If you were on these rough Internet streets a week-and-a-half ago, you probably caught wind of the Joss Whedon’s age-old Wonder Woman script. You know, that thing that bounced around in production hell briefly, nearly attached to the likes of Charisma Carpenter and Lucy Lawless. It had been rumored for years. Over a decade. And […]
I haven’t been posting very often this week because I’ve been working on some things for you guys to read this weekend. This one was kind of unexpected. I did not think I’d be doing a post on The Incredible Hulk series, but I’ve been watching this lately and kind of enjoying it, and thought I’d share it.
I used to watch this when I was a kid, and the last time I watched it, was some re-runs when I was a teenager, so its been a few decades. I expected it to be hilariously cheesy, like most of the things I watched as a young girl, and it was those things, but it also had emotional depth, and progressive social messages, at least for the 80s.
The Incredible Hulk television series lasted five seasons and starred Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner, and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. Recently the El Rey Network had a three day marathon of all 82 episodes and I watched a significant number of them and was inspired to review the series as a whole. How well does it hold up as far as acting, its messages, and its special effects? But also how well does it hold up to today’s standards as a show?
The answer is: Surprisingly well.
Bear in mind, that I had not watched this show in decades , but I was surprised to find myself becoming very engaged with the characters and messages, in some of the episodes. Once I got past a few plot points, and the 70s wardrobe, I was able to settle in and start liking the characters. By the fourth season the show was less earnest, and a lot more cheesy, especially in its search for new plots, but it still held up really well, even by today’s standards.
I like Hulk the series more than I liked either of the two films dedicated to him, although I prefer the villains of the films, rather than any of the villains of the show, who were often simply extremely petty criminals, who engaged in random thievery, various frauds, and some occasional street hooliganism.
In the series, the character is named David Bruce Banner and is a medical physician, rather than a physicist, being pursued by a tabloid reporter named Jack McGee, played by Jack Colvin. I was under the impression that he was modeled afte Kolchak the Nightstalker, but the writers say that wasn’t their influence. Nevertheless, McGee comes from a long line of vexing antagonists, who like to merely hound and annoy the protagonist, rather than try to kill him.
David hitchhikes around the country, taking odd jobs, and getting into various mishaps, which occasionally require the Hulk’s involvement. A lot of the episodes are not unlike Mad Max, or the Spaghetti Westerns of the 60s, (starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name), who wanders into a town full of corruption, disrupts that story, and then leaves after everything is settled. On the surface these appear to be standalone stories, but the connective tissue between all the episodes is David’s search for a cure for the Hulk, and his constant pursuit by McGee.
Like Mad Max, Banner often wandered into other character’s stories, although occasionally he did have a story of his own. Banner was a lot nicer person, though, who seemed to genuinely care about the events and people with which he became involved. Bill Bixby is a remarkably versatile actor, and his firm, quiet competence lends a note of realism to what were sometimes ridiculous plots. Like the episode, Prometheus,where Banner has to help a blind woman lost in the woods, near a fallen meteor. He is attacked by a swarm of bees, triggering a transformation into the Hulk. Afterwards, affected by radiation from the meteor, he can’t fully transform back into his human state. The acting from the blind woman, played by Laurie Prange, is atrociously over the top, but Bixby, is his usual calm self. I ended up taking quite a number of plots very seriously only because Bixby was so good at what he did, it didn’t occur to me to laugh at them, like the episode where David is held hostage at a private island, and forced to attend a costume party, or the one where three escaped female prisoners kidnap him, and one of them goes into labor.
There’s the episode Alice in Discoland, which requires Banner to be undercover at a discotheque, where he meets, and has adventures with an alcoholic young woman. The plot sounds pretty stupid, and on the surface it is, but once you get past the horrible costumes, and dancing, it manages to deal seriously with the subject of alcohol addiction. On occasion, the show dealt with heavy subjects, like police corruption, drug addiction, greed, and PTSD, with a great deal of respect, and surprisingly little preachiness. A recurring theme though, was the young blond damsel, who has been put in distress by some family member trying to kill them for power, or money.
In the episode starring Lou Ferrigno, as himself, in King of the Beach, Lou plays a deaf man seeking independence from his parents, and hoping to open his own restaurant, by trying to become a famous bodybuilder. Lou Ferrigno himself is deaf, and a champion of Deaf people’s rights. (Incidentally, he is still alive, and looking pretty good for a 53 year old man.) On the surface, King of the Beach sounds silly, and there are some silly moments, but Ferrigno’s character is always treated with respect and dignity, and the subject of his disability is not the main plot. He’s allowed to speak for himself, and articulate his own problems and issues. At no point is Banner placed as a White Savior. Ferrigno’s character is allowed to make his own decisions, and his disability is just part of the character, and all the other characters adjust to it, finding it unremarkable.
I think the silliest part of the show, and the part I couldn’t help laughing about most often, is that Banner is sort of required to turn into the Hulk at least two or three times per episode, even if some of these transformations are a bit of a reach. After about the fourth season, just about anything could set him off, as the writers had to keep coming up with new ways to make Banner get angry or stressed.
In the beginning of the series the threats were a little more dire, like being buried alive in cement by mobsters, or perhaps a car accident, but by the end of the series, the writers had to stoop to Banner getting stung by bees or getting thrown into some bushes. And while these two events are certainly stressful, you can tell the writers are getting just a bit hard up for reasons that Banner should Hulk-out. There’s also the fact that Banner really does need to learn some defensive tai chi or something because it’s just waaay too easy to beat him up. One interesting point is that as the series continued, it did get a little harder to predict when he would transform into the Hulk. In the first couple of seasons it was fairly predictable.
I do want to discuss the roles of the women on the show. The show featured a lot of women,and in a lot of different types of roles. Although, sometimes they were damsels, they also showed up as villains and schemers, scientists, show girls, single women, wives, mothers, sisters, etc., and their status wasn’t always a part of the plot of an episode. In one of the episodes, King of the Beach, the lone woman in the story started out as a grifter, who later becomes a trusted friend, and business agent, to Lou Ferrigno’s character. No, the show didn’t pass the Bechdel test very often, but it had no problem depicting women as flawed and complicated human beings. I found it interesting that there were a lot of women scientists featured on the show, who were smart and capable, and not necessarily love interests for Banner, although they did occasionally need rescuing.
Lou Ferrigno turns in a surprisingly nuanced performance of the Hulk. He got to engage in some emoting. You would think the role would only require some growling, yelling, and throwing things, and sure, there’s plenty of that, but there’s also some emotions in there too. He gets to have reactions to people and things that isn’t just anger. It’s a bit different from any of the movie versions of the Hulk, and not much like comic book versions. This Hulk doesn’t speak, but I understand that was a deliberate choice by the creators. The amount of violence the Hulk engages in is pretty low scale. He likes to toss people around, and sometimes a vehicle. I’m guessing that’s because of budgetary reasons. He rarely if ever punched anything or anyone, and there was never any blood, and that would have been due to violence restrictions on television, at the time. He also gets a lot of cardio in that he runs away a lot.
There’s still the mystery of the stretching pants, which is something fans have been asking themselves about for years. What is funny though is that every now and then while watching old TV shows like this, I become aware of how different the show would be if today’s technology existed then. While watching an episode I’ll think ,”Hey, that wouldn’t have happened if he owned a cellphone.” Or ,” Now you could just Google that!” From time to time, the Hulk would go running through the streets of Chinatown, or New York, and I can’t help thinking that McGee’s job would’ve become obsolete because he would’ve just been able to watch cellphone videos of it on YouTube.
Overall though, I had a pretty good time watching the marathon, and not just for the nostalgia. Once you get past the surface stuff, the show has a certain amount of depth. Banner’s situation is always approached with compassion and respect, and most of the humor arises out of people’s reactions to the Hulk, never because Banner, the Hulk, or his patron of the week, are being mocked. Most of us remember the show because of the theme song, a tinkly piano tune called “The Lonely Man”, and the show’s opening voice-over, which went a long way towards eliciting sympathy for Banner. There have been a lot of iterations of the Hulk, from Eric Bana to Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo, but the Bixby/Ferrigno version is still one of my all-time favorites.
I just recently listened to the audiobook versions of these two stories, and was as struck by the similarities, as much as the dissimilarities. Suffice to say, if you’re going to write a Kaiju Style Apocalypse, for maximum terror, these are the things you’re gonna need to include: monsters, death, intrepid survivors, and some human villains.
Nightworld, written by F. Paul Wilson, waaay back in 1992, (it was heavily revised in 2001) , was the conclusion to a seven book series that started with The Keep, and starred Wilson’s original character, Repairman Jack, (who is sort of like Jack Reacher, only he fights the supernatural.)
