On The Table: Items For Discussion

On Race and Gender

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*One of the things most invisible to us as film goers is, through whose gaze are we viewing the world around us. The statistics are pretty clear, from television, to movies, to books, the point of view is that of cis-gender, straight, white men, who control nearly the entirety of all three industries. They are the ones who determine which stories are important enough to get told,  and how those stories get told. 

One of the more interesting aspects in film and TV, is how none of the  White characters in any of these narratives ever question their race in relation to PoC characters.  Most of the White people in movies do not think about their race, their race is never mentioned, and they never think about the existence of  PoC, just like the creators of these films. Racism doesn’t exist in these all White worlds, and no one ever has to think about it, or deal with it, unless its a story specifically about it. For example, you can have a story with an all White cast that may be specifically about a Native American issue, but White people’s complicity in that issue  is never mentioned in the narrative.

I think I mentioned in another post, how the subject of race is the boogeyman that White creators (and critics) dare not look at directly. Race is the sun around which their entire psyche revolves, but which they refuse to acknowledge exists, as even the stories they tell, that do not explicitly mention race, still say much about how they think (or don’t think) about the subject.

This post discusses the output of three different white male directors who have not included PoC, in any of their films, in prominent roles: Martin Scorcese, Tim Burton, and the Coen Brothers. I have thoroughly enjoyed the collected works of all these directors, but it even took me a moment to realize that this is true. I basically study this subject, but the fact that a number of film directors I truly enjoy, have never employed any PoC in their films, (outside of a couple of villains), was still largely invisible to me, and that’s the point.

https://theestablishment.co/how-to-make-white-movies-5b9b83c61c53

… films with all, or mostly, white casts are not inherently harmful (some are great), but they do create for themselves a unique problem. Because even as the overwhelming whiteness on screen goes unquestioned, unremarked upon, it remains up there for us all to see — and it thus necessarily conveys some meaning.

…Films starring white people, or featuring zero people of color, don’t have the same impact. They must contend with an inherent dilemma, which is that without any commentary, their casting reinforces the status quo. White remains the default, and this itself is a kind of unspoken celebration. Ignoring this reality as a filmmaker is like ignoring a boom mic which falls into the frame. We will see it, even if the director somehow missed it.

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Why Cinematography May Be the Most Gender-Biased Job in Hollywood

A cinematographer — also known as a DP, for director of photography — dictates the movement and gaze of a camera, hugely influencing a movie’s feel. For years, women have been shut out of having that influence. Men vastly dominate its ranks, meaning that movies have been quite literally subject to the male gaze in a way audience members may not even be aware. (This article may have a paywall.)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2018/03/06/why-cinematography-may-be-the-most-gender-biased-job-in-hollywood/?utm_term=.0519c70ed87d

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*This interview with the show runner of Jessica Jones is a perfect example of the above topic, and shows that its an attitude not limited to White men. In fact, she is a textbook practioner of “White Feminism” (this is not a reference to the person’s race, but the name of the type of  feminism being espoused by that person, which does not take into account the lives of marginalized women ). It is the type of feminism that considers WoC to be an afterthought, at best, and non-existent, at worst.

You know how I can tell there are no WoC (or marginalized women) in the writer’s room of that show? In season one of Jessica Jones, there is the Angry Black woman stereotype in the first episode, Jheri is The Evil Lesbian who tries to have her ex-GF killed, her ex-GF is The Hysterical Female, loud, and irrational, and then there’s the Black female victim of the show’s lead. Not one of the show’s writers stopped to think how it would look, that Jessica kills Luke Cage’s wife (conveniently getting her out of the way) and then sleeps with him, while never mentioning to him what she did, (after she discovers that was his wife.)

I made a point to skip the new season, but I am not heartened by the news that the situation has not changed for WoC (or queer women) on that show, and I’m not going to give a third season a chance either. I’m done with the show. What I find even more galling, is that the showrunner makes it sound like the choices they made, regarding the roles of marginalized women on the show, were just some sort of “accident”, that no one had any control over.

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Fumbling to accurately portray both race and gender onscreen is hardly a problem exclusive to Jessica Jones. Shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Law & Order: SVU, among others, center on transforming our ideas of what a “strong female character” looks like, but fail to decentralize whiteness. By refusing to do so, intentionally or not, these shows continue to present race as a hindrance rather than a very real part of their characters’ identities and a factor in their experiences. 

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/reviews/jessica-jones-leaves-black-women-behind

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*The Twitter thread on this topic was brutal and hilarious. Mainstream publishing is another industry where female characters  are seen through a White male gaze, and no one ever seems to question this. When the writer is great, this isn’t quite so much of a problem, but when theyre mediocre though, its absolutely cringeworthy.

https://electricliterature.com/describe-yourself-like-a-male-author-would-is-the-most-savage-twitter-thread-in-ages-60d145d638d6

Whitney Reynolds

@whitneyarner

new twitter challenge: describe yourself like a male author would

Lilly Beth Chung@LillyBethChungx

[insert something about being mixed race and how that makes me petite and inherently submissive but juxtapose it with the idea of me being adorably aggressive and will stand up for myself. But make it sound endearing. ]

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*This post is about how women’s stories, in movies and television, are devalued by men. Essentially the test is, take a man’s story that has gotten widespread approval,  replace all or most of the characters with women, and watch the ratings for that story plummet.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/06/the-male-glance-how-we-fail-to-take-womens-stories-seriously

Male art is epic, universal, and profoundly meaningful. Women’s creations are domestic, emotional and trivial. How did we learn to misread stories so badly?

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*This same dynamic is at work in the idea of White prioritization. A perfect example of that is the TV show Friends, from the 90’s. There was a Black show called Living Single, on which Friends was entirely based. It is Friends that is remembered, and  got  revived for more episodes, after its cancellation. Living Single was simply forgotten. This is a great article on the difference between these two shows, and why those differences mattered in the remembrance of one, but not the other.. 

https://www.citylab.com/life/2017/01/the-gentrification-of-city-based-sitcoms/513302/

Patronizing a Central Perk-style coffee shop in the ‘90s meant you had enough income to spend on a marked-up cup of coffee. It meant that you had the luxury of time to hang out in a cafe for hours with your friends because you weren’t working two or three jobs to get by. When free internet became a basic feature, you went there because you could afford a laptop—which were then well out of the price range for many working-class people. Chances were good that your cafe was mostly populated by a bunch of people who shared your privileges and skin color.

Now, for the record, I was a Living Single fan and I pretty much hated and dismissed Friends. I watched pretty much every Black sitcom that came out in the 80s and early 90s, from Sister, Sister, to Family Matters. But just in case you want to get on me for hating Friends, I watched a lot of sitcoms that had nothing but Whites in them like The Drew Carey Show, Perfect Strangers, and Bosom Buddies, as well.

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Recently  the idea of White prioritization  was turned on its head by the movie Girl’s Trip. It was expected that Rough Night, a similar movie about young White women on a road trip, would have been the movie to capture public interest, while Girl’s Trip was ignored. But that was not what happened:

https://www.thewrap.com/how-did-girls-trip-succeed-where-rough-night-and-other-adult-comedies-failed

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*And when White writers do write about race, they don’t do  their homework. They almost always get the depiction of it wrong. Its as if they know racism is bad, they just don’t seem to have quite processed why that’s so. I think I mentioned this before that most depictions are wrong because the bigots actually have legitimate reasons to be afraid of the beings they’re oppressing. Otherworldly creatures, and superpowered beings, (who are almost always White) are bad stand ins for marginalized people in allegories about bigotry, because real PoC, DO NOT have superspeed, superstrength, or  laser eyebeams.

Its also interesting to me that audiences can empathize with these oppressed characters in movies and TV, but in the real world, oppressed people are often admonished against being angry about their situations. Its not a coincidence that such admonishments often come from the ones engaged in the oppressing, and who are most likely to be on the receiving end of that anger.

https://www.themarysue.com/jessica-jones-race-gender-superpowers/

 And in every one, it ends up being people of color versus white vampires, aliens, or whatever a show would rather have stand in for POC than actual POC. It’s often exhausting, and not just because watching a white actor preach about bigotry and racism to a brown actor is irritating. What I find more upsetting is that the characters who are mutants, aliens, super-powered, or whatever, get to be more militant and angry than characters of color.

 

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On the Female Gaze

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To read more on this topic, and the responses, become a member of Medium.com, where you can also follow me, read my responses to articles, and read posts I’ve recommended.

I posted about this earlier, on the fetishization of White, gay men by White women writers.

Why Are So Many Gay Romance Novels Written By Straight Women?

https://electricliterature.com/why-are-so-many-gay-romance-novels-written-by-straight-women-e1ad2ad2f5c8

And in the responses:

I know the perspective you’re talking about here all too well from my experience in fandom, and it’s disheartening as hell. It’s disheartening as hell to come to queer (and queered) media looking for that kind of representation and complex engagement and see it overrun with the worst kinds of Kinsey 0–2 women fetishizing queer relationships. If I never see another who tops/who bottoms “debate” in my life, it will be too soon. If I never see another piece of fanart reblogged on Tumblr to the tune of hundreds of thousands of notes putting stereotypically slender, able-bodied, attractive young white men in crop tops and flower crowns, it will be too soon. If I never am around another Kinsey 0–2 woman acting like pretty boys are just so much prettier if they’re making out with bruises and bloody patches on their faces after being physically abused/physically abusing each other for reasons related to homophobia, it will be too soon. If I am never exposed to the “woke up magically one morning with breasts because of a supernatural plot ….—Kate (Medium.com)

View story at Medium.com

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On Cultural Appropriation

There’s been some huge discussion of how Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs (a play on the words I love dogs) is actually appropriating Asian culture. Is this appropriation?

https://www.themarysue.com/cultural-appropriation-poc-isle/

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-isle-of-dogs-review-20180321-story.html

https://mashable.com/2018/03/23/isle-of-dogs-japanese-culture/#uoZ_BFMcqZqD

*For the record, I had never made plans to see this movie even though I have a dog (Hi Sarge!), and love dogs, because I  thought the dogs looked kind of terrifying, and everyone in the trailer spoke in depressing monotones. (I know I don’t talk about Sarge often, but really he doesn’t do much of note, beyond shedding copiously, and watching me expectantly in case  “walkies”  occur.)

 

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On Harassment Activism

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*A warning for reading these articles, some of them contain some really nasty shit against women and PoC, so read with a certain amount of caution, (or just have a few drinks first.) This seems to be the Right’s go to response to everything they dislike: harassing it out of the public sphere. This is about more than just controlling public forums like Twitter, this is about shutting up the people who are no longer listening to, or supporting, the received wisdom of White men. White men are fed up with so many people talking back, and refuting, the things they’ve been told, or espoused themselves. 

https://www.thedailybeast.com/comicsgate-how-an-anti-diversity-harassment-campaign-in-comics-got-uglyand-profitable?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

https://www.inverse.com/article/41132-comicsgate-explained-bigots-milkshake-marvel-dc-gamergate

 

*And even academics aren’t immune from this “activism”, if they start saying things White men don’t like.

https://www.aaup.org/article/new-reality-far-rights-use-cyberharassment-against-academics#.WsejGfnwb0N

—Their plans became darker and more elaborate. One commenter suggested that their remote attacks on me be expanded to include my family. Another suggested that they take images they had found of my wife and Photoshop them in profane ways. They began to draft letters to send to administrators at my university and provided suggestions for editing to incriminate me. One commenter suggested they alter a screenshot they had created to make it appear as though I had used the term n****r. Another suggested that they accuse me of anti-Semitism. Their stated goal was to see that I was fired. This, apparently, was the type of opportunity they relished: find a person to harass, maybe by drawing him or her into a politi­cal argument, locate any information they could find online, and then coordinate attacks in an attempt to damage the person as much as possible.

