expressed the idea that Yondu’s change of character comes out of nowhere, but I disagree. We are given subtle hints, throughout the first movie, that Yondu is not actually evil. He is a flawed man who has done bad things for money, and  is not actually malevolent. For example, our first indication that Yondu might not be all he seems, is his adoption of Peter, when he was meant to deliver him to Ego. In the first movie, he is given plenty of opportunities to punish or kill Peter, but keeps making excuses not to do so. Over the course of the movie, you begin to realize he actually likes him. At the end of the movie, Peter betrays him yet again, but Yondu just smiles, as if he  not only expected Peter to do it, but was proud of him for it.

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At the opening of the sequel, we see Yondu in a vulnerable moment, pensively looking out a window. He is perhaps haunted by his past, which a few moments later, comes back to bite him in the ass, as he is dressed down by his superior, a father figure that he has always looked up to, and he is  excommunicated from The Ravagers, for trafficking children like Peter, which goes against their rules. Later, his own gang overthrows him, because he treats Peter as his favorite, over them. Yondu eventually acknowledges  that he was wrong to abuse him, that he loved Peter, and atones for his past transgressions by sacrificing  his life, to save his chosen son. (Note: One of the biggest differences between Yondu, Ego, and Thanos is when Yondu lost everything, he apologized and atoned. Thanos and Ego did neither, made excuses, and then sacrificed their children for their goals.)

We finally come to Rocket, who is very probably the most damaged member of the team, who has not dealt with any of his trauma, in any satisfactory manner. His character arc is not fully realized until the end of the second movie, after Yondu’s death,  but it is the relationship he develops with Yondu that forces him to rethink himself. This revelation could not have occurred were it not for the relationship he developed with his chosen family, and Groot in particular.

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After Groot’s sacrifice in the first movie, Rocket saves a fragment of his friend, and grows an offshoot baby Groot. All of the team take turns nurturing and caring for Groot, but Rocket is the closest thing Groot has to a mother, having essentially grew and birthed him. It is through his relationship with his chosen son, and Peter calling out his behavior earlier in the movie, that Rocket is set up to be able to hear Yondu’s words about himself, as Yondu accurately reads him, understanding  Rocket’s behavior through his own motivation. Fear.

Rocket is afraid people will abandon him, the way his creators did, so he is constantly  pushing them away, so that when and if they reject, him he will be ready. It will be what is expected because he doesn’t think highly of himself, and  feels he does not deserve love and acceptance. His family gets angry with him, but they don’t leave him, or push him out, so the meaner he behaves. Them rejecting him will prove that he is correct about himself, that he is worthless and should be alone. (Note: Of all the characters in Avengers Infinity War, it is Rocket’s predicament that is the most tragic. Having finally accepted  that the team is his family, and will not abandon him, Thanos snaps his fingers, his family is destroyed, and he is as entirely alone as he terribly feared. With a snap of his fingers Thanos has set back Rocket’s entire character arc.)

Rocket is not healed by Yondu’s words, but he reaches an  understanding, that he is taking his unhappiness with himself, out on his family, and if he does not change, he will end up alienated from  his child,  like Yondu was with Peter. The last time we saw Rocket cry, it was for losing his friend. This time it’s for himself. For all the time he wasted being mean to the the people who accepted him, despite that he kept pushing them away. The movie ends with a shot of Rocket’s tears, after Peter’s acknowledgment of his pain. Peter’s recognition and acceptance of Rocket’s pain is important, not just for Rocket, but for Peter’s character arc, too. It is a sign of Peter’s growing maturity.

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The foundation of the movie  is Peter’s relationship with his two fathers, Ego, and Yondu, and his maturation into an adult. Two of Peter’s biggest issues is his arrogance (Ego), and his immaturity. Peter has been living a kind of extended childhood,with responsibilities to no one but himself, as if he stopped growing up after his mother’s death. His immature nostalgia for the past is the reason he cannot have a relationship with Gamora, and it made him easily manipulated by Ego, who appealed to that nostalgia. Ego is a planet sized creature that wishes to make over the galaxy in his own image, has tricked Peter into being a conduit for his power, and is another in a line of abusive father figures, throughout both movies.

Peter grows up when he rejects his father’s false promises of an idyllic past, he rejects “Ego” (his arrogance), and humbles himself to accept the help to destroy him. A key sign of Peter’s maturity is the loss of the Walkman music player that he was ready to kill for in the first movie. The music player represented his mother. When Ego destroys it, its as if he is killing Peter’s mother again, ( since Ego was the one responsible for her actual death). Killing Ego is also an act of closure for his mother’s death.  Notice how Peter’s character trajectory closely  parallels Gamora’s relationship with her abusive father.

The second major emotional turning point in the film is Peter’s reconciliation with Yondu. Yondu’s history is complicated, so I have to spend a moment discussing that. Yondu is the alien that kidnapped Peter when he was twelve, (just after the death of Peter’s mother, which is the reason why Peter has never had closure about that.) Yondu was supposed to give Peter to Ego, who has been collecting the children he seeded throughout the universe. When his children proved useless to him he killed them, and has killed thousands of these children, whose bones fill up a cavern in his planet sized interior.

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Yondu, while not an evil man, has been complicit in the deaths of hundreds, possibly thousands of children he kidnapped and took to Ego for money. After his kidnapping of Peter, he had an attack of conscience, and  stopped working for Ego. Keeping Peter was an act of rebellion, and an attempt to atone for the other children, because The Ravagers, the union of thieves he belongs to, disapproved of what he did. He justifies keeping Peter by claiming Peter’s usefulness to them and, afraid of looking weak to his men, he emotionally abuses Peter in front of them, while quietly approving of Peter’s behavior.

The Ravagers (lead by a man he greatly admires) kick him out of the group, and then his own personal team turns against him, captures Rocket, and imprisons the two of them together, which is how he gets to know Rocket so well.

In Rocket, Yondu sees a reflection of himself, and he tells Rocket as much. Everything has been taken from him, even though he followed all the rules of how to be a man. He was cool, and tough, and ruthless. He sublimated his love for Peter into saving his life time, and time, again, but otherwise failed to impress upon Peter that he was loved, choosing to threaten, and emotionally traumatize Peter instead, because he was afraid of being seen as weak. The very behavior he thought would save him from being condemned by his team is what makes his team condemn him. And with the return of Peter’s bio-father, he realizes that he lost out on the relationship he could have had with Peter, and he may be in danger of being replaced by Peter’s biological father, because he was too afraid. Not only is Yondu’s character arc one of atonement for past misdeeds, but is a rebuke of the toxic version of masculinity.

When Peter rejects his biological father, he is aided in this act by Yondu and the others. Yondu gives him some crucial words of advice at just the right time, which helps defeat Ego. Afterwards, Yondu and Peter are trapped on the dying planet, and Yondu sacrifices his life to get Peter to safety, but not before he lets Peter know how much he loved him, referring to himself as Peter’s daddy. He gives Peter his survival suit and, like Groot before him,  goes to his death, at peace with his actions. Since he is indirectly responsible for the deaths of possibly hundreds of children, giving up his life for Peter is not just to show Peter how much he loves him, but to atone for the deaths he helped to cause.

 

After Ego’s death, and Yondu’s sacrifice, Peter realizes that he has been less of a proper father figure for his own adopted child – Groot. For the first time in the movie we see him have a loving moment with Baby Groot, as he shares some music with him, gently cradling him with affection when Groot comes to him for reassurance. We did not get a chance to see this behavior earlier, as he mostly just barked orders at Groot.  In Infinity War we see him taking a more firm parenting role with him. We also see him taking a more mature stance with his family, not just recognizing Rocket’s pain at the end of the movie,  but understanding why.

James Gunn does a masterful job of showing us the dynamics behind the creation of a found family. We start off with individuals so damaged they cannot be a family, and we watch as they learn to forgive, accept, and understand  their own and each other’s flaws, recognize each other’s pain and trauma, and seek reconciliation and atonement for their past hurts. In the end, the members of the team CHOOSE to be a family, and in order to do so they must grow and change within themselves, and towards each other.

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What Fandom Racism Looks Like – When White Characters (Somehow) Aren’t White

Let’s keep this short and salty: did y’all know that there are people – thankfully a minority in their respective fandoms – that will claim a white male character or actor isn’t white for some reason or another. Well, if you didn’t know before reading that sentence, I’m willing to be that you’ve figured out […]

via What Fandom Racism Looks Like – When White Characters (Somehow) Aren’t White — Stitch’s Media Mix

Stitch is considered something of an expert on the subject of fandom racism dynamics, since this is something she has intensely studied. I never argue with her findings, but I am constantly surprised by the ways in which fandom seeks to revert to a certain status quo. What I’d  like to do  is build on this by  tying fandom racism back to how its been learned from the source material,  and fan’s understanding of how racism works, through the material they’ve been consuming, because their performance of  these forms of racism  don’t exist in a vacuum. White people (all races really) have been unconsciously inundated with decades of racist messaging in American films, books, and TV,   and  fandom often becomes nothing more than  the act of regurgitating what was consumed, especially if these things have never been critically examined.

I don’t think we can fight against how fandom racism is performed without acknowledgment, or understanding, of how its performance is tied to the decades old, racist narratives in Popular media.

There’s also a new angle to this as well. Since the source material being consumed has become more diverse and inclusive than ever, what I’ve been witnessing, is  fans trying to  bend these narratives to fit their world view – worldviews that have been informed by years of racist narratives. This is just as much an attempt to keep things the way they’ve always been, and they are no less different, from  the harassment campaigns against PoC actors, in an attempt to center Whiteness in Geek media, and reassert the status quo of PoC, and other marginalized groups, on the fringe of narratives that center White characters. This is what such fans are used to, and this is what they twist these stories to reflect. This particular form of fandom racism is often engaged in (but not necessarily exclusive to) White women in fandom, while the more public and aggressive forms of racism are usually engaged in by White men.

I’m going to reiterate that the reason fandom acts this way is that fandom isn’t the slightest bit progressive or woke. In fact, its fairly conservative, and quite a lot of them are thoroughly unimaginative, as well, as the participants do nothing but reproduce the same narratives they’ve seen over, and over, and over, from the  source material (and sometimes other parts of fandom, which accounts for the sheer numbers of coffee shop AUs in fanfiction), – narratives that have been overwhelmingly written, and helmed, by straight white men, who themselves have only the most rudimentary idea of what its like to be a member of a marginalized group.

That’s another reason I’m against racial allegories in fiction, especially the ones referenced above by Stitch. Such narratives do nothing to further dialogue, or deepen understanding of racial issues, because the writers of these narratives do not live, or understand, race in any personal capacity.  All fans get out of these stories is a foundational understanding that “racism is bad”. The Handmaid’s Tale, Zootopia, The Gifted, Teen Wolf, and Bright, are bad racial allegories because they get the depiction of racism wrong, have suspect intentions, borrow the oppression of Poc, while not including them, or  take little to no account of the systemic and institutionalized nature of racism, often showing it as a problem of individuals simply not liking some people.

Contrast those stories to Jordan Peel’s discussion of racism in the movie Get Out, or the music video, This Is America, by Childish Gambino, or the discussions surrounding the movie Black Panther. The understanding of racism is  different when written by those who have  actual knowledge of the subject, something which most fans of the media listed above,  do not have, so all they can do is reproduce the media they’ve been given, and can only  approach these subjects in their meta and fictions with  the performative wokeness  that they are engaging in now.

Movies That Did Not Impress Me

I saw an article on Medium.com discussing movies that guys are always trying to get their girlfriends to watch, while their girlfriends refuse to cooperate.  I wanted to add to the discussion with my own list of movies, that if my boyfriend tried to get me to watch multiple times, I’d probably  punch them in the side of the neck, (in the most loving manner possible, of course).

Here are some movies that men seem to absolutely love, that simply didn’t impress me very much. I’ve been told again and again, in movie list after movie list, that these are great films, and that I’m supposed to like them, but I just don’t. It’s not that I’m unmoved by them, though. Some of them are fun, or pretty, or have some feels, but for whatever reason, (and sometimes I’m not at all sure what that reason is), I was never inspired to watch some of them not more than once, nor were any of them life changing events for me. I don’t look back on them with nostalgia, or think my childhood is ruined, if one of them gets remade. Some of them I simply fell asleep on, and never felt any pressing need to try to watch them again, and some of them I have an almost visceral dislike of. This is an example of how subjective movie watching can sometimes be, and how much of yourself you bring to an interpretation of  a movie.