In Nightworld, the entire world is beset by monsters who have emerged from sinkholes that circle the globe. This invasion is the precursor to the rise of an of Anti-God, named Rasolom, and Hell on Earth, as the sun begins rising later every day, and setting earlier every evening. Worldwide. (To someone with even the most basic understanding of Astronomy, that’s already pretty terrifying.) The endgame is an endless nighttime, where the various monsters, that are allergic to sunlight, can roam, and eat, freely.
In The Mist, a novella written by Stephen King, and first published in 1980, in the anthology titled Dark Forces, the world is overcome by a dense fog, in which all manner of different monsters live. It is theorized, by the characters, that scientists accidentally opened a portal to another universe, that flooded into Earth.
First, something naturally unnatural has to occur, in the sky or in the earth, like the sun setting at the wrong time everyday, fogs, mists, tsunamis, or giant holes opening up in the ground. The precursor to all hell breaking loose (literally), for these characters, is if the natural environment has suddenly gone horribly awry.
Second, you are going to need monsters, and not just Leviathans. You’re gonna need a variety of sizes to induce maximum terror. After all, you might be able to fight off, or avoid, the big ones, (I say “might”) but smaller monsters can creep into human hiding places, and cause general havoc, as well as sleeplessness.This is what makes these books different from a Kaiju story. They’re more like Kaiju-Adjacent.
You must have gruesome deaths. Some of these gruesome deaths must involve the use of some kind of acid that dissolves its victims alive. In Nightworld, there is a thoroughly disgusting collection of acidic critters that fly around eating people’s faces. In The Mist there are giant spiders with acidic webbing, as if the idea of giant spiders isn’t quite terrifying enough,I guess.
Some of your monsters must have wings. It doesn’t particularly matter what type of wings, as long as the creatures can fly. In Nightworld they have insect wings. In The Mist bat wings seem to be the preferred method of flight.
At least some of your monsters must have tentacles. Nightworld fulfills this requirement admirably, by having lots (and lots) of creatures with tentacles, grabbing people and pulling them into small apertures. The Mist has giant tentacles just sitting outside a grocery story, not even attached to anything, apparently. They’re certainly not attached to anything aquatic as grocery stores are normally on land. The Mist pours some extra gravy on its tentacular horrors by giving them tiny mouths.
At least one of the monsters encountered has to be so fantastical, that it defies belief , like The Mist’s Leviathan, or the creature that decides to take up most of the Atlantic Ocean in Nightworld.
Speaking of giant monsters, they have to come from somewhere, and out of giant holes, whether under the ocean, or out of the ground, as in Nightworld, are the perfect portals for entry. You must have portals. What?! Them monsters gotta get here somehow.
Okay, once you’ve got your monsters sorted into their various sizes, along with where they’re visiting from, and their transportation, you then have to lay out who it is they’ll be eating. You must have an intrepid group of people, whose job it is to be eaten, trapped, survive, or defeat the monsters.
I’m not sure if The Mist qualifies in that department, as the people in that story seem scared shitless, throughout the entire ordeal. Nevertheless, since all the other criteria are met, we’ll refer to them as intrepid anyway. After all, they do some brave things, like fighting the giant spiders, and arguing with the crazy religious lady. The characters from Nightworld are actually described as brave and fearless in the book. In fact, one of the characters has a speech about it, and they all engage in some boldness, some daring, and even some indomitable behavior.
Your intrepid group of people must consist of, at least one straight, honest, stand-up, White guy. It is a requirement that he be both honest, and White, and no substitutes will be made. He must be the kind of White guy who is strong and bold, but also compassionate, idealistic, and willing to protect the little guy. He must be able to clearly articulate why things need doing, and convey those beliefs to the other characters.
In other words, you need Captain James Tiberius Kirk.
Nightworld fulfills this quota with two…count’em!, two stand-up White guys. Although, I feel the writer is clearly overdoing it, by having one of them be a former priest, and the other an ancient swordsman.
In accordance with the James Kirk Axiom, you will them need a pretty blond White woman. A redhead or possibly auburn haired woman can be used in a pinch, but she must be heterosexual, and conventionally pretty. No arm fat, tattoos, arthritis, or nervous diseases need apply. Not even allergies. She must be in perfect physical health and form, and above all else, she must remain un-traumatized by any of the preceding events attending the end of the world, like watching her family and friends be eaten.
And for Gob’s sake, no women of color! Apparently women of color, (and any women with tattoos) all get eaten first…or something. Whatever is happening though, they never seem to make it to the being intrepid part of the story.
There must be at least one child, preferably a boy, but a young girl will suffice. They can be White, but it is not a hard and fast rule, as it is not required that they be genetically related to either the White man, or White woman. Sometimes it can just be some kid one of them picked up somewhere. Extra points if the child is an orphan who just witnessed their family be eaten by the monsters, for maximum trauma. How else are you going to convey to the reader how dangerous the world is, without the help of crying, screaming children. Also, you can always fill up some time by having the child be in extra special danger, by having them wander off alone, or be autistic, or something.
Nightworld is interesting in that there is a perfectly healthy and un-traumatized child in the story, which is turned on its head, by having the child become autistic, when he helps save the world.
Surrounding this trio are what I like to call the intrepid, but disposable people. They are the literary equivalent of non-playable characters. Don’t get too attached to them, these characters could be eaten at any second. They should consist of at least one (if not more) men of color, preferably Black or Latino. You can break the rules and have there be at least one woman of color in the story, but they can’t have any lines of dialogue, unless its exclamations like “Look out!”, or “Aaaaaahhhh!” Any exposition should be left to any extra White men, that you have added, preferably a teacher, or a scientist. Nightworld has a priest, who knows what’s happening, and can explain it to those characters who are out of the loop. David Drayton, from The Mist, is an illustrator, which kind of changes things up a bit, but he is still the narrator.
Nightworld is not a good template for casting your characters because all of its major characters are White. (People of color probably didn’t exist when it was written. I have it on good authority, that we weren’t invented, in Horror literature, until about 1999. Well, Stephen King had discovered us, but we had to be magical to get in his stories.) There should be no more than ten of these non-essential characters. More than ten and the reader will lose track of who they should be terrified is going to die next.
And last, but not least, you must have at least one asshole. No story about the end of the world is complete without at least one human being, who is trying to kill off the other human beings, and that you wish would hurry up and be eaten by something. By anything.
The Mist is exemplary in that it has two…Count ’em! Two assholes. Norton, the asshole neighbor of David Drayton, and Ms. Carmody, the asshole religious townie. Norton fulfills the role of the asshole who wants desperately to be in charge, but no one will listen to him, who becomes increasingly unhinged. He eventually dies by skipping out into the mist to feed himself to the monsters.
Ms Carmody fulfills the role of the asshole, who is already thoroughly unhinged, before the story even begins, and the intrepid people are now trapped with her crazy ass, and the other scared people start thinking that human sacrifice makes sense.
Nightworld fulfills this requirement, in exemplary fashion, by also having multiple assholes in the script. In the unrevised edition of the story, (from before 2001), it was the husband of one of the intrepid people. In the newly improved book, its some random bad guys from previous books, who mostly don’t come into contact with our intrepid gang.
And finally, the ending can’t be all wishy-washy. (We’re looking at you Steve!) In The Mist, there really isn’t much of an end to the story. We don’t know if David Drayton and his friends ever get out of it, or how long it lasts. (Thankfully the movie corrects this problem, which is all I have to say, in that the movie definitely has an end.) Nightworld correctly follows the rules, by having the good guys win, at the last possible second. You know the rules. Disaster is only averted when the countdown reaches one.
Now my people, go forth, and kill your darlings.
Oh wow! From here on out its getting increasing difficult to choose one movie. When you’ve watched as many movies as I have, at my age you have a helluva lot of favorites, so this is like picking those desert island movies, (the movies that you would most like to have if you were stranded on a desert island.)
I did have to cheat a few times and choose two:
1991: Terminator 2/Addams Family
Beauty and the Beast was also released this year, so I had a really hard time choosing just one movie. Why is this so hard? I love movies. I find at least one thing to like about even the worse movies, so this is just making it extra difficult, when the movies have fewer flaws to latch onto.
I chose Terminator 2 though, because it was the movie that had the most emotional effect on me. America had just come out of the “Cold War” with Russia, in the 80s, when I had to (real quick) deal with my own existential angst, coupled with the idea of nuclear annihilation. I had a lot of sleepless nights as a teen. That was a very rough period, and watching that movie reawakened all my worst anxieties, especially the scenes of nuclear devastation. I was near tears just at the opening credits, and my anxiety issues almost caused me to walk out.