 

 

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*This was an interesting article about the response of white people to diverse television, and movies, and their nostalgia about, and retreat to,  past eras of pop culture, like the eighties, when there was less diversity in the media.  We’re going to be seeing more reboots and remakes of TV shows that are not being remembered for their diversity, at the time.

This isn’t just the problem of RPO, but just about every show that is an nostalgic homage to that  time period erases the fact that Black people were having a serious impression on American culture at that time.

The problem with RPO is that the only pop culture of the eighties that’s mentioned in the movie, are things White guys would’ve loved. There’s no mention of the burgeoning hip hop scene, no Beastie Boys, or Run DMC, no Black fashions. In show after show, that’s all just conveniently erased from the history of that era.

https://www.theroot.com/ready-player-one-and-the-unbearable-whiteness-of-80-s-n-1824212737

Where is the Ghostbusters’ Winston Zeddmore? Jazz from The Transformers? Panthro from Thundercats (c’mon, we all know he was black), or even prominent women like Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake and She-Ra?

Writ large, Ready Player One, with its frothy retelling of the ’80s, is no different from decades of Western films with no black cowboys, rock ’n’ roll retrospectives that eliminate the black roots of the music, and commercials that appropriate our past while removing us from it. Today’s Gap commercials would lead you to believe that white people invented breakdancing and pop-locking.

 

I usually post in the mornings, but I was a little late with this one today.

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Do You Remember Werewolf the Series?

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So I started watching this on Youtube and I was mostly struck by how bad the clothing is. This series was released n 1987, and I’m not sure why I don’t remember people dressing that bad, but they must have, and I just blocked it out or something:

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The series opens with a monologue, which is a really bad sign. I’m calling bullshit on it because its so full of  80’s macho crap, and I mostly just rolled my eyes. After that, there’s a scene at a night club, and you can tell its one of those 80’s movie nightclub scenes because the music sucks, its full of old white people who can’t dance, and I find it really, really hard to believe that women used to dress like that in da club. You could put someone’s eyes out with those shoulder pads.

So the young blonde victim and her date are walking to the car and they are talking about his job as a company manager or some bullshit, and I’m like, really? This is the shit you’re talking about? Were Yuppies actually this fucking boring that they went to the club, and flirted with each other about monetary futures, or network assets and shit? At this point I was rooting for the werewolf, that I knew was about to attack them,

in that completely empty, fog shrouded, parking lot, outside the club!!!

Anyhoo..

This show is like a cross between The Incredible Hulk, and Teen Wolf, where the lead character named Eric Cord, is bitten by his roommate, after he was bitten by a guy named Skorzeny, played by, of all people, Chuck Connors. Now my Mom watched this because… werewolves, and Chuck Connor, but you know I probably watched it because Eric, like most of the men on TV in the 80s, had a luxurious head of hair. See!

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This was most likely my impetus for watching a lot of shows in the 80s. At least that’s my excuse.

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Well, glossing over the plot really quick, after being bitten, Eric and his useless girlfriend, played by one of the hottest, flavor of the moment, TV chicks of the eighties, Michelle Johnson, go on a road trip to find the werewolf that bit his roommate, because only by killing the original werewolf can someone escape the curse. In the meantime, Eric is being hunted by a sheriff/bounty hunter, because he skipped out on his bail, after shooting his roommate, without explanation.

This show also heavily reminded me of the show Manimal, because each episode involved at least one scene where Eric turned into werewolf, even though the episodes were only thirty minutes long. That sounds really weird to those of us today, who are used to hour long dramas. Eric traveled around the country getting embroiled in other people’s stories ala Mad Max. Like Manimal, Eric had to occasionally solve a mystery, but unlike that series, Eric had no sidekicks. The 80s were a curious blend of shows with a combination serial, stand-alone format. There were individual events that happened from episode to epsode but they were all tied together by a common theme. Herer the common theme was Eric hunting, running into  werewolves, and various other creatures.

The highlight of the show was the werewolf transformation scenes, naturally,  that were heavily ripped off …erm, based on, the werewolf movie craze of the early eighties, An American Werewolf in London, which won an Oscar for its special effects, and its cousin, The Howling, which didn’t.

This show managed to last an entire season and  I most definitely watched it. I remember the pilot, and the transformation scenes, and even Chuck Connors growling his way through the script. So I definitely LOOKED at the show.

But I don’t remember nan’ detail of a single episode of this show beyond the pilot. But that’s okay becasue there a quite a number of the episodes available on Youtube, so they can now be forgotten by, yet another, entire generation of teenagers.

Ready Player One: The Great White Hope

I’ve been seeing a few articles come across my dash asking the question: Is Ready Player One Black Panther for White Guys?

My firm answer on this one is: Hell to the na!!!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2018/03/23/black-panther-is-about-to-pass-two-huge-box-office-milestones/#23b03e83419f

In all fairness, I did not finish the book, and I am not a hardcore gamer. I play some fighting games from time to time, but I do not classify things I do in my spare time, as an identity. (I like to knit, and consider myself a knitter, but that’s not WHO I am. the difference is subtle.) I can’t say whether or not the film will be successful, if it will hit the number one spot, whether or not gamers will flock to it, whether or not they’ll like the movie if they do. I can say I didn’t care for the book, and I’m unimpressed by Ernest Clines credentials. (I couldn’t finish it because I felt it was very badly written.) On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who identifies as a Gamer, than Ready Player One may be just the book (and movie) for you.

I don’t actually think the movie will be as successful as Black panther, because it simply doesn’t have the numbers to put it in the top spot for more than a week, before its supplanted by something new. I have to admit, the trailers look like fun,  because of the pop culture references , and  it moves fast, and is brightly colored. There is no depth to the  images though. Do you have to be a hard-core nerd to get the movie? Do you have to be fluent in gaming to really enjoy it? Is it too reliant on pop culture Easter eggs for outsiders to enjoy it? I’ve seen some good reviews for it, but I’ve also seen quite a few journalists (all White and male) lauding the movie as the second coming of cinema. I haven’t encountered any women reviewers who claimed to love it.

—-However, as the movie’s gotten closer to release, some fans have taken to claiming that this movie is for nerds and gamers in the same way that Marvel’s Black Panther has been for black people in terms of impact.Ready Player One will not be Black Panther for nerds, because they’re not even operating in the same star system, let alone the same level of ambition and thematic depth. It serves no favors to Player One in particular, given the distaste that appears to have grown around the original book and the film’s marketing. If for no other reason, it’s a good idea to keep Panther out of Player One’s sights, because coming at the King will all but guarantee a miss.

https://www.cbr.com/ready-player-one-not-black-panther-for-nerds/

You guys know about my suspicions on journalistic integrity,especially  when it comes to movie reviews, so let’s just say I’m giving these reviews the side eye. Hell, for all I know its a very fun and diverting movie, but RPO does not possess cultural relevance  for anybody but the White dudes lauding it (and maybe people who read the book). It looks to me like the same old “mediocre White guy saves the world” type of plot, that we’ve always gotten, and  the hype surrounding it seems like more of the backlash against Black Panther, and  claiming this run of the mill movie is going to unseat BP, sounds. to me, like just another way of signalling their resentment of the other one’s success.

Letitia Wright is in the movie. In what role, I’m not certain, but if you’re a fan of the actress, you may want to check it out, and report back to let us know what’s up. I had no plans  to see this movie, because its release is too close to Pacific Rim, and I only have so much money to spend. I ‘ll watch it when it comes to Netflix, or Amazon, and I’ll probably enjoy it, but the reaction from White fans here is  very little different from when White fans lauded Wonder Woman as the second coming of the feminist action film, claiming it to be more than it is, when is really no more than what we always had. (In my opinion, THE feminist action movie was  Mad Max: Fury Road.)

As the above article states, White gaming fans don’t need representation, as the hobby itself has gone fully mainstream, and White males, 18-34, have always been catered to when it comes to pop culture, so there’s no more social relevance to be had from this movie, than Pixels,  and  nostalgia for  when the terms multiculturalism, inclusion, and diversity were not topics anyone thought about.

So reviewers…just stop it!

No.

No, this movie isn’t some big win for the culture of gaming. Its not that deep.

People are going to go see it. They may even thoroughly enjoy it, but culturally, the movie means nothing, and will have no more lasting impact, in a culture that regularly serves up a movie just like it, at least once or twice a  month. No one is going to be writing hundreds of think pieces about the meaning behind its images, and ultimately, no matter how much fun it will be, it won’t really mean anything. And that’s okay, too.

 

 

Disco Lives!!!

Yes, I still listen to disco, and I’m abnormally obsessed with this particular video, which is a remix of the Migos’ Bad and Boujee. This is how the song should have been produced in the first place, with the instrumentals of  Earth Wind and Fire’s September.

I remember watching Soul Train. We used to spend weekends over at grandma’s, (who was only a block away from us, anyway) and this aired on Saturday afternoons. Our whole family ( which sometimes consisted of anywhere from ten to twenty people) used to congregate there at random intervals, and eat, gossip, play kickball, or touch football. Some of my family lived in the house, some just lived nearby, and others traveled in from further places, but that was the place of the meetup, and Soul Train was the one show everyone seemed to agree on. So , naturally whenever there was a family reunion, Which was usually when the dancing occurred, there had to be a Soul Train line.

 

 

 

I had forgotten about these fashions, and in some cases, I was too young to remember some of them. I love the women’s unisex fashions, who had entered the workplace in droves, after the Vietnam War took so many young men. There was also a tropic theme in the 70s, after America rediscovered Hawaii, for some reason. Hip Hop was just in its foundational stage, and poppin’ and lockin’ was just being invented, too.

 

I also want to give a shout-out to Janelle Monae , and her new Prince adjacent video, The Way You Make Me Feel. I love this retro 80’s thing, and there’s a really cute cameo from her bestie, Tessa Thompson. A lot of people  have one question, though: Are they a Couple? Especially since Bi-sexuals have heralded this video as being an anthem specifically for them, and I can see why.

Janelle says this song is from Prince’s vault, and you can see it’s heavily influenced by his style. She says the two of them were great friends in life, and that he wanted to pass his stylistic mantle on to her.

https://www.avclub.com/so-thats-why-janelle-monaes-new-single-sounds-so-much-l-1823337068

The Shape of Water (2017]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Do You Remember The Sentinel TV Series

This series aired form 1996 through 1999. I remember watching the hell outta this show. It was through this show that I rediscovered slash fan fiction, having gotten away from it, from when I’d discovered Kirk/Spock.

This was very possibly one of the slashiest shows on TV next to Star Trek. Ao3 didn’t exist back then, (although yes, the internet existed) and there was so much fanfiction written about the two male leads of this show, that there were several whole archives devoted to it. (Like 852 Prospect). You can probably still find them. I feel that in some ways this show contributed to  many of the tropes of slash fan fiction, that we find so annoying today.

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The show featured a Ranger named James Ellison, played by Richard Burgi, who lost his Special Ops team in the Amazon jungle. The sole survivor, he discovered he was a member of a mystic warrior race with heightened senses, called Sentinels, whose job it was to watch over their specific tribes. After his rescue, he goes back to Cascade Washington (really just someplace in Canada), becomes a cop, and years later, has forgotten all about his time in the Amazon, until his senses get accidentally re-awakened, when solving one of his cases. At this point he gets discovered by an anthropology researcher named Blair.To help control his superpowers, Jim adopts Blair as a  spiritual focus, whose job is to bring Jim back to reality, when he gets too caught up in whatever he’s sensing.

Now, is that, or is that not, the kinda stuff slash fiction is made of. You’ve got superpowers, spiritual bonds, mystic shenanigans, cops, a handsome and gruff older man, and a cute  and excitable younger partner. It’s like the plot of every yaoi anime ever, and I was totally here for it. This show took me to church!

