In Defense of After Earth (2013)

Only straight, White men have the luxury of being lazy about watching a movie. The rest of us always seem to have to be on guard, just in case whatever White guy who wrote the movie, fucks up and traumatizes us with surprise images he didn’t give any thought to showing. Sometimes, when watching films, we have to constantly be wary of either being freshly traumatized by something on the screen,  or desperately clinging to whatever tiny nuggets are in the film, that we can apply to our lived experiences, in order for us to like it.

Not that White male reviewers are all particularly lazy, but there’s a very shallow sort of film critique that a lot of them engage in, that’s only about whether the movie is objectively good or bad, or the technical details. (And ranking movies seems to be really popular with such people, too.) There’s nothing inherently wrong with those kinds of reviews, but often people from marginalized groups require reviews that are a little more in-depth.

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White men don’t get a lot of  practice of thinking about movies through different lenses, the way marginalized people often have to do. Many of them only have one lens, because most movies are made with them in mind as the audience, so they don’t NEED to look further into a movie, in order to like or dislike it. I’m not particularly interested in  a shallow review, or in ranking things from best to worst. If the word “suck” is mentioned anywhere in their critique, I  automatically dismiss anything else they might have to say about the movie. I want more from a critique than “It sucked!”

Yes. This is yet another essay on how White male film geeks review movies which star people of color!

After Earth (2013)

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I have a real issue with how badly this movie was treated by everyone. The critics made it very clear that this was an awful film. It was not. And when this movie was released, Black people were not in the social position we’re in right now, where we could see how groundbreaking this was, (it was released just before BLM), and we were not in a position to provide pushback to the narrative that this was the worst film ever made.

No!

What it was, was a  film that was attacked with the agenda of demonizing  M. Night Shyamalan and Scientology. Will  and Jaden Smith were simply caught in the crossfire. This movie, while not a masterpiece, was vilified entirely out of proportion to its effect on the landscape. At any other time, especially any time after 2014, it would have been recognized as a middle-of-the-road, Summer blockbuster.

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After Earth can be seen through both a thematic and racial lens, as  an example of Afrofuturism. Seeing this movie through a racial lens means that I need to put on my Black filmgoers glasses, and view the movie through the historical depictions of Black people in film, and whether or not the film has any messages in it that are about racial stereotyping, or agency, for example. This movie contains these things, not because it contains overt messages about race, but because it stars Black characters, and  our mere presence in the source material is enough to make whatever we say and do a political issue.

 

In After Earth, which stars Will Smith and his son Jaden, a father and son reconcile their feelings about each other, as the son comes of age, while set against the backdrop of planetary survival. A thousand years after Earth has been abandoned, their ship crashes, and  an alien predator the ship was carrying, called the Ursa, is set loose. Will and Jaden Smith are both Black men. The movie has no White characters in it. There are spaceships, alien/human cityscapes, and futuristic weaponry. This is as much Afrofuturism as Black Panther, and there is definitely some sort of dialogue occuring between the two films, though they were released several years apart, because they both involve sons dealing with the emotional legacies of  powerful fathers.

https://drmillerjr.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/after-earth-is-afrofuturism/

Traditionally, Black people have been erased from futuristic narratives, and Afrofuturism is an attempt to center us, and our cultures, and priorities, in those narratives. Will Smith, in particular, has a long history of starring in Science fiction films like Men in Black, Enemy of the State, and I Am Legend, movies that tackle the subjects of alien immigration, dystopian state surveillance, and the apocalypse, all features of what is, traditionally, White futurism.

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After Earth has much to say about the relationships between fathers and sons, how sons want to live up (or down) their father’s legacies, and how father’s must reach out and connect with their children. Cypher Raige is a man who is cut off from his emotions because that is what has helped him to survive. In our world, it would be said that he suffers from a toxic form of masculinity, but Cypher’s ability to cut himself off from his feelings has made him one of Earth’s greatest soldiers against an alien race  that uses human fear to hunt and kill human beings. Cypher has gotten rid of fear, but in the process he’s also gotten rid of some of the  more positive emotions. He is a controlling, authoritative, and grim father figure, without much humor or warmth.

This lack of fear has made him a great Ranger, but it has made him an indifferent father to his son, Kitai, (a name which means “Hope” or “Prince of the Air”). Kitai wants not just to be like his father, follow in his footsteps, and become a great soldier, but to emotionally connect with his father. He wants desperately to know his father loves and supports him, especially after he fails his last exam to become a Ranger. He believes his father thinks he’s a failure because its what he himself believes. He is also suffering from the trauma of the death of his sister, who sacrificed her life to protect him from one of the Ursas, his guilt at being unable to save her, and his father for not being there when it happened. These are the motivations behind many of the decisions Kitai makes after he and his father crash on a long abandoned Earth, and Cypher is too injured to walk.

This set up puts the two of them in a position where they are required to rely on each other, not just physically, but emotionally. Kitai’s character arc involves learning that he is as capable a soldier as his father, and does not need to carry all these emotional burdens,  and Cypher’s character arc means having to open up to his son emotionally, and expressing how he really feels, and that that will be the only way his son can save both their lives. And all of this is an allegory about the emotional connections between Black men,  living in a White supremacist society, that is intrinsically dangerous to them, and requires that they be  hypermasculine, and emotionally cut off in order to survive it.

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Cypher Raige Everything on this planet has evolved to kill humans. Do you know where we are?

Kitai Raige No, sir.

Cypher Raige This is Earth.

Viewing a movie through a racial lens requires that I provide some historical context to my opinions. I could discuss how the American version of the performance of toxic masculinity is based on a White supremacist dominance hierarchy, that requires violent domination and oppression of non-Whites, and that to survive this oppression, Black men have have felt the need to “out man” their oppressors. To essentially be more dominant, and more manly, than the White men who established this hierarchy to keep them in their place, and that their emotional disconnect with each other is not only what is ultimately desired by this dynamic, but leads to worse oppression, because attempting to compete with White men, to be more manly, dehumanizes them, and doesn’t allow them to unite against a system created just for that purpose.

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https://oliviaacole.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/black-children-and-after-earth/

This movie had messages, moments, and dialogue,  that greatly resonated with me. The scene in which Cypher believes he has lost his son, in the same manner in which he lost his daughter, (both of them trying to win their emotionally distant, father’s approval),  was deep for me, as I suspect it was for many of  the Black men who watched it, and  who considered  their relationships with their own fathers, or their sons.

I watched After Earth several times, and it’s one of my favorite movies, which is why I was interested in why so many critics hated this movie,

 

(https://news.usc.edu/144379/usc-study-finds-film-critics-like-filmmakers-are-largely-white-and-male/)

and while there are a few legitimate criticisms that can be made about this movie, most of the criticism I saw wasn’t any different than the criticism I could lob at films with White stars. There is nothing wrong with the acting in this movie that is wrong in any of the other movies Will Smith has made, nor is there anything wrong with Will Smith making a movie with his son as the star, as he did in The Pursuit of Happyness, nor is this movie Scientology propaganda, any more than the other movies in which Smith was the star. (Will and Jada Smith have clearly, and emphatically, stated that they are not Scientologists, only sympathizers.)