In some cases, I think the critics of these movies are mostly impressed by the technical aspects, like the editing, or camera movements. I’m less impressed by such things because sometimes my criteria for liking a film is just as a member of the audience, rather than as a professional film critic, or student. Don’t get me wrong. I notice the technical aspects of certain movies, but those things are not what I’m looking for in whether or not a film becomes a favorite.

 

Citizen Kane (1941)

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I have heard one hell of a lot about this movie. I even know the surprising, not so surprising ending, because this movie has been lauded to within an inch of it’s life. I have no idea if the movie is good or bad because I’ve never been moved to watch it, even though I’m sure it’s as technically brilliant as the critics (mostly all men) claim it to be. It’s true that it could be the greatest movie ever made, but that’s probably something I’ll never know, because I have remained consistently uninterested in watching it.

 

Back to the Future (1985)

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I have watched all of the movies in this series, and except for the Wild West entry, I remain unimpressed. I wasnt greatly impressed with that one either, but it’s the one I remember most positively. I consider the first and second films to be highly over-rated,  and never watched them more than once. Once was enough.

I’m going to talk a minute about seeing this movie through the lens of race, though. There are all kinds of movies about time travel, and I try to steer clear of most of them, because its a subject that seems wholly of interest only to White men. Like most Black people, I don’t fantasize about visiting some romanticized era of the past. There isn’t any place in America’s past that would have been good for me to visit, so I, and a lot of other Black people, are less interested in movies that explore time traveling to America’s good ‘ol days. The fifties that’s visited by McFly in the first movie, while a period of nostalgia for him, (and the men who wrote this movie),  it means something completely different for us.

One of the scenes from the first movie, that I found the most irritating, (and clueless), was when Marty performs the song Johnny B Goode, at a school dance. Now this scene takes place in 1955, and that song was first performed by Chuck Berry in 1958. When Marty leaves the stage, he says that song is a little before everyone’s time, when he doesn’t get the reaction from his White, teen audience that he wanted. What’s distasteful about it? There is a Black man standing behind Marty when he says that.  Marty doesn’t take credit for inventing the song or anything, but I’m pretty sure the Black members of his band were well aware of that type of music, (maybe not that specific song, though. Its a moment that pulled me out of the movie.

I think I mentioned, in another post, that when White people imagine the future, there is absolutely no sign of the influence of other cultures in those futures, and when PoC do appear in the future, most creators don’t imagine them in any way that’s  different from our present. Whiteness remains hegemonic in these futures, and PoC, gay ,and lesbian, Muslims, etc. are all still serving in the same servile capacities, or absent entirely from them. The futures the creators imagine are still bland, white , straight, Christian, conventionally thin, suburban middle class, and of course, male. So no, I don’t get too excited about most of these types of movies, beyond Star Trek, and Star Wars.

 

The Godfather (1972)

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I have been told by popular media that I’m supposed to watch this movie and love it. I have to confess that not only have I not watched this movie, but I have a complete lack of interest in rectifying that situation. It probably is pretty good. It certainly can’t be that bad. I like Al Pacino. I like movies made in the 70’s. I have watched lots of movies about the Mob, including The Godfather 2, and 3, movies I actually enjoyed, but the enthusiasm for this one just ain’t there. Not only do I not care about this movie, I don’t really care that I don’t care. Movie purists  would say I’m supposed to feel some sort of shame at not having seen it. That I can’t actually be a film lover unless I have, but I can’t seem get worked up about that either.

I suppose at some point in the future, could be this weekend, or twenty years from now, I’ll sit down and watch it, but I have no particular plans to do so. Sometimes, I’m  just a contrary little shit, and I think this is one of those instances, where a large number of people want me to like something, but my brain rebels against it, just for the hell of doing so.

 

Scarface (1983)

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I have actually watched Scarface about 5  times, and the movie is certainly interesting, but I’m not particularly wild about it. I haven’t watched this movie in a really, really,  long time. I have  heard people talk about this movie a lot, and they all seem to be really impressed with it. I do remember the last time I watched it, I thought the performances were overdone, Al Pacino’s accent was atrocious, Mastrantonio’s hair was so incredible that it needed it’s own backstory, and I kept laughing at everyone’s outfits.

 

The Big Lebowski (1998)

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Nah.

I think you have to be a Stoner to like this movie. I am unimpressed by The Dude and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Okay, let’s be frank. There are some movies that are, for lack of a better term, strictly a White guy thing. Movies like Back to the Future, and this one, are the type of movies I have never heard a single Black person even mention in my presence, or talk about online. I’ve spent my whole life around Black people, and I have heard guys mention The Godfather and Scarface, but not those two movies. It’s as if Black men don’t know that these movies exist. If I mentioned this to any random Black guy on the street, he might know about it, but he’d be hard pressed to tell you anything about the plot, beyond The Dude’s catchphrase. I’m sure there is, somewhere, a Black man or woman who likes this movie, but I have never met them, and I’d like to, because I have questions.

I’ve seen gifs, and stills, and heard the movie’s catchphrases, and I’m still not particularly interested in watching it. I don’t dislike the movie. In fact, from what I’ve seen, it looks kinda funny. I like all the actors, too. I also don’t think I’m being especially contrary in not watching it. I just think I’m not the audience for this movie, (I’m not the audience for most movies), and I’m okay with that. I may get around to watching it one day, but maybe not.

 

Heat (1995)

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I watched this movie once on cable. It was okay, in the sense that I didn’t hate it. Actually, I barely remember the details of it. I haven’t seen it since, so it must not have made much of an impression on me, I guess, although for a good while after its release, it was all anyone wanted to talk about ,especially that scene between Pacino, and DeNiro, as being the first time those two had ever starred in a movie together, although I understand they were both in The Godfather sequel. I like both of these actors, but I was not particularly impressed with that scene, not becasue of the acting, which was fine, but probably because the dialogue was not especially inspiring.

 

The Goonies (1985)

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This movie was released in 1985, and I think by that time I had aged out of any chance at being the audience for this movie, so it was not one of those movies, at least not for me, that other people claim to have been an influential part of their childhood. Since that time, I haven’t had any particular interest in watching this, despite that a lot of men love to talk about what an incredible part of their childhood this was. This movie wasn’t part of my childhood. I think the movie was aimed at little boys, and while I watched plenty of stuff for which the audience was young boys, this was one that didn’t appeal to me.

There are a lot of things I look back on with fondness, but I’m not an especially nostalgic person, at least not in the sense of wanting to hold onto, and  relive, the past. Nor do I think things were better then, than  right now, and that goes for this movie.

 

E.T. (1982)

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I feel the same way about this movie that I feel about The Goonies, except I actually watched this movie exactly twice. It was really cute and I liked E.T., and Elliot. My biggest memory was of a very young Drew Barrymore, who I remember really liking. Mostly, though, this was just a cute kids movie, over which people, inexplicably  lost their shit.  By the time this movie was released, I was firmly into my horror movie phase, and was more  impressed with The Thing, which got released around the same time.

 

And Movies That Did:

It’s not that I don’t have an appreciation of classic films. I like a lot of musicals, (Singin in the Rain), Marilyn Monroe (Some Like It Hot) and Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl, Yentl), crime movies made after 1980, and anything by Terence Malick. I’ve watched The Seven Samurai a few times, and I like the  work of Toshiro Mifune.

There were other movies on that guy’s  list that I have actually watched and enjoyed, and are some of my favorites. Here are five movies that men seem to love, that I happen to love too, although, now that I think about it, maybe not for the same reasons.

 

Taxi Driver (1976)

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Taxi Driver was not the first movie I ever saw which starred Jodi Foster. The first Jodi Foster movie I ever watched was The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, in which she plays a young girl whose parents have mysteriously disappeared, and she spends the rest of the movie trying to keep any other adults from figuring out that she is alone. I remember my mom letting me watch it late one evening, and how impressed I was with her acting. My mom could tell I was a fan.

My mom would not let me watch Taxi Driver until I was a little older, probably because of the sexual elements. I was about 15 or 16 when I finally watched it, and I remember thinking, at the time, that there wasn’t enough Jodi Foster in it, and how harrowing the ending of the movie was. I think I may have been in just a bit of shock. I had watched violent movies before, but not something like Taxi Driver.

 

No Country For Old Men (2007)

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I’m going to have to talk about this movie at a later date. I was really impressed with the performances and the movie’s themes.

 

Apocalypse Now (1979)

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This movie was released in 1979, but I didn’t see it until I was an adult. It simply wasn’t on my radar until I got to college. Ironically, I read the the book about how it was made before watching the movie, and I picked up the book because, at the time, I was reading books about jungle explorers. So, I read the book, but I still didn’t watch the movie, instead I read the book by Joseph Conrad called Heart of Darkness on which the movie is loosely based.

 

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

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This was the first Tarantino movie I ever saw, and I distinctly remember having watched this in 1994. It was on TV late one night and I was intrigued because it had the word “dogs” in the title. I hadn’t read anything about it because the bulk of my movie reading consisted of  horror magazines, and this was a crime movie. I also  remember seeing the trailer once or twice before its release, though. I remember being impressed by the music, acting, and dialogue, feeling exasperated about the characters themselves, and devastated by the ending I saw coming.

Over the years, I’ve heard the criticism that the movie is all style with no substance, but I disagree. The movie does have substance which is largely emotional. Later I’ll have to talk about that in a review.

‘Allo!

Hey everybody, I’m still here. Just in a kind of hiatus while life happens to me.

I had a really nice and quiet Christmas with the fam. I got some smart, practical gifts, like a muscle warmer for my back, and some gifts I have no idea what to do with. For some reason my family members all got me food gift cards. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely gonna use them, but it’s puzzling, since I never mentioned liking any of these restaurants to them. I went to my sister’s Xmas party, and I’m not a party type person, so that was remarkable for me. I didn’t do anything but eat, play with my niece’s and nephew’s toys, and watch a movie about Tina Turner  with my Mom,  while trying to avoid getting our pictures taken, and failing.

New Year’s Day was really nice. The night of I got to watch some fireworks over my house, because the neighbor had some left over from Independence Day, I guess. That was kinda cool. I drank some sparkling grape juice and fell asleep. I’m a party animal.

In the Southern part of the US, its traditional to eat a mess ‘o black eyed peas on New Year’s Day. I had mine with neckbones and cornbread, so I’ve done my duty. I made only one resolution this year, to knit my first sweater. (Top down, and in the round, for you knitters out there!) I haven’t picked out a yarn or a color yet. I’m spoiled though and want the good wool yarn, and the good wool yarn is moderately expensive. I’m looking more closely at some Lion Brand, though.

I’ve got some interesting posts coming up about movie landscapes as characters, the depiction of greed in  the movie Fargo, my ten favorite characters of 2018, and scifi movies that tackle memory and identity. Plus the usual show and movie reviews. There are some things I won’t be reviewing anymore, like The Walking Dead, and Supernatural, although I will still be watching both these shows, and there are some shows I most definitely will be reviewing in their entirety this year, namely season two of American Gods, starting in March. Some shows I’m still on the fence about reviewing, like The Passage. I want to focus more on long form essays this year, as you guys seem to really those. Apparently, the weird way in which my mind parses the world is fascinating to some of y’all.

Glass will be released on Jan. 18th and I will be going to see that at the theater, and I’ll let you know what’s up. With the release of more trailers, I’m beginning to get slightly more excited for Captain Marvel, but not too much. I’m just not feeling it like that. I’m more excited by her appearance in The Avengers sequel (if she’s in there) than her standalone film, because I really want to see her go up against Thanos. I’m interested in going to see the new Hellboy. I’m hoping my Mom and sisters don’t make me go see the new Medea movie. I don’t hate the Medea movies, but they’re really not my cup of tea.

Ta Ta for now.

I will be back later in the week with some stuff!