The popularity of this show was not at all harmed by shirtless images of Richard Burgi in his prime, and that the show’s actors were well aware they were being ‘shipped, and were all for it. Possibly they were even playing it up, since, because of censorship, the show’s creators would have been largely prevented from showing an openly gay relationship, between the two male leads. The study of slash fanfiction was also in its infancy then, and most people wouldn’t have known anything about it, as that was very much under  everyone’s radar. To give you some idea of the timelines involved, Buffy began the year this show ended, and ran until 2003. The show Supernatural began in 2005.

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Richard Burgi was the new hawtness at the time, and Garrett Maggart, who played Blair, wasn’t too shabby looking either, and a lot of the show was really suggestive. The two of them lived together as roommates, they also worked together, because Blair said he wanted  to monitor Ellison’s superpowers, they were very touchy-feely and dramatic, everyone in their lives knew they were living together, including Jim’s ex-wife (Jim simply referred to Blair as his partner, with no other explanation to the rest of the staff of the police dept.) and the two hung out together ALL the time, and everyone seemed perfectly okay with it. This show set the grand standard for queerbaiting .

But I don’t think of this show as queer baiting because that wasn’t really much of a thing back then,  and because of the time period of the show, an open homosexual relationship couldn’t be shown. (Well, rather say that it is, in fact, queer baiting, but its the same kind of queer baiting that exists in old movies, where nothing could be explicitly stated.) Neither character had any long term love interests that the viewer knew they’d eventually end up with, and both of them spent entirely too much time standing uncomfortably close to one another, and looking into each other’s eyes. Queer baiting wasn’t a term that was used yet, but people did spend a lot of time discussing whether or not the characters were gay.

I really think this was a way for the show’s creators to get around  gay relationships not being  shown (or allowed to be shown) on prime time TV. In other words, they had to be sneaky. If you were gay, or gay adjacent, you would see it, and if you weren’t, then you didn’t, (because plausible excuses had been given for why they were not), which is entirely in keeping with the way homosexuality had always been dealt with in popular culture, with innuendo, hints, and allegations, and the show made absolutely no effort to go the “no homo” route by playing up the character’s  relationship with each other, while putting them in  endgame heterosexual relationships.

https://www.amazon.com/Celluloid-Closet-Armistead-Maupin/dp/B001NI5C6U/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1519758939&sr=1-1&keywords=celluloid+closet

It helps that there  was nothing about this show that was even remotely realistic, although if you’re not gonna quibble about the mystical aspects of the show, you shouldn’t have too many problems with other stuff on the show, such as the relationships, or how the “detectiving” was done.

Has anyone else noticed how the detectives on these shows don’t seem to specialize in any one type of detection, even though you can see that wherever they work is fully staffed? Ellison shouldn’t be working a murder case, a drug deal,  and a counterfeit jewelry op, all while trying to catch a terrorist bomber, at the same time.  Most 80’s cop shows just call for the detectives to work on whatever crime pops up that day, instead of specializing in a particular type of crime like homicide, or drugs, or something, which is not how that actually works, in big cities.

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At least several times a season Jim’s senses would go haywire, and Blair would have to talk him out of it, all while trying to keep this a secret from his commanding officer, Captain Simon Banks, played by Bruce Young, because, according to Ellison, if people found out he had superpowers, all his old cases would come up for review, and all the criminals he captured would have to be released. After all, superpowers are not sanctioned by the court system. I think this was a thinly veiled metaphor for being closeted. Jim and Blair often lived in fear that the people around them would find out about Jim’s superpowers, but neither of them cared that they looked like they were in a romantic relationship.

Simon wasn’t clueless the whole time. He eventually finds out, and keeps Jim’s secret, although I do like to wonder what he was thinking about this supposed academic following Jim around, and living with him. And Jim wasn’t actually wrong either. At the end of the series, there’s a riff between him and Blair, when Blair’s dissertation on Jim is accidentally leaked to the public, Jim is outed as a superbeing, and all hell breaks loose. Jim gets suspended. His cases all come up for review. He blames Blair for the potential  loss of his career, and civilians (and the media) are harassing him in the streets. But it all gets resolved, and the series ends on a positive note.

Since there was a mystical component to Jim’s superpowers as a Sentinel, there was a lot of references to his time in the Amazon, and a black jaguar, which appeared to be Jim’s totem animal. My biggest issue was that Jim had regular sightings of this jaguar, and I feel some type of of way about a cop who regularly hallucinates about his spirit animal. That just really bothered me. I’m dubious about the motivations of most cops when they’re completely sober, so a cop who has  visions, yeah…no! But I admit,  I really enjoyed that one episode that involved Jim’s Amazonian shaman visiting Cascade. That was kinda cool.

Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg in "The Sentinel"

 

The Powers

Jim’s hyperacute senses allow him to perceive things undetectable by normal humans. He can see perfectly in low light situations and with superb acuity at long distances, hear sounds at extremely low volume or beyond the normal range of human hearing, and sense what others cannot via taste, touch and smell; he declares himself “a walking forensic lab”. Jim’s powers have a drawback: if he concentrates too strongly on one sense, he may become oblivious to his immediate surroundings. Part of Blair’s job is preventing this, and protecting Jim when he is focusing. As a Sentinel Jim has several powers:

  • All 5 senses are strongly enhanced
  • Able to communicate with ghosts
  • Has a spirit animal, a black jaguar
  • Receives visions that guide him in the choices he makes and sometimes predict the future (Jim had a vision that showed Blair’s death before Alex killed him)
  • Used the power of his animal spirit to bring Blair back from the dead

—  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sentinel_(TV_series)#Powers

Despite my misgivings though, I genuinely loved the show, and not just because I thought Richard Burgi was the second coming of hawt and bothered, which…yeah!.  I  actually liked the premise of the show. It was inspired,  and I think it would be great for a remake.

 

Note:

Some of the best fanfiction I ever read came out of this ‘ship, and I’m sad that I never let those writers know just how appreciative I was of their skills, at that time. Most especially, Saraid, and Brenda Antrim who now goes by the name Glacis,  and has her own Wikipedia page. (She is so good that she’s won awards just for being a fan.)   Saraid’s  Panther Tales series can be found on Ao3.

 

Oh yeah, here is one of the funniest reviews I ever read about this show:

http://www.somethingawful.com/news/sentinel-show-senses/

 

The Sentinel is not currently available for streaming . All four seasons can  only be found on DVD.

 

 

Do You Remember Earth: The Final Conflict?

 

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This show came across my dash, while I was scrolling through Amazon Prime, and I  had to say something about it. I did watch this show when it aired, and it wasn’t a bad show, but I had some trouble watching it now, as I’m spoiled from having too much of the good shit.

Earth The Final Conflict is a Gene Roddenberry show, (it says so right in its title), even though the show doesn’t seem very Roddenberry-ish in tone, and one of the only other shows he ever created besides Star Trek. I remember deciding to watch it, back in the day, because I thought it would be kinda Trekky, but it wasn’t. Its a very different type of show. than Trek.

It aired from 1997 to 2002 ,and you’d think people would remember this more, because it wasn’t actually awful, but maybe because it was so middle of the road, people don’t care. Hell, even I feel that way about it, and I watched it. I only remembered it because it was suggested to me as part of my viewing history on Amazon.

 

The show kinda reminded me a little bit of V, because aliens called the Jaridians,  visit Earth with the public intention of helping humanity, as they always  say. In this case though, the aliens really are ALIEN, and deeply enigmatic. I watched this show for about three years, and I still don’t know what the fuck the aliens wanted on Earth. But no matter what their intentions, you know there has to be a group of human beings in opposition to them, because they’re suspicious of the aliens, even though the aliens have provided food security, cured various diseases, and stopped war.

ETFC starred Gene Roddenberry’s wife, Majel Barrett, and a handful of bland White people, along with PoC who had too much character, because that’s how TV did things in the 90’s. The show had an Asian actor as one of the leads, Von Flores, but his character was pretty  sketchy, and was in league with the aliens, so I don’t know if he counts as good representation according to today’s standards, and because I still can’t say whether or not the aliens were evil. The aliens are such a gray space that they might have actually been good, but its  the humans around them who were a bunch of duplicitous assholes, and maintaining the drama.

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There was the token white, male, hero of the show, Kevin Kilner, playing a guy named Boone, who gets conscripted into working for the aliens, after his family is fridged. This actor was so lacking in character, and personality, that I don’t even remember his name, nor do I remember seeing him in any other shows after this. Not that he didn’t star in anything else, it’s just that I wouldn’t have noticed if he did.

There was also  the token Black guy named Richard Chevolleau, and he played some type of rebel hacker. I remember him because he had a weird accent.

But the standout characters were actually the aliens themselves. Someone put some real imagination into making them really alien, especially the leader, Da’an, played by a woman named Leni Parker. All the aliens were played by women, but played in such a way that they were meant to be non-binary, so the aliens did not behave as either males of females, in any stereotypical manner. They put some real thought into things like how to dress them, body language, speech and their actual voices. These aliens were so mysterious, that I didn’t even consider them stand-ins for some other race of human beings, which is a trap that shows like this frequently fall into.

I actually liked Da’an, because they seemed okay, and I liked the way they were portrayed. I remember when I watched the first episode, and heard Da’ans voice for the first time, and was deeply puzzled. It took a few episodes to get used to the depiction of the aliens, because there just wasn’t anything on TV like them. My brain kept wanting to read Da’an as female, but the show creators actually took things like that into account, and put some real effort into making sure Da’an didn’t conform to any gender roles.

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I do  remember  mildly disliking most of the humans on the show. Except for the token Black guy, named Auger, and Von Flores, as they were the only two characters with actual personalities. Flores was sneaky and duplicitous, so he was hard to actually like, but at least you remembered him when the episode ended, and Chevolleau’s character had a sense of humor, something which no one else on the show displayed. Everyone on the show was always deeply grim and serious, even though the show didn’t look that way until the later seasons.

 

Later on, there was an alien- human hybrid added to the show because, of course, and some extra, more suspicious, aliens were added to the show, to contrast  Da’an. Basically, because the show was unclear  if Da’an was a villain,  they needed to clear that up by adding an actual villain,  which did not work, because, many years later, I’m still unsure if Da’an was a villain. So  that didn’t work either, and  there were some actual evil aliens added to the show, called the Atavus that the Jaridians were fighting.

I also got tired of the humans fighting colonization by aliens plot that was the primary plot of season one and two. I still hate this plot today. Once again, it’s always White people (the ultimate colonizers of everywhere on Earth) who get to decide, and fight for the future of humanity, and then there was the idea in the back of my mind,  that the aliens weren’t actually bad guys,  just the humans who worked for them were bad, and that these resistance fighters were blowing up buildings, and assassinating people, for nothing.

The rebels seemed to be resisting the idea of aliens making human beings behave better towards each other, and I remember being upset about them making the decision to kill other beings, for all humanity, without asking the rest of humanity if they wanted to be fought for. I remember disliking  the rebels deciding  that humans needed saving, because I’m not entirely sure the aliens were evil. I, for one, welcome our new alien overlords.

The show is also an interesting depiction of how humans might actually behave, if Earth were colonized by an advanced species, that weren’t obviously hostile. Because of their good behavior towards humans, some people would worship them, and some people  formed churches, in which Da’an is deified. Some other human beings would definitely be upset about the deification of the aliens, and want to break that shit up, I guess.

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I thought the special effects were pretty good, especially the flying ships, the depiction of the aliens, who were these semi-transparent creatures, that seemed to be made out of layers of energy, and the destructive blasters worn by their human assistants, called Skrills, which I think were living creatures of some kind. I remember being more curious about the living writstblasters than any other technology displayed on the show, and wondered what it was like to wear one, and if the aliens were monitoring their human companions through their bioware.

 

Anyway, the show is  worth a re-watch if you can get past the bland acting of the humans. The aliens are definitely worth watching, if only to try to figure out if they are actually evil, or not, and because they are an  interesting interpretation of non-binary, a-gendered beings. I didn’t watch the show through its entire run, so I can’t say what the outcome is, or whether or not the conflict was, indeed, final.