I believe a lot of non-professional critics didn’t approach criticism of this movie in good faith, and I believe more than a few of them used the flaws in this movie as an excuse to express their racial resentment about the fact that there were no White men centered in this movie. There are also plenty of White people who felt some type of discomfort at not being centered, or even depicted, in the movie at all, and unwilling to attribute their discomfort to their narcissism, attributed their discomfort to the film being bad. The message of the movie, the relationship between young men and their fathers, is a universal one, (and I’m certain that many White men understood and enjoyed it, but then they’re not film critics), and it is well documented that  White audiences have always had trouble identifying with Black characters on screen.

https://www.salon.com/2016/10/05/luke-cage-and-the-racial-empathy-gap-why-do-they-talk-about-being-black-all-the-time/

https://www.indiewire.com/2014/01/why-white-people-dont-like-black-movies-162548/

https://mic.com/articles/74291/why-white-people-won-t-see-black-movies#.J55x1mpgF

 

Will Smith is an especially beloved actor, so many critics would not attack him directly, but they can get away with tossing insults at Shyamalan, and questioning his motivations for making the movie. One of the major criticisms I encountered were White critics who said the movie was a thinly veiled attempt to recruit viewers to Scientology. Why? Because Will Smith and Shyamalan are Scientologists. This is suspicious to me since none of these critics have ever given one thought to Smith being a follower of Scientology in any of his other Scifi movies.

And sometimes people will express racial resentment towards individual people that they don’t feel they can express against an entire group of people. So rather than saying “All ____ are ______.” , what they will do is vehemently call out the mistakes of individuals from those groups, in order to disguise their loathing for the entire group. The individual becomes a stand-in for racial sentiments they are reluctant, for whatever reasons, to express out loud. (And since they only ever attack individuals of that group, they never have to admit whatever phobia or -ism there is, to themselves.)

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For example, witness some of the more  interesting criticism that White male film critics have said about Captain Marvel being military propaganda, when the same could be said of nearly every other movie in the MCU, at which none of them lobbed this complaint. And one can witnesses the same dynamic play out in the Jussie Smollett case, where people tried to hide their homophobia by expressing deeply vehement criticism of him, and his circumstances.

This type of criticism is dishonest, and disingenuous, and serves to protect the critic from backlash if they state their actual reasons for not liking some film, which is really ,  “I didn’t like this movie because there were no White men in it for me to identify with.” (This is not a hard and fast rule, all the time,  because plenty of White people liked Get Out, Black Panther, and other Afro-centered movies, but it is far too common, and there are too many, who  think they’re not being racist because they liked two or three highly popular movies that starred Black actors. It’s  basically, the critical equivalent of, “I have Black friends!”

I’m not the only person to notice this type of bullshittery either:

https://heraldiccriticism.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/when-criticism-becomes-agenda-setting-in-defense-of-after-earth/

 …but when you’re trashing a film based on its star’s belief system, you’ve ceased to criticize. You’re now spearheading an agenda.

Fred Harris touched on some of my suspicions, here:

Did a perception that this is somehow a “Black film” have anything to do with its poor opening? I know that this is a question that Hollywood producers (black and white) must be asking as they prepare for a summer of Black films.

https://newsone.com/2530136/after-earth-movie-review-racism/

And if you are wondering why I haven’t brought up “The Pursuit of Happyness” just yet, which was given 4 out of 5 stars by IMDB, it’s because Jaden was cute and fuzzy back then — and it was his debut. But the moment it seems that the Smiths are actually on to something, meaning leaving a life-long legacy for their children, now all bets are off.

Now we will call Jaden’s acting with his blockbuster dad an exercise in “vanity,” now we are disgusted with the apparent nepotism that this type of pairing suggests.

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This movie was nominated for a Razzie, and was panned by almost every White male critic with a pen and an ax to grind. All of them questioned whether or not Will Smith had lost his Star power, and what that would mean for his future films. Even Bright, a film I intensely hated, wasn’t panned as badly as this movie.

Outside of my usual critical ranting, I also want to shine a light on why my opinions on a lot of movies can sometimes diverge from that of critics, what criteria I  use, what lenses  through which I can,and will, see a movie,  and how I approach watching and critiquing movies and TV shows, vs how White film critics might view movies I happen to love, and how these two ways of seeing a movie are sometimes not compatible.

This is a mindset I have had no choice but to develop though, because, as a Black woman,  I am generally not the audience  that a lot of these movies of are made for. I have had to look beyond surface issues, like whether or not it was better than some other film in a franchise, to find reasons to like movies that White people love, and sometimes I’m successful, but sometimes, I also get tired of making the effort to care, and skip the movie altogether, as I did with Ready Player One, and Back to the Future.

White men have never had to look deeper than the technical aspects of cinematography, plot, pacing, or whether or not the hero of the movie looked like them, and what that might mean if he did. For them, the movies they love don’t even need to have any meaning. When you hear them complaining about entertainment being political this is what mean. For such men, movies and TV really are not political, because they don’t need to have any deeper meaning to enjoy a movie. They can just be flatly judgmental about whether or not a movie is just “good” or “bad”, because traditionally, the movies, which are aimed at them as the audience, are supposedly universal, and  appealing  to everyone. Too many critics never go beyond the mindset of ,”I liked this movie, so naturally, everyone else must like it, and here’s why it’s so great.” I can  critique a movie from that angle but its shallow, and  “unsatisfying” for me.

It has always been my rule since I was a teenager, really, to only rely on myself to determine whether or not a movie is any good, but after examining this for some time,  I have come to the conclusion that I most definitely cannot rely on  the opinions of White men to determine if a movie is bad or good for me, or indeed, anyone, other than themselves.

I have always tried to be honest about why I did or didn’t like something. Even if I don’t know why  I feel the way I do, I’m willing to say that too, and state that, where I found nothing in the movie to intrigue me, the movie may be of interest to someone else. I will flat out state, I’m not interested in a movie because it lacks racial nuance, or because its not feminist enough, the way I did for Wonder Woman.

This is not a mindset I’ve seen, from some critics, that a movie simply might not be made for them. One of the key warning signs that you are with a bad critic, is their insistence that a movie is objectively bad or good, and that if you disagree with them, then something is wrong with you. I’ve seen far too many critics assert that, because they liked a movie, it was good, and that a movie was bad, because they didn’t like it, and then, on top of that, say that that they gave an objective review. I have hated plenty of movies that are, in fact, very good and cohesive films. But I’ve also loved plenty of movies that just aren’t great movies. Just like After Earth.

No! There’s nothing wrong with you. You are simply looking at the film through a different lens, and using different criteria than them. and you must be confident that YOU know what you like in a film.

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Side note: I do not believe in “guilty pleasures”. I am never ashamed of loving or liking  a movie, or television show. I have my reasons for why I like something, I have actually thought it through, and I’m secure enough in my tastes that I know what my reasons are, even if the only reason is that it makes me feel happy, or that it looks pretty! I may occasionally be ashamed that I didn’t catch something seriously wrong with a movie, in my zeal to praise it, but I  am generally not ashamed when I like something, or to admit that I do, nor will I feel guilty about it.

And you shouldn’t either.

As a corollary to that general rule, I refuse to shame people for their own tastes, even if I find those tastes “puzzling”… If you can explain to me in a coherent manner why you love something (even if your only explanation is it makes you happy, or its just pretty), I can get with that. Your feelings about a movie are entirely valid, and you will never hear me describe anything on this blog as a “guilty” pleasure, and I would prefer that you don’t either.

Own your feelings!

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https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/after-earth-2013

https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/in-defense-of-after-earth-the-m-night-shyamalan-movie-we-misunderstood

*Coming Soon: Why We Loved Suicide Squad and Venom, and Why They Didnt’

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In Defense of The Village

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Village

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

‘Love, Death & Robots’ suffers from blatant sexism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

New Trailers In April

Joker

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

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

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Dead Don’t Die

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

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

 

Dora the Explorer

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

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

Avengers :Endgame

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

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

John Wick 3

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

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

 

Hellboy

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

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

Godzilla

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

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

 

Next week, lets review some TV shows! 

This Is Wakanda

I said Wakanda Forever, not Wakanda for six months!

 

I loved these videos,because as usual, Black people were acting silly as Hell for several months after the movie’s release.