US (2019) Jordan Peele

Here’s a nice after Christmas treat.

The trailer for Jordan Peele’s new movie just dropped. What a beautiful Christmas present this was!

I watched this trailer, and I am shooketh! This looks genuinely terrifying!

Seriously, Peele’s been a comedian for years, and he’s been holding out on us. I love the cast for this movie, Lupita Nyongo, and Winston Duke, both fresh off of Black Panther. I expect this to be scary, and I expect it to have as much depth as his first movie, Get Out.

https://ew.com/trailers/2018/12/25/us-movie-trailer-jordan-peele/

Jordan says this is not a home invasion movie, it’s not about race, and it involves a new mythology that he’s invented about “The Tethered”. As you can see a lot of it takes place well into the next day, and once again, we get to see Lupita kicking some ass.

Things To Notice:

* That opening song. I Got 5 On It by Luniz was the song from my youth, too. It came out during my college years. I didn’t know I knew the lyrics to this song, and quite frankly the backbeat was always creepy to me, but that’s not something you say to your friends when they jammin’. (And Yes, it is about drugs.)

*The entire family is dark skinned, especially the mother and daughter. The usual dynamic, especially for mainstream movies, is to cast the father as dark skinned, and all the women in the family as several shades lighter, but here, the entire family has the same skin tone, which is something refreshing that people are noticing. It may seem an insignificant detail but those of us who are darker than than a paper bag tend to notice things like that.

*The shoutout to Howard University

*It appears as if the little boy may be on the spectrum. He is wearing a little red devil mask on his head when we first see him, and his mom talks him through the song in the car. Those are the kinds of little things one does when a family member has sensory issues.

*Bunnies!

*People have noticed at least one parallel scene between Lupita’s character, and the main character’s single tear scene from Get Out.

Jordan says having a Black family was incidental, because it’s not something that’s really been done before, and I’d have to agree, because a lot of family style horror movies involve White suburban families dealing with some disruption to their lifestyle, with the status quo being restored by the end of the movie, through their efforts. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a pretty common one.

Honestly, there really aren’t enough PoC in the horror genre, this is refreshing for that reason alone, and this kind of thing is honestly why we need them, to inject some fresh ideas into a genre that’s been coasting for too long on the kinds of things, made primarily by white men, that only seem to scare teenagers – torture porn, jump scares, ghost stories, and possession plots. (Having a Black cast isn’t unheard of, it’s just not especially common.)

Not that the men who almost entirely run this genre don’t have some good ideas from time to time, (It Follows, Poltergeist, two of the films cited by Peele as being significant enough that they was required viewing for the adult cast), but so much of this genre is not anything to get really excited about, beyond the occasional tentpole film like Halloween. The same way the J-Horror craze injected some new material into the genre, Black and Brown people will too, so hopefully this is the beginning of a trend that will see more women and PoC filmmakers in this genre.

I want to get back to a time when Horror had something interesting to say about the world, it’s people, anything really. Far too much of the genre has nothing to say from either a political or social standpoint, that isn’t abjectly negative about humanity, or just nihilistic. It will be interesting to see where Jordan Peele takes this story, and what meaning it will have on a wider scale, if any.

13 Favorite Vampire Novels

Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

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I first read this book when I was about nine. It would forever influence how I read about vampires. I know there were vampire novels before this, and I even read a handful of them, but  none of them made the impression on me that this book did because it was the first time I’d read about what would happen if vampires entered the modern world of American technology and culture. These were not the Hammer/ Dracula vampires that I’d been watching on TV, and that struck a chord with me. You’ll notice a trend in the type of vampires I prefer, either the mindless hungry monster, or the thoughtful, erudite, wise old man.

Ben Mears is a writer that grew up in Salem’s Lot and has a traumatic history with the Marsten House, which looms over the surrounding town, and has itself, a sordid and tragic backstory. Arriving simultaneously is vampire Kurt Barlow, and his human servant. Its up to Ben to convince his friends and family that vampires are taking over the town before the town is destroyed.

I’m going to have to do a review of the TV mini series, as it contains some interesting messaging about xenophobia and  one of King’s favorite topics, which was heavily tackled in It, the secrets of small-town life. The book also touches on the limits of belief and faith in the fight against evil. I’m going to have to do a lot more reading on those topics before I can tackle that though.

 

The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector

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This book just knocked me out! I will always stan for this book, which is a great descendant of Salem’s Lot. It contains both the mindless hungry monsters I adore, and the thoughtful , but evil, old man vampire, who sets the entire plot in motion while he’s on holiday in America. The characters are wonderful, the vampire action is great. This is what happens when a human being, Rudy, who is already a major asshole, gets bitten by a vampire, and turned loose in New York City. This book was part of the Splatterpunk era of the 80s, and the  writers do not stint on the gore.

The major drawback to this book is the rampant homophobia, which I found very jarring, when I listened to the audiobook recently. It does have a heroic gay character in it (who doesn’t get killed), but the road up to that moment is pretty rocky, and I think the writers thought they were being  progressive at the time. If that’s something that’s a deal breaker for you, then by all means you should skip it. (Its just that I had forgotten about it, since I read this as a teenager.)

 

Vampire Tapestry – Suzy McKee Charnas

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This is one of those types of vampire that I found incredibly intriguing as a teenager. The vampire from this book is a ruthless, heartless, intellectual, who is without sentiment about his condition. No lush prose here. The vampire in this book is direct, pragmatic and without excuses for what he is. As far as he is concerned, he is a predator, born and evolved to feed on human beings, and everything he does  is nothing more than a masquerade  to that purpose. He doesn’t have long romantic stories of his previous lives, as he doesn’t remember any of them, because, as he says, he doesn’t need to, to fulfill his only purpose, which is feigning humanity to get human blood. This is the more scientific, biological strain of vampire, but one who is intelligent and self reflective, when called to be so. He also has no idea of his age, since he sleeps for several decades at a time, after a few years of wakefulness and feeding.

The story plays out in three acts. In the first, he is captured, and kept in a cell by a ruthless man wishing to make money from him. He escapes by emotionally manipulating the man’s teenage nephew. The most intriguing part of the book is the second act where, as a college teacher, he has a psychiatric session with a woman who figures out what he is, and he attempts to divest her of her romantic notions of vampirism.  In the third act, he believes its time for him to go back to The Big Sleep, after witnessing a stage play that arouses sentimentality in him,  something he considers a liability to his survival.

The book isn’t especially  scary, but it was a great introduction to the idea of an intellectual/scientific vampire.

 

The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice

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I read this when I was maybe 18, and  I loved it. I’d never read anything like it. I followed Rice’s vampire series for several years, but since the over saturation of the market with vampires that are all ripoffs of Anne Rice, I’ve pretty much stopped reading them. That doesn’t make her original trilogy any less effective though. I can still pick up these books and become completely immersed n the lush world of 1800s Louisiana, now aided and abetted by images of Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise, as Louis and Lestat. This book is one of the first times I encountered a child vampire, and while I was never into Claudia, as a character, all that much, she is very effectively written. To my memory no one had written about child vampires much before Rice.

 

 

Lost Souls – Poppy Z. Brite

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I’m not sure how to describe this book. The vampires are definitely vampires, but unlike any of the vampires mentioned above, although the closest resemblance is to the style of Rice’s vampires. But only the style. The book takes place in the modern day, and chronicles the coming of age of a half vampire named Nobody, who meets a trio of vampires, who have been killing their way across the Midwest, and one  of whom turns out to be his father, something he discovers only after having slept with him, because that is the kind of book we’re dealing with.

Dark, Gothic, and lush is really the only way to describe the writing style, and the vampires, here. The author, Poppy Z. Brite, was something of a Goth icon at the time this book was written, and this book was all the rage in those circles. I did not run in those circles, and quite frankly, I was mostly exasperated by the pretentiousness of that particular crowd, but that has no bearing on the book, which feels like a velvety nightmare. It can be a little hard to get into, at first, because the style is very dense, and the characters are  dark and kind of emotionally remote, but once you do, its a very satisfying read.

 

Fledgling – Octavia Butler

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I wrote about this book earlier. I was not new to Butler’s books when I read it, but some of the events in this book are very jarring, and I feel I have to give a heads up on what happens. The book addresses the topic of race from the viewpoint of a new type of vampire, who can walk around in daylight. She looks like a little girl, about twelve years old, although she is much, much, older, and yes, she is Black. Right off the bat, within the first couple of chapters, she has a sex scene with the grown man (White) who rescued her. I wasn’t expecting that to happen, even though all of Butler’s books are kind of disturbing, and I should probably have expected it.

There are several scenes of her sleeping with adults, and I had a hard time getting past this, but I was younger and more hearty or something, because I managed to soldier through it, to an actually satisfying conclusion. I have not read this book since, and wouldn’t, because I can’t get past those scenes, although I found the rest of the book intriguing, and engaging.

Because the vampire’s bites cause humans to become addicted to them, the vampires acquire a “stable” of people around them, and so does she. Up to this point, the idea of child vampires has mostly not been addressed in vampire fiction, and really I suppose it should. Anne Rice got around the issue by making Claudia asexual, but Butler tackles the topic full on, and takes it as far as she possibly can. If this is something too disturbing for you, then you can skip this one, because this is a very challenging book.

 

Anno Dracula Series  – Kim Newman

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The Anno Dracula books are like a vampire’s greatest hits series, where all the most famous vampires in historical fiction get a shoutout, in the chronicle of the life of  one Genevieve Dieudonne, a teenage vampire who was created in the 16th century, whose observances, and adventures with a secret society known as The Diogenes Club, make up the bulk of the novel. This is all intertwined with a Ripper type serial killer who is preying on vampires in Whitechapel, called Silver Knife.

This one of the most unique series about vampires being written. The rest of the Anno Dracula series is about what would happen if vampires were a part of the everyday history and  life of regular human beings, and how their presence would have affected historical events, politics, and pop culture.

In the first book, Dracula actually succeeds in taking over London and turning the Queen into a vampire. Vampires have all come out of the grave. They have culture and fashions and music of their own. Most humans seek to become vampires, if only to avoid being rounded up as food, and this has an effect on the poor of Whitechapel, and the question of how vampires can survive if they don’t curb their numbers. Victorian London is every bit as Dickensian as ever, but with the addition of vampires and vampirism causing even further misery.

This is a great book, if you can get past the writing style which is a bit wry. The rest of the series isn’t as good as the first book, but if you have an interest in the history of Pop culture you might want to check out Dracula Cha Cha Cha, which takes place in 1950s Hollywood.

 

 

Blood Price Series  – Tanya Huff

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This particular series was branched out into a lovely universe with the lead vampire of this series at the head of it. I like the mythology of the series, which just manages to skirt the edges of being a romance. Henry Fitzroy is  a great character, and a good foil for the lead female character, Vicki Nelson, but it was Vicki that first captured me. She had a voice I liked. She wasn’t over-romantic,or maudlin, and never talked about her clothes and shoes. She’s a tough as nails, female, private detective, done correctly. She’s tough without trying too hard, disabled without dwelling on it overmuch, stubborn, prickly, pragmatic, and when confronted with the supernatural, in the form of Henry Fitzroy: Vampire, she takes that, and all subsequent introductions with supernatural creatures, completely in stride. She eventually becomes a vampire herself, and while Henry keeps telling her that all vampires are loners, who can’t live together in the same territory, Vicky is stubborn enough to make it work.

I wasn’t too fond of the short-lived, Canadian television series, Blood Ties, but I think the dynamic between Vicki and Henry was pretty good, it wasn’t as good as the book, mostly because Kyle Schmid is very pretty, but no Henry Fitzroy, while Christina Cox perfectly captures Vicki’s personality. If you don’t want to read the books, then the series is close enough in style to the books to give you a good sample.

 

 

They Thirst – Robert R McCammon

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This was the second vampire invasion book I read, after Salem’s Lot, and I thought it was fantastic. I don’t think it was a particularly deep book, but it was a lot of fun, and most of that fun is in the reactions of people who begin to understand what’s happening.  McCammon does get one major thing right, just as I have always espoused, is that people for whom superstition and faith are a major part of their life, are usually the ones to catch on the fastest, and survive what’s happening. People who believe the evidence of their senses, and stop trying to apply rationality to what they clearly see is happening, are usually the ones who survive.