Black Lightning The Review

So this review is going to be a little unusual because I’m going to talk about my Mom first. If you’ve been reading this blog then you know that she has had a huge influence over my tastes in pop culture and we often enjoy movies and TV shows together.

One of the things we really  didn’t enjoy together, very much, was comic books. I know she has read them, but she pretty much stuck to Archie and Peanuts, and those were the comics I was introduced to as a little girl. I went from there to Marvel, where I read Conan and Red Sonja, and then superheroes in the 80s and 90s. My Mom pretty much stopped reading comics, and moved on to paperbacks.

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So, while my Mom does know something about superheroes like Batman and Superman, whom she disdains for some reason, and I do remember watching Wonder Woman, and The Incredible Hulk with her, when I was a kid, she is not specifically a fan of superheroes, really. I couldn’t get her to watch Captain America, Daredevil, The Defenders or Spiderman, but I did get her to watch Luke Cage, which I consider a success. Apparently, if its a Black superhero, she will watch it, because she also really loved Blade, and seems to be looking forward to Black Panther. She binge-watched (for the first time) Luke Cage, the weekend after it aired.

Basically, I know my the kind of stuff she likes, so I tried to sell her on Black Lightning. I was only slightly nervous, because I wasn’t absolutely sure she would like it. I told her it was like Luke Cage, which I think she maybe watched too fast, because she only has vague memories of really enjoying it. (I did inform her there would be a season two of the show this summer.)

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I don’t know why I was so nervous though, because I should’ve remembered that she loved Blade, and yeah,  she loved Black Lightning. She mostly really got into the action scenes., which I have to admit were very exciting.  Now, anytime I can get my 67 year old Mom to watch a superhero show on the CW, it must be compelling. I have to tell you, my Mom is what you might call, an enthusiastic television viewer. She is very loud and vocal about what she is liking on the screen, and this was the case with Black Lightning. The loud whoops, and cheers I heard coming from her part of the house, was more than enough to vindicate my decision. She was even giddy enough to try to tell me about the episode afterwards, even though I told her I’d already watched it! I was getting a tiny bit worried because she was very worked up about Anissa having superpowers.

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I had already watched the episode the night it aired, and recorded it on the DVR. Wednesday nights are her dialysis evenings, and after her session is over she likes to watch a couple of hours of TV and fall asleep. So now she’s excited to watch 9-1-1 on Wednesday nights, and Black Lightning on Tuesdays.

As for Black Lightning, I did very much enjoy it. Its very possibly one of the most unapologetically Black things on TV, or at least on the CW.  From the dialogue, to the plot, and music, there’s a lot of cultural relevance in it for Black audiences, and this appears to have worked because the show got good reviews. I was not wrong in comparing it to Luke Cage, because the plot is very reminiscent of that show. The show isn’t related to any  of the other superhero shows on the CW. Meaning it doesn’t take place in the same universe as Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow. Nevertheless, I’m really glad a lot of non-Black viewers came out in support of the show, and seemed to enjoy it. too.

Jefferson Pierce is Black Lightning, a high school principal, who  has been  retired from the superhero/vigilante lifestyle for some nine years. He is separated from his wife, with whom he has joint custody of their two daughters,. One of his daughters, Anissa, is a part-time  sex education teacher at the school (so viewers will definitely be receiving some sex education this season, along with history lessons), and the other, Jennifer, is one of the top students at the school. When Jennifer falls into the company of a local gangbanger, who threatens her, and her sister’s  life, their father has to come out of retirement to rescue them both.

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As I’ve said before, I’m always here for some Black girl damseling, but that isn’t all we’re in for though, as it turns out that Anissa also has superpowers. She can change her physical density, which gives her speed and strength. In the comic books, her superhero name is Thunder, and her little sister, who has powers much like her father, is known as Lightning. (She has the ability to transform her body into lightning, which is all kinds of awesomeness). I haven’t read much about either of them in the comic books, even though I was a fan of Batman and the Outsiders in the early nineties. I first encountered Thunder in a story where she was fighting with her dad about choosing the superhero lifestyle. She is currently a member of The Outsiders. I suspect that title  is going to become very popular after this show.

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Black Lightning and Luke Cage (Misty Knight) will be only two of three shows, that I know of, which will feature Black female superheroes.  The other show is Legends of Tomorrow with Vixen. It will have the groundbreaking distinction of being the only show on television with a Black lesbian superhero (in the comic books Thunder is the partner of superhero  Grace Choi, who is being played by Chantal Thuy) This is notable for two reasons. Grace Choi will be the only Asian (Vietnamese/Canadian) lesbian superhero on TV, as part of an interracial couple, (where neither partner is White),  which is pretty rare.

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Another thing I liked about this show was the relationships.  We see a positive ex-wife/husband relationship. They act like mature adults who talk to each other about their lives, and raising their daughters. Its evident that Jefferson and his ex-wife still love each other, but for some reason feel they can’t be together.We get to see a positive family dynamic between a father and his two daughters, and we get to see a loving and supportive relationship between two sisters, which is also interesting on TV, as there are rarely more than one or two WoC in any narrative.

My Mom seemed especially interested and excited at the idea that the daughters have superpowers. She was very vocal about it at any rate. Which kind of saddens me, because sometimes a person doesn’t know they need something until they’ve seen it. She’s probably wanted to see Black women with superpowers her whole life. And it was not until we started getting Black directors and content creators, that she got the chance to see it. I read comic books as a kid, so I had Storm, but my Mom had none of this growing up.

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http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-comic-con-2017-black-lightening-won-t-avoid-social-1500782478-htmlstory.html

So I just want to give a shout-out to the Black  men content creators, who have not forgotten that their “sistahs” exist, and want to see representation for themselves. We want to see ourselves kicking  ass and having adventures too. Ryan Coogler, (The Dora Milaje), Cheo Hodari- Coker (Misty Knight), and the husband and wife directing team (Salim and Mara Brock Alil) of Black Lightning, have not forgotten to give Black women strong, positive roles in their new venture, something which White directors (especially White female directors)  always seem to forget, or only remember as an afterthought. Black content creators are doing the Lord’s work and I thank them for it. Plenty of little Black girls, including my niece, will grow up watching versions of themselves saving the world. And my Mom can finally get to see those Black female superheroes she didn’t know she needed.

This is one of my favorite scenes where Jefferson’s daughters surprise their father by joining him on his morning run.

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As for the more questionable stuff: If you’re having anxiety issues surrounding police brutality, or implications of rape, then use caution while watching this show. There are a lot of guns (mostly used by gang members),  but you don’t really see many people get shot, until the end of the show, (and those are all villains). There is a mildly graphic scene where a man gets eaten by piranha. Don’t ask!

I have to admit to feeling a good deal of tension surrounding the opening scene, when Jefferson gets pulled over by  cops for driving while Black, and he and  his daughters are threatened. It’s a very harrowing scene, even when you remember that none of these characters are going to die ,or there’d be no show. This doesn’t seem to be one of those shows where “anybody can die”, but only the marginalized characters ever seem to get killed, so you guys are safe on that front.

There are three primary villains in the show. One of them is a low status employee of the local drug dealer who stalks Jennifer after she goes out to a club with him. One of them is an associate of Jefferson named La La, played by William Catlett,  and the other is Tobias Whale played by the albino actor, Marvin Krondon Jones III. Although ,once again, we really need to examine this thing where people with albinism are cast as villains all the time. I’m pretty sure that such individuals don’t like seeing themselves as the bad guys all the time in popular media.

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The show tackles several topics. like the generation gap in activism, gangs, gun control in schools, and it also presents interesting ideas of how Black men handle oppression. There’s Jefferson’s manner, which is to try to lift up as many people as possible. There’s La La’s way of handling it, which seems to be just giving in, and the Kingpin-like Tobias Whale approach, which is to take advantage of the system to get ahead, and  attempt respectability.

After Jennifer and Anissa are kidnapped,  Black Lightning has to come out of retirement to rescue them. It seems the stress of being kidnapped, and nearly killed has unleashed Anissa’s abilities, so while we come into Black Lightning’s story in the middle, we will get to see the origins of Thunder and Lightning, and how they navigate the world with powers. We’ll also get to see how Jefferson deals with his children having abilities, and his daughter’s coming out,as a lesbian.

The show-runners have said that for the first season their focus is going to be on Black Lightning’s origins, and his beef with Tobias Whale. Most of his adventures will remain at the street/vigilante level, as with the first season of Daredevil ,and they’ll explore how Jennifer and Anissa deal with their new powers.

I also want to give a shout-out to the soundtrack director. Every form of  modern Black music gets represented , and I spent more than a little amount of my time not paying attention to the plot, as I sang along to some oldies, and even got introduced to a few new artists.

As with most pop culture  aimed at Black audiences, I’m mostly reading and signal boosting reviews from PoC , because I feel like these are the reviewers who can best understand  what they’ve just seen, and be able to speak to the authenticity of the show, as regards Black culture, although most reviewers, of all races, seemed to have enjoyed it.

Be here for further updates. I wont be doing a week by week review but I will keep abreast of events,  and come back to discuss some of the highlight episodes.

Adequate Representation & Fandom Racism

 

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I think Samuel R. Delaney really summed this up best when he outlined how the rise in racist behavior from White people in fandoms (and most other ventures and organizations) is often directly commensurate with a rise in the number of PoC who are participating in said event. Not to imply causality here, but certainly there is a correlation.

 

*(Warning for graphic descriptions of lynching.)

“Racism and Science Fiction”
by Samuel R. Delany

From NYRSF Issue 120, August 1998. “Racism in SF” first appeared in volume form
in Darkmatter, edited by Sheree R. Thomas, Warner Books: New York, 2000.
Posted by Permission of Samuel R. Delany. Copyright © 1998 by Samuel R. Delany.


Racism for me has always appeared to be first and foremost a system, largely supported by material and economic conditions at work in a field of social traditions. Thus, though racism is always made manifest through individuals’ decisions, actions, words, and feelings, when we have the luxury of looking at it with the longer view (and we don’t, always), usually I don’t see much point in blaming people personally, white or black, for their feelings or even for their specific actions—as long as they remain this side of the criminal. These are not what stabilize the system. These are not what promote and reproduce the system. These are not the points where the most lasting changes can be introduced to alter the system.

 

http://www.nyrsf.com/racism-and-science-fiction-.html

 

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Delaney was specifically discussing Genre literature in this essay, but this same reasoning could also be applied to television, film, fandoms, tech startups,  travel, medicine, and academia. The reason why so many people like to look back to the “Good ‘Ol Days” and say there wasn’t any racism back then, is because there weren’t enough PoC involved in that particular industry back then, to trigger the “Pushback” behavior we’re seeing now, at least not in enough numbers that White people thought it worrisome.

There isn’t more racism being expressed in fandom. It’s the same amount of whitewashing, erasure, and White prioritization that  has always existed. The only differences now is that with the rise, in number, of fans of color, White bigots have become more  vocal in their efforts to push back against those numbers, and there are more of us to call them out on their behavior.

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Whether they know what they’re doing or not, fans are participating in an effort to drive PoC away from spaces they have always considered safely theirs, and not just against PoC, but women as well. This happens in every industry, and it has always failed.  There has never been a time when White bigots (whether they knew they were bigots, or not) successfully managed to send THOSE people back where they came from, or halt their participation in some cultural pursuit. Nevertheless, each generation of newcomers must go through the same song and dance of defending our presence, wherever we happened to show up, or defending our interest, in something we found entertaining.

And I am a WoC, so I have had to work doubly hard at this.

Star Trek Discovery Review

 

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Before we get started on the second half of the new season, let’s talk about what I liked and disliked about this new show, and do some quick character reviews. I know some of you had some doubts about this show and you can decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth your time, based on my observations. I’m gonna try to be as fair as I can considering I’m biased.