I have since calmed down about this movie, and can appreciate it for what it is. I still can’t watch the bomb blast scenes, but that hasn’t stopped the movie from being most excellent, in all other regards, and I’m gonna have to review it someday because the plot and themes still resonate. Also, I have tremendous respect for James Cameron, who managed to tear it up, with some of the best sequels, (to already great movies), ever made.
I chose the Addam’s Family solely for nostalgic reasons. I just love this movie, and never get tired of its humor. I watched the TV show as a child and it was alright. I liked it okay, but the movie built on it in ways that just shone. The acting and actors are, quite simply, perfect. Raul Julia as Gomez simply can’t be topped. And I’ve been in love with Angelica Huston ever since. When I first saw this movie I didn’t even know who she was. Now, whenever I think of her, I think of Morticia. And of course Wednesday Addams was my personal avatar. If I can be said to have a life philosophy, then Wednesday gave voice to a lot of it. She was smart, practical, snarky, and tolerated no nonsense, often saying the type of things I actually manged to get away with saying to people, when I was a child, without getting my ass thoroughly kicked. Incidentally, check out the video series Adult Wednesday Addams. It perfectly captures what she’d be like as a grown woman, and is absolutely hilarious!
The animated version of Beauty and the Beast gets a special mention. Yes, I am also a Disney fan, especially the years before CGI, and if I had to pick just one Disney film, it would have to be Beauty and the Beast. Its just gorgeous, Howard Ashman’s music was at its best, and I loved all the songs. I know every word of Be Our Guest, and still get chills listening to it today. Why that song resonates with me I can’t even guess! But in every Disney film there’s at least one.
1992: Bram Stoker’s Dracula/Reservoir Dogs
I was in Art school when I went to see this movie with some friends. Dracula is another of Cuppola’s masterpieces. It’s another one of those movies where, when you walk out of the theater, you have to take a moment to readjust to reality. Despite the dodgy acting of its younger stars which has not held up well, the movie itself is one long, lush, beautiful dream sequence, that doesn’t even need dialogue. This is one of those movies I appreciate, not for reasons of nostalgia, but for solely artistic reasons, and this was one of the first movies I really appreciated as such. I saw it twice in the theater and have watched it multiple times since. Everything, the details, the colors, even the camerawork, has meaning, and I never get tired of watching it.
Reservoir Dogs I saw a couple of years after its release and it was the first Tarantino movie I’d ever seen. It’s one of those movies where you have to ask yourself who that is, and then follow them for the rest of your life, or their career. Despite Tarantino’s many controversies, I have never been disappointed by one of his movies. Even when I didn’t particularly care for a movie, it was still worth looking at. Another reason I like him is because he has managed to singlehandely revive the careers of actors that Hollywood had long forgotten. I would love him just for giving us back Pam Grier, who I grew up listening to my mother rave about. In fact my mother loves Grier so much that she is a total stan for Jackie Brown. I can’t get her to even look at any other of Tarantino’s movies, but Jackie Brown is always on replay. I love Tarantino because he made my Mom redsicover her love for Pam Grier.
1993: The Piano
Okay, now I’m reacting to the artistry of the movie. The Piano is one of my all time favorite films, looking incongruous next to movies like The Addams Family, but really it fits right in. Since I’ve been trained as a visual artist; the camerawork, costumes, colors, details, are what attract me to certain movies. With The Piano though, I really started to pay close attention to the music in a film.
Music has always been a huge part of my life, (I have moments, milestones, everything), but this was the first time I’d been as engrossed in the sound of a movie, as I was its visuals. I was haunted by this movie. I thought about it for days afterward. I was moody, examining it, my feelings about it, and puzzling over its meaning. The mood of it simply wouldn’t leave me, and in a lot of ways it still hasn’t left. It’s not a movie I watch often, but when I do, I have to be prepared for several days of thoughtful melancholy afterwards.
Jurassic Park gets a shoutout because I am a total dinosaur fan, and you have not lived until you’ve seen a full grown woman act like a damn fool in a movie theater, at the sight of one of the most realistic looking T-Rex’s every created for the silverscreen. Does it make me a bi-sexual, if I’ve fallen in live with a female dinosaur?
True Romance: Quentin Tarantino didn’t direct his movie but he wrote much of its dialogue, and it shows, most especially in the scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper. In the Sicilian scene, Walken stars as an old school Mob boss trying to torture information out of Hopper on his son’s whereabouts. This scene is right up there with that classic meeting between DeNiro and Pacino in Heat, and is very possibly one of Hopper’s finest scenes.
1994: The Crow
I know I should probably pick something the critics loved like Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption which were also released this year, but nope. This year belongs to The Crow.
I had just left college around this time, I was working, and had a little bit of disposable income. So you know what I did with that extra money? That’s right! Go to lots of movies. I don’t even remember seeing the other two films in the theater, but I went to see The Crow 3 times, dragging all my friends along each time. I’ve seen this movie lots of times since, then, and read the book a few times, too. Yes, I still miss Brandon. I still feel hurt over the career this beautiful man could have had.
The alternative to this movie was Toy Story. I enjoyed TS a lot but I wasn’t really into it like that, until Jessie’s song, When She Loved Me. Til then, I just thought it was cute.When I started crying in the second movie, I knew that shit was serious. But I’m not picking that one. I’m picking Seven because:
This was the first time I’d ever heard of David Fincher. I wasn’t expecting too much from this movie when I first saw it. I was ready to dismiss it as one of those dark detective type movies, only with extra Morgan Freeman, whose movie career I’d been following, since he played Fast Black in Street Smart. But Seven turned out to be excellent, and upended any expectations I had about the plot. Oddly, my favorite scene isnt the ending, but the scene where Morgan Freeman’s character (Detective William Somerset) goes to do some research at the libray, and banters with the guards. The music playing during that scene is Bach’s Air on the G String. I’ve watched this dozens of times since its initial release, but the best way to watch it is with Fincher’s commentary on the DVD.
This year also saw the release of one of the most intelligent vampire movies I’ve ever seen, Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction, starring Christopher Walken and Lily Taylor, about a college student who has an existential crisis after she gets bitten by a vampire on the streets of NY. I watched this movie three or four times just trying to follow the conversations in this movie, because gobdammit, this movie is not smarter than me! Except maybe it is. Or maybe its just a bunch of pretentious drivel.
This is one of those movies where you have to pay attention when you’re watching it. No eating popcorn, or chatting with your friends. As a result, this movie was much more successful on video then it was in the theater. And since this is a Ferrara movie, it doesn’t skimp on the gore, either. There’s a fairly graphic scene, towards the end of the movie, where an entire college faculty room gets massacred by vampires. These aren’t the most vicious vampires on screen, as they’re too emotionally detached, but that’s what makes the scene so terrifying.
Christopher Walken also starred in The Prophecy this year, a movie about a new Angel war in Heaven and on Earth. This is also one of my favorites movies. I know people like to write off Walken as a silly actor but he’s starred in a number of very intelligent horror movies.
I just finished a two part analysis of this movie, and its comparison to Raising Arizona:
1997: Princess Mononoke
I had a hard time getting my niece to watch this, instead of her billionth viewing of Spirited Away, but I finally did, and it was worth it, as I used this movie as a way to hone her critical thinking skills. But rather than focus on the environmental issues in the plot she seemed to focus more on the moral issues. We had a good discussion about the morality of Lady Eboshi, the primary antagonist in this movie.
Lady Eboshi lives in a camp in the forest. She is a weapons maker, and to do this, she tears down and corrupts the forest and its creatures. The corruption is spreading to other parts of the forest not associated with what she’s doing, the forest creatures are angry and want to destroy her, including Princess Mononoke, a young woman who has been raised by wolves. Lady Eboshi also takes in “fallen women”, ex-whores looking to escape their old lives and live free of the brothels, and lepers, whom she tenderly cares for and makes sure their final days are comfortable.
My niece and I discussed the moral grayness of someone like Eboshi. What she’s doing to the forest is very obviously wrong, and she doesn’t care about that, but at the same time, she cares very much for the unfortunate people around her, so its not easy to condemn her as a villain. I think I summed it up for my niece like this: That sometimes, good people do very bad things. And sometimes, bad people do nice things. I don’t know how much of this conversation stuck with her because she was about ten at the time. She also seemed quite taken with the little white forest spirits in the movie. I had a much harder time explaining Japanese religious beliefs too her, tho’.
Most other people would probably choose Men in Black or Disney’s Hercules as this years favorite, but apparently, I like to be contrary.
1998: Dark City
Despite the release of both The Truman Show and Pleasantville, this year, for me, belongs to Dark City. Directed by David Goyer who made The Crow, and starring Rufus Sewell, who a lot of people inexplicably hate, this is one of the smarter SciFi action movies of the nineties. Its not the characters though, its the plot. From its opening scene of a man waking up in a bathtub, to its apocalyptic ending ,the audience is taken on a compelling mystery, just like it s primary character, John Murdock. There are spiral symbols, aliens, mysterious men in black, a captivating beauty played by Jennifer Connelly, a nosy detective played by William Hurt, and a city that moves around at night. Are you intrigued now? Good!