It wasn’t my first brush with the writing of Robert R McCammon, but it is a fondly remembered book, although the book is a little more dated, as it takes place during the height of late 70’s/80s Pop culture, so some of the characterization needs work. A lot of horror novels in the 80s, were written by straight, White men ,so many of them had some serious  issues with writing PoC, and gay, lesbian and transgender characters, in the sense that most of these depictions were abysmal, as White writers had  less sensitivity  about such groups than they do now, and you have to take that into account if you’re going to tackle some of these 80s books.

I said before, I believe McCammon was building on Salem’s Lot by taking the basic premise of that book to its logical extreme, and asking : What if Dracula came to the big city, rather than a small town? How might that story play out?In They Thirst, vampires take over the city of Los Angeles, and it mostly plays out very much as you think it does. There’s less emphasis on xenophobia, but there’s subsequently  more emphasis on city life, gangs, and how disbelief in the supernatural, and  the cynicism of city dwellers, aids and abets the vampire invasion. Its not as good as Salem’s Lot, because its simply not as deep, but its a game effort, and worth the read.

 

 

30 Days of Night

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I already wrote about this series.

30 Days of Night has since become an entire series of books, with crossovers with other horror comics, and a movie starring Josh Hartnett. The graphic novel is so much better than the movie, and the movie is pretty damn good. The atmospheric art of Ben Templesmith is a huge factor in how scary the first book is. I became a huge fan of Steve Niles after reading this.

What I would like to know is why no one had ever thought of this idea before, given the icy horror of the Arctic, and the loneliness and isolation? Some of the best, and scariest, movies and TV shows have been set in this environment, so why not vampires?

The way vampires are written today, most of them aren’t very scary at all which is why I love to hype up this series. This book actually had me on the edge of my seat the first time I read it, and I’m always going to be fond of the idea, if not the various execution of the idea, over the course of the series.

 

 

 

Sunglasses After Dark – Nancy A Collins

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This is one of my favorite series because it has one of the baddest female vampires to ever be written, and tackles the subjects of sexual assault and trauma in the creation of a new vampire. Sonja Blue’s creation as a vampire was so traumatic that her personality essentially split, with one half being an amnesiac vampire, that carries a silver knife and can walk in daylight, who  kills other vampires, and a monstrous version of her vampire self that she calls The Other. She’s a bit like a female version of Blade, although I do not believe she was based on that character.

The first book is about her coming to terms with what happened to her, and how that ties in with a typical 80s, Evangelical TV couple, who want to use her for their own ends. Over the next three books in the series, she hunts the vampire who made her, while getting into adventures with various men, children, and other supernatural creatures. Most of these books end explosively, and Nancy Collins has a knack for slowly building the suspense, coiling the plot tighter and tighter, until things have to pop off. She does not stint on the gore, but she isn’t trying to write like a guy, in the Splatterpunk tradition. You can definitely tell this novel was written by a woman. This is another 80s vampire, but her writing is less problematic about PoC and gay and lesbian characters.

Later in the 90s, at the height of the Vampire RPG games fascination, Collins wrote a crossover with Sonja, and the Vampire: The Embraced series, which I thought was very effective, considering that she is a very different type of vampire than the ones from White Wolf. (The title is A Dozen Black Roses, and the first four books are available as a set on Amazon.) She even wrote a crossover with The Crow series, in the anthology “Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams”. The later books are not as deep as that first but worth reading, and there are a number of standalone short stories, to get a taste of Collins writing style and introduce yourself to Sonja Blue.

 

 

Necroscope Series – Brian Lumley

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This book was  a favorite for the sheer inventiveness of the vampires in the story. In The Necroscope series, vampirism is a virulent disease that will attempt to survive at any and every cost, and even the most seemingly innocent interaction with the infected, who are cunning, vicious, and highly intelligent, can result in a person becoming infected. The genesis of vampirism is from a planet where it grows as spores (which look like tiny white eggs) in the planet’s swamp lands, and any creature can be infected and pass it on, often resulting in hideous hybrid creatures of man and animal. The infection transforms a person into a conniving, hungry, cruel and manipulative predator, which, even more frighteningly, is still fully capable of human emotions, like love and loyalty.

In the world of the vampires themselves, they were at war with one another until only a handful of long lived lords and ladies are left, living at the top of what few mountains are left behind, called Aeries, and they totally control the human population of the planet, using them for fuel, and food, and transforming them into monstrous, but useful creatures, like plumbing systems, and transport beasts. If you’re familiar with the work of Wayne Barlowe’s Hell series, this world is a close parallel, only slimier. Pretty much everything about Lumley’s vampires is maximally disgusting.

The Necroscope is a man named Harry, who  communicates with the dead, who love him. He and the dead are often the first line of defense against the encroachment of vampirism, as they often warn him in advance of infestations, and sometimes even leave their graves to help Harry, and his special government team of vampire fighters and psychics,  to fight them. If you can get past what I thought were unnecessary descriptions of the women, (Lumley has no idea how to write about women) and some inventive sex scenes, these are very enjoyable books, although the writer’s  florid, but stilted writing style may be hard for some people to get past, too. I know I had a minute getting past the writing style, but if your’e a big horror fan this series is worth it just for the imagery.

 

The Saint Germain Chronicles – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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This series is often referred to as horror, but there isn’t much horror in them, beyond the horrible activities that the vampire, St. Germain, has had to endure in his 30,000 year plus life. These are historical novels written from a vampire’s point of view which makes them different enough  to be of interest to me. St. Germain is a vampire who was definitely invented by a woman, think Frank Langella’s smooth, urbane, sophisticated version of in the 1979  Dracula. Since these books were mostly written in the 80s, I suspect that’s who Yarbro had in mind while creating this character, and that’s mostly who I picture when reading the books. Since she wrote this there has been a glut of historical vampire novels with characters not dissimilar to this.

In each book of the series, St. Germain travels to some new part of the world, falls in love, and has an adventure. The books were published in no particular order, and can be read in any order, as well. My personal favorite is Path of the Eclipse, a chronicle of his travels throughout Asia, from China, to Japan, to India and Tibet. Each chapter is often prefaced with an introduction to the life/lives of whatever new characters he will be interacting with, and  where he is, in the form of letters and/or documents. Yarbro manages to perfectly capture the world weariness of an incredibly long lived creature, that tries to hold itself aloof from human affairs, but keeps getting embroiled in various human dramas, often because of St. Germain’s deep well of compassion for the mayfly lives he interacts with.

If you love a well researched historical novel, with vampire, then pick up any book in the series, in any order.

Things Are Gonna be Fun!!!

 

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I’m only really excited about a few of these, but I can at least respect that other people are very excited about some of the other, LESSER, films!

I kid, but actually I am at least mildly excited for a lot of these movies, although I probably won’t get to see most of them due to budget restrictions,  (cuz I got bills bills, bills, y’all!). I’m reasonably sure I can get Mom to see at least three or four of these movies, though. Some of the ones I’m looking forward to, do not yet have trailers, and some of them have just released new trailers.

 

January

What Men Want (11)

This is one of those movies I’m not especially excited about, but I know other people are going to love. Hopefully, my Mom and sisters won’t rope me into seeing it with them because I’m totally disinterested, probably because I didn’t like the original movie this is based on which starred Mel Gibson. It wasn’t an especially funny idea when he did it, and I still don’t think the idea is funny now, although I appreciate the racebending, gender swapping angle.

 

*Glass (18)

I think I already mentioned that I was going to see this movie. Unbreakable is one of my favorite superhero movies, and I finally got around to watching Split. I was initially dismissive of Split because I thought it was the typical, “lets terrorize some teenage girls” type movie, but it turned out to be something very different, and it was very suspenseful and effective. I love the idea of a superhero movie that’s not presented as a superhero movie, and here we get the supervillain team up done as a Thriller.

What’s more intriguing is how did David Dunn end up in the same facility as Mr. Glass? I thought his life was going well, and he was mending his relationships with his wife and son, but here we find him, locked in with the monsters.

 

February

Lego Movie 2 (2)

I didn’t watch the first Lego movie, but my nephew is crazy about both superheroes and Legos, so of course, he loved it. I’m gonna go way out on a limb here, and assume that he’s going to like this sequel.

 

Alita: Battle Angel (14)

I know there are people excited about this movie. I read the series about fifteen years ago, so I know a little sum-sum about it, but I’m having a really, really, hard time getting past those giant eyeballs, which are seriously creeping me the fuck out. I don’t know if I want to sit with two hours of that shit, even though the trailer kicks ass, and I love the idea of Hispanic robots. Unfortunately it also stars Christolph Waltz, who insists on starring in everything. He’s starting to get like whatshername from The Avengers, (except he seems to know how to stay in his lane).

 

 

March

Captain Marvel (8)

I have tried to be excited about this movie. I want to be excited about this movie. But I feel the same way about this that I felt about Wonder Woman. I’m glad other people are happy about it, and that’s it! The movie doesn’t look bad, but I think what’s hindering me is that I never cared about Carol Danvers in any of the comic books I read. I knew about her, and I liked her in  the comics where she showed up, and she certainly looks especially bad ass in these trailers, but the joyfulness just ain’t there.

There’s so much crossover in comic books that you can’t help but learn the backstories of characters you don’t read the books for. Also, I grew up reading the Monica Rambeau books, so I don’t know who the hell Carol Danvers is. But then, this attitude  isn’t really any different than how I behaved with most comic books. I’m excited at seeing her meet The Avengers in Endgame, but her individual movie is kinda “meh” to me. I felt the same way about most of The Avengers, truthfully. I read the team books, and skipped the individual books, for example, I know everything about Captain America from reading superhero encyclopedias (Nerd Alert!!!), and The Avengers books. I’ve never read a single Captain America book.

 

 

Us (15)

I got nothing. No trailer. No synopsis. All I got is Lupita Nyongo  and M’Baku  Winston Duke are both starring in this movie by Jordan Peele, and its a thriller of some kind. I want to see it because of Lupita: The Black Pearl, and  Winston Duke, who is thiccer than a bowl of oatmeal.

 

 

April

Shazam (5)

I grew up reading the Shazam books, but I don’t know that I want to watch a movie. I liked the books, and I think the trailer is hilarious, but I’m going to sort of vicariously enjoy this movie, I think. Unlike some people, I don’t get tired of certain types of movies being released, because I carefully pick and choose what I’m going to go see, and  just pretend anything else simply does not exist. One of my greatest superpowers is ignoring stuff I really don’t want to pay any attention to, and this movie might fall into that crevasse.

 

 

*Hellboy (12)

Now, this I’m very excited about. I’m a long time Hellboy fan, and I heard that this version is a little more like the comic books, in that its very dark, and kind of gritty. There’s more blood and horror than the Del Toro movies, which I also loved, but the previous movies were more Urban Fantasy with horror elements, although there is a little of the mood of the comics, in that some of Hellboy’s stories were cute and funny. This new movie carries an R rating though. And while I loved the first two movies, I’m still eager to see what the showrunners will do with the characters and story in the remix.

In the past several years, the stories have been very dark though, as Hellboy quit the BPRD, went on a pilgrimage to Hell, and is still discovering things about his heritage that are rather unsavory. Remember, according to the prophecy, he’s meant to bring about the end of the world. There’s no trailer for this yet, but David Harbour (the guy from Stranger Things on Netflix) is killing it.

 

May

*Avengers: Endgame (3)

Yeah, I am jittering around in my bunny slippers for this one. How did you know?

 

 

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (10)

Outside of knowing several character names, (Bulbasaur, and JigglyPuff), a general idea of the plot of the show, and that Pikachu is hella cute, I don’t know anything about Pokemon. I learned most of what I know from helping raise my two Pokemon addicted  little sisters. I don’t know what to think about this, really. Its really cute but is it aimed at adults or kids? I can’t tell. Its so different from the show that I’m having some trouble wrapping my head around it.

 

 

Ugly Dolls (10)

I know nothing about this movie beyond the trailer being cute as the dickens, and maybe my little niece would like to see it. The plot involves a town full of ugly toys that meet pretty toys on the other side of an immense island. Wackiness ensues!