 

This Is Wakanda: a parody of Childish Gambino’s This Is America

 

There are a ton of Black Panther tribute videos. I’m really happy to see this movie get the full action movie treatment, which include music videos based off the film:

 

 

Saturday Night Live got in on the action when Chadwick Boseman hosted the show:

 

 

Black Panther gets the action movie video treatment:

 

 

This is one of my favorite songs, and still on my playlist today:

 

 

This was supposed to be funny, but it was mostly just sad:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Meanings of Us (2019)

Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers

 

If you have not seen this movie, know that this review will contain plenty of spoilers.

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I went to see this and guess what? I got thinky thoughts!

 

The Personal

This movie was a very emotional experience for me. I really got into the characters and situations presented here, and I’m baffled that some people were baffled by this movie, but then I’ve had many years of practice trying to understand the plots of weird horror  movies. Most of the puzzlement I’ve read comes from people who don’t regularly watch horror movies. If you’re not a fan of horror movies, and don’t watch them all the time, its best to go in thinking of this film as if it were a dream. There’s a lot of what we call “Dream Logic”. and some of the imagery will fly right over the heads of people who have never thought about movies this way.

This movie has been really polarizing, with people loving it or hating it, and that’s understandable. Peele made the decision to add a lot of depth to Us. Its a movie that addresses many issues, and is meant to be heavily analyzed, but how you look at it says a lot about what you feel, and what your priorities are. Peele  also doesn’t tell you how to feel about the movie, or its characters, and some people hated that. The end of the movie was unsettling for a lot of people. My Mom didn’t care for the movie, saying it ended badly, but she is one of those people who likes her horror to be very clear and straightforward. She likes a clear case of who the heroes and villains are in a movie, and she disliked having rooted for the protagonist for the entire movie, only to have that turned on its head at the end.

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On the other hand, I’m okay with ambiguity. I’m uncomfortable with having rooted for what I thought was the hero of the movie, but I’m going to sit with that feeling,  process it, and figure out what I think about it. There were a lot of moments in the movie that had an unexpected affect on me. One of the most horrific moments in the movie is when the Tethered child died in flames, echoing Red’s statement that he had been born in flames. (But I have some serious  fire fear, so…). The movie felt unfinished, because usually at the end of horror movies, the evil has been vanquished, and the status quo, which had been disrupted by the monster, has been restored. This movie doesn’t really have a monster, or a villain or even a hero. Things do not go back to the way the movie began.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/03/lupita-nyongo-in-jordan-peeles-us-terrifying/585649/

Because of the ending, the movie felt melancholy and tragic, reminding me heavily of  Annihilation, a movie that produced much the same feeling.. But Us also had moments of real humor, where we (the audience) just laughed out loud. I’ve often asserted that laughter lies on one  side of a coin, with terror on the other. Peele himself has said he likes to take innocent, innocuous things, and imbue them with dread and horror, and he succeeded. I expect that I will never hear the song, “I Got Five On It”, or “Fuck the Police”, ever again, without thinking of this movie, and I’ll never look at rabbits the way I used to.

I described this movie as a cross between CHUD, a movie about Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers coming up from below, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, as it deals with cloning, and identity, and Halloween, because of the red jumpsuits  and sharp pointy weapons, which remind me of Michael Myers. Well, lets just say, I have a different set of references to this movie.

 

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Here’s an interesting video from Latasha about the significance of some of the symbols, colors, and moments, in the movie. There are far too many to catch all of them after just one viewing.  She discusses the movie in great detail, though, especially the idea of trauma and mirroring: 

 

 

 

 

The Movie

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The movie opens in the 80s, with little  Adelaide watching an ad for the 1986 charity event, Hands Across America, which I’m old enough to remember. This is a key component of the film. In fact, everything you need to know is laid out at the beginning of the movie, just without any context, so you don’t put the whole puzzle together until somewhere in the middle of the film. Adelaide attends a carnival on the beach with her family. She wanders away from her bickering parents, into a mirrored funhouse, that has the proclamation : Find Yourself Inside, which she unexpectedly does, to her detriment. One of the most interesting clues is that Adelaide  whistles Itsy Bitsy Spider on key, but her double can’t. I think the Itsy Bitsy Spider is a reference to Adelaide’s double, who has climbed up from below, to capture her.

Adelaide gets kidnapped by her double, another key component of this movie, and the motivation behind every decision that gets made, and  she gets trapped in the underground hell  where her double used to live. Her double is actually a clone of her, but without a soul. Because she has no soul, Adelaide has no sense of rhythm, (or beat), which I find hilarious, because in American culture, Black people joke about people who cannot dance on the beat, or have no rhythm, and are said to lack “Soul“.

There’s an old  sketch I’m reminded of from the movie, Amazon Women on The Moon, which is also from a Black filmmaker, Robert Townsend. I know for an absolute certainty that Jordan Peele has seen this, and included just this tiny bit of this element into his depiction of the Tethered. Notice that neither Adelaide, nor her son Jason are capable of snapping their fingers to the beat of the song, snapping instead on the 1 and the 3, instead of the 2 and the 4.

 

The underworld Red comes from is  full of the clones of the people who live above ground, and who  are the failed result of a  government experiment to control the American people. It’s left for the audience to decide if all Americans were cloned, or just half, or just enough of them to be dangerous. The clones have no souls, hence they have no vision, imagination, ambitions, or  sense of self. They don’t even have language, and Adelaide, because she is human, and remembers the world above (the other clones have no knowledge of the above world), becomes their leader. Over the next thirty years, using her childhood memories of Hands Across America, and Michael Jackson, along with a great deal of rage,  she organizes The Tethered to invade the above world, and kill their counterparts. It’s a literal uprising.  Adelaide is so enraged at what was done to her, the Tethered have adopted some of that.

Adelaide, Red, (and their families), spend the rest of the movie playing a murderous game of cat and mouse, against the apocalyptic event of The Tethered coming from underground to kill their doubles, and stage their version of Hands Across America. I  specifically remember this event, including the theme song in the ads. I was a teenager at the time, and  distinctly remember scoffing at the idea that it would be at all helpful, or useful. And guess what? It wasn’t! The event was kind of a failure although it turned out to be the high point of the life of the person  who orchestrated the event.

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In the end, Adelaide, the character we’ve been rooting for the entire  movie, turns out to be the double from the underworld, while Red is that long ago human girl, who dreamed of getting out of the hell her life had become, through Adelaide’s actions. According to Red, life underground is pretty bleak. Because they have no sense of self, the Tethered are forced to mimic the actions of their doubles, and none of them have ever had cooked food, feeding exclusively on the rabbits that have overbred in that environment. (This explains why Adelaide is a vegetarian.)

In other words, the Tethered are uncivilized, barbaric mirrors of their above ground counterparts, (through no fault of their own.) They act like animals, running on all fours, howling and grunting.They don’t know enough to know what or where they are, until Red teaches them, which she is only able to do because she came from above ground. She  is their M.L.K. She is their Malcolm X. She had  a “vision”.

This movie looks absolutely gorgeous. Lupita Nyongo really carries this movie, and does it very well. Her speech, body language, and facial expressions, just her all around physicality, was astonishing to watch. People forget that she is playing both Red, and Adelaide, and she makes the two so distinctive that you often forget its the same actress. Winston DUke is his usual fine self in the acting department. I understand some people were disappointed in his role here, but I understood why he was shown the way he was shown, and he did do a couple of heroic things that people seem to have forgotten.

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There are already a lot of people out there tagging all the Easter Eggs, the various connections, and parallels in the movie. I’m only going to talk about those things a little bit. If you want more of that sort of thing, there are a billion Youtube videos for it, but I want to talk about the themes, and subtext occurring in the movie, because that’s what I find the most interesting. The movie has so much depth, so many things are addressed, and have real life parallels, that the movie can be viewed through almost any lens,  I want to talk about some of the top themes through which the movie can be understood:

Folklore

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There is the German construct of the Doppelganger, which is an apparition, or double, of a living person. There is a significant body of folklore that deal with people seeing their own double. Traditionally, seeing one’s double was often a portent of death, and that piece of folklore is what’s being applied in Us. It is said that everyone in the world has a twin somewhere, and in some cultures, it’s said  should you meet your double, you should kill it, because there can be only one of you.