I remember when I first saw the trailer for this movie. I was immediately captured by it. It suits my aesthetic. This movie wasn’t well received by critics, probably because you have to be patient with it. You don’t know anymore about what’s going on than John, and you find out what’s happening only when he finds out. This is one of the movies on which Roger Ebert and I fully agreed. He enjoyed this movie so much he did three separate commentaries for its DVDs.
1999: The Matrix
For a lot of people, this year was all about the Sixth Sense, and its twist ending, but for me, and a lot of other geeks, it was all about The Matrix. This is one of those tent-pole movies, that is not only a summation of all the hottest SciFi film-making techniques of the twentieth century, but also one of those movies to which every SciFi movie afterwards would be compared. Bladerunner did it in the eighties, but the Matrix belongs in The Crow/Dark City family of films. Lots of rain! Check. Black trenchcoats! Check. Mysterious agents in black! Check.
This year also saw the release of Fight Club, and the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Ravenous. As much as I love David Fincher and cannibal movies, I’m not picking those because this is the movie that captured my imagination. The world I would most like to live in, despite the charms of Hobbit-town.As a OG Star Trek fan, I also enjoyed Galaxy Quest immensely.
2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
I did a review of this movie from a storytelling point of view.
I’ve said before that I grew up watching Kung Fu and Wuxia movies, so I’m well used to the tropes used in this movie. I used to work with a rather pretentious white guy who fancied himself something of a cinemaphile. He had seriously lofty taste in movies, and occasionally tried to recommend movies to me. I don’t recall liking anything he suggested but that’s not my point. When this movie was released, he heard great things about it, and checked it out. He came back to work crowing about the wonderfulness of this movie.
I had every intention of seeing the movie anyway but I simply wasn’t as impressed as he was. For him, the movie was the greatest creation since Wonder bread. For me, the movie was a very well made version of movies I’d been watching my whole life. I heard later that Chinese audiences had very much the same reaction. It was a beautiful film but really not a whole lot different than a thousand other Wuxia movies released in the 90s. It was only a new genre to him.
The year 2000 also saw the release of Pitch Black which starred Vin Diesel, who I had never heard of before ,and one of my all time favorite comedies Best in Show, by Christopher Guest. Unbreakable was also released this year and its one of the most awesome low-key superhero movies ever created, and I’ll have more on it later.
Ooh! Stay tuned for my 2000s movie list, later this month? Next month? And with the success of American Gods, I’d better get started on my Hannibal Season Three re-watch this Summer, and I have a really nice post on my favorite Supernatural episodes per season. I know I keep promising I’m gonna do special stuff, and these things are sitting in my queue, they just take a bit more time to write then some of my other stuff.
This video showed up on my Tumblr dashboard and I just had to share it. I love the way this blogger’s mind works. It’s something that’s been bothering me about romantic comedies, some of which are dressed up as sci-fi and fantasy movies, for a long time, but I wasn’t able to clearly articulate the concept.
This trope is also called by another name: the “infantilization” of female characters, and it also encompasses the tropes of the “dumb blonde”, and the “sexy schoolgirl”.
Well, the Pop Culture Detective (this is a series) has thoroughly articulated this problem for me. He basically breaks down the trope of the sexy, but naively innocent female character that the primary male character always falls in love with, lists the films that follow the trope, the films that turn it on its head, and briefly discusses its origins in colonialism. The video is some 18 minutes long, and I’m warning you, some of the imagery from past movies is astonishingly cringeworthy!
Now the Pop Culture Detective is a white man, so I don’t expect him to go into details on issues of race, although he is aware enough to briefly mention the tropes racist origins. One of the things you will notice in the images is the overwhelming whiteness of this trope. The trope may have been birthed in the racist stereotypes of Indigenous women, but for the past fifty, sixty years white women have embodied it. During that time period, when Europe was trying to collect as many countries as possible, this particular trope came from stereotypes of Native women being innocent and/or subservient, but sexy, savages.
These are tropes that continue to this day, (and a few of those tropes find their way into the primal black person stereotype with terms like “jungle fever”). The article below by Mediasmarts, has managed to connect these sexualized stereotypes to media tropes such as “Missing White Woman Syndrome”, to explain why the lives of missing, raped, or murdered Brown , Black and Indigenous women, are ignored by news reports.
You may also recognize, if you’ve ever visited the website We Hunted the Mammoth, most of the talking points of MRAs and other misogynists. Many of their beliefs about women, (that they are like children who need a firm guidance from men, that their “hypergamous” sluts, whose sexuality needs to be tightly reined in, that women are stupid, and shouldn’t be allowed to engage in society they way men do) are little more than wish fulfillments, aimed squarely at white women, and it’s not difficult to believe that a lot of their beliefs have been informed by seventy years of media depicting white women in this manner.
One of the arguments being had, across social media, is marginalized people trying to convince White people that everything we see in the media is representative of the real world. Media stereotypes not only mirror real world beliefs and activities, but actually aided and abetted the formation of such beliefs.
When the stories of PoC are told through a White male lens (as so much of Hollywood is), these types of issues are ignored, because the creators neither know, nor care, and illustrates why it’s so important for PoC to also work behind the scenes, not just in front of the cameras, to tell our own stories, from our own perspectives.
For personal reasons, I won’t be watching this series, which airs on Hulu this month. I have developed a thing about dystopias. I’m largely no longer interested in any of them. The only one I’m currently watching is The Walking Dead. I haven’t added any more to my roster of shows. (I’m not sure if Into the Badlands counts.)
The current argument from most PoC, even those who are fans of dystopian narratives, is that some of us have always lived in one. Certainly, the past is one huge dystopia for Black (Jim Crow), Latinx (Zoot Suit Riots), and Asian Internment camps), and Gay, and Transgender people, in this country. It’s been said that White people can look forward and see dystopian futures. Marginalized people have only to look at history.
Here in the US, it’s the 25th anniversary of the 1992 LA riots. The riots resulted in millions of dollars worth of damage, with over 50 people dead, and nearly 2,000 people injured. I remember I was in college at the time. I watched the beating of Rodney King when it occurred months earlier, listened to the announcement of the acquittal, and sat there watching the entire riot, appalled at what I was seeing. I remember feeling terrified (even though what was happening wasn’t anywhere near me). It felt like the end of the world, when it was happening. And I was angry, because I’m a person who knows some history, and I understood why these people were mad as Hell. Unlike most White people, I had been paying attention to what came before the riots, and what had been happening in that environment, for years.
Last night, National Geographic aired a three hour documentary of the LA riots, and I wanted to watch part of it. I was a bit nervous because I know that the documentary was made by White people, specifically White men, and not only have they a long history of only telling news stories from their own perspective, I expected a certain amount of cluelessness and bias in favor of the police. I expected the documentary to focus only on the actual rioting and violence, and mention none of what led up to that violence, (because White Americans have mastered the art of ignoring the things Black people say they are actually mad about, in favor of just making shit up.)
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the most of the doc was well done. Not exactly blalnced but not as bad as I thought it would be. There could have been a little more emphasis on the fact that it wasn’t just Black people involved, and why the Korean shopkeepers got caught in the crossfire, but the parts I did see weren’t actually awful. I didn’t finish the show because I don’t actually need to watch a documentary about something I witnessed, (and American Gods was on.)
Remember, the LA riots wasn’t like Ferguson, or any of the riots that have happened in the time of social media. We didn’t have social media back then. There were no reports from people, in the thick of things, tweeting about what was happening, in real time. The only way the rest of the world knew what was happening was through mainstream news reports by the talking heads who were witnesses. I have never trusted the mainstream media because it has historically aided and abetted the violent stereotypes of PoC. Its the news media’s reliance on spectacle, that has lead to the depiction of Black people as violent savages, that has given impetus to racist beliefs that Black people are animals, and coverage during the riots, without any focus on the cause, just gave more fuel to those beliefs.
Note: I have lived in Black neighborhoods my entire life and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually witnessed a violent act. I have never committed an act of violence myself, or had one committed against me. This may be higher for Black people in other parts of the country, or lower, but the bottom line is, unless you’ve lived in our neighborhoods and been part of our culture, you have no fucking idea what being Black in America is like, and the only information you could possibly have about us, are biased news reports, from a media that benefits monetarily from telling White people horror stories about Black misery. I live in the Midwest. Its not a utopia, by any means, but its no more, or less, hellish than any other part of the US. and certainly nothing like the slice of hell the media would have everyone believe. (Nor is it the privileged party-fest that bigots would have you believe either.)