Let me lay out my credentials: I’m an OG Star Trek fan, since about ten or so. I’ve been around since the replays of the Original series back in the 80s, and have watched every episode, multiple times, over the last 35 years. I’ve seen every movie multiple times, can quote dialogue, know most characters backstories, from having read almost all the books , and vowed I would marry Mr. Spock when I was twelve years old. I was a Trek fan before I was a fan of Star Wars,and that’s where the bulk of my nerd-love went.

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I have to admit, I’m kinda addicted to this show, which surprised me, after my initial reserve of those first two episodes. I got into it about six episodes in,when CBS All Access offered a special subscription. As I’ve said, there’s nothing else on the network worth looking at, but I’ve heard there are some promising shows for the future, and I think this is one of them. It’s tackled a couple of sensitive issues with Star Trek’s usual care, and lack of hysteria, and it has some intriguing characters.

The major plot consists of Captain Lorca’s efforts to create a weapon that will help Starfleet win in the war against the Klingons. To that end, he has Michael’s transport shuttle waylaid, so he can use her big brain to help him to do this. Over time, we learn that he has Carte Blanche to do whatever he pleases, as long as it accomplishes his goal. When they find another ship whose crew wiped out by a hostile alien, called a tardigrade, they capture the alien, and use it, (and it’s parasitic relationship with some sentient mushroom spores) to create a new form of trans warp drive, that allows their ship to movie itself anywhere instantly.

When Michael and Stamets find out that their use of the creature is killing it, Michael, in her compassion, sets it free, and prepares to use her own body in place of the alien, to communicate with the spores, but Stamets sacrifices himself instead, and by the end of the season, they have accomplished their goal of creating a new weapon in the war, to spectacular fashion, in an episode rivaling the TNG two parter, The Best of Both Worlds. But Stamets is so changed in personality by what he has done, as to be unrecognizable from when we first met him,and there will be repercussions from that, as biological experimental weapons are outlawed in Starfleet.

 

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In the meantime, most of Michael’s actions, on the ship,revolve around her navigating  new, and old,  relationships, and occasionally saving the ship. She is usually the one person who thinks differently enough from any of the other characters (due to her dual heritage) that she is able to come up with solutions to their problems.

 

Up first:

I like the relationships and characters most of all. ST has never shied away from relationship stories. In fact, I’d argue those were some of the best episodes of any of the series. But Star Trek has always been very plot driven, too, and Discovery does not skimp on that end. I find everything except the  Klingons to be compelling. The special effects are good, and the writing is well done, often involving a primary plot, a B plot, and a couple of smaller subplots, all of them elegantly intertwined, such that what you think is a B or subplot could have an effect on the main one, at any moment, or come into play later in the season.

A word of warning:

 

This is a very dark show. If you liked DS9, then you’ll probably like this one. I was not a huge DS9 fan until after the series ended. But I like how dark this show is. The characters aren’t as blandly pleasant as they were in TNG, which I also liked a lot, or as polarizing as in the Original series. The show has dealt with war, ptsd, rape trauma, spiritual possession, revenge, and treason, and that’s just in the first half of the season.

If you’re used to thinking of Star Trek as light and fluffy, then just remember the Original series had some occasionally very dark episodes too, that addressed serious social issues, like Toxic Masculinity, in Charlie X, and The Enemy Within. It dealt with sexism in Turnabout Intruder, and frequently dealt with issues of population control, slavery, conflicted identity, and the nature of violence. One of my all time favorite episodes of Voyager was the introduction of a member of the immortal Q Continuum who wanted to commit suicide, but was prevented from doing so by the others, in Death Wish. I think that’s probably the only episode, of any of the series, to ever bring me to tears.

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If you’re looking for fun and fluffy, this has very little of it to go around. There are occasionally beautiful moments, (you can see this show costs money), and some lighthearted banter, but that’s not the focus of the show.

Now let’s talk about the six primary characters:

Michael Burnham:

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Its hard to get a grasp on this character. She really is the main focus of the show. She has most of the onscreen time,and many of the episodes revolve around how she thinks and feels, but she is not an especially demonstrative character, due to her Vulcan upbringing, and it’s takes time, and lots of viewing, to get some idea of what she’s thinking and feeling. She is brave, idealistic, and earnest. And at least is not as stiffly formal as when we first met her. She is learning to act more human, I’m going to argue that she either suppressed or ignored her emotions as being irrelevant, because that’s how so many Vulcans operate.

We need to keep in mind that the third episode and the subsequent episodes take place immediately after her court martial, so I’m guessing all within the space of a year, or a few months. Her entrance to Lorca’s ship gets off to a rocky start, as she is rebuffed by Tilley, and tested by Stamets, and rebuked by Saru, who is terrified of her. But over time, these individuals start to understand her worth, as she regularly saves their lives, and they warm to her.

Everyone questions her purpose on the ship, but Lorca knows why he wants her. She’s smart as fuck, and has no qualms about kicking Klingon ass. And I think he just admires her, for her. She has been a great asset to his ship, but no matter how useful she is to him, she has to always keep in mind that she is under a life imprisonment sentence with Starfleet, and is, basically, a convict, whose sentence has been briefly commuted. When Lorca’s mission is over she believes she will go back to prison, so that’s the sword that is hanging over her head throughout all her missions,and informs some of her decision making.

 

Tilly:

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Tilly is Michael’s roommate, and I immediately disliked Tilly, at first, because of the way she treated Michael when they first met. But, I’ve grown to really, really like her. Sometimes more than Michael, but Michael is a very heavy character, who is hard to cozy up to, because she’s so closed with her emotions. Tilly’s emotions are wide open, which makes her more easily accessible, and one of the most likable people on the show. If Michael is the intellect, then Tilly is the heart of the show, and in their friendship, we can see a reflection of the relationships of the Original series, (Kirk, Spock ,and McCoy, who often acted as Kirks intellect and conscience). The only word that can truly describe Tilly, is ” bubbly”.

She is often the comedy relief, for whom Michael plays the straight man, and has sort of appointed herself to be Michael’s emotional liaison, helping her navigate a human social system, without any rank to smooth the way, and I would argue that they are great friends, or getting there. Michael has none, so has to work out each individual relationship, as she encounters them. Tilley has also appointed Michael to be her mentor, and I can’t tell you how heartening it is to watch Michael develop the same relationship with Tilley that she had with Gheorgiu, and fulfilling Gheorgius wishes for her.

Another thing I have to applaud the show for is Tilly’s relationship with Michael is  treated as a priority for both of them, and the writers show that by not creating a trite love triangle between Tilly, Ash, and Michael. It is Tilly who shows initial interest in Ash, but when she can see that Ash and Michael have a connection, she steps aside, and encourages Michael to pursue a relationship with him. In the hands of lesser writers, Tilly and Michael would have competed for Ash’s attention, and I appreciate that these writers were more mature.

Bryan Fuller is known for having positive female relationships in his shows and I am here for it, and I love seeing it.

 

Ash Tyler:

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Ash is played by the exceptionally handsome Shazad Latif, he of the big round eyes! When Captain Lorca gets kidnapped by the Klingons, he gets trapped in a cell with Ash, who had been a prisoner for some time, and was only alive because L’Rel, a female Klingon, took a romantic fancy to him. He later talks about his time with her, to Michael, and we come to understand that he was in fact raped repeatedly by L’Rel, as he slept with her to keep from being tortured and killed, like all the other prisoners who were captured before him. When L’Rel surrenders to Lorca, she gets sent to brig and we see Ash have his first panic attack, as he suffers from ptsd. The writers handle the issues of rape, and post traumatic stress, delicately, and with respect.

After a successful mission with Michael, that saves the ship, Ash gets appointed to Head of Security, as he and Michael form a strong emotional bond. It’s not exactly a romance yet, but there is an implied intimacy of feeling between the two, and they do discuss having a future romantic relationship. Later, during a time travel episode, they share their first kiss. Star Trek has portrayed many different types of romances, but this is one of the few interracial relationships, on any of its shows, that do not involve a White partner, (most interracial relationships on TV involve a White partner), or an alien, and I think it’s handled very well, with care and sensitivity for both their issues, although I suspect it will turn out to be tragic, as the future doesn’t look good for an ex-con, whose only free on sufferance, and a Head of Security in Starfleet.

 

Lt. Saru:

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Saru is played by the inimitable Doug Jones, from Hellboy, and The Shape of Water. If you’re interested in some interesting tidbits and updates on his career (along with some great philosophical analysis of mythology in pop culture) then check out, and follow, his brothers website:

For smart, philisophocal reading on superheroes, follow my oldest brother Bobby and scroll down his WordPress entries!

Saru is another character that is hard to warm up to, but only because he’s so bluntly, and directly suspicious of Michael. I have to keep in mind that Saru is traumatized by the loss of his captain,which really wasn’t that long ago, and blames Michael, and in many ways, himself. Saru is an alien from a member of what he calls, “a prey species”, and so has developed a keen ability to detect danger. He often talks about being risk avoidant, but I’ve seen this character be brave and fearless in a couple of episodes, so I’m taking what he says about himself with a grain of salt.

Over time he does begin to warm up to and trust mIchael, but he never loses his initial suspicion of her. He’s still very wary, but the two of them reached a moment of ,if not friendship, then at least detente,when Michael is delivered Gheorgius last will and testament in the form of a giant telescope, that was her family heirloom. Gheorgius last words to Michael is the first really tearjerker moment in the series, which is only equaled by the scene in which Michael offers the telescope to Saru. In fact we learn about what Saru thinks and feels in that episode,so we reach a fuller understanding of him, even if he is difficult to warm to. He’s not a bad character. He’s not even especially dark. He’s just afraid, but I’m very protective when it comes to Michael’s character, and tend to give the side eye to anyone on the show, who doesn’t like her.

Saru is too traumatized to ever trust Michael. He is always going to be afraid of her, and what she might do, but he makes it clear that he has the utmost respect for her, and I’ll accept that.

 

Lt. Stamets:

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I think all of these characters start out as inherently unlikable, but over time you grow to like them,and none more so than Stamets. He is also a lot like Lorca, in that he is focused and needs to work on his social skills, as he is very blunt and direct, and I initially hated him. When he first meets Michael, he tests her scientific knowledge, but once she has proven she is capable, he simply doesn’t care about her past. She is a member of his crew and the only person he considers smarter than her, is himself. As a character, he is every bit as idealistic and brave as any of the other characters from previous series, and becomes much more likable after he forms an intimate relationship with some sentient mushroom spores. (Don’t ask!) Although, without the influence of the mushrooms, Stamets is the kind of person you’re either terrified of, or just want to slap the living shit out of.

Stamets is married to the ships doctor, Hugh Culber. I liked how their relationship was portrayed in the show, as just like any other. The audience is gradually introduced to them as a romantic couple, living together as partners, over time. Culber doesn’t have a huge role in the show as of this time, but we’ll see more of him as the series progresses. There’s also another one of the first (and few) gay kisses on a Star Trek show, (DS9 had a couple of them), and it is given the full romantic treatment, with swelling music, and swooping camera angles, that it should be given, as Stamets prepares to risk his life to save the ship. Earlier in the season Michael got her own romantic moment with Ash.

Culber is focused and dedicated in his work, and is an absolute cinnamon roll compared to Stamets. Nevertheless, you can see in their interactions with each other, why Culber loves him,and Culber is one of the few people who can call Stamets on his bullshit, and get away with it.

Anthony Rapp, and Wilson Cruz, are both openly gay actors who play openly gay characters, which is how it should be.