 

*John Wick 3 (17)

I’m not excited about this, but I’m also not unexcited, if you catch my meaning. I liked the first two films, which I thought were a lot of fun, and its also a joy seeing Keanu back in his element again, as an action hero. At the end of the last movie, Wick was on the outs with the Assassins Guild he used to be a member of, and was being hunted by his former assassin-mates. Also there was some Fishburne involvement, and its just nice to see the old band, from The Matrix, back together again.

I may or may not see this movie, as I may be too emotionally drained from having seen The Avengers.

 

*Godzilla: King of the Monsters (31)

I’m definitely going to see this. I grew up watching all  the Gojira movies, so I’m really jacked about this one which features Gamera, (my favorite, becuz TURTLE!), Mothra, (who was kind of a good guy back then, but looks villainous here), and Ghidrah, which scared the shit outta me as a child. C’mon people! how can you not be excited at the prospect of a THREE HEADED DRAGON!!!!

I finally had a chance to watch Shin Godzilla ,which I thought was as scary as the original 1954 film. It had that same feeling of tragedy and horror. I have been pretending that the American versions of Godzilla do not exist, even though I think this new one is some sort of sequel, maybe. Lets pretend it’s a completely original film, and I won’t have to talk about the possibility of  other American versions existing.

 

 

June

*Men in Black International  (14)

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All I know about this one is that it stars Tessa Thompson teaming up again with Chris Hemsworth, and Liam Neeson. Hopefully, this will be as funny as Thor Ragnarok, even though its hard to top that Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones comedy combo.

 

Shaft (14)

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Hmmm? Didn’t we already see this movie come out earlier this year, but without Samuel L Jackson, so it flopped? Well, this one sounds intriguing, as it features three generations of the titular character. I’m gonna make a wild guess and say they’re all named Shaft.

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*Toy Story 4 (21)

I’m pretty sure I will end up crying at some point during this movie. I better take some tissues.

 

 

July

*Spiderman: Far From Home (5)

I really enjoyed the first movie, so I’m looking forward to this one. I know, after the last series of Spiderman movies, I said I was giving up on the character, but Tom Holland was so cute and refreshing as Spiderman, that I couldn’t help but like him, so I’m back in. Not only was he a lot of fun, but I really enjoyed his interactions with the other characters, (Ned, MJ), and even Tony Stark didn’t come off looking too much like an asshole.

I’m taking the baby niece and nephew to see the new Spiderman movie this weekend, and although I’m a little late to the Miles Morales fan club, (I was an adult when he was created, and I grew up reading the Parker version), I’m intrigued by the trailer. The past few months, I’ve been catching up on Mile’s adventures with Peter Parker.

 

Lion King (19)

I don’t know whose going to see these Disney live action reboots, but I’m sure someone is happy about this movie. I’m not fond of the animated version, so I’m not going to see a live action version. It looks gorgeous, and that little cub is hella cute, but still,  its basically Hamlet, with lions. But those of you who are excited about this let me know how you liked it.

 

August

Hobbs and Shaw (2)

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Those two guys from the Fast and Furious movies, played by Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson, have an adventure where they drive real fast, while  griping at each other for two hours.

I’m in!

 

Artemis Fowl (9)

People were very very excited to see this trailer on Tumblr. I know nothing at all about Artemis Fowl. I was never a fan, and not particularly interested in becoming one, but I’m gonna take another wild guess, and say that my niece, The Potato, probably knows all about this.

Also the trailer is mysterious and lovely.

 

 

Okay, these movies are too far away to have trailers yet, so I considered not including them, but I am excited about some of them. That doesn’t mean I’ll get to see them, however.

September

It: Chapter 2 (6)

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I did not care much for the first part of this, and I wasn’t a fan of the TV version, or the book. But somebody out there likes this, and will pay good money to go see this. I can probably be talked into seeing this by a family member, but I wont take any initiative myself. If you’re gonna see it, drop me a line, and let me know how what you thought.

 

Downton Abbey (20)

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I’m much more likely to go see this since I did watch the entire series. I don’t know that I will see this movie, but if I do, I will be sure to sneak some tea and biscuits into the theater, so I can put my thing down.

 

October

*Gemini Man (4)

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I like the premise of this movie where Will Smith plays an aging assassin who has to fight a younger clone of himself. I loved Will, as Deadshot, in Suicide Squad, but since I’m not going to get a Deadshot movie anytime soon, this will have to do.

 

Joker (4)

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Unlike a lot of people, I’m not put off at the idea of yet another Joker movie, even though I’ve heard there are at least a couple in the works. I’m trying not to be one of those people who constantly bitches and moans about superhero movies being so popular, and so far its working, in the sense that I’m not tired of them yet. I stopped reading the superhero comic books because I got bored, but that doesn’t mean I stopped reading comics all together, because there are other types of comic books. When I get tired, I’ll stop watching these movies.

So far, I’m good.

 

Addams Family Animated (11)

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This will be an animated version of the Charles Addams comic series, voiced by Oscar Isaac, and Charlize Theron. I’m not excited about it, but I did read the cartoons as a kid, so I’m intrigued.

 

November

November is so far away (although the way the world is going now,  it will probably be here in a few hours), but I can’t say whether or not I’ll get a chance to see these. I know for sure that I want to see the new Terminator movie, which ignores everything that came after movie number two, and although I grew up watching Charlie’s Angels, I’m not actually what I would call a fan. It was just something I watched on TV. I’m mildly interested in this reboot.

Linda Hamilton will reprise her role as Sarah Connor for this new Terminator, and the rumor is that the new Terminator will be played by Gabriel Luna. Since I’m probably never going to see his version of a Ghost Rider movie, I will have to settle for watching him here.

*Charlie’s Angels (1)

*Terminator Movie (1)

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December

I don’t know what to think of the Masters of the Universe movie. I remember watching the show, because that’s what you did on Saturdays as a kid, but I wouldn’t say I was a fan. Even as a little girl, I do remember thinking the show was ridiculous. Of course, I’ll go see the final Star Wars movie, as I believe I am by law, required.

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Masters of the Universe (18)

*Star Wars #9 (20)

My Favorite Smart Films

Inspired by my recent viewing of Annihilation, I wanted to take a look  at some films I really, really, liked. The kind that most inspired thoughtful reflection, confounded the hell out of me, or just made me smile with joy at the sheer talent involved in the making of it. Here are just eight of some of the smartest movies of the past thirty years, divided into four categories, movies for The Mind, The Body, The Spirit, and finally, Just For Fun.

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The Mind

Some movies are satisfying on an intellectual level. The plot, the  characters, or the design, and look of the film is mentally stimulating. The movie makes you ask questions, provokes thoughtful consideration of its themes , and leaves you puzzling over its message.

 

Dark City (1998)

One day I’m going to have a do a full review of this movie, because it really doesn’t get enough love. Released in 1998, and written by Alex Proyas, who also wrote The Crow, this movie so inspired  Roger Ebert, that he did three different commentaries for the DVDs. Proyas has credited the  look of the film as based off of the film noir of the 40s, most specifically, The Maltese Falcon. The film stars Rufus Sewell as an accused murderer, William Hurt as the detective who hunts him down, Jennifer Connolly as his wife, and Keifer Sutherland, as the mysterious Dr.Schreiber.

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Most of the film takes place at night and has a mysterious and ominous feel to it. The story is winding and circular, referenced by the Fibonacci spirals we see in the opening credits sequence, and again, when one of the characters paints the walls of his bedroom with repeated versions of the symbol. As a viewer, you enter into the outer rim of the  story, just like in the symbol above, knowing no more than its protagonist, John Murdock, who wakes up naked, with amnesia, in a bathtub, in room 314. (Look up Job 3:14 in the KJ version of the bible for the significance.) He is  forced on his journey, through the darkness of this cityscape, by a mysterious phone call, and the arrival of a group of malevolent Men in Black (a classic Scifi trope). As he follows the clues to his identity, so do we, slowly spiraling inward to the heart of the mystery of who John Murdock really is, and the existence of the nameless city in which he lives.

What I love about this movie is that viewers know exactly as much about what’s happening as Murdock. We don’t know his name until he does. We don’t know where he is until he finds out. We are definitely on a journey of discovery with him, and what he finds shakes the foundations of his world. Literally!

 

Inception (2010)

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This movie wasn’t difficult for me to understand, although a lot of other people seemed confounded by it. It’s definitely one of those movies where you are given all the facts and the rules of its universe, and are then left to your own thoughts, to make of it what you will. If that is something you’re not used to doing, then the movie will only be confusing for you.

It is very well possible that almost the entire movie is no more than a dream, within a dream, within  dreams, and I’m inclined to think that way about it, if for no other reason than it explains much about Cobb and his crew, and some of the odd phrases and coincidences that occur in the film. My personal theory is that Cobb falls asleep on the airplane ride home to  see his children. I think the entire movie is  Cobb having a weird dream about dreaming, at least partially brought about by grief at his wife’s passing, and guilt at having spent so much time away from his children on a business trip. He has just heard the news of the death of Michael Fischer’s father, and has probably met him on the plane, and so his dream is bound up in all these elements. Here’s why I think this:

Ariadne: A mythical figure that is associated with mazes and labyrinths because of her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus. Her father put her in charge of the labyrinth where sacrifices were made as part of reparations 

Ariadne, played by Ellen Page, is tasked with creating the mazes that the crew will be dreaming through during the inception of Fischer’s mind.

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When I heard her name, I knew I might not be watching what I  thought I might be watching, and there are a number of odd moments, (his wife’s suicide while perched on the ledge of the building opposite him, his unwillingness to look at his children’s faces, and the fact that the children do not age, and no timeline is ever given for when certain things happen). There are bits of information, and other clues, that have lead to all manner of theories about this film. The overarching  feeling of all of these theories is that the entire movie is Cobb’s dream. Some people speculate that there is no purpose to his dream, some say it’s to alleviate his anxiety and guilt for going on a business trip and leaving his kids alone, after his wife’s suicide, and others say that the purpose of Cobb’s dream is to extract the truth of his wife’s death, and that it’s Ariadne’s purpose (like any good therapist) to help him do that. I do believe his story that he planted the idea of the world not being real in his wife’s mind.

When I first saw the movie, and Cobb claimed to have killed his wife, I  didn’t believe him. My very first thought was that it was just an expression of his guilt, and grief that he couldn’t stop her from killing herself, that he was the one who planted the thought in her mind that made her suicidal, and now he has left his children all alone to deal with their confusion. It is also not out of bounds to believe that the information of his wife’s death is being extracted from him for therapeutic purposes, in the real world, by Ariadne, and I like that idea, because it parallels the  emotional inception that he’s engaged in with Fischer, who is  dealing with guilt and grief over the death of his father. Fisher’s inception involves reconciling with with his father’s death, and Cobb’s dream involves reconciling with his wife’s.

One could argue that the thought incepted to Cobb is that his wife’s death is not his fault, so that he can free her projection from his dreams. Ariadne specifically states that his wife is trapped in his subconscious, and until he lets go of  his guilt and grief, his wife can’t leave. To that end, he and Ariadne have to make their way through the maze of Cobb’s mind, to the vault at his center, and release her.

Honorable Mention: Paprika by Satoshi Kon

 

The Body

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These movies cannot, technically, be called body horror movies in the same way as movies directed by David Cronenberg, (who seems to have a lock on that subject), but they do involve thinking  about the body, and how we move through the world, of how we intellectualize our physical self, and what purpose we have, in the bodies we possess. These movies are opposites in a sense. In The Addiction, the lead character’s body betrays her attempts to control it, and she fights as hard as she can to reach some kind of equilibrium with what her body wants. In the second film, the lead character must learn to embrace his physical self. If he wants to be complete, to feel whole, he can’t simply ignore what he is,  but must accept all of it,  and to that end, he leans into himself, and learns to trust and control his body, much as his nemesis, Mr. Glass, had no choice to do, at a very early age.

 

The Addiction (1995)

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I am still confounded by this movie. I have some vague idea what the purpose of it was, but I think that, unless you’re a student of philosophy, you probably won’t have any idea what the Hell the point of this movie was either.