I’ll give you an example: I grew up in Cleveland Ohio, at the height of the Crips/ Bloods/Crack era that was happening on the East and West coasts, in the late eighties. We heard about it, but it was distant. It didn’t affect our everyday lives. We believed it was happening though, not because of what the mainstream news reported, but because we had an entire genre of rap songs chronicling the shit that was happening in those cities. Rap music was like news reports telling what happened to Black people in other parts of the country.
I watched the mainstream news with my Mom, and I noticed the news media was always trying to play up Cleveland’s gang problem. So desperate were White people in Cleveland to be seen as being as cosmopolitan as NY and LA, they were willing to invent problems Cleveland didn’t actually have.
Remember, I was a teenager during all of this, and I lived, worked, and played around the same neighborhoods they were pointing their fingers at, and saw no evidence that there were gangs. Sure, there were young men who hung out together on street corners, and front stoops. I knew those guys, said hello to them all the time, got catcalled by them (as I was a PYT back then). They weren’t gang members. Were there guys who hung around and got into trouble together? Sure. I wouldn’t have classified them as a gang. (They didn’t have colors, insignia and personal graffiti, although sometimes they named themselves, and had parties.) Were there guys who wished they were a gang? Sure. Were there guys who got together to sell some drugs? Yep. Was there crack in our neighborhoods. Probably! Although I’ve never witnessed, nor encountered, a “crackhead”, and I’ve lived near the “projects” my whole life, and had friends who lived in them. None of these people were gangbangers. I met a gangbanger once. I worked with him during one of my Summer jobs. He seemed like a nice enough fellow. We talked about politics a lot. He didn’t seem inordinately angry about the various issues of the day.
And yet, “violent” is all some people think they know, or need to know, about our lives, trotting out that hoary old trope of “Black on Black crime” at every opportunity, as some kind of gotcha, in conversations about racial politics.
Okay, I’m getting off point. My point was that I’m off dystopian futures, for the most part, because I like to maintain hope for the future. I’ve seen what happens when people lose that hope (and I’ve been there myself). I’ve seen those studies discussing the rise of drug use, and suicide among White men. Some people have theorized that part of the reason the death rate has risen, for that particular group of men, is because they have lost hope for a future in which being a White male is no longer the easiest player setting in the game of life.
Another reason I won’t be watching A Handmaids Tale is because Black people have actually experienced a dystopian past, but the movies and books lack PoC. White writers are willing to mine their sordid past, only to cast White people in the roles of the oppressed, when historically, its always been everyone else on the receiving end of that oppression. The Handmaid’s Tale is basically dystopian fiction which casts White women in the roles that Black women used to inhabit. So many of White people’s nightmares about the future seem to involve being treated the way they have treated others.
In the original story by Margaret Atwood, America has been taken over by a religious sect of men. Due to environmental pollution, most women have become infertile. Instead of fixing the problem though, their solution is to enslave all the fertile White women, and force them to have children. Women who are not considered fertile are killed or enslaved, they can no longer have jobs, read books, or go out in public without blinders. In the book, almost no mention is made of Black people, who are called the Children of Ham, except to mention their relocation elsewhere. Homosexuality is outlawed and punishable by death, women who refuse to adapt to their assigned roles are also executed. There’s even a kind of “underground railroad” to spirit women away into Canada.
I’ve seen people trying, unsuccessfully, to compare this to Sharia Law, when there’s no need for that, because we have examples right here. This is not a new story. America has already done these things to Black women. (See: 12 Years A Slave). Atwood’s story entirely leaves out this angle of the narrative. (The streaming series is doing something different, but almost as traumatic, by including Black women, but not mentioning race at all.)
I won’t be watching A Handmaid’s Tale because the trauma of what happens in that show is already real for Black people. We’ve already lived through it. It was only about fifty or so years ago that Mississippi had one of the highest rates of lynching in the US. My mother was born in Miss. in 1950. She had six brothers. Ours was one of the lucky families that managed to emigrate to the North, when she was about ten years old. My grandmother did that because she wanted all her children to grow up, and they had a far less chance of doing so in Mississippi, at that time. My family’s move to the North is a direct result of racist activities, during the Jim Crow era, in my mother’s lifetime.
My grandmother had spent much her life under Jim Crow, and would have spent the rest of her life in Miss., had she not been afraid for her children’s lives. I was too young and scared to ask her for stories about the things she’d seen, and experienced. You see, my grandmother had already lived through the dystopian fictions that White people find so entertaining to cast themselves in now.
I’m no longer watching movies that are about Black misery, and consequently I refuse to watch any more movies, and shows, about Black misery that only feature White people.
Okay, that’s enough rambling from me.
Here! Have some links!
*These are specifically about the intersection of race and sexism in A Handmaid’s Tale
Now, the TV series makes a point of adding a woman of color to the story, in the character of Moira. In the book, Moira is a lesbian, who opts to become a Handmaiden, rather than be sent to The Colonies.
In the books, Moira is openly rebellious, and after several escape attempts, is sent to a life of enslaved prostitution. In the series, she is played by Samira Wiley, who is most famous for playing the character Poussey, a lesbian convict, in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Her character was unceremoniously killed off that show, which raised some controversy, as it fell into the trope of Kill All Your Gays. If the show follows the books, then no! I have no urge to see yet another Black woman be degraded to a life of sexual servitude.
This particular essay, in the Atlantic, is an excellent summation of something I touched on in the post above. White people keep looking to the past for a utopia, and to the future for their more nightmarish scenarios. Dystopia seems to be a matter of perspective.
A series of articles on the Whiteness, and heteronormativity of Dystopian futures
The eighties is when I did the bulk of my movie watching, so its going to get harder, as I go, to just choose one movie, and in some cases, some movies are going to have to share the spotlight with others.
The eighties also saw the invention of the VCR, for wide spread home use, and my family got our first one in 1983 or 1984. Yes, I saw more than a few of these movies with my Mom, but there’s less of a nostalgia factor involved, and more of an appreciation for good filmmaking in my choices. This is sometimes less about which movies influenced me, and more about which ones I could appreciate as a noobie film-wonk.
At about the mid-eighties, I started babysitting my nieces and nephews, and some of my Aunts had cable. So I watched a lot of these movies on HBO, (along with lots of MTV). I watched a helluva lot of Horror movies, in the eighties too, so this list is going to contain quite a few of those. I think my Mom and I tried to see every Horror movie made between 1980 and 1988, at which time I headed off to college, and wilder film adventures.
1981 – American Werewolf in London/The Howling
I couldn’t choose between the two hallmark werewolf movies of the 80s. At the time American Werewolf was released, it was considered the total shit, but I didn’t care because I was stuck on The Howling, and as far as I was concerned, nothing surpassed it. Until I realized what everyone was talking about. An American Werewolf in London is, indeed, a most excellent movie.
I love both movies for different reasons, though. By any measure, American Werewolf is the deeper film, with its themes of survivor’s guilt, and cultural displacement. That, along with the special effects, make it worth the hype. The Howling is pure, grade B horror film-making, with its cheap melodrama, and mordant sense of humor, and something in my fourteen year old soul (my age when I saw it) just loved it.
1982 – Bladerunner/ The Thing
When I first saw the trailer for Bladerunner at age 12, I knew that was my movie, and we were destined to be together. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it until several years after its release, and only on TV. I’ve been a Ridley Scott fan ever since. I am obviously going to have to do a review of this movie, and share my love, even if there’s nothing new to be said about it.
I distinctly remember watching this trailer on TV, and thinking I wanted to see this movie.
I could not choose between Bladerunner and what is quite possibly one of the most perfect horror movies ever made, The Thing. This is how you do a remake. I’d argue that the eighties was the decade of the great remake. Starting in the late 70s with Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, the 80s saw the remakes of The Fly, Scarface, The Blob, The Thing, The Little Shop of Horrors, and Cat People.
Most people looking back on this particular year, often choose E.T. because it was the most popular. Well, I’m not an E.T. fan. I don’t care about it, have no warm feelings for it, and almost never think of it, and at twelve years old, I’d be the perfect age to love it. I didn’t.
The Thing is another movie I didn’t see at its release. In fact, this didn’t register on my radar until several years after, when people began praising it in various magazines. I have no memory of watching the trailers for it, although I must have seen them. I really didn’t know anything about it until a few years after its release.
There was also a movie released this year called Xtro, which was one of the grossest scifi/horror mashups I’d ever seen, and was surpassed only by another horror movie, released in 1987, called Street Trash.