Legend has it that if you come face to face with your doppelganger, it’s an omen or warning of death, for both you and your twin. Because of this, if you see a replica of yourself, run for your life. … Often, a person does not actually see their own doppelganger, but someone else does.

There is a lot of doubling and mirroring in the movie, from Adelaide’s and Red’s reflections, to the neighbors twin girls, who speak in unison, to the numbers 11:11, which is a “palindrome”, a word or set of numbers that reads the same in either direction. (There are several articles on  the significance of those numbers. 11:11 is a bible verse about God forsaking those whose sins have come back to destroy them.)

In Celtic folklore, the doppelganger was known as a Fetch, and its purpose was to alert people that someone’s death was imminent, but the concept of the alter ego, and the “double spirit” is part of the lore of  most cultures, and not always in a negative way, just as in the movie, some of the mirror images are benign.

 

Books and Movies

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It’s also an idea that has found its way into  many movies and literature, the most famous of which are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Prince and the Pauper, The Man in the Iron Mask, Dave, Moon Over Parador, and the 1985 Ran. In The Prince and the Pauper type stories, the original ruler is often incapable or dead, and is then replaced by a twin of low birth, who sometimes triumphs in the originals place, which is basically the plot of Us.

Another popular trope is the Evil Twin, which has found its way into everything from Star Trek to Gilligan’s Island, where one of them is unaware of the existence of their double, and their differences in upbringing is what accounts for their different characters. In Us, we are meant to attribute Red’s murderous sensibilities, and difficulty speaking, to her upbringing among the Tethered, and there are distinct parallels between the Jekyll and Hyde narrative.

Adelaide is meant to reflect innocence, as evidenced by her white and neutrally colored wardrobe, at the beginning of the movie. As the movie  progresses,  as Adelaide keeps killing,  violently defending the life she usurped from the original, her clothes get redder and redder, to reflect her true nature. We watch as she becomes more and more her true self. But where Jekyll’s story ends in suicide, Adelaide’s ends in triumph.

One thing I’ve not seen discussed is  Lewis Carroll’s 1865  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as a theme. The symbol of the white rabbit (which is in the movie’s logo) is meaningful because it is one of the few types of animals that have ever been cloned, and is often experimented on. Also, in the original  tale, Alice follows a rabbit into a hole in the Earth, where she finds a hall with many locked doors. This is what happens in the movie when Adelaide, chasing her doppelganger underground, finds a hall of locked doors, and rabbits everywhere. The rictus grins of the Tethered remind me of the Cheshire Cat’s phantom grin from Alice’s adventures. These are grins  that do not indicate humor, but menace.

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There’s also the  parallel to the numerous mythological themes of people visiting the underworld to rescue (or destroy) something, called a Katabasis. In  a Katabasis myth, the protagonist travels through the underworld, on a mission of retrieval, and this is featured in everything from The Ring of the Nibelung, to The Aeneid, to The Odyssey,  persisting across many cultures, from Egypt, to Greece, and even  South America, which features the myth of the Hero Twins of the Popol Vuh, who go into the underworld and win a ballgame, to avenge the death of their father.

After Adelaide’s son, Jason,  is kidnapped by Red, she must go underground to rescue him, echoing the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Jason’s  doppelganger is named Pluto,  the  Greek King of the Underworld. It  is also theorized by some that Jason is actually a Tethered. That Pluto switched places with him at least a year before the events of the film, so Adelaide is really rescuing her actual son.

 

 Socio-economic/Political

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https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/us-movies-hidden-meaning-black-identity-explained-1196687

Race

The movie can also be seen through the lens of socio-politics, and race.  Peele says the movie isn’t specifically about any racial issue, but the subtext is there, because  the story involves a Black family, and introduces the idea of “double consciousness”. Double consciousness is a term coined by the writer W.E.B. DuBois in his 1903 literary work, The Souls of Black Folk, a series of essays about the psychology of Black people. It is a state of mind specific to people of color, whose thinking is divided between who they think are, and what White people think they are.

Double consciousness describes the individual sensation of feeling as though your identity is divided into several parts, making it difficult or impossible to have one unified identity.

Understanding W.E.B. Du Bois’ Concept of Double Consciousness …

There’s who I think I am, which is settled, often uncomfortably, next to how I know I’m viewed by White people.

Adelaide is an example of this in that she knows who she is, and wants to be, vs the above ground world’s perception of her. She dresses to  not draw attention to herself, to seem just like everyone else and  blend in. Adelaide, like  many immigrants, or those from a different social class, tries to hide her impoverished background by  assimilating into her adopted culture. As she fights Red to keep the status to which she’d become accustomed, more of her true background  reveals itself.

Economics

 Adelaide has moved up in the world by violently condemning her counterpart to a life of hell. (There is the strong implication in the film that Red was raped/impregnated by Gabriel’s counterpart, Abraham.) There is also some amount of survivor’s guilt for Adelaide, as she did nothing to rescue any of the other Tethered, and lived a life of luxury, knowing that her comfortable life was built on someone else’s misery. This is a question that successful Black people, from humble circumstances, often wrestle with. How much responsibility do they have to the community they left behind on their way out of poverty? Are they truly their brother’s keeper? Red seemed to have no problem answering this question, as she organized the release of all the Tethered from below, but then her ambitions were fueled by rage at what had been done to her. What was Adelaide’s excuse for leaving the other Tethered behind?

 

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In fact, the Tethered are an allegory for those who most people consider  “beneath” us. The laborers and workers who are invisible to us,  but help our society run more smoothly, and who we often think of as less than, often not even bothering to learn their names. In the movie, the Tethered don’t have names, with the members of Red’s family being the only ones with names she gave them.

Those who live above ground (the privileged) can pass their sins on to some other group of people and thereby declare their innocence, and ignorance, to the misery which sustains their lifestyles,  to be justifiable. In America, White people often project their worst qualities onto other races of people. In declaring that some sin is a problem for some other group, they don’t actually have to look at their own behavior, acknowledge the pain they have caused, or fix the problem. Black and Indigenous people have often been the scapegoats of White pathology, as they stereotype us in terms of actions they  have committed themselves.

Red isn’t just angry because her life (her agency) was stolen from her. She  tells Adelaide that for every good thing Adelaide  experienced above ground, Red experienced some hardship, or misery, in equal measure down below. The Tethered represent the “laborers” of modern society, the people  who take care of the minutiae of our day to day lives, freeing us up to pay attention to those jobs we think are more important, because we went through more years of schooling, or get paid more money to do. We place our burdens on their backs, so we don’t have to carry them, and then refuse to think about how the comforts of our lives are built on their impoverishment.

 

https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/Why-Do-Tethe red-Wear-Brown-Gloves-Us-45958045

This theme of mistreated laborers is reflected in the Tethered manner of dress, and I can see parallels to themes from the 1927 film, Metropolis, in which the workers of a technological society all live in ceaseless, dangerous, labor in the bowels of the city, while the rulers have lives of  luxury oblivious to what’s happening beneath them. One of the rulers son’s trades places with one of the workers in the underground, and with the help of a robot named Maria, causes a rebellion.

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Most Americans don’t think about the uniformed maids, janitors, maintenance, and sanitation workers,  until something stops working. If you have ever visited a large public venue, like a theme park or a zoo, you might or might not notice the uniformed housekeepers and  maintenance workers who slip in and out of disguised doors to keep the place clean,  and make our stay comfortable, and this is very much a statement on how Americans live everyday.