The Addiction is a 1995 vampire movie directed by Abel Ferrara. In it, a college student, named Kathleen,  played by one of my favorite actresses, Lili Taylor, gets attacked by a vampire played by Annabella Sciorra, who blames her for her attack. Kathleen then has to try to understand what’s happened to her, and how to deal with her new addiction to blood, without letting it destroy her life. She meets Christopher Walken’s character ,who tries to wean her off blood, claiming that he has conquered his addiction, but he is unsuccessful, and Kathleen goes on to infect several  people in her neighborhood. Looked at closely, it can seem like the movie is an an allegory about sexual assault, and how the survivors are permanently changed by what happened to them. But it can also be seen through the lens of infectious disease.

The most intriguing aspect, for me, is that Kathleen lives in a mixed neighborhood, and  infects one of the homeboys who live down the street from her. I would watch an entire movie about a Black guy from the ‘hood, who gets infected with vampirism, and how that might play out, especially if it were done in the same style as this. What’s interesting is the soundtrack reflects the environment too, featuring Cypress Hill, Rick Rubin, and Onyx.

At a party to celebrate  Kathleen’s dissertation, she and the other vampires stage a bloody attack on her faculty, and friends. Kathleen longs for death, and we find out at the end of the film, that she died over a year ago, when she visits her grave at a nearby cemetery.

It’s an uncomfortable movie, filmed entirely in black and white.  It’s unlike a lot of horror movies. There are no jump scares here, and the  mood of the film is melancholy. It feels harrowing, even though there’s not that much action, or gore, because the images are so stark. There are long interludes of dialogue, as characters attempt to come to terms with what’s happening to them, as Kathleen blames them for her addiction, and several scenes of Kathleen unsuccessfully fighting against her compulsion to feed. Much of the movie involves scenes of Katherine fighting against her need for blood, giving in to it, or trying to reason,  or come to terms with it somehow.

The film has been considered an allegory about drug addiction, as well as an allegory of the theological concept of sin.[1] It contains philosophical, theological and other intellectual content, including references to HusserlNietzscheFeuerbach, and Descartes. The film also features a vampire quoting theologian R. C. Sproul, who is a critic of Roman Catholicism.

 

 

Unbreakable (2000)

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There is something viscerally satisfying about watching this movie, and discovering, as we go along, that we are watching a superhero origin story. The story is told in such a lowkey manner that, for at least the first half of the movie, you believe that characters are simply delusional. This is a more philosophical approach to a genre that’s usually more physically oriented, but it does follow the classic superhero origin story tropes. The protagonist discovers he  has abilities, he practices learning how to use them, and then an enemy presents to challenge him. Where this movie differs is that it is the antagonist who helps the hero discover his abilities, and the final confrontation between them doesn’t result in a fistfight, but is sad and horrifying because they have become friends.

Superhero movies are essentially about people dealing with physical power, in that almost all of them are about someone discovering they have such power. They have to relearn how to use their body, how it works, and then use that knowledge to find their purpose. This movie explores the same themes but in a much quieter way. The lead character is discovering his power, but he is a grown man who supposedly leads a full life, that he feels is empty, having given up the use of that power, for his future wife, when he was a teenager.

His nemesis is a man with almost no physical power, suffering from the disease, osteogenesis imperfecta. Unable to overcome his disease, he has spent his life concentrating his power into his intellect, and the only way he can experience a sense of worth is by having a foe, the kind of foe outlined in the comic books he’s read all his life, the physically perfect, unbreakable man, versus the fragile, but mentally superior enemy, something that is illuminated in the film’s dialogue. He doesn’t just have the task of discovering his enemy, but  has to make him realize his purpose. What they are to each other. Mr. Glass came to grips with his physical limitations when he was a very young child. He was admonished by his mother to not choose fear, or being afraid would become his go-to choice for  the rest of his life, and Mr. Glass is indeed fearless.

David must go through the same process as an adult, because earlier in his life,  he chose fear. Afraid he would lose his then girlfriend, he chose to ignore and suppress his abilities, and fear became such a habit for him that he was living an unfulfilling life where he could  find no joy in his family. That choice, to be afraid, ironically, almost results in the loss of his wife anyway, and an emotionally distant relationship with a son who is trying, desperately, to connect with his father.

Honorable Mention: Mad Max Fury Road and Akira

 

The Spirit

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Some movies are satisfying on a spiritual level. It just feels good to watch them, as if you had eaten a very good steak dinner for the soul. This is the spiritual version of comfort food. The movie Tree of Life can be viewed from so many different angles, from the religious to the secular, that it could just as easily fit into the The Mind category, but for me the message of the movie is spiritual, mostly because of the music.

Tree of Life (2011)

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I am not a religious person, in the sense that I’m not a believer in any particular belief system, but I do think about religion, and religious messages, a lot, and I’m not immune to media with a well thought out emotional, and spiritual message. This movie also subscribes to no particular version of Christianity, but its spiritual message seems evident.

You have to be prepared that most of the movie contains voiceover, and there is not much dialogue. Tree of Life is about a man looking back on his childhood, with his overbearing father, and his angelic mother, after receiving news of the death of his younger brother. That’s the basic plot. All else is gravy.

Tree of Life is a gorgeous looking movie, a perfect marriage of theme, visuals, and sound, and very possibly Malick’s best film to date. I have never been able to watch this movie without tears, or a sense of awe. Even if you’re not an especially religious person, the movie is worth seeing because its transcendent, evocative, and philosophical.  I would have put this movie under The Mind but the music propels it to a level beyond thought to one of deep feeling. One day I’m going to have to review this movie, because I have my own ideas about what  it means, but for now:

Here’s Bishop Fr. Robert Barron explaining the religious message behind Terence Malick’s Tree of Life:

 

The music of Tree of Life is a treat for the senses. Ethereal, epic, awesome. If you have not seen this movie, and you love larger than life drama, with cosmic set-pieces, and if you like movies by Bertolucci, Herzog , or  Kubrick, you will enjoy this movie.

 

 

Spirited Away (2001)

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This movie is spiritually satisfying on multiple levels and a little hard to describe. On the surface this about a frightened, lonely and uncontent little girl, dealing with moving to a new village. Chihiro is whiny, frightened, and clingy in the beginning of the movie, but by the end of the film, she has discovered her power, her confidence, her self assurance.

There is something about this movie that so  deftly speaks to the spirit of little girls, that they all want to return to this world over, and over, again. This movie was released in 2001, when my youngest sister was ten years old. She immediately fell in love with it, and watched it at every opportunity, and so did her sister, who is a year older. Neither of them ever seemed to get tired of it.

Five years later, her daughter, hereinafter referred to as The Potato, was born, and I introduced her to this movie, when she was about five or six. She still watches this movie today. She has a sister, (nicknamed, Lil’ Mama) , who is six years her junior, who is also thoroughly enamored of this movie. At this point the movie has become a family tradition, (along with My Neighbor Totoro), and I expect to be around to introduce this movie to their daughters.

I’m uncertain what essence of  little girl in me is attracted to this movie, but I’ve never seen anime more wholesome than a Studio Ghibli film. Most of the primary characters in this movie are women, of all ages, body types, and  emotional demeanors.

 

 

Just Plain Fun

 

Some movies are just really, really fun, and therefor good for all three aspects of the self. They feel good, they sound good, and they look good. You never get tired of watching them because there’s always some tiny details to discover.

 

Pulp Fiction (1994)

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There’s a lot to love about this movie, beyond its nontraditional structure, which is what first captured me about this movie. I loved the intellectual exercise of piecing together the linear plot of the movie after it was over, and I loved the dialogue, the side stories, and all the little details and sights that you miss if you’re not paying proper attention, and are a nice reward on subsequent viewings.

Ostensibly its about some odd adventures during the course 48 hours in the life of Jules and Vincent, who are hitmen for a local gangster named Marcellus Wallace, but there are several stories and sideplots, some of which are only tangentially related to Jules and Vincent’s day. The movie starts off in a perfectly normal gangster/hitman,  comedy type manner, with some banter and some killings between the two men, but as it moves forward, the feel of the plot starts to shift, to become more  discordant, until the end, when you’re left with a deep disquiet, as the  movie turns out not to be as  light weight, or “feel good” as you first thought. As the plot moves forward, things start to go horribly wrong, to go off key, and ultimately ends in tragedy.

In the meantime though, the subplots are very interesting, like the opening one, where Vincent accidentally kills an informant (wrong note number one), and he and Jules need to call in a Cleaner, called The Wolf, played by Harvey Keitel. Then there’s Vincent’s dance off that evening, with Mia Wallace, the wife of the gangster he works for. The dialogue is also a lot of fun too, showcasing Tarantino as a force to be reckoned with in that department. There’s the now famous conversation between Jules and Vincent about the names of burgers in Amsterdam, and a  conversation with Jules teasing Vincent about the significance of the foot massage, after he finds out about Vincent’s date with Mia. But the standout scene  is Christopher Walken’s character, a former military man, who tells a story about a pocket watch.

Yes, there are parts of the movie that are, to put it mildly, cringeworthy, but those parts don’t outweigh the sections of the movie that are the most fun, or nerve wracking.

 

Goodfellas (1990)

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This, too, is one of my all-time favorite movies, (and  completely different animal from Pulp Fiction), that I never get tired of watching, but not for the reasons a lot of people like it. I see it as chronicling  the decades long relationship, the rise and fall, of people who are supposed to be friends, Tommy, Jimmy, and Henry. For me, this movie is a fascinating dive into  these three very different personalities, and how all of them eventually come to a sad, and in one case horrible, ending because of the kinds of decisions they made in life.

Henry made the decision early in life to always be a follower. We follow Henry from his childhood fascination with the mobster life, through his initiation, his introduction to Tommy, his marriage, and his several falls from grace due to paranoia and drugs. Along for the ride is his wife, Karen, loyal to the end, his boss Paulie, a father figure who abandons him in his time of need, to protect himself, and Tommy, a psychotic rageaholic, who is as likely to kill a man as look at him.

The performances are superb, with Joe Pesci’s Tommy being, very probably, the most pants-shittingly scary gangster I’ve ever watched. Every moment he’s on screen is filled with tension because he is entirely unpredictable. Even Henry treads lightly around him, and Jimmy, who is also known as Gentlemen Jim, uses Tommy as his nuclear option whenever he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. At one point, Tommy accidentally kills a boy not much older than Henry was when he decided to be a gangster, without even a hint of remorse, and then there’s that classic scene between Henry and Tommy, ta scene that’s been spoofed in dozens of movies and standup routines  since then, when Henry, rightly, thinks Tommy might actually be capable of killing him, for thinking he’s a funny guy.

The camera work is extraordinary, the long traveling shots of Henry moving in and out of covert spaces at the beginning of the movie, and the busy shifts in  camerawork, and rapid  shifts in music, towards the end of the film, that parallel Henry’s paranoid, coke induced, freefall which  presages his capture by the police.

While we’re doing that, we get to listen to some of the greatest music of the twentieth century, showcasing scenes which have since become iconic feats of filmmaking, from Henry and Karen’s first date, serenaded by The Crystal’s Then He Kissed Me, to  the Lufthansa scenes, shot to the tune of Eric Clapton’s Piano Exit from Layla, followed by the death of Tommy:

The music in this movie could almost be considered another character. This is Scorcese’s masterpiece, and he has never topped it, (although Casino came pretty close  by reiterating the tropes created in this one). It’s Scorcese’s musical choices that make this one of the most incredible films of his career. This was a director at the top of his game. Its not a surprise that this movie won for Best Picture that year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mad Max: Women and Civilization

In Part One of my critique of the Mad Max franchise I talked about the use of the Triple Goddess Myth from Pagan folklore in the movie’s narratives. In this post, I’m going  to tie the Triple Goddess mythology to the idea of women as literally the  keepers/ carriers  of human civilization, throughout the entire franchise.