1983 -The Right Stuff
I have been a total NASA stan, ever since I fell in love with Star Trek as a child, so for me this movie felt like a behind the scenes look at one of my favorite organizations. This was the first time I’d ever watched Ed Harris in anything and I totally fell in love with him, and Scott Glenn, but I was also in love with everybody when I was fifteen, apparently.
Yeah, okay, I’m still in love with Ed Harris, solely on the basis of him starring in this movie.
1984 – The Terminator
I didn’t see this movie until 1986. I remember this so well, because at the time it was released I had longed to see it, but didn’t have any money to go to the theater. I saw it in 1986, on tape, at my neighbor’s house. I remember because our neighbors, two brothers who lived across the street from us, had just bought a new VCR, and invited our family over for movies and popcorn.
I remember their house was a total mess and I was more than a little dubious about staying, but after a while I was so engrossed in the movie, I completely forgot my surroundings. It was the first time I’d ever seen a James Cameron movie, and my introduction to Bill Paxton and Arnold Schwarzeneggar. This is another of those movies where I just wandered off, home, while slowly trying to readjust to reality.
1985 – Fright Night
See my review:
Return of the Living Dead gets an honorable mention:
1986 – 3 Films
I could not pick just one movie for this year. Three of my top favorite films were released this year: Aliens, The Fly, and Children of a Lesser God. Each of these movies is the perfect example of its genre for this year. But, if I absolutely had to pick one of them, to watch on a desert island, or something, I’d pick Aliens, since I never get tired of watching it.
1987 – 4 Films
This is another year where too many of my favorite films were released, so I can’t pick just one of them.
I saw both Evil Dead 2, and Robocop on a double bill at the local theater. To this day, I can count this as the best spent three hours of my entire life. Just me, some popcorn, and a quiet movie theater, all to myself.
Lost Boys is on this list because I distinctly remember gushing about this movie to one of my classmates about how the guys in the movie were so cute. So, this makes the list more out of nostalgia, than that its a great movie, although, its still pretty good, by today’s standards.
I didn’t see Near Dark until many years after its release, but I do hereby acknowledge it as one of the best, most underrated, vampire movies of the 80s.
1988 – Akira
Dangerous Liaisons, Beetlejuice, and Young Guns, were all released this year, but really there was no other choice for me to make. This year belongs to Akira, although I didn’t watch it until 1992, while I was in college.
Not only is it the best movie made that year, its one of my all-time favorite Anime. Its also the very first time, I’d ever seen Anime on the big screen. When I walked into that theater, I had no idea what I was in for, since my roommate refused to tell me anything about it. She just kept saying I would like it. There are a handful of movies, that have such an effect on you, that you have to seriously readjust to being back in the world, when you walk out of the theater, and end up contemplating them for months after you see them. Akira is one of these films.
Incidentally, I had a bad falling out with the roommate who introduced me to this movie, a few years later, and while I have mixed feelings about her, I have never faulted her taste in movies. Whenever she said I would like something, she was NEVER wrong. Raising Arizona, Tremors, Near Dark, Seven Samurai, and Akira are movies I probably would never have watched without her influence.
1989 – The Little Mermaid
Batman, The Abyss, and Casualties of War, were also released in 1989, but I have to pick The Little Mermaid as my favorite. Ursula’s song, Poor Unfortunate Souls, is the meanest, snarkiest shit I ‘d ever heard in a Disney film, and I absolutely love that character. Of course now I know, she was modeled after the Drag Queen, Divine.
This was one of the first Disney films that ever made me cry, and I’ve been crying at these movies ever since.
1990 – Goodfellas
Tremors and Dances with Wolves was released in 1990, and I saw all three of these movies in the theater, where they probably should first be seen. I wasn’t unaffected by those movies, but Goodfellas is a movie made by a director, Scorcese, who was at the top of his game at the time, and he has never made a better movie since, in my opinion.
This one of my favorite scenes in a wealth of favorite scenes. Personally, though I don’t find the “Do you think I’m funny?” scene, to be especially funny. Yeah, its iconic, but its not my favorite.
The 1990s, though, was when I really started, not just to develop my own tastes, but began to pin down just what attracted me to certain films. I began to really think critically about what I was watching, and Why I was watching it. I began reading the opinions of others about the films I liked, and this taught me how to approach film criticism. I started to trust certain critics over others, began reading books on film theory, and audience theory, and reading the filmmakers ideas about what they were trying to accomplish.
So, as the 90s progress, you’ll start to see a change in the kinds of films I enjoy, although SciFi and Fantasy will still make up the bulk of my viewing habits.
First some background: The original singers of this popular song was an Afro-Pop group called Sauti Sol, who are the Kenyan equivalent of Boyz II Men. They’ve been around since 2005, but I only just discovered them when this song came across my Tumbr dashboard. In it, this school choir was singing this song with Sauti Sol. I immediately fell in love with this song which had been released, by Sauti Sol, sometime a couple of years ago, on the album, To Live and Die in Afrika.
For those of you who are already in the know about these things, thanks for posting this on my dash, and I can see why you love them. I’m not a religious woman but that doesn’t mean I can’t be moved by religious music. This is very possibly one of the most beautiful church songs, I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.
The choir that sings in the first video is the Upper Hill School Boys Choir, from the Redfourth Academy of Music in Kenya, and they are wonderfully expressive.
Please, check out all their videos on Youtube, and subscribe.
And this is a version by the original artist, Sauti Sol:
More than Yesterday
In an awesome, long, and rather intense essay, Erin Horáková deconstructs Star Trek to expose Kirk Drift, a phenomenon in which the character in the original stories is shifted in our memory and perception towards a more stereotyped masculinity — and the change says some things about cultural biases. There’s a cartoon version of Kirk…
This was inspired by a Twitter challenge to name the favorite films for each year of your life, starting from birth. You under thirty film folks have this pretty easy, but I’m an oldy (but goody), so its going to take me time to lay all this out, and I’m obviously going to have do this in installments! This doesn’t mean I saw these movies in that year. It’s just the year of the release.
I thought you guys might find it interesting to know what films I consider the most influential in my life. I know compiling this list surprised me a little bit. I’d never given this a whole lot of deep thought, and I was pretty certain of what movies I knew I liked, but this was pleasantly eye opening. Also, I’m definitely giving away my actual age, but I’m not ashamed of my age, so here goes:
1969 – The Valley of Gwangi
Well, I had to pick one film a year and this was it. In fact, its appropriate, becasue this is really the first dinosaur/kaiju movie I’d ever seen, and influenced my fascination with Godzilla, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, the Ymir, and those Sinbad movies. It also introduced me to the work of Ray Harryhausen, who I have a soft spot for.
Anyway, this is a ridiculous Western/Fantasy movie, about some cowboys who encounter a valley full of giant beasts. A tyrannosaur gets captured and brought back to the city where it, naturally, escapes, because that’s what such creatures do, thereby ensuring my lifelong love of giant monsters destroying cities.
Ray Harryhausen is also the man responsible for this. These skeletons scared the shit out of me when I was eight, and I’ve loved him ever since:
1970 – A Man Called Horse
I first watched this movie with my Mom, because it contained some graphic scenes, and I was a kid who needed adult supervision, or so she said, so there’s definitely a nostalgia factor involved in me liking this movie, which is basically, Tarzan in the Old West. A White Englishman gets captured by some Native Americans, they torture him for a while, but eventually he wins their respect, by going through various manhood trials, which look little different than the torture he’d undrgone earlier in the movie, which had been to less purpose. At any rate, I liked the lead actor, Richard Harris, and was a fan of his ever after.
It was while watching Westerns, that I really began to question the tropes presented about Native Americans, like why they all wore headbands, and spoke broken English.
I watched a lot of these Westerns with my Mom. She was a fan of Richard Harris, too. She heavily influenced a lot of my early movie watching experiences, by just sharing her love of various movies (and actors) with me, until I started developing my own tastes. She introduced me to The Big Valley because she was a huge Barbara Stanwyck fan, so I liked Barbara, too. She loved Bonanza because she was a fan of Lorne Greene, so I was a Lorne Greene fan, and started watching Battlestar Galactica. I became a fan of a lot of old actors just because my Mom liked those movies and invited me to watch them with her.
Our movie tastes have diverged over the years, as I tend to be more adventurous in my movie watching, (as you will see), and will watch quieter, more intellectual films, while she prefers a lot more drama and bombast.
My mom is of the generation that considers movies to be nothing more than entertaining, or melodramatic, spectacle. I’m of the generation that enjoys movies that have some level of philosophical insight, or intellectual depth, to go along with all the spectacle, which is basically anything released after 1965. Not that movies didn’t have that before 1965, but moviemakers started making more of these types of movies.