On a larger scale, most Americans don’t think of the many wars, that never reach our backyards,   and the underhanded behavior that this country has engaged in, to steal other country’s resources, to  make American lives comfortable. Our government has engaged in a great deal of global destruction, which we rarely we think about because we don’t have to worry about a drone strike hitting our Wedding party.  Even when we do worry about such things, we  have often been completely misinformed as to the true causes, and do little or nothing to resolve it. Just as the Tethered are Shadows of us, they exist in a Shadow America, where their lives are controlled by mysterious others who live above them.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/us-was-movies-biggest-twist-hiding-plain-sight-1196584

But really, all the characters are Us,  as no matter how we behave, we can always justify our behavior by telling ourselves we are the hero of the story.  Us is a movie in which everyone is committing justified violence against the other. As righteously brutal as the Tethered are in their revolution, The Wilsons are every bit as  brutal as  the Tethered in the protection of their family and  privileged lifestyles. One can make the argument that the Tethered started it,  and that the Wilsons were just defending themselves, but that stance does not take into account the decades of misery the Tethered had to endure, so that people like the Wilsons could live free.

 

Psychological

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When you think about it, Adelaide’s development stopped at around age twelve, so she has all the rage, planning, and mindset, of a child. Children in their early development often focus on a sense of fairness, and equality,  something Red specifically states to Adelaide. That what happened to her was not fair.

Americans cherish their ideals of fairness. And American children can be especially strident—some might say loud—advocates for equality. Anyone who has ever painstakingly cut and distributed a child’s birthday cake knows how closely those little eyes watch for injustice. And when they see it, especially in their ever-so-slightly-smaller slice, they protest with the anguished cry: “No fair!”

https://www.bu.edu/research/articles/child-development-fairness/

In Jungian psychology there is the idea of the Shadow Self, that dark part of oneself that one tries to ignore or bury.  The Shadow is everything about yourself you try  hard to forget is there. The Tethered represent our worst selves. They are our dark side. Adelaide has worked very hard to forget where she came from, but it turns out that Adelaide is actually the Shadow of Red. It is not until after you’ve watched the movie that you realize that it was Adelaide who was trying to ignore her original sin of trapping Red in the underworld. Sooner or later she knew this would come back on her. The message seems to be that every sin you commit will eventually come to back to bite you in the ass.

https://www.thefourohfive.com/film/article/us-review-what-happens-when-our-shadows-run-free-and-what-the-hell-is-with-the-rabbits-155

The logo for the movie features an example of a Rorschach Test, a test in which a therapy patient interprets meaning from inkblot images. The meanings determined gives the therapist clues to your character or personal issues. This is a reference to the film itself, which is a kind of Rorschach test for the viewer. The movie has so many facets, so many themes,  which ones the audience focuses on tells  a lot more about the audience.

Here take the Us rorschach Test, and see what your responses tell you about you:

 

Movies to Watch After Seeing Us:

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978)

Single White Female (1992)

Metropolis (1927)

CHUD (1984)

The Nightbreed (1990)

Donnie Darko   (2001)

 

Us is being written about and discussed as much as Get Out. This is what we all do now. Analyze movies, I guess!

https://www.elle.com/culture/movies-tv/a26988747/us-movie-review-horror-tropes/

https://www.polygon.com/2019/3/22/18274732/us-twist-ending-explained-spoilers

 

https://www.polygon.com/2019/3/27/18284361/us-movie-spoilers-tethered

 Umbrae (Shahidi Wright Joseph), is referred to as a “little monster” by her mother, Red (Lupita Nyong’o); though she shares her double’s talent for running, it’s the addition of a permanent, eerie grin that brings up shades of how young women in particular are always expected (and instructed) to smile. She’s manifesting the image that’s projected onto her in the same way that her father is.

 

**In Part Two of The Meanings of Us let’s talk about the invasion plot in movies, what it really means, what its a stand in for, and how its applied in this movie.

An Old Man Filled With Regret: Men, Masculinity, and Atonement

Saito: Do you want to take a leap of faith? Or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone!  

-Inception

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In the movie Inception, this is a mantra shared between two  of the primary characters, Saito and Cobb. At the beginning of the film Saito asks Cobb if he wants to take a leap of faith, or die an old man filled with regret, and that question is enough to move Cobb to accept his offer. He is asking for Cobb’s trust because the two of them need each other. This is paralleled at the end of the movie, when Cobb repeats these words back to Saito.

Dying old, alone, and filed with regrets is the nightmare scenario  of the Action and Western film genres, as ex- killers, full of the guilt and shame of what they’ve done, seek redemption through killing for a good cause. This can take the form of revenge for a life lost, or the saving of a life that has meaning to them. Some of  its most famous incarnations are William Munny from Clint Eastwood’s 1992  movie, The Unforgiven, Robert McCall from the 2018 Equalizer franchise, Walt Kowalski from the 2008  Gran Turino, the 2017 Logan, Liam Neeson’s Taken trilogy,  John Creasy, from the 2004 version of  Man On Fire, and the 1953 Shane, starring Alan Ladd.

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Movie history is full of old men,  filled with the regrets, waiting to die alone, until something, or someone, moves them enough to risk coming out of retirement, often to attempt atonement for their past misdeeds. These are men beset with trauma. They are damaged killers who have committed questionable behavior.. Because of that, they are emotionally disconnected from other people, and sometimes  from themselves, until fate provides one last opportunity for personal connection, that gets taken from them. Often the person they’re trying to save is a stand in for their more innocent self, which is why this is often a child. The child is a stand-in for their lost innocence ,so in saving that person, the killer can symbolically save their former self.

Taking a leap of faith to form that emotional connection is the key. Often the former killers have locked themselves away from personal connections, feeling that they do not deserve to have love, or trust, or any human attachment, because they are bad men, who have done horrible things. They believe they are separate from the rest of humanity, and that they are unworthy of being a part of it, until someone (often a child) makes them realize there may be hope for them after all, and that they are not irredeemable.The child’s love and trust is a sign that they are salvageable. That they are “good  “men.  An innocent’s hand is offered to them, and they can take that leap of faith, one of the bravest acts a person can perform, or they can continue to dwell in their emotional abyss, and die alone, and unloved.

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Sometimes it is the innocent’s belief that the main character is a good person who will save them, that is enough to spur them into action. This is the basic plot of the 1953 movie, Shane, which is heavily paralleled, and referenced, in the 2017 movie, Logan, although the outcomes of these movies are very different. In Shane, Joey is a little boy who is drawn to Shane and idolizes his lifestyle as a gunslinger. In Logan, Laura is Logan’s genetic daughter, who idolizes his life as a comic book hero.

At the end of some of these movies, the ex-killer must go into exile, because they feel they cannot live with “normal “people. Alan Ladd plays a gunslinger who wants to retire from killing, to  become a farmer, but is called back into battle, when the woman and child he comes to care for, are endangered by an unscrupulous land baron. The townsfolk know he is a killer, but they look up to him, and think of him as heroic, but at the end of the movie, Shane cannot live in the valley with the farmers. He leaves because he feels he does not deserve to live a life of peace among normal people. He is a killer and is not the type of man who can live with people who have never lived that lifestyle, because he is too corrupt. Sacrificing the life he hoped to have is his punishment for having taken up the violence he’d previously rejected.

In the movie Serenity, the Assassin sent by the Council to collect River Tam, says that he kills to make a better world, but he knows he will never be allowed to live in that better world, because such a world has no place in it for the corruption he represents, and this is Shane’s predicament.

More often, at the end of these stories, the killers must die, because that is the price for having  picked up the sword again, although they are often happy to die, because they killed (and died) for a good reason, rather than whatever reasons they  feel regretful for. Many of them were ruthless killers in the  past, killing people for money, sport, or war. Some of these characters share more than a passing resemblance to the men they are trying to kill, because these bad men represent their past selves, and in killing them, they destroy their own evil past,  and can die at peace, knowing they did at least one “good” thing before they died.