 

Captain Lorca:

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Let’s get this out of the way. You will not like Lorca. He isn’t meant to be liked, and he isn’t likable. If you’re expecting someone like Picard or Kirk, then you need to go home, cuz he ain’t the one. Picard, Kirk, and the others were captains of exploratory, diplomatic ships. They were chosen specifically for their positions because of their charm, idealism, diplomacy, candor, and all those other fine qualities. Lorca is the captain of a ship of war. He is mysterious, shifty, shady, unreliable, ruthless, conniving, and morally gray, but he is not evil. At least not actively so. He was appointed to his position for the specific purpose of puttin’ a whoopin’ on some Klingon asses, and that’s his top priority. His job, and his ship are focused on creating new weapons for Starfleet. He is focused and blunt (I can identify with that to a degree), and will sacrifice anyone or anything to meet his ends.

He likes to collect things, and his dimly lit office, (he has some kind of eye disorder that makes him allergic to bright lights) is full of all manner of alien curios, including a live tribble, and some Gorn armor. He’s intriguing and I ljust know he’s getting shipped with somebody on this show even though he isn’t close to any of his crew. He’s generally respectful but he’s not a warm man. The only time we ever see him be warm is with his lover, and oldest friend, Admiral Cornwell.

He is the kind of man that makes no effort to be the bigger person. He saves Ash from the Klingons but when he finds out that Harry Mudd is a spy for them, he leaves him behind to be tortured by them, which is something that comes back to bite him in the ass later, When his lover, Admiral Cornwell , gets captured by the Klingons, he makes no effort to rescue, her because she called into question his ability to command,and planned to report him to Starfleet. And although there are no details, the loss of his light vision is directly attributable to some dust-up he had with Klingons.

It’s interesting that no mention of him is made in any of the other series, which take place long after his death. So I do wonder what happened to him and the technology he created in this show. I very much suspect that he and his ship are destroyed, or are lost somehow. Although we need to keep in mind which universe this show takes place in. Is it the 2009 Star Trek Verse, or the Original series/movie Verse?

 

Favorite episodes:

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Episode 6: Lethe – This one is about Michael’s relationship with Sarek, her decision to join Starfleet, and a mystery she needs to resolve between the two of them to save Sareks life. Some great character work from Sonequa, and Frain.

Episode 7: Magic To Make the Sanest Man Go Mad – This was my all time favorite episode, which surprised me because I’m familiar with the old Harry Mudd episodes from the Original series,and those were not my favorites. So when I heard that the new series would re-introduce this character, I automatically dismissed him. But this episode proved extremely likable.  And Rainn Wilson makes a very compelling Harry Mudd.The events of this episode are directly brought about by Lorca’s previous actions in an earlier episode.

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*There’s a scene where the crew is having a party and the music you hear playing in the background is definitely Al Green’s “Love and Happiness”, and Wycliffe Jean’s “We Tryin’ to Stay Alive” and  Tilley refers to this as Classical music. (All you gotta do is put some of my favorite music in your show to make me a fan for life, apparently. ) Michael dances with Stamets, and Ash and Michael share their first kiss. This episode sets up Michael as being qualifying romantic potential.

Episode 8: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum – I actually think this is one of the weakest episodes of this season, because the plot is rather typical, what sets it apart is Doug Jones awesome performance, as an exceptionally dangerous being, possessed by another alien species. This episode belongs entirely to Lt. Saru.

Episode 9: Into The Forest I Go – The last episode before the hiatus is just some great plotting,as far as I’m concerned. Outside of the Harry Mudd episode is the second best of the season, and a great setup for the major changes to come in the second half.

 

The show picks up the second half of its season on January 9th. And while I’m looking forward to new episodes, I’m kinda pissed that I have to wait a week between them as CBS has string the episodes out to keep people subscribing to their channel. They seem pretty aware that the only reason any of us signed up for it is to watch this show,and that as soon as it’s over, we’ll drop this channel. Hopefully, they’ll release some new shows before we all feel an urge to cancel it.

Hi! Have Some Mini Reviews

Attack of the Killer Donuts

Yep! Its attack of the Killer Donuts. I was eager to watch this the moment I heard about it, but didn’t know where I’d be able watch it. I thought maybe it would take at least a year for it to reach the Syfy channel, maybe. Its actually on a library app called Hoopla. (If you have a library card, and your library subscribes to Hoopla, you should be able to access free books, movies, comic books and music.)

Yes, this movie is exactly as stupid as it sounds, carrying on in the grand tradition of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and stars our boy, Ponyboy,  I mean C. Thomas Howell, yucking it up, as a cop who naturally, loves donuts. I’d list the other actors in this movie, but you still wouldn’t know who they were. It’s an entire cast of nobodies, who will never be anybodies, because that’s just how atrocious their acting is.

It’s hard to make a parody of a parody, but this movie actually  manages to successfully spoof Killer Tomatoes. Johnny is a hapless loser, whose blonde bombshell girlfriend cheats on him, and who doesn’t recognize that  his childhood friend, Michelle, has been totally crushing on him. He lives with his Mom, while his uncle lives in the basement and does weird medical experiments on rats. Also, his Mom is secretly sleeping with his nerdy best friend, Howard. Johnny works in a local donut shop that’s been going out of business for years because the town is nearly dead.

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Michelle is a techinical genius, who fixes computers, in her spare time. Unfortunately, her shiftless, dumbbell brother takes all the credit, and refuses to pay her for it. Michelle has been crushing on Johnny since they were little kids, and I totally bought into their relationship. The actress is good  enough, and there’s just enough backstory, to be able to sell her friendship with Johnny. Why does she love him, especially since she’s the smartest person in town? Because it’s in the script.

When Johnny’s uncle’s weird resurrection experiment manages to contaminate some donuts, the infection soon spreads to the rest of the shop, where the donuts come alive, sprout giant teeth, and decide to chew their way through the town’s inhabitants. Do not stop to ask yourself pertinent questions like: Where did they grow those teeth from? How are they moving around without legs?  Where is all the flesh they’re eating going to if they don’t have stomachs? And do the donuts produce poop? Never mind all this! Just enjoy the sheer goofiness of watching crullers, twists, and creme filled long johns, flying through the air, and trying ot bite people.

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I got a real kick out of this movie, though. It’s not very deep and I got a few hearty laughs out of it. The characters are definitely meant to be mocked and ridiculed. The three smartest people in the cast are Michelle, Howard, and Johnny ,who manage to fight off the donuts, and prevent possible donut Armageddon, by beating back the donuts using a combination of bravery and batlike objects, and blowing up the donut shop. The body count is pretty  low, but only because the movie doesn’t have a large enough budget to star more than ten to twelve people anyway.

The characters who are meant to be liked are likable, and you root for them to survive. The characters who are meant to be hated, are hatefully over the top, and you gleefully hope the donuts will eat them, like Johnny’s asshole boss, who allows Michelle to be bullied and sexually harassed by some dudebro customers, and Johnny’s faux-girlfriend, who is only with him because he keeps giving her money. Michelle is waaay too pretty and smart for Johnny, but that’s also on purpose. Heroes in these movies are almost always outshone by their girlfriends.

The stars of the movie though, are the donuts who chase, bounce, jump, bite, and generally act like a pack of rabid weasels. Occasionally someone  eats one of the cursed donuts and they, in turn, become rabid, and attack people, too. These are some of the cheapest, funniest special effects, I’ve seen in a while and I loved it! You could do worse than spend a happy, mindless, 90 minutes with this movie.

 

Star Trek Discovery

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I re-subscribed to CBS All Access because they offered some kind of special to sign back up. Of course I’m sure they realize, that as soon as the first season of this show is over, I’m going to unsubscribe to this  channel, because there’s not a whole hell of a lot to offer on this network. I generally don’t watch CBS. (They don’t have especially interesting shows, there’s almost no diversity, and there’ aren’t a whole lot of movie choices, either.)

Well, I subscribed so I could watch the first half of the first season of Star Trek Discovery and I have to say. I’m hooked! It took about three days to get through the first 7 or 8 episodes and now I’m invested. Like a lot of shows that do so, it improved from the pilot episode, with the introduction of new characters and themes.

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The first two episodes don’t really give a lot of indication of what the show will be like the rest of the season, and by the 4th and 5th episodes the show has definitely developed its flavor, with a good balance of light heartedness, and seriousness. Michael Burnham’s character takes a real turn when her prison ship is diverted to the Discovery by Captain Lorca.

Michael isn’t well received on the ship. Most people either hate her or fear her, except for Lorca, and her roommate, Tilly, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. There’s also been the introduction of a love interest named Ash Tyler, played by the lovely Shazad Latif, who was rescued from a Klingon ship, suffers from PTSD, and may be a Klingon spy. I’m also really liking Anthony Rapp’s character, after I hated him in the first couple of episodes. Something happened to him that made him much more likable and approachable, without changing his essential nature.

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Each episode has a philosophical theme, that can get a little bit heavy. and I’ve gotten the impression that a lot of the kids on Tumblr aren’t used to Scifi shows being like that, I guess. But if you’re an OG Star Trek fan you should be well used to that sort of thing. The show definitely captures the spirit of Star Trek, if not the exact timeline and details. One of the things you may have the hardest time with is people cussing, and actual (not implied) sex scenes, because up til now, its mostly been a very PG type of show.

I’ll do a more in depth post on this later this month, after I’ve had some more time to think about the characters and plot.

 

Justice League

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Certain parts of this movie I really enjoyed, mostly any scene that didn’t involve Batman, or the villain. The end of the movie is a hot and colorful mess. The pacing is off, the music is annoying, just really, this could have been a  better movie.  But there are things to like about it. The most compelling story is Cyborg, and I wish I’d gotten to see more of The Flash, because all we got from him is quips. He still turned out to be my favorite character in the entire movie, which was a suprise because I thought it would be Aquaman. (Cyborg is too grim and tragic to be a favorite, although I really liked him, and I look forward to his solo film.)

It doesn’t help matters that every time I heard the villain’s name, I thought of the band Steppenwolf, (I did not know this was an actual character in DC comics.), and the funky remix of Magic Carpet Ride would play in my head.

 

Thor: Ragnarok

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This was a much better movie, even though I was trying really hard not to compare it to Justice League.  I really love Taika Waititi, and his brand of humor is stamped all over this movie, plus there’s a lowkey anti-colonialist message underneath all of the fun.

My favorite moment is Hela’s entrance into the story, and the introduction of Fenris. I didn’t know I needed to see a giant wolf  until I saw it. The Hulk turned out to be a lot funnier than I thought he would be, and of course, Jeff Goldblum was gold! Tessa Thompson was having waaay too much fun blowing shit up, and catwalking her way through the action scenes, and I loved it. Heimdall has a much larger role in this movie, and I’m eternally grateful at getting to watch Idris Elba kick some ass with a giant sword.

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Funny moment #213!

I had a great time!

 

Blade of the Immortal

I used to read this Manga back in the nineties, becasue that’s what I was doing back then, reading Samurai Manga, and binging YA novels. If you’re looking for a fairly faithful rendition of the manga, this will do.

Manji is about to die in battle when he’s approached by some type of immortal nun, who infects him with something called blodworms. The bloodworms heal any injuries he gets, no matter how severe or life threatening. In the books, he can only be killed after he kills 1000 men. Well, in the movie its been 50 something years, and he hasn’t killed 1000 men yet, when he’s contacted by a woman, Rin, who wants him to avenge her family’s deaths at the hands of the local sword fighting school.

I really love Samurai movies, ever since I first watched Seven Samurai, and will watch almost any one of them. I really liked this one, but not for the story, which I found not too remarkable. I liked it for the gore and sowrdfighting. I’m pretty sure Japanese viewers will get a lot more out of watching this movie than I did, but for me it was all just eye candy and some great fight scenes. And there are a lot of those, and naturally, there’s also a lot of blood. Blood and appendages are flying all over the place in this movie, re-attaching themselves, only to be lopped off later in the film. While this has the unintended side effect of muting any danger that Manji might be in, Rin is still in peril, and you’ll have to settle for a will she or won’t she survive type of thrill.