1971 – A Clockwork Orange
There were a lot of great movies made in 1971, and I had a really hard time choosing one. I had a choice between Spielberg’s Duel, George Lucas’ THX-1138, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (a big contender in this category), Shaft, Willard, but I chose Clockwork because its one of the first SciFi films I watched without my Mom’s supervision. I don’t think she knew about it, or she would have had something to say. This wasn’t my first Kubrick film. That was The Shining, which I did watch with her. But I was hooked. I made a point to watch as many Kubrick movies as I could after that.
It may sound as if I watched these movies at a very young age but I was in my teens when I saw most of these films, and a lot of the movies I watched, when I was very young, were edited for television.
1972 – Aguirre: The Wrath of God
I know a lot of people choose The Godfather, or Lady Sings the Blues, but I didn’t watch those movies until I was an adult, and I wasn’t impressed by them, by the time I saw them. I think you have to be of a certain age for a movie to have a great influence over you. I didn’t see this until I was in my twenties, long after I’d watched Salem’s Lot.
This is Werner Herzog’s movie about the conquistador, Lope De Aguirre, heading down the Amazon River to find the city of El Dorado, and starring Klaus Kinski, who is not a pretty man. The grotesque is what occasionally fascinated me about foreign films. Now here’s how my thought processes work: I first saw Klaus Kinski in Herzog’s remake of Nosferatu, when I was maybe fifteen. My interest, in that particular version of Nosferatu, was prompted by learning that the vampire from the TV movie, Salem’s Lot, was based on him. which I saw Salem’s Lot the year it was released, and of course, I watched with it my Mom!
Watching this movie, I think, informed my love of documentaries, and books, about exploring the Amazon. Up til then, I’d pretty much been consumed with books about exploring Arctic landscapes, or climbing Mt Everest. (I think at one point I aspired to be a Sherpa, but I was later disappointed to find you have to be born a Sherpa, I guess. )
1973 – The Exorcist
A lot of good movies were released this year: Mean Streets, Don’t Look Now, Enter the Dragon. I like all those movies but The Exorcist is the movie I keep coming back to over and over. I will watch this whenever it comes on TV. I’ve watched it with all the commentaries. I never get tired of it, but I have seen it so many times that I can get a bit snarky on the parts I find exasperating.
Here’s a funny story: I remember lobbying my Mom to watch this movie. She was a bit dubious about that, because I was all of maybe twelve, the same age as Regan in the movie, but I convinced her that I was mature enough to handle it. So, I watched the TV edited version, with her supervision, late one weekend. I know it was aired past my bedtime, and I needed her permission to be up, anyway. I watched it, and she saw that I didn’t seem unduly affected by it, and didn’t give it any more thought.
Now, I live in the Midwest, an area of the country that is not known for having earthquakes, but guess what? We had an earthquake a couple of nights later. A pretty strong one, at about a 6.0, and you don’t want to know how quickly I sprang out of that bed and ran screaming to my Mom’s room. It took her a while to calm me down, and make me understand that my bed was shaking because there was an earthquake. She’d been watching the news when it happened, so she was perfectly calm.(It did not help matters that I was going through my existential crisis period, where I was questioning God, religion, and my existence in general.)
Yeah, she was kind enough to indulge me sleeping in her bed, for a couple of nights.
1974 – Deathdream
I know everyone always picks Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, and I love both those movies, but this one had a much bigger influence on me. I saw this movie as a teen, and it was the first modern era vampire movie I’d seen, outside of Salem’s Lot. It’s set in the modern era of 1970 something, when a young man comes home from Vietnam.
Unbeknownst to his family, he died in that war, and what came home was a revenant, responding to his mother’s fervent wishes that he return. You can tell something is seriously wrong with him, from the moment you first see him, but his family is so happy he’s home, that they don’t want to see it. He needs blood to live, but the blood becomes increasingly less potent, and he starts to break down, becoming more ghoulish as the movie progresses, attacking his family and neighbors, and behaving very badly.
The movie is notable because its narrative is an indictment of the Vietnam War, and what happened to the young men who fought in it, who came home haunted, broken, and forever changed. This movie had a greater influence over how I think about movies than Night of the Living Dead, which also had a socially conscious message. It’s also a great illustration of family dynamics, as the drama is every bit as compelling as the vampire part of the story. The mother, who was hanging on to her last threads of sanity before her son came home, and the father who realizes that something’s horribly wrong with his son, but can’t speak to his wife about any of it, because she is delusional.
1975 – Trilogy of Terror
I would have chosen Jaws, but I chose this movie instead, because although I love Jaws, and watch it every time it comes on TV, this movie had a much bigger influence over me as , once again, I watched it with my Mom, and she was a Karen Black fan. I’m only a middling Karen Black fan, so I didn’t get that out of this movie. What I got out of this movie, was a love of Richard Matheson, as his short story, Prey, makes up the third part of this movie, and I thought that part of the movie was awesome. In it, an African doll, He Who Hunts, comes to life and chases a woman all over her apartment. But its harrowing, intense, and hilarious as this tiny, screaming, doll gets the better of this huge woman, as Karen Black is no delicate two Oz. damsel.
This movie might have something to do with my inarticulate fear of inanimate objects, that come to life, and move around. I was about ten years old when I saw this movie, and was quite reasonably, terrified. The new Ghostbusters has a scene in it, where a mannequin chases Leslie Jones’ character, and I nearly shit myself.
And you’re probably also seeing a theme developing here, with people with fangs and appetites, who aren’t what they seem, preying on other people.
1976 – Taxi Driver
I had a hard time choosing which movie was my favorite, for this year, because its the same year Carrie was released. Ultimately, I settled on this one because I think Taxi Driver is a much deeper film.
I didn’t see this until I was an adult. It’s the first Martin Scorsese movie I ever watched, (I backtracked later, and watched Mean Streets) and only because I’d heard of its reputation from critics like Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael. Travis Bickle is a painfully awkward character to watch. I’m still unable to articulate how I feel about this movie. I go through periods where I’m loathe to watch it, yet compelled to sit through it. Watching a baby Jodi Foster might have something to do with my feelings about this movie but I’m not sure what.
1977- The Last Dinosaur
This movie is almost comically bad but I still love it. The special effects are awful, and the characters are ridiculous, but the movie makes up for that with its subtext and theme song. It’s by the same people that created some of the Godzilla films, and it shows in the awful acting and the rubbery monsters, which all move in slow motion, to illustrate how powerful they are.
Maston Thrust (yes, that is the character’s actual name), is a big game hunter who is tired, old, and jaded. He has hunted all of the creatures of Earth and is looking for new challenges. It’s the 70s, and Maston, a virile he-man, is a blatant sexist, and the world has changed around him so much, that he no longer recognizes it, and can find no place in it. The world doesn’t need rugged white men, who can kill things. He’s a dinosaur.
Given the opportunity to visit a Lost World and hunt a dinosaur, he jumps at this, and accompanied by his faithful Maasai tracker friend, named Bunta, (yes, I just typed that name), and a blonde female photographer, played by that era’s hottest blond, Joan Van Ark, they all head down. When he gets to this Lost World, he, and the Tyrannosaurus Rex that killed the last expedition, develop an immediate enmity, as the Rex tries to kill everyone on his team (He enjoys stepping on his prey. He likes his food pureed.) The two of them spend the rest of the movie trying to outsmart each other.
Now, if this sounds like the plot of Kong: Skull Island, you are correct! Kong has better effects,, dialogue, acting, really everything but it doesn’t have a theme song. I first heard this song when I was a child, and have never forgotten it, as its a lovely song. It helps to think of the song as Maston’s theme.
1978- Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Wow, I do have a lot of favorites! This is one of the best remakes of a fifties SciFi movie ever made. This movie I think began the trend of eighties remakes that were better than the original movies. If it wasn’t for this movie, there probably wouldn’t be the remake of The Fly, The Thing, or The Blob. I didn’t really want to pick just this one movie because Halloween, The Fury, and Superman were all released in 1978, and those are all favorites, but the rule of the game is to pick only one movie.
1979- Apocalypse Now
The first time I saw this movie, I didn’t get what made it so wonderful. Roger Ebert was a huge fan, and so was Pauline Kael, and I trusted their opinions. I watched it and liked it okay, but didn’t love it. It’s only after successive viewings that I grew to truly appreciate it. To give you some idea of how hard it is to choose just one favorite film from this year: Alien, and The Warriors was also released, and I chose Apocalypse Now becasue its a deeper film.
You can start to see how my tastes have begun to diverge from my mother’s. She loved The Warriors, but was uninterested in this movie, and she is mostly indifferent to Alien.
1980- Altered States
This was another tough one becasue I have a couple of favorites for this year, but I chose this movie because its such a trippy mess, and at the time I saw this, I had not yet seen 2001. This was the first movie that had ideas and concepts in it that I knew were important, but I was just too young to understand them.