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In Logan, the Wolverine has “retired” from a life of killing. He isn’t The Wolverine any more, and no longer “saves” people, but he is forced back onto the killing  field, to protect the “daughter”, to whom he has become emotionally attached. He dies in Laura’s arms, having redeemed himself for, as he once said, “…being the best there is at what I do.” Throughout his long life Logan had been the personification of death, relentless, inevitable, and unstoppable, as we see in the scene in the hotel, when Logan kills an entire room of armed men to save Charles Xavier. Logan also encounters a  younger, stronger, and more ruthless version of himself, that was made from his DNA. Logan must  literally kill his evil, past self, only then can he die at peace.

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In Man on Fire, Denzel Washington plays John Creasy, a former government assassin, who is so haunted by his past deeds that he has become suicidal. He has killed a lot of people in service to his country, feeling shame,  guilt, remorse, believing himself a monster, but  his soul is saved when  he falls in love with a little girl he was hired to protect. When Lupita’s life is endangered, he comes out of retirement, and uses his former killing skills to take revenge on the people who took away his one chance at happiness. Lupita entered his life as a reward for giving up his old one, showing  him that it was okay for him to live and love again

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For Creasy, Lupita’s love is a sign that he is worth saving, and that he is a good man. Her unconditional love and trust redeems him. When she is taken from him, he has the option of letting it go, and walking away, but  without Lupita there can be no redemption, and if he is going to die, then he wishes to do so in a blaze of glory, punishing the men who took his life, both literally and figuratively. In the end, rescuing Lupita from her captors will be his atonement for a life of sin, but his death is the price  he must pay for killing again, no matter how deserving his victims, or righteous his cause.

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During the movie Creasy has several conversations with his friend Rayburn, and with one of Lupita’s teachers, on the nature of sin ,and atonement. He asks Rayburn if he thinks God will forgive them for the things they’ve done, and he tells Lupita’s teacher that he was the sheep that got lost, when she asks if he sees the hand of God in what he does, quoting  the scripture: ‘Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with goodness.’ In Creasy’s final killing spree, he  is righteousness personified. He has become the hand of God, a Christlike figure, (even to the point of having a stigmata like wound in his side), who once saw nothing good in his ability to ruthlessly  take lives.The man who, early in the film, wanted to take his own life, willingly sacrifices that life to save his chosen daughter.

In the movie The Unforgiven William Munny, a famous gunslinger, has retired to a country life, but he is goaded back onto the stage when a young man who idolizes him, puts his life in danger by trying to emulate him. In The Dark Tower, Roland Deschain, the famous Gunslinger of Eld, has given up hunting The Man in Black, until he is pulled from “retirement” by a young boy he befriends, whose life is endangered by the MIB. In the movie John Wick, however, the spur out of retirement is the death of his dog, (the last remembrance of his late wife), caused by a local mobster’s son who came to rob his house. The dog is his last link to his old peaceful life, and with it gone, there is no point to trying to live peacefully. Like John Creasy, he aims to go out in a blaze of glory to avenge his wife’s memory.

If these men are lucky, they get to ride off into the sunset, but that is no relief either, as they may yet die in their beds, as old men filled with regret, but more often than not, there is a price to be paid for picking up weapons and taking lives again. They must sacrifice their life for taking up a lifestyle they’d rejected, and this is seen by these men as better than dying alone, and unloved, regretting all the evil they’d done.

“Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.” 
― Harvey MacKay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Saw It On Youtube Again!

Purl

This cute little video, from Pixar, is an allegory for workplace sexism. I was especially drawn to it because Purl is so sunny,  and happens to be a ball of yarn, (probably wool) and I love knitting. I found myself rooting for her, and actually feeling disappointed, when she wasn’t behaving according to my expectations!

 

 

 

White Savior

This is one of the funniest sketches about movie cliches I’ve ever seen. Seth Myers perfectly captures the trope of The White Savior, who comes barrel rolling into every scene where a Black character might appear to need a little assistance. The part of the video that made me laugh the loudest is the scene where the Black woman befriends a racist character because yeah, these types of movies love to  present the idea that forgiving the  racist is going to end racism, and we would all just get along if Black cozied up to our oppressors.

Black people are so inundated, in movies especially, with the idea that we should not be angry about racism, that this leads me to believe that White people’s deepest, most terrifying, nightmare, is Black people being angry about racism.

 

 

 

Kitbull

I thought this video was just cute. It’s from Pixar, the same studio that produced Bao by Domi Shi ,which just won an Oscar.

 

 

Juanita

This movie, about a Black woman who just wants to go on vacation some where, any where, else, and stars Alfre Woodard,  and who is totally underrated as an actress, will air on Netflix.

 

Detective Pikachu

All I know about Pokemon did not come from being a fan, but from living in a house with fans. My two little sisters pretty much controlled the TVs in our house, when they were kids, so I got a crash course in Pokemon, even though I really hated the show. Nevertheless, I did manage to develop favorites like Pikachu, and Bulbasaur, so I was really tickled at the thought of this movie. Who came up with this crazy idea? And what were they smoking?

 

 

We Got Cows

There are a whole series of these videos about cows being attracted to yodeling women. They just come running! And then they just stand there listening. And nope,  I don’t understand why I find that deeply funny.

 

 

 

Hood Naruto

Everything I learned about Naruto came not from being a fan, but from watching gifs about it on Tumblr, and some things are just hilarious, even when you know almost nothing about the subject beyond the character’s names. From what I’ve observed, Black people really, really, really love Naruto, so that explains these types of videos. I am not, however, one of those Black people, and I have not bothered to fix it, probably because I just enjoy being a contrary asshole.

 

 

 

Time For Sushi

This was just a series of weird dance videos I found on Youtube. Watching this is probably going to really mess up my algorithms probably.

Yes, these figures are naked. No, they are not real people. No, I have no idea what the hell is happening, or why this happened, but if my eyeballs had to see this, yours do too.

 

 

 

Time To Do The Dancing

I don’t want to make fun of these people, but they make it so easy. Goths are so tortured with angst, that they can’t look as if they enjoy dancing, and that attitude makes this look like some weird exercise video. Nevertheless, they do  manage to approach their lack of enjoyment in body movement, with a great deal of enthusiasm. So, they probably like “the dancing” but can’t be seen to be enjoying themselves, since dancing pretty much goes against being “Goth”.

 

 

 

Stupid Spider Videos

There’s an entire series of these videos of mate-dancing spiders twerking it to various songs like YMCA, and Staying Alive. I do not like spiders, as a rule, but I can watch these without issue because they’re just so ridiculous. This one with the lightsabers was…well, see for yourself.

Favorite Characters of 2018

These are not indicative of my favorite movies of 2018, although I did enjoy all these films. I’ve seen a lot of “best of” movie lists, and people might expect me to make a movie or TV show list, but I’m not going that route. Instead I’ve decided to list my top ten favorite characters of the year. Characters who were so good, that they made flawed movies good, or good movies, better.

 

Domino – Deapool 2

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My number one spot is reserved for the most fun character I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Deadpool 2 is not a great movie. The action is occasionally incoherent, and the humor, just like in the first film, is sometimes hit or miss, but the movie is fun as Hell, and excelled in its depiction of Domino. I know a lot of people had  reservations about her character. They didn’t know the actress, Zayzie Beetz, the character was a White woman in the comic books, and no one understood exactly what her superpowers were.

But she turned out to be the BEST character in the entire movie. I loved her so much! She’s just the coolest, baddest, bitch in a superhero movie since we first saw Black Widow. She literally has no worries, striding effortlessly through every action scene, in the serene knowledge that whatever happens, it will work out in her favor, and she’ll come out on top.