 

Valerian and the City of One Thousand Planets

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I was really hyped to see this movie because its got creatures, aliens, scifi costumes, and action and adventure, and I like Dane Dehaan. I ended up being disappointed, not because this is a bad movie, but because  it has so little substance to it, and I just expected more. Despite all the alien candy on display, the most fascinating thing, in the entire movie, was Cara Delevigne eyebrows. Talk about eyebrows “on fleek”. I kept staring at them, wondering when she had time to do her makeup, with all the shooting and running around she had to do.

I was also mildy excited because there was a big deal about the  singer Rihanna being is in this movie, as a shapeshifting character named Bubble, but she doesn’t appear until about 3/4 of the way in, and is killed off soon after, as she sacrifices her life for the two White protagonists, after one of them tortured her for information. Everything aobut this character is just bad, when looked at from the perspective of race. Everything!!! She’s toyalty of some kind, who was kidnapped and enslaved, and reduced to the level of a sex worker, (who is happy to be whatever you want). The worst part is that this tragic character is meant to be a form of comedy relief.

So let’s get this right:

Enslaved? Check!

Sex worker?Check!

Torture of yet another PoC? Check!

Comedy relief? Check!

Sacrifices herself to save the White protagonists? Check!

*Sigh!*

It’s like the writers went through a list of all the  Black film stereotypes they could find and wrote the character around every one of them. It wouldve been better if this character had never existed at all. (That would still have not improved this film however.) I know Rihanna is a huge scifi geek because she said so, but she really needs ot choose her nextproject with more care. I had no trouble with her performance of Bubble, however. She came across as funny and sweetly vulnerable.

There’s a lot of action in this movie. A lot of running around all so that everyone can end up in the same place, which has the side efect of making you think all the running around was to no purpose, a series of film vignettes, loosely based around the movie’s McGuffin. There is the same underlying theme of colonialism as in Thor Ragnarok, but it’s so nebulous you can barely see it.

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And so am I.

 

Thangs I Been Looking At (Mini – Reviews)

Ghost Wars

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I’m  impressed with this show, ,not just for its good production, but because it’s actually scary. I don’t normally pay much attention to literary ghost stories, but movies and TV shows seem to work for me a bit, although I still prefer monster movies, where normalcy has been upheaved by something that’s blatantly malicious, and then order is restored after the creature is defeated. Ghost stories are too open ended for me to really get into them, and sometimes they’re just not very scary to me.

The ghost stories that actually scared me were The Sixth Sense, Ju-On, and, The Ring. In my mind, everything made since those movies have been nothing but ripoffs of the originals. But I actually like this show. There’s just enough uncanny shit happening to keep me off balance. I like the characters and their issues. The acting is better than I expected (because Vincent D’onofrio is present as a town preacher.) and there’s also just enough social subtext to make it compelling.

 

 

Roman Mercer is the town outcast because he can see ghosts, especially the ghosts of regular townspeople, so he has a reputation. In the pilot, he was attempting to leave town, but there was some type of explosive paranormal event that prevented that, and killed the bus full of people he’d been on. (His best friend is a young lady who is also a ghost, and she warned him about the bus crash in advance.)

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So now this remote Alaskan town is being overrun by ghosts, who are definitely malevolent. What event awakened them all, and what the ghosts want, is still a delicious mystery, that I’m here for. The ghosts can possess people, cause nasty hallucinations, like when the town preacher, while giving a wake in the town bar, sees blood pouring from his drinking glass, and they cause people to believe the town bridge  is still intact, when its been destroyed. The only thing that saves everyone is that Roman can see through the hallucination, and prevent people from trying to drive across.

There have also been some interesting character changes as the townsfolk who didn’t believe in Roman’s abilities, now have no choice but to believe, as they are being attacked by ghosts, and those who did believe in Roman’s powers, and hated him for it, have since realized his usefulness, and stopped bullying him.

 

Kim Coates and Meatloaf also star in the show. I’ve liked Coates ever since I first saw him in Waterworld, although he’s been around since the late 80s. In the show he plays either a lovable rogue, who is responsible for his little brother’s death, or the town ne’er do well. I wasn’t sure of Meatloaf’s acting abilities until I saw him in Fight Club, although I’d also seen him in other projects. He plays one of the town bullies.

I think I’m going to stick with this show for a while. The Syfy Channel is slowly starting to build back its reputation for interesting shows, and I’m glad. The Expanse, Dark Matters, Killjoys, Z Nation, Superstition, Ghost Wars. By focusing on character, paying close attention to diversity, (lots of women in these shows, lots of PoC, and most importantly lots of different WoC), and coupling these things with interesting  concepts, Syfy is slowly getting back its street cred as a network that geeks are not ashamed to admit to watching.

 

Superstition

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I really like the idea of this Black family that fights supernatural creatures in this small town, and I have tremendous respect for Van Peebles for breaking new ground, just by adding racial diversity to genre shows. He’s done Westerns (Posse), and werewolves, (Full Eclipse), and now he’s taking a crack at the Supernatural/Buffy style show, involving family dynamics with monster killing.  I don’t know how long this show is going to last because I haven’t seen many people talking about it anywhere, but I hope it at least finishes out one season.

The problem I have is with the execution of the ideas on the show. The acting could be better, (its a little dodgy) and the plot needs to be beefier. I feel like it should’ve lead with the demons/monster plot, and then worked in the soap opera aspects, once we got to really know the characters. I  think the plot leans a little too heavy on the drama, and we just met all these characters, so we have no incentive to care about their emotional issues.

The Hastings are basically a bunch of badasses who use deadly weapons and magic to battle the forces of evil. The eldest son was estranged from the family, but has come back home, and been welcomed back into the family business of monster killing, so we learn about what’s going on just as he does, as he needs to be taught the ropes.

Sadly, not much was known about this show before it aired and the only place I saw any promos was on the Syfy network itself. The network does not appear to be as invested in this show as it seems to be in other shows, like The Expanse, and Z Nation, and that’s why I don’t think this show is going to last very long. But I’m here for it while it airs.

 

Stranger Things Season Two

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I get why people like this show. There’s a definite nostalgia factor, and those kids are cute as all heck, but My feeling about the show was kinda meh. its not a bad show, and it has excellent production values, but I just wasn’t deeply invested. I wasn’t carried away, I guess.

Maybe part of the reason I didn’t find this especially compelling is because I didn’t watch the entire first season. I saw bits and pieces of it. Enough to get a general idea of what was happening, but not all the tiny details, like names. I liked all the little 80s callbacks, and I liked quite a few of the characters. Wynona Ryder plays Michael’s Mom, and she was her usual excellent self. Sean Astin plays her love interest, and he is a goofily cheerful character that I sort of liked. The most interesting two characters were Lucas, and his seeming love interest, a ginger haired skater- girl ,who just moved into town. Lucas’ friendship with her causes a minor riff between the four friends.

Eleven escapes from her overprotective adoptive father, but after the two of them have a falling out,  she finds herself having adventures in the city, where she falls in with a group of thieves led by another girl with tattoos, and the ability to cause illusions. She eventually leaves them when she receives a premonition that Mike is in danger. Eleven’s activities are the most interesting part of the show.

Michael, the boy who befriended Eleven in the first season keeps having visions of a massive creature that has infested (infected) the entire town. He develops a connection to it, and eventually becomes possessed by the creature. When the rest of his family and friends realize what’s happening they spring into action to prevent the creature’s release, into the town, from the local  medical facility, but its already too late, as one of Michael’s friends has befriended a small  frog-like creature that turns out to be a juvenile form of the monster.

I didn’t dislike the show, and I bingewatched all ten episodes, but I wasn’t wildly enthused either. I can recommend it if you don’t have anything more pressing to watch, or if you just really love 80s nostalgia. Really, the most compelling thing in the entire show was the monster, and I want to see season three because I’d like to know what’s going to happen to it, and Eleven.

 

Jeepers Creepers 3

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Don’t worry. I didn’t pay money to see this movie. At any rate I couldn’t have even if I wanted to. Sensing that people wouldn’t want to associate too much with the cinematic output of a convicted pedophile, the movie’s creators sought only a limited, one day, release, before sending it directly to video, or rather the Syfy Channel where I saw it the weekend before Halloween.

I did not care for this movie because it’s a confusing mess. It takes place between the first and second films, but that isn’t immediately apparent, as only two of the characters from the first film appear in it, and only one of the characters from the second. Ridiculous things happen in the movie that I couldn’t make sense of, and even though there’s a lot of exposition, (I mean a LOT! People talk and talk and talk.) all the talking didn’t make anything about this movie any clearer.

Most of that talking is is from a brand new character, a cop named Tashtego, who is constantly stressing to the other characters how evil The Creeper is and that he must be killed. There’s lots of shots of he Creeper being his usual weird and nasty self, terrorizing teenagers, eating people, etc. For some reason, someone thought it would be a grand idea to prominently feature the creature’s truck, which is tricked out with various booby traps, which is what the police find out when they try to investigate the dead bodies lying in it, and a pack of obnoxious teenagers find this out too before they’re promptly caught and killed by The Creeper. He still likes to hunt  pretty young men, but occasionally takes time out of his busy schedule to terrify a woman or two.

One ofthe most baffling scenes is the discovery of a disembodied hand of The Creeper that gives people visions when they touch it. This isn’t something that was even hinted at in the first movie, although in every film, there’s the one character who seems to mystically know shit about The Creeper, so as to give more exposition on him. Exposition that illuminates not at all.

Since The Creeper can’t actually be killed, and we saw him in the second movie that was released we pretty much know how this one ends. He doesn’t get caught. At any rate, it matters not one bit, because I don’t believe Salva will be making any more of these. I sense that the makers of this movie just wanted to release it quietly, and get it off their books, and get Salva out of their hair, so I don’t think he’ll be making another Creeper movie any time soon. It’s very possible that he won’t ever be making any more movies again, since no one wants to be associated with him, especially in this new climate of awareness involving past sex scandals.

 

Seoul Station

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I was really excited to get to see this, the moment I heard of it, especially after watching Train to Busan. Seoul Station is an animated pre-quel to the live action Train to Busan, and its every bit as harrowing, nerve wracking, and action packed as the movie, despite the medium. It takes its time getting started but like the live action movie, once it gets going it doesn’t let up, doesn’t let you have a rest, and you get attached to the primary character just as in the other film.

In Seoul Sta. we see the beginning of the zombie infestation, and how it managed to escape notice until it got out of hand. This happens the way it always does by affecting the poor and underclass first. We meet a young woman who just escaped prostitution with  an abusive pimp, but the man she’s currently  living with isn’t much better. He’s having money issues and keeps trying to convince her to sell herself so they can pay the rent. At one point he hits her, and she;s so used to being treated that way she doesn’t even fight back.. (I wasn’t expecting that scene and it kind of threw me for a bit, so here’s my warning in advance. If you have trouble watching such things,s know the movie contains scenes of stalking and domestic abuse.)

We follow this young woman for the rest of the movie, after she breaks up with her current boyfriend. She barely manages to stay one step ahead of the zombie infestation, running from one seemingly safe place to another, only for those places to be overrun by the dead. From a police station, to the subway, to an alley that’s been cordoned off by the police (who think its all some type of insurrection), she has to use all her strength, and wits to stay ahead of the zombies, while wearing nothing more than a little pink dress and bare feet. She’s not an entirely sympathetic character either, as one of her most annoying traits is a complete inability to close doors behind her, thereby exacerbating her zombie issues.

In the meantime she’s also being pursued by her current boyfriend and her former pimp, both of whom have try to make their way through the zombie infested streets of Seoul. I was a little confused at first, because I thought her former pimp was her father, but it turns out he’s just lying to enlist her boyfriend’s aid in finding her.