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For some reason, people see the social messages of Mad Max Fury Road as either a fluke, or some sort of SJW plot. This is not the case. George Miller has always referenced women in his movies in ways that made statements not just about their humanity, but their role in the creation of a civilized world. Miller’s feminist sensibilities are  not new, and his movies have always been about people losing their humanity at the end of the world, and then  regaining their humanity (and civilization) through cooperation. These ideas are usually represented through women. Except for the first movie, all of Miller’s films end with a new beginning for civilization to reassert itself.

In most of the Mad Max films, it is women who hold the keys to restarting civilization. Even  in the first Mad Max movie, women are depicted as the last bastion of stability, before mankind’s descent into the  barbarism, rape, and pillaging, represented by men. This premise is made more explicit in  The Road Warrior, and Thunderdome, and clearly stated in Fury Road, as if the other movies had been leading up to the message of Fury Road.

In Mad Max, civilization has not yet been destroyed, and Max’s boss tries to talk him into staying on the police force, after his partner is brutally murdered by  members of a biker gang. Max’s excuse for quitting is that he wants to hold on to the last shreds of his sanity, and can only do so by leaving the force to spend time with his wife and child. This implies that it is parenthood and marriage that are the holders of Max’s sanity, (not the  law and order he represents), and after their loss at the hands of the same biker gang that killed his partner, Max does indeed go mad. The message here is that his wife Jessie, and their child Sprog, were Max’s emotional anchors, after which, just like society itself, he  descends into insanity and violence, as he kills the gang in a murderous spree. The loss of his wife and child  represents of the total loss of civilization, so it isn’t just Max who descends into barbarity, but all of society.

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By the release of The Road Warrior,  all men have gone mad, and it is their madness that has made the world a funhouse mirror, where the Triple Goddess myth has been twisted and corrupted. because the women of this world have had to adopt to new roles to survive it in it.  In each of Miller’s films, the lack of civilization is represented by men behaving badly, as it  is primarily men who are rampaging through towns, raping random strangers, and killing and stealing at will. The men of this universe are a force of destruction and entropy. This is an idea explicitly stated in Fury Road, when Immortan’s wives ask the question,”Who killed the world?!” The answer, of course, is…

The first movie is setup for the next three films, where we see the world attempting to recover from the madness inflicted on it by men. Society is held and remembered by the women of these films, who are attempting to rebuild it,  in fits and starts, while being harried by the men.

In The Road Warrior, there are three women of note. I discussed this in my post about the use of the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone archetypes of the Wiccan belief system, in Miller’s movies. The women are not  the genesis of civilization, at this time, because they are still in the process of survival, but they are tied to that concept by their roles in the film. One of the nameless women is a warrior, a corrupted Mother, who in this world is not wise and nurturing, but traffics in violence, and she dies by violence, just like the Vuvulini from Fury Road. There is the equally nameless Maiden, who is  a symbol of new beginnings, who finds love, and  rides off into the sunset with the new leader of the compound, and there is the nameless Crone, rendered irrelevant, as her counsel is not heeded as it is sure to get them all killed.

The Road Warrior is also a story told in flashback, from a future world of safety and stability by the “Feral Child”, the wild, orphaned, boy that Max encounters in the wastes. It is a future that can only occur because of Max’s actions and the presence of the two women.

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Thunderdome is, next to Fury Road, Miller’s most explicit message that women are the holders of civilization. Aunty Entity, (this is the Crone motif again), played by Tina Turner, is the leader and chieftain of Bartertown. In her backstory, she says she was a nobody without power, but after the world ended, she somehow managed to scratch a town out of the desert. She is a maker of civilization, or at the very least, the foundation of it, as this is not unlike how actual civilization began. She  hopes to rebuild society as it once was. But it is not to be, as her attitude isn’t any different from the old one that caused the world’s destruction. Bartertown is ultimately destroyed by her greed, her ego, and her inability to share leadership with her male counterpart, Master Blaster, and also perhaps because that is not the direction in which a future society should go. She cannot begin a new society because she is too beholden to the old one.

It is interesting to note that none of the people in Thuunderdome are  outright villains,  as was depicted in Road Warrior (and even in that movie the bad guys were capable of love and reason, ulike the villains of the first movie, or the ones in Fury Road). The bad guys and women are  deeply flawed individuals, who survive to the end of the movie. Aunty Entity is not a bad woman, but a regular woman who does bad things, due to the flaws in her character.. This is also true of Master Blaster, as it is his urge to put Aunty in her place as subordinate to him is what prompts their feud. Master Blaster seeks to assert his authority against a woman that he thinks disdains him, while Aunty refuses to be cowled by him. It is their inability to find common ground, to treat each other as equals, or  share leadership, that destroys Bartertown. These are the same attitudes that destroyed civilization.

Once again, in Thunderdome, we have the Triple Goddess figures at odds with each other. It is Savannah’s belief that civilization still exists, called Tomorrow-Morrow Land, that motivates the secondary plot of the film, and sets her on a collision course with the other female leader, Aunty Entity. All of the primary roles in this movie, the characters who set the plot in motion, are either marginalized men, like Master Blaster, (a team up between a mentally disabled young man, and an older man with a physical disability), or women and girls. At the end of the movie, we see that Savannah has become the the leader of a new society being built amid the ruins of the old. Civilization no longer exists, so Savannah, like Aunty will have to make it herself. However, unlike Aunty, she is successful, as once again, the movie is told in flashback, from a more prosperous future.

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The Triple Goddess motif plays out again in Fury Road. Immortan’s wives are the holders of civilization, as they are the only members of Immortan Joe’s society that are educated, so they are the ones who know the real history of the world,  unlike the Warboys  who only know the world by  what has been passed down to them by word of mouth. The wives espouse the philosophies they learned from  the books they’ve read, that is distinctly anti-consumerist: that people are not things to be used. They hold within them the memories of civilization, while  the Vuvulini carry the seeds of it, which are later passed to the wives, as the Vuvulini, murderous crones all,  are too corrupt, (too much a part of the old world), to play a role in any new beginning. The wives have remained pure in their compassion, and have knowledge of the mistakes of the past. Unlike the Vuvulini, they  have grown up in the aftermath of the old world, and were not a part of its fall. Like the maidens in the other two movies, they get to be the ones to rebuild.

After the release of Fury Road, I saw plenty of complaints about what a shame it was that Max was sidelined in his own movie. This isn’t new either. Except for the first film, which is meant to establish  his character, Max has always played a peripheral role in his own movies. By the time of the making of Fury Road, we are to understand that Max himself is  but an archetype. A myth. He is  a legendary figure told in the stories of the civilization that came after, as  all of these movies are flashbacks from that time,  and he may or may not be a real person. Of the three movies that hold this theme Fury road is the only one told in present time.

In Fury Road  the wives ask Nux, “Who killed the world?” the answer of course is men. Men killed civilization, and most of the men in these movies are the embodiment of all that is destroying civilization,  greed, and consumption, and hoarding. But these movies are not just a rebuke of male authoritarianism, although in neither Mad Max nor The Road Warrior, are women part of any of the anarchic pillagers traveling the wastelands, each film contains  the possibility for redemption for any man who rejects the rampantly and consumerist lifestyle being led by the other men in the film.

The overall message of all the Mad Max films is that when men and women work together, society flourishes, and when they don’t, when women are not accepted as equals, or treated as consumables, society devolves. In The Road Warrior, the women of the compound, the counselor, and the warrior woman in particular, are treated as equals. They are allowed to speak, be heard, and make their own decisions regarding how to survive in the wastes.

In Thunderdome, Master Blaster is so intent on getting Aunty to submit to his authority, (because he believes she disdains him because of his disability), that it forces her hand. They are both people from marginalized groups, who should come together to create a new society but they do not. Instead, a disabled man, and a Black woman, fight over who gets to be in charge. Their inability to treat each other as equals,  results in Bartertown’s destruction.

And in Fury Road, Max and Furiosa  learn to accept each other as equals, and trust in each other’s strengths,  to survive Immortan Joe’s army. Once again you have two marginalized individuals, the mentally unstable Max, and the disabled Furiosa, but unlike in Thunderdome, the two of them manage to reach an accord where they work together, and respect one another, resulting in the survival of the group.

Along for the ride, and equally important, is the Warboy, Nux, who has one of the strongest redemption arcs in the movie. In each movie we get to see at least one other male character’s atonement. The overall message is not that men are so flawed they can never find redemption, but that only by giving up toxic forms of masculinity, and working together with women as equals, can they achieve anything close to it.

In The Road Warrior, the gryocopter man gets a redemption arc, too. At the beginning of the film, he tried to rob Max, was captured by him, and ended up in the compound.  This only occurred because Max chose not to kill him in retaliation. Later, because Max chose not to kill him, the gyrocopter man is then in a position to save Max’s life.This is another one of several threads in common between all the films. Max’s compassion prompts him to spare the life of another, which results not just  in the redemption of that character, but sometimes Max’s salvation, at a later moment in the film.

In Thunderdome he spares the life of Master Blaster, having been manipulated into a deathmatch against them by Aunty Entity. When Max discovers that Blaster is just a  mentally disabled manchild, he spares his life, but  is exiled to the desert for his choice. Max saving the life of Master Blaster  eventually saves everyone’s lives, as it provides an opportunity for him, the children from Crack in the Earth, and Master  to escape Aunty’s wrath after  destroying Bartertown.

In Fury Road, this redemption character is Nux. Max had the opportunity to kill him twice, and each time chose to spare him. If  Max not done saved him, Nux wouldn’t have been in a position  to meet the wives, or sacrifice his life to save the them later. Through both Max, the wives, and Furiosa, Nux is given the opportunity to reject Immortan Joe’s philosophy of rampant consumerism,  and adopt a new one, that of respect cooperation, love, and friendship, something he had never known among the Warboys. At the beginning of the movie, his only goal is to die in service to Joe, but he eventually dies in service to something far greater than Joe, because of experiences he never dreamed he would have, like Capable’s love.

Immortan’s wives treat each other, and Furiosa, with care and respect, work together to achieve their goals, and the Vuvulini fight and die, to protect each other, and the group. This is the definition of civilization, disparate groups of human beings working towards the goals of social progress and enlightenment. Across the Mad Max franchise, George Miller has placed the burden of this endeavor squarely in the hands of women.

In the films of Mad Max, women may not rule the wasteland, but they are its ultimate destruction.

 

*In the third part of my critical look at the Mad Max movies, we’ll  talk about The Promised Land myth that is used throughout the franchise. 

Carrie Vs. Carrie (Part Two)

 

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I re-read Stephen King’s 1974 book, and I want to compare the 1976 movie version, which stars Sissy Spacek, and the the 2013 version, starring Chloe Grace Moretz, to the book version, because there are some significant changes from book to film. I’m going to argue that the book version still has not really been filmed yet. All of the significant high points are in the movies but there is also much that is absent.

One thing I’m unclear on is if King was trying to write a feminist manifesto. He says he wasn’t, and I don’t think he was, despite that he was writing his novel during feminism’s early years. His women aren’t perfect, and that’s the point. They don’t seem to be just some guy’s idea of women. They’re intelligent and decisive women,and King has a good grasp of their characters.The weakest character is Margaret White, but King has always had trouble writing about religious women. The caricature of Margaret White would eventually find her way into his novella, The Mist, as Mrs. Carmody, another murderously insane woman who wears a mask of religious piety.

One of the changes between the book and the films, and its something which always seems to surprise readers who come to the book after watching them, is that the entire novel is told in flashback, in the form of newspaper articles, interviews, and book excerpts. Even more surprising are the few chapters where Carrie gets to speak for herself, and we’re privy to her thoughts and feelings about her life, how she feels about her mother, her abilities, and her plans for the future.

Neither of the movie versions interpret Carrie, (Carrietta), entirely the way she is in the book. I hadn’t read this book for many years and I was struck by her self-awareness, and how vengeful she is, compared to the movie versions,(although the Moretz version seems smarter than the Spacek version of her, and is more deliberate in her intent), and I think this was an attempt to make the movie versions more sympathetic. The book version of Carrie is a harder, more vengeful, and more spiteful version than seen in either of the two films, although the remake comes close.