There’s also the added element of her being so supportive of Wade without feeling like she’s a sidekick. She and Deadpool are partners, who carry the action together. Actually, she could probably do the whole movie without Wade, because she’s far more competent than him. She knows how to handle things on her own, and often does, but one of the running jokes is her verbal support of Deadpool. She is always telling him he’s doing great, or doing a good job, or he’s got this, at odd moments during the action scenes, which I found both hilarious, and kinda sweet.

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Domino  serves the same purpose for Black women that the appearance of Luke Cage did for Black men. She’s essentially  “bulletproof”. For too many of us, our introduction to “strong” Black women, in movies and  TV, is through witnessing their endurance of pain. So I liked watching this calm and collected, carefree, and bulletproof Black woman,  knowing for an absolute certainty that she will never come to harm.

I am here for it, and I want more of it. So a solo movie looks like a good idea.

 

Killmonger – Black Panther

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So much has been  written, analyzed, and dissected about this character, that its ridiculous. Killmonger so struck a cord among Black filmgoers,  that there was an entire industry dedicated to arguing his talking points and philosophy, with people being for and against him. (And then there were those people who just wanted him.) He is, hands down,  the most compelling villain in the entirety of the MCU. This is T’Chaka’s , and N’Jobu’s story as told through their children, who have to work through the sins of their fathers.

I absolutely hated this character, but I also loved to hate him, he’s just so good and relatable. His talking points are spot on, he’s as cool as the Black Panther, and he has a sympathetic backstory that is personally tied to T’Challa’s, which is how you create a great villain.  This is the first movie I ever watched where it was the villain who had me in tears, such as when he meets his father in the afterlife, and when he references the Igbo Landing just before his death.

https://blackpast.org/aah/igbo-landing-mass-suicide-1803

But, one of the primary reasons I ultimately couldn’t  support this character was because of his disregard for Black women, where he is perfectly willing to use them for his own ends, and  bullying and/or killing them when it was expedient. (Plus, he threatened my baby-girl, Shuri.)

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Laurie Strode – Halloween (2018)

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I’m a big fan of the original film, and I was dismayed over the years to see the legacy of that film sullied by directors and actors who simply didn’t understand it, although I have been willing to sit through all the ones that starred Laurie Strode. As one of Michael Myers original victims, she was the one that got away, and that alone is a good enough reason to make a sequel.

Jettisoning all of the movies in-between, this new version of Halloween picks up the aftermath of Laurie’s life, in the wake of Michael’s attack. The movie isn’t just about Laurie being a bad-ass, or a pistol packing mama, although that was pretty cool. Its about the failed relationships, the loss of her child, the paranoia, anxiety, and hyper vigilance she displays throughout the film. This movie is about surviving trauma, and it argues that Laurie never actually escaped, and that Michael has been a part of her life ever since. I thought the movie was effective, not just in making Michael scary again, but in its examination of the effect of  trauma on the life of his primary victim.

https://www.voa.org/understanding-ptsd?gclid=CjwKCAiAyMHhBRBIEiwAkGN6fEGjHJs8HUQAlI0gmMUJdnm7PwPmlLG4RvLDs_ASDtEGDRLkD86JHxoC3nUQAvD_BwE

 

 

 

Miles Morales – Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

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This character being on the list was a surprise because I’ve only read a few of the Miles Morales comic books, and I wasn’t expecting to like this movie as much as I did.  I can’t speak to how close a depiction this guy is to the comic book version, but I liked him a lot. His Afro-Latino heritage isn’t slept, and while there are some misunderstandings between him and his father, he has a loving and supportive relationship with his parents.

Miles is just a very wholesome character, and its that  wholesomeness that allows the other characters to step outside the restrictions they’ve placed on their lives, because of previous traumas. One of the most interesting moments in the movie was hearing how all of the Spider-People have the death of some loved one, in their origin story, that has caused them to shut themselves off from people. Through their mentorship and friendship with Miles, they are able to open themselves up to do what they encourage Miles to do throughout the movie, which is “take a leap of faith”. 

Once again, this is how you write a character, who is central to the story, without being ALL of the story. There is just enough about the other characters for us to get to know and like them, while keeping Miles at the center of the narrative, as the character around which their emotional arcs revolve. The results not just in character growth for Miles, through their actions, but character growth for them too.

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Spiderman – Peter Parker – Avengers: Infinity War

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Remember when I said I wasn’t watching not one more damn Spiderman movie. Well, I hadn’t reckoned with Tom Holland when I said that. OMG!!! He is so adorkable! I  had to admit to myself that I like him more than I liked Tobey Maguire, although I don’t think Spiderman Homecoming is better than Maguire’s Spiderman 2. I’m not that far gone yet, but I might be, after the sequel.

 

Jack Jack – The Incredibles 2

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In the first Incredibles movie, we learned that Jack Jack, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible’s infant son, has shapeshifting superpowers. In fact, he may be one of the most powerful Supers (as superheroes are called in that universe) alive. In Incredibles 2, Jack Jack gets to take center stage, next to Mrs. Incredible, and it’s absolutely hilarious. I loved watching him interact and bond with Edna and his dad, and beating the shit out a local raccoon, but most hilariously, throughout all of this, he still retains a bubbly demeanor. he’s such a good baby! (Except when he wants a cookie.)

 

Venom – (Venom)

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Okay, Venom is, by all accounts, not a great movie, except none of the audience for this movie cares not one damn bit about any of that. I know I didn’t. People don’t always  go to the theater to see Lawrence of Arabia, or Taxi Driver. They don’t always want depth. Sometimes  people choose a movie because they just know they’re gonna have a helluva lot of fun. Its about the interaction between Tom Hardy as, pretty much, himself, and Tom Hardy as Venom. Its also one of the funniest superhero movies , next to Deadpool, because Venom, the character, is hilarious and gets some of the movie’s best lines.

 

Lando Calrissian – Solo – 

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I watched this movie on Netflix, and don’t remember one damn thing about it, other than the scenes that directly involve Lando. When the original Star Wars came out, my Mom immediately fell in love with Lando Calrissian, who was played by Billy Dee Williams, and because she loved him, I liked him more than a little bit too. It doesn’t hurt that he was one of the smoothest, coolest, characters in Empire Strikes Back, and Donald Glover seems to have completely captured that same vibe. Outside of Chewbacca and Lando, Solo isn’t really worth watching, though. Now, if Lando can only get his own movie, I would beg the studio to take my money!

 

 

Grey – Upgrade – Logan Marshall Green

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Its not so much that I liked this character, so much as I liked this movie. I expected to like the movie, because I was intrigued by the trailer, and I got what I expected. The movie is too stark to call it fun, but it was definitely worth watching, with an unexpectedly bittersweet ending. I think part of the reason I was so excited about this movie is because I was excited about the movie Venom, and Logan Marshall-Green is a dead ringer for Tom Hardy.

I was impatient to see Venom, and some of that feeling transferred itself to this movie, which shares much of the same themes as Venom. These men’s bodies have been invaded by an outside entity, and the two halves have to come to an accord about sharing the same body. Green totally sells the action scenes too, although I don’t know if he’s as method as Hardy, his body language is superb and kind of awesome to watch.

What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Misogynoir – Black Women in the Way — Stitch’s Media Mix

Don’t forget to check out last month’s post and the introduction! I may later eat my words because I haven’t seen more than season 1 of ToS or any of the movies but I hate that Uhura in the reboot is just a love sick puppy that follows Spock around. Like she doesn’t even resemble […]

via What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Misogynoir – Black Women in the Way — Stitch’s Media Mix

 

As I mentioned before, (and keep mentioning, because, above everything else), I want the reader to keep in the forefront of their minds, that fandom is not practiced in a vacuum. A lot of fandom tropes, and misbehavior comes directly from real life, and the fans own personal experiences, and knowledge, of race, gender, and sexuality, often imparted to them by a media that is by, for, and about White ,straight men, even if its on a subconscious level.