A funny observation  about this movie (and I don’t know if this is just something that’s done in the movie, or if people in Seoul actually behave this way) are the many people who are  willing to verbally harangue strangers in public. From her landlady screaming at her about her late rent, to when she screams at her boyfriend at a cyber cafe, to random disturbed people on the street, characters are forever running up to others and screaming at them. Needless to say you cannot do that shit in America, where you just run up on somebody and start yelling, especially during a Zombie apocalypse. (You will get your ass beat for that just on a regular Tuesday.) Sometimes they just scream gibberish, but sometimes the rants are very specific. At any rate, some of this behavior serves too illustrate the lives of the rather downtrodden, and in some cases, criminal individuals.

Unlike the live action film, none of the characters are your typical salaried workers, which is a refreshing change from American made films, in which we watch your standard  American family endure some kind of crisis. Some of them are not the least bit nice, or innocent, either. There are homeless people bullying each other, and salaried workers, who treat the homeless characters with disdain and contempt. I don’t know if the creator is trying to make some kind of social argument about life in Seoul, or not, though.

Seoul Station is available right now for free on Amazon Prime, (or for rent). This is an absolutely excellent double bill, with its sequel, but you’re going to have to rest between films, because neither will give you a moment.

The Mummy

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I was not impressed by this movie. In fact, I think I hated it. Tom Cruise looks worn and tired, the plot is rather lackluster, and I was not expecting Russell Crowe to be shamelessly overacting in this movie. Its not a bad film, in the sense that the people who cared about it, tried their best, to make it look good, but the movie is simply uninspired. The first Mummy movie in the last trilogy at least had a feeling of freshness in its lead female character, Evie. Here the only female character we are meant to pay attention to is boring and flat, and the other one is the villain.

Essentially, The Mummy tells the origin story of how a modern man gets chosen by an ancient priestess, Ahmanet, to be the avatar of the Egyptian god, Set. It would’ve been a much more interesting movie, if they had just stuck to the portion dealing with Ahmanet, but you know Hollywood hates WoC, because its unthinkable to them that one of them (namely Sofia Boutella, who is actually Egyptian) would ever be the head of her own franchise. Franchises must be led by your standard white guy named Chris, or Tom in this case. One of these days Miss Boutella will be treated with respect and won’t have to kiss tired looking men, twice her age, to be in a movie.

Tom should  stick with those Mission Impossible, and Jack Reacher movies, which I actually like. He looks as if he’s enjoying himself in those, and I like a Tom Cruise film in which he appears to at least be having some fun. Here, he  looks like he can’t wait for the movie to be over, and seems like he’s just going through the motions until it ends.

I was only mildly excited to see this in the theater, and I’m glad I didn’t waste my money. My advice is to skip this and watch the 1999 version again.

Bladerunner Blackout 2022

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The third prequel  short based on the movie Bladerunner 2049 has just been released. It’s my understanding that it’s not necessary to have watched these shorts to understand the movie. They’re more along the lines of extras on a DVD, but just like with The Animatrix, I hope they make more of them and collect them all into an anthology.

Here, in chronological order, are :

Bladerunner 2022: Blackout

 

Bladerunner 2036: Nexus Dawn

 

 

Bladerunner 2048: Nowhere to Run

 

And for those of your still interested in the world of Bladerunner, the writer K.W.Jeter, wrote a trilogy based on the original film back in the  nineties, which I enjoyed.

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Blade Runner Sequels

 

 

And finally the Philip K Dick book at the foundation of all this wonderful eye candy:

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Favorite Movies of My Life Pt. 5 (2011 – 2017)

Here it is! This is the final part of the movies of my life series, where I list my favorite movies for each year I’ve been on Earth. This has been an eye opener for me too, as some of these I hadn’t really thought of in quite this way before, and the realization that so much of my earliest movie watching experiences are the product of Mom, and nostalgia.

My tastes really started to branch away from hers in my teens, which I suppose is normal. I’m still a lot more adventurous than her, when it comes to choosing movies. I’ll go anywhere I think is interesting, while she likes to stay in her comfort zone, although I can occasionally talk her into watching new things.

 

2011: Attack The Block 

I did a review of this movie here:

 https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/why-we-love-attack-the-block-2011/

This movie is mostly notable for starring my precious cinnamon bun, John Boyega, in one of his first movie roles.

I had two other movies to choose from,The Tree of Life, and The Road. I would have chosen one of these but The Tree is such a complicated film to describe, it would take an entire post just to parse its meaning. The movie has no straight plot, and is really nothing more than a series of images and vignettes with voiceovers loosely strung together with a theme. I love it, not  for its philosophy, but for its mood. The imagery, and music are beautiful, and it has a lot of quiet moments where scenes simply play out to their conclusion, with no explanation.

http://www.scholardarity.com/?p=1361

I love The Road but I was never going to chose it as my top film for this year becasue while it has a hopeful ending, it’s really just  too bleak and depressing a movie to ever be considered enjoyable. I really like Viggo Mortensen though, and think this is very possibly one of his best films.

https://reelrundown.com/movies/The-Road-Movie

 

2012: SkyFall

This year saw the release of The Avengers movie, which was a lot of fun for me; the movie Chronicle, with Michael B Jordan, which I’ll be discussing in another post; The Amazing Spiderman, which I absolutely did not hate, but didn’t love enough to make it my choice for my best movie this year, and finally Django Unchained, which I defended in an earlier post.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/in-defense-of-django-unchained/

But my choice for this year is Skyfall. I wasn’t a big fan of the first two Bond movies but I like this one. I think it perfectly captures Bond’s  washed up nature, fighting for a corrupt  political system,  that sees him as expendable. I think David Craig does some of his best acting here. For me, the film was most enjoyable for the introduction of Ms. Moneypenny, played by one of my favorite actresses, Naomie Harris, and its development of M’s character, who does not come off looking too good.

 

 

2013: Snowpiercer/Afflicted

This movie was a tie between SnowPiercer and the movie Afflicted. I reviewed Afflicted here. I think it’s one of the best vampire movies I’d seen in a long time.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/geeking-out-about-afflicted-2013/

As for Snowpiercer, what can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said by better writers than me.:

https://no-award.net/2014/08/01/snowpiercer-the-revolution-cannot-be-trusted-if-its-white/

https://alanw2000.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/snowpiercer-analysis-bong-joon-hos-sci-fi-masterpiece-by-alan/

http://aldianews.com/articles/culture/film-television/snowpiercer-and-one-white-dude-rule-them-all/34908

 

 

2014: Captain America The Winter Soldier

I had a really hard time choosing between Captain America: The Winter Soldier, It Follows, and What We Do in the Shadows. Ultimately, I chose Captain America because  I really enjoyed all three movies in the franchise, and What We Do in the Shadows is such a lightweight, silly thing next to these other two movies. There’s nothing wrong with lightweight, but it just didn’t win out against these two heavyweight message movies.

I’ve done two reviews of It Follows, that’s how intrigued I was by this movie:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/it-follows-2014-more-thoughts/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/the-monster-it-follows-2014/

I’ve also done a review of What We Do in the Shadows, which cemented Taika Waititi as one of my favorite film directors, forever, and one of the main reasons why Thor: Ragnarok might make my favorites list for this year:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/geeking-out-about-what-we-do-in-the-shadows-2014/

I am working on yet another post about Captain America right now, but I have done an entire series of posts on its characters, Sam Wilson, Steve Rogers, and Black Widow. i love it for its message,its characters,  the action scenes are top of the line, and its sentimental moments, which callback to the first movie.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/07/19/on-the-right-captain-america-and-iron-man/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/black-widow-lying-liar-who-lies/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/sam-wilson-to-be-rescued/

 

 

2015: Mad Max Fury Road

Most people think I would have chosen Star Wars Force Awakens because of my love for John Boyega/Finn, but really the characters were my only real reason to love it, and I’m also mad because Han Solo was killed, and I haven’t gotten over that yet.

No, the movie that did it for me, this year, was Mad Max Fury Road. I’m a total George Miller stan. His Mad Max movies were so influential,during the 80s, that every post-apocalypse movie since, has tried to ape his style…and failed! They simply could not capture the essential something in his movies, which were  combinations of intelligent writing and ferocious action, and Fury Road is no different. An action movie with a message that every post-apoc movie will try to ape in the future…and fail! For me, Fury Road was my Wonder Woman, (which is another reason why I wasn’t too impressed with that film.) One of the few woman-led actioners against which all others will be compared.

 

2016: Train to Busan

This was one of the best zombie movies in the past few years in my opinion. This is me, squeeing about this movie:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/train-to-busan-2016-2/

I have another post on its comparison to World War Z later this year.

 

 

2017: Logan, Get Out, Spiderman Homecoming, and ?

I haven’t yet chosen a film for this year yet, but the three films in the running for my favorite so far, are: Logan, Spiderman Homecoming, and Get Out. I’m also greatly looking forward to the yet to be released films, Thor Ragnarok,  Justice League, and Bladerunner 2049. I might choose one of them. We don’t know! What do you think, I’ll choose?

 

My Favorite Michael Jackson Videos

The King of Pop’s Birthday is coming on August 29th, and I just wanna celebrate it with a list of my favorite videos. There’s no argument that Michael Jackson revolutionized the music video genre, in a way no one else had before him, when he released Thriller, waaay back in 1982.

In 1982, I was 12 years old. I had been listening to, and watching Michael dancing in videos, since I was a tot. My Mom loved the Jacksons. She named my baby brother after two of them. (I received a more normal sounding name becasue I was born before the Jackson craze.) So yeah, because Mom loved The Jacksons, we grew up loving them too, although I can’t think of anyone in my neighborhood who didn’t.

When Thriller was released, Black people collectively lost the entirety of their shit. The videos released from that album were such major events, that there were specially televised.  There was no thing such as social media at the time. It was all word of mouth, and Michael was all anybody talked about. People dressed like Michael, tried to dance like him, he popularized the Jheri Curl…

 

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And all this was before cosplay was really a thing.

And when he released the video to Billie Jean… well, lets face it! There was no more cooler person on Earth than the King of Pop. Genius is a word that gets bandied around so much these days, but really it should only be reserved for people who changed the world so much while they lived, that all others will be compared to them long after their deaths. Michael was a dancing, singing genius.

Anyway, all of that is to say I have a long list of favorite Michael Jackson songs, but only a few videos really make the  cut. Here they are in no particular order:

 

Billie Jean

There was nothing cooler at the time then those flooding pants, white socks,  that everybody starting rocking after this video came out. I was more impressed by the light-up sidewalk. There’s a great deal of mystery happening in this one. The beat and dancing are prefect, as always.

 

 

Thriller

I think everybody knows the dance from this video. I remember watching this with my family, as it was a major television event at the time, and all anybody talked about at my school  for about a month.

https://youtu.be/sOnqjkJTMaA

Stranger in Moscow

I think the cinematography is just beautiful here. its one of the few music videos that can bring on tears. Its simply gorgeous.

https://youtu.be/pEEMi2j6lYE

Smooth Criminal

I love the dancing in this video. And of course I love to watch Michael dressed up as a gangster anytime. The spats and the silhouette suit him very well here.

https://youtu.be/h_D3VFfhvs4

Earth Song

This is one of my Mom’s favorite songs, and one of my favorite videos. This is another one of those videos that made me cry when I first saw it. The power of Michael’s voice, his message, and the imagery, are all literally breathtaking.

https://youtu.be/XAi3VTSdTxU

Who Is It

There’s so much mystery going on in this video, and the homage to Blue Velvet wasn’t lost on those who watched this.

 

Remember the Time

This is one of my all-time favorite videos ever. This is very possibly one of the Blackest music videos ever made. Of course I wasnt going to miss The Supreme Goddess, Iman. She just looks stunning.

https://youtu.be/LeiFF0gvqcc

Scream

This is the only video, in which both  Janet and Michael starred,  at the height of their careers. I liked the playfulness and pseudo-attitude. Its just fun to watch, even if the plot is  completely baffling.