In neither movie do we get a sense that Carrie believes the way her mother believes, so I was surprised to note that in the book she does share at least some of her mother’s beliefs about religion. She hates her mother , the students who have always bullied her, and is a lot less nice a character than I remembered. Part of what motivates her vengeance, and her destruction of the town of Chamberlain, is her justifiable anger at years of being bullied by her classmates, coupled with Margaret’s teachings of a vengeful god.

The opening scene remains as depicted in the book in both films, except there is the addition of modern technology to the remake, as Carrie’s humiliation is filmed on Chris’ phone. In the original, Chris Hargensen seemed to be trying to make a statement by dumping blood on Carrie, although as played by Nancy Allen, she doesn’t seem quite bright enough to come up with that idea. In the remake, Chris (played by Portia Doubleday), does seem smart enough to come up with the idea, and makes the point of linking the two events by airing the shower scene to the Prom goers, in the aftermath of the blood dump. The newer version of Chris has less personality than the original version, however, coming across as just another generic “mean girl”. The Allen version seems to have more of an interior life, while the new version just seems mean and spoiled. In King’s book, Chris does have an interior life, but not much depth, and she and her boyfriend, Billy, come across as especially dimwitted.

The book goes into some detail about how often, and in what ways Carrie was bullied, and how she tried to break free of her situation from time to time, echoing King’s introduction, in which he tells the story of a girl he knew in High School who, like Carrie, fell at the bottom of the pecking order, and how that girl made an attempt to get free of it, only to be put back in her place by her classmates when her attempt failed. That is the foundation of the book, as this is exactly what happens to Carrie. She jumps at an opportunity to move out of the damned place into which she’s been cast by her peers. The Prom is Carrie’s last attempt to break free of her mother’s influence, and as she says, live a normal life, only to be humiliated once again. King also goes into some detail about Carrie’s thoughts on the intensely restrictive, and infantilizing existence her mother wants for her. Carrie imagines living the rest of her life that way, slowly becoming as frightened and bitter as her mother.

In DePalma’s movie, Carrie briefly mentions this to her mother only to be abused. This is another issue that doesn’t get a lot of play in the movies, the sheer depth of the physical and emotional abuse heaped on Carrie by her mother, and just how deep her mother’s insanity goes, although the first film comes the closest. There are a couple of scenes in the movie where her mother slaps her, and one where she throws tea in her face, but the horrible physical abuse, where her mother kicks her, at one point grabbing her by the back of her neck and flinging her into the closet, has been toned down, and is almost absent from the remake.

In the remake, Peirce has elected to show a very loving version of Carrie and Margaret’s relationship. Julianne Moore’s Margaret isn’t crazy just to seem crazy, and seems to genuinely love and care for her daughter. Even when she’s trying to kill her there’s no sense of the mad glee with which Piper approached the role. Moore’s Margaret seems regretful that she didn’t kill Carrie earlier, and takes no joy in harming her daughter. The result is that Carrie is genuinely surprised that her mother is trying to kill her as her mother had given no indication that she was considering it. This is not the same Margaret in the book, or the first movie, where Carrie and Margaret rarely touched, or showed affection for each other. They didn’t have normal conversations. Margaret threatened, and made pronouncements, to which Carrie acquiesced. Margaret gave orders, and Carrie followed them.

Another thing that’s been toned down for the movies is the depth Margaret’s madness. King’s version sees nothing positive in the world, and is obsessed with the sin of sex, and anything related to it. Carrie argues to her that everything isn’t a sin, but to Piper’s Margaret, everything is a sin. For Margaret, life itself is a sin. Even having sex with her husband is a sin. In the remake, this attitude is interpreted by the director as proof that Margaret experienced some horrific sexual trauma as a child. In the original film no reason for it is even implied.

The details of Carrie’s physical abuse are important because of an event from the book that has never been captured in either of the movies. The idea that Carrie was born with her abilities, that she had been suppressing them until a stressor occurred, and that her mother knew about her powers, and was afraid of her. The fall of the stones is an event recounted twice in the books. Once from a neighbor’s point of view and the second from Carrie’s point of view.

The fall of stones is precipitated by four year old Carrie seeing the neighbor’s daughter sunbathing in her front yard. Margaret, who had been feuding with the neighbors about it, saw Carrie talking to the neighbor, and lost it. She grabbed Carrie, hauled her into the house, beat her mercilessly, and threatened the little girl with a knife. Carrie, in her terror, causes a rain of rocks and ice to fall only on their house. The event is recounted in the local newspaper, and later, Carrie recollects the event herself, including the moment when she threw the dining room table through one of the windows of the house. Carrie wonders if her mother remembers the events, thinks she might, and knows her mother is afraid of her. The remake has an extended scene of Carrie’s remembrance of this event. This was cut from the theatrical release, and the mood of it is very different from the book version, as Margaret White’s reaction is much less extreme, and she is fully aware that Carrie is responsible for the golf ball sized hailstones, as she pleads with her to stop.

Carrie’s mother “seems” to know about her powers before Carrie uses them on her, but this is unclear. (This would have been made more clear, in the remake, had the excised scene been kept.) In the original, Margaret mentions wanting to kill Carrie when she was a child, but why is also not made clear. In neither movie are we given any indication that Carrie has used her powers before “discovering” them, at the onset of her menses.

One scene that did not make it into Depalma ’s movie is the confrontation between Chris’ father, and the school principal, who has threatened to suspend Chris from school. I enjoyed that scene from the book, and I’m glad it made its way into the remake. It’s also indicative of how much sympathy in which Carrie was held by many of the adults around her, and about which, Carrie is unaware. Ms. Desjardin, the gym teacher, genuinely cares about her well being, and the principal shows real backbone in his fight with Chris father, in seeing that justice is done on Carrie’s behalf. There is a scene in the original film where one of Carrie’s teacher’s is an asshole to Carrie, for no apparent reason, and I thought that was a bit much, but that scene is there to show Tommy’s character. That same scene is present in the remake, but the actor who plays Tommy is such a non-entity, that there is no illumination of the character.

In the book, Billy is just some thug that Chris is dating, and he cares not one wit about her, although in both movie versions, we are given to believe that he and Chris are involved in some grand, Bonnie and Clyde style, love affair. This is meant to contrast the sweet respectfulness between Tommy and Sue Snell.

The book version of Margaret White gets more backstory. The remake adds the idea of some sort of sexual trauma, making her a much more sympathetic character, while the 1974 version is more of a caricature than a real person. In King’s version, Margaret White was always a religious fanatic, who was estranged from her mother and father, and was prone to hysterics.The 2013 version of her depicts Carrie’s birth scene, and Margaret’s indecision about killing her, while none of these things are mentioned in the first film. As I said in my review of the first movie, it is mostly spectacle with not much understanding of the why of the characters. This makes sense since it was written and directed by men. There’s a bit more emotional depth in the remake ,and I believe that’s, in part, because of its female director.

The book consists of excerpts from a book written by Sue Snell, called My Name is Sue Snell, interviews of several town folk who survived Carrie’s rampage through Chamberlain, by something called The White Commission, a body of professionals who were convened to determine what happened during what the nation called The Black Prom. Sue and Tommy’s motivations are called into question by The White Commission, and there is some argument that Tommy was involved in the plans to humiliate Carrie.The movies mention none of the aftermath of these events. They both end with Carrie’s death, and the seismic impact of what Carrie did, the sheer amount of death and destruction is not captured in either film, although the remake comes closest to the images from the book.

The depiction of Carrie’s powers, is a little more accurate in DePalma’s version. She does appear to be in a kind of fugue state, and the book goes into detail about how the use of her powers affects her physically. She is mostly aware of what she’s doing, but becomes increasingly unhinged the longer she uses her powers, until by the end she is mostly delirious, and only half aware of where she is, let alone what she’s doing. After Carrie kills her mother, her powers are simply functioning on automatic. In the first film, the house falls down around her, while she holds her mother’s body, and DePalma makes it unclear if Carrie is doing it , or if it’s God’s retribution. In the remake, Chloe’s Carrie is very deliberately using her abilities, and has complete control right up until the end. Its not until the end of the 2013 version that we see the rain of stones, and this moment would have had more impact, if that earlier scene of Carrie remembering that event, had not been cut.

Margaret’s death in the original is all spectacle as she, pinned to a wall by kitchen knives, loudly moans like she’s having an orgasm. The book is more subtle, as Carrie gently stops her mother’s heart. The remake is not without spectacle itself, but I found it more moving than all the hollering in the earlier film. The first film isn’t particularly interested in the emotional relationships between all these women. Margaret White is a terrifying, but ridiculous caricature, and receives the kind of death that befits such an over the top portrayal. Julianne Moore’s Margaret is more subtle. She’s almost too subtle, and I have to admit, I prefer the jovial batshittery of Piper’s version, to Moore’s quietly morose insanity, even if I was more emotionally moved by Moore’s version.

Peirce’s version is also true to the book, as there is a last confrontation between Carrie and Sue. In the book, Carrie’s thoughts and feelings are being broadcast to anyone in the town. Sue is able to follow Carrie’s meandering progress through the town by following Carrie’s thoughts. She finds Carrie, exhausted and delirious, lying next to a tree, and holds her hand as Carrie’s thoughts spiral down into death.

In the original film, Sue’s act of compassion is jettisoned in favor of that jump scare this movie is famous for. Once again, DePalma chooses spectacle over substance. He seems to prefer camera trickery, something especially apparent during the Prom, when he goes to a split screen during Carrie’s devastation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the camera work has the unintended side effect of distancing the viewer from the horror of the moment, something which Peirce took care to avoid.

Peirce wants the viewer to sit with their discomfort. Her camera doesn’t look away from what’s happening on the screen. In the remake, Sue finds Carrie just after Carrie has killed her mother. Carrie is distraught, and starts to attack Sue, who pleads with Carrie for her life. For me, this was a more moving moment than the jump scare at the end of the original. Note that Chris Hargensen also pleads with Carrie for her life, but because she has always tormented Carrie without mercy, she receives none in return. I think Sue’s one act of atonement is probably what saved her life, just as Ms. Desjardin’s compassion saved hers.

I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike the first movie because it really is one of my favorite King films. It’s a beautiful looking film with an iconic soundtrack by Pino Donaggio. The newer version has nothing like it, and is mostly unmemorable. I don’t even have a problem with the eroticism of the teenage girls in that movie. It was the 70’s and that was to be expected in filmmaking at that time. Also, that sort of thing was considered liberating for women at that time in American film, as everyone was just coming out of a repressive studio system that only allowed certain types of nudity. The DePalma version also has a superior cast. Spacek, Irving, Laurie and Allen were simply much better actors, who were capable of selling all that spectacle without looking ridiculous. The best actor in the remake is Julianne Moore. Grace-Moretz and the others are just too young, and do not have the acting chops of those powerhouses from the 70s, but I forgive them because Peirce’s movie has a different, more emotional, agenda, which remains true to the spirit of the source material.

Now, if we could only get a happy medium between these three sources, we’d have the perfect Carrie.

Where Are All the POC in Horror Movies? — Dark Matters

“The irony is: being black in America lends itself very well to the horror genre because every day is a potential horror movie.”

via Where Are All the POC in Horror Movies? — Dark Matters

The irony is: being black in America lends itself very well to the horror genre because every day is a potential horror movie. We’ve seen time and time again how a seemingly safe, casual moment can turn deadly in the blink of an eye.

 

The History of Blackface

https://www.vox.com/2014/10/29/7089591/dont-get-whats-wrong-with-blackface-heres-why-its-so-offensive

 

 

 

 

@@ My biggest point is this, however:

Megyn Kelly lost her job over this shit. There are other people whose jobs are considering firing them for their infractions against decency and good taste, so maybe think twice about your shit this Halloween.

Having been told that your behavior is hurtful and offensive, and continuing to still commit that behavior, says a lot about the kind of person you are.

You are not a Good Person!

From now on, White allies can approach this kind of behavior just like that. Explain to them that they’ve been told again and again that they are hurting Black people with their behavior, and need no more explanation beyond that we have asked them to stop doing it. If they insist on doing it, or making excuses for why its okay, then you’ve just found out what kind of White person you’re dealing with.

If you continue to hurt someone  after you’ve been repeatedly asked to stop, it makes you a bully.

And you are not a nice person.