Fandom has been taught, by decades of media consumption, that Black women CANNOT be love interests. The media has not only taught White women, but has also taught Black women, that we are unloved, unlovable, and not capable of love, which is the foundation behind a lot of arguments that we are “strong, so we don’t need a man”. The foundation of this argument is the Mammy stereotype, who is often defemenized, or sometimes even masculinized, (as a sign of her strength), and who cares so much for her White patron, that she has no concerns for her own life.

https://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/mammies/

The caricature portrayed an obese, coarse, maternal figure. She had great love for her white “family,” but often treated her own family with disdain. Although she had children, sometimes many, she was completely desexualized. She “belonged” to the white family, though it was rarely stated. Unlike Sambo, she was a faithful worker. She had no black friends; the white family was her entire world.

This stereotype is especially recognizable in arguments about how Uhura is too strong to need a man. Instead, she is meant to be background support of a mlm relationship, that has absolutely no chance, whatsoever, of becoming canon. It is interesting to me that in their erasure and denigration of Black characters, that so many fans (especially the ones who consider themselves feminists), tend to fall back on Black stereotypes they’ve consumed from media. To me, it shows the insidiousness of racism. That media that goes unexamined is media that has filled one’s mind with beliefs one may not actually “believe”.

It took me many years to root out some of the more damaging beliefs, about being a Black woman, from my own consumption of Pop culture, and this happened despite my mother’s vigilance in making sure that I consumed messages in other forms of media (Black media, for example), that did not reinforce stereotypes, so I know how sneaky this sort of  racist messaging can be.

As I always say, please visit Snitch’s Media blog, where she discusses the how and what of fandom, on the intersection of  race and Queer issues. That’s her area of expertise and I always go to her blog when I need to know what kind of fu**ery  the fandom has been engaging, and I like to riff on her posts, rather than subjecting her to one of my long winded comments on her blog.

My agenda isn’t so much what the fans are doing, so much as why fandom does it, and to tie her posts to wider media and Pop cultural narratives. There’s a reason why the fandom does what it does, and much of it can be laid at the feet of examined White supremacy that so many of us, (because I’m a fan too), have consumed.

Later, we’ll discuss how the consumption of racist narratives in Pop culture affects the self-esteem of Black girls and women, and how, due to the resurgence of source material created by, for, and about Black women, that’s slowly starting to change.

 

Weekend Reading/ Feb. 22nd, 2019

The Matrix

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This isn’t a new theme, but I liked this little essay about how to enjoy movies with so much gunfire in them, in this age of daily mass shootings. How can we enjoy such scenes, and what makes these scenes different from the kinds of scenes we’ve see on our TV screens, on  a regular basis? And what type of role does such a scene have on the prevalence of mass shootings? Not in causing them, but in inspiring how they’re committed.

https://www.vulture.com/2019/02/reckoning-with-the-matrixs-gun-problem.html

 

 

Romantic Tropes

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There is however a real link between how Hollywood depicts romance, and men’s ideas of how romance is meant to be performed, and what’s considered romantic rather than abusive.

To be fair,women also receive toxic messages about romance, outside of what’s discussed in this essay, like the idea that women  can fix broken men, an idea so normalized in Hollywood, that it even shows up in romantic fiction written by women.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/01/when-pop-culture-sells-dangerous-myths-about-romance/549749/

http://www.collegehumor.com/post/7038172/hey-movies-this-isnt-romantic

 

 

 

Racist Vigilantism

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As to the event that happened with Liam Neeson a couple of weeks ago, in which he confessed to an event of racial vigilantism in his youth,  I think Roland Martin, from TVOne News, says it best. But the point also needs to be made that Liam Neeson was only doing what countless numbers of Hollywood films have encouraged White men to do in the protection of White women’s bodies, which is go out and harm men of color, beginning with Birth of a Nation.  Endless Action movies and Westerns are  predicated on the basic plot of : White man goes out and shoots people he thinks  are bad.

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Liam himself has starred in countless numbers of films in which he avenges the sacrilege, or deaths, of female characters. I’m disappointed, but not angry, at Liam, for doing exactly what he’s been told to do, since the invention of film media. White woman been hurt? Go out and terrorize some Black people!

https://www.thedailybeast.com/black-america-knows-white-avengers-like-liam-neeson-all-too-well?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

 

 

Film Criticism Diversity

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Yeah, we’ve been talking about this for a minute.

https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/6/22/17466246/criticism-film-movie-diversity-annenberg-study-larson-blanchett-bullock-kaling

 

 

The Apocalypse

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The basic idea of this article is that common depictions of the apocalypse are just wrong. We already have examples of how people react in the event of massive life-changing events in places that have experienced natural disasters. So why don’t we ever see any of that in Apoclaypse style movies? In fact the people in those movies, especially Western films, all react the same, running trough the streets, burning, killing and pillaging. Along with the lack of bicycles after the apocalypse, showing people acting a fool, during the end of the world, just makes for more dramatic screen images, I guess.

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https://www.tor.com/2018/11/14/what-really-happens-after-the-apocalypse/

 

 

 

Misogyny

Image result for chick lit romance gifs

This one discusses how the disparaging of romance novels, and Chic-Lit, is really just another form of devaluing women’s interests and hobbies, and I agree. I think there’s something to this. Anytime women show an interest in some thing, or engage in an activity, there’s a contingent of gatekeepers, and intelligentsia, who crawl out from under the world’s baseboards, to take a shit on everything from romance novels and coloring books, to scrapbooking and fanfiction, to TV shows and Ugg boots.

In fact, this very much pertains to all Pop culture media, for which women are the audience. Pay close attention to criticism of the kinds of hobbies and interests women engage in, vs, the kinds of interests engaged in by men, and see that you don’t find that much of it is negative.

 

https://thetempest.co/2018/03/09/entertainment/chick-lit-romance-bias/

 

 

 

White Nationalism’s Nightmare

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If you haven’t seen the movie The Girl with All the Gifts, then you need to check it out. This is an interesting analysis of what this movie means to those arguing that White Genocide is a thing. I gave a review of it on this blog.

https://racebaitr.com/2017/07/25/girl-gifts-nightmare-white-supremacy/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-2016/

Horror Noire: Black History, Horror (A Review) — Stitch’s Media Mix

Black history is Black horror. – Tananarive Due One of Tananrive Due’s comments early on in the Shudder’s Horror Noire documentary will live on in my mind forever because of how it gets right to the meat of the relationship between Blackness and the horror genre. I love learning things and I spend a […]

via Horror Noire: Black History, Horror (A Review) — Stitch’s Media Mix

If you are at all interested in the history of Horror, and Eli Roth’s History of Horror documentary just didn’t work for you, (and it didn’t for me because it erased almost the entire history of Black people’s relationship to the genre), then you have to watch this doc called Horror Noire. It has interviews and clips from every important Black Horror film star and director from the past 60 -70 years, what those movies meant to Black people, and how we participated in the making if this genre. You have to watch it just for the interview with Jordan Peele, whose new movie, US, is set to debut in March,looks scary as shit, and which I am very, very, excited about.

Its especially enlightening for the review of a classic vampire movie titled Ganja and Hess, which seems to have been remade by Spike Lee, which he titled Taste Da Blood Of Jesus. Ganja and Hess is also available on the Firestick app called Tubi. There are also interviews of the stars of Dawn of the Dead, Blacula, and Candyman. Basically everytrinhg that should have been covered in Eli Roth’s series, but wasn’t.

Essential viewing:

King Kong

Creature From the Black Lagoon

Get Out

Night of the Living Dead

Candyman

The People Under the Stairs

Blacula

Ganja and Hess

Blade

The Girl with All the Gifts – A must see

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.

 

Source:

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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:

Source:

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.