Several viewings (and years) later, I was able to follow most of the arguments made by the characters in this movie, most of which involve a great deal of existential angst. it was also the first time I’d ever seen William Hurt. He’s a complete asshole for most of the movie, but he’s a cute asshole, and he learns his lesson by the end.
My other favorites for this year are The Elephant Man, The Shining, and Fame, a musical with a diverse cast, which starred Irene Cara.
Next up: 1981 through 1990.
Samurai Jack is quite possibly one of the most uniquely gorgeous cartoons on television. Now in its final season, it’s pulling out all of the stops for some truly groundbreaking and beautiful art. The plots of each episode aren’t complicated but the overall arc of the season is complex enough to make watching it a worthwhile endeavor.
*Fifty years have passed, but I do not age. Time has lost its effect on me, yet the suffering continues. Aku’s grasp chokes the past, present and future. All hope is lost. Got to get back. Back to the past. Samurai Jack.
Voiced once again by Phil Lamarr from Pulp Pulp Fiction, and MadTV, it’s some fifty years in the future, and Aku has finally succeeded in taking over the world. But he’s become bored and jaded. He’s no longer interested in hunting Jack, or trying to kill him. He let’s his robot drones and cultlike followers do his dirty work for him. A new group is hunting Jack called The Daughters of Aku.
Jack lost his legendary sword long ago and wanders Aku’s corrupt landscape, with no purpose. He failed to stop Aku from taking over the world but he can’t or won’t die. One of the side effects of having gone through the time portal to kill Aku is that he no longer ages. He longs to die, but out of long habit, fights Akus servants, over and over.
It’s a gorgeous looking show with lots of action, and is rather mordantly funny, with the humor found in unexpected places. In one of the earlier sequences we watch as Aku goes about his day, receiving penitents, eating breakfast, and doing some stretching and deep knee bends, because the Evil Ruler of the World has to remain nimble.
In fact, Samurai Jack and Aku have a lot in common, as they navigate a world radically different from what they thought things would be. They’re old, jaded, weary, and tired of fighting, but just can’t seem to stop. Jack is facing new foes, old friends, and trying to live in a world he failed to save. Aku realizes that ruling the world isn’t as wonderful as he thought it would be, but he can’t stop either. So, the show contains a surprising amount of depth and pathos, where you have two former foes, who are tired of being foes, but have invested too much in it to stop doing it.
The art takes a bit of getting used to, because its wholly unlike any other cartons on TV, and is very minimalist and deco.
Its an excellent cartoon ,worth watching on Adult Swim, Saturdays at 11 PM.
For your reading pleasure this weekend:
Get Out (2017)
Wow, there is so much meta being written about Get Out that its hard to keep track of it all. (Do these writers know thats what they’re doing?)Everybody has something to say aobut this movie, even when they dont have anything to contribute. For the record, I have seen this movie and I loved it as much as I’ve loved anything on the Key and Peele show. (And no, I dont have much more to add to the discussions Ive already read.) If you’ve ever watched that show, than Get Out is not some huge surprise for you, as you are well aware of Jordan Peele’s Horror credentials. For example, his zombie spoof is pretty deep:
And this spoof of vampire tropes is hilarious:
I dont have anything to add since people pretty much have every topic covered:
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997)
Its the 20 year anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and yep, people are writing about it. I was total trash for this show. I used to watch it like a religious duty, and even back then I was drafting meta, in my head, about this show. For the record, I hated the movie it was based on, and I was prepared to ignore the show. I watched it off and on for the first season. Then the internet started writing about it, and I really revved up my watching in the middle of season two, after Angel became evil. (I didn’t completely understand what was happening but I caught up fast.)
Buffy is also one of the most written about and talked about shows in television history. There are aabout a bajillion books, articles, and websites, devoted to parsing everything from the fashions, to the plot, to the characters and language.
I did go see Logan, as I promised. I was going to write a review, but a lot of people have already written about the issues I would’ve covered in my review. It’s an excellent movie, btw, and every bit as heartwrenching as you expect.
I haven’t seen this movie yet, but I’ve heard such wonderful things about it. I’ve seen a few clips come across my dash on Tumblr, which have me intrigued, and of course, it won Best Picture at the Oscar Awards. I’ve made plans to watch the DVD soon, however.
Yes, I’ve already seen this movie. I loved it, but as a long time Blerdgirl, I’m still processing my thoughts about it. I haven’t finished geeking out about it yet, but when I do, I’ll come back at you with some knowledge. Ideas are already percolating as I type.
ETA: This last link was removed because, while I have plenty of issues with feminism, I won’t tolerate any lying MRA mansplaining bullshit on my blog.
This is my musical interlude for the week, while I work on some stuff, I’ve got coming up soon. I keep having to remind myself there’s no schedule for any of these posts. I don’t have to do them right away or in a timely fashion, as this is for fun, and not my job. But my inner Type A won’t shut the Hell up, so I will continue to have anxieties about late posts, I guess.
I first discovered Ofra at the tail end of her popularity in the early 90’s. My roommate had an album of Ofra Haza’s remixes ,of which Galbi and Im Nin Alu were my two favorites. Subsequently, that album did, in fact, go missing (into my collection), after I “borrowed” it.
Ofra Haza was born in Tel Aviv, of Yemenite Jewish ancestry. She has since passed on. She died in 2000 of AIDS related pneumonia.
Here are some of the more troubling conversations occurring on Tumblr.
*Okay, anytime you have Dan Rather tapping his keynboard with hysteria on Facebook, (and yeah, this is Dan’s version of hysterics) you know you done fucked up!
Dan Rather Facebook Post (2/14/17)
*Actually, I’ve sen this particular behavior all over the internet. Its especially prevalent in trolls and other assorted assholes, who like to think that if you can’t calmly discuss your life as a marginalized person, with someone attempting to devalue that life, that your opinions are invalid, and therefore, they have just won some kind of argument that no one was trying to have.
That and Portnow’s statement is just nonsensical.
*Things like this basically amount to the erasure from History, of any contributions to culture that PoC may have made. This is why information like this matters, because when people don’t know this stuff, its easy to argue that we never did anything, that we’ve always been nothing but victims, and never contributed to the cultures we inhabited.
It is important not just that White people see these images, but that Black people see them, too because this isn’t so much about winning White people’s approval, as it is a celebration, and recognition, of our accomplishments, which counters the narrative of worthlessness that White supremacy insists on disseminating throughout the world.
Pictured above is the Higdon family. This photograph was taken in the year 1898 in Britain. That is all we know about them.
Who were the Black Victorians? Mainstream history has virtually erased them from our minds and history books. We have been filled with images of slavery in America and across the world, but why is it that this chapter in black history was skipped? Why isn’t it equally common knowledge that in the midst of all of that darkness there was light, also.
Never before seen photos were uncovered, giving us over 200 images of glances into our past. Many of the photos did not include names or any details whatsoever, cloaking these people in mystery for all of time.
At one point in history, people of color were included in high society and walked the cobbled streets of Britain. The women wore intricate, voluminous gowns and wore their hair in curls and chignons. The men in suits and fair business. This may not have been the case for all black people in Britain, but for some it was.
The Victorian Era was ruled under Queen Victoria, an era that is described as an opulent culture, although there were underlying bouts of poverty and child labor. History would like you to believe that black people didn’t arrive in Britain until 1948 during “The Empire Windrush”, when many Jamaican descendants entered the country, but that is not so. There has been proof to suggest otherwise. There is documentation that proves that it wasn’t uncommon to see black faces at a Shakespeare show. We’ve been there all along, humming softly in the background.
These images prove that you can’t take mainstream history at face value. Take the time to look behind the curtain and uncover OUR history. It’s as if our ancestors are just waiting for us to seek them out.
Who were the Black Victorians?
To see more of these images check out this video reel.
Happy Black History Month.
*On Racism in Fandom, and choosing, or not choosing, a side:
Forgive the cheesiness of the Hamilton quote, but when it comes to fandom, this is a question that all fans (but particularly white, cishet fans) need to ask themselves.
Make no mistake – when it comes to the treatment of marginalized fans, especially fans of color and in particular black fans, there is no such thing as neutrality. The sides are established by the racist, homophobic, and transphobic members of the fandom, and it’s your choice whether you are on their side, or the side of the marginalized. It’s a simple question – will you be on the side of the oppressor or the oppressed?
When it comes to harmful and oppressive behavior, you cannot simply sit back in silence and watch the horror show go by – silence is violence and when you do not speak out, you quietly condone bad behavior. Is that fair? Maybe not, but neither is life.
I’ve seen the argument over and over again that people don’t want to “engage.” Fandom is their escape, their safe space, where they go to forget the troubles of the real world – which would be fine if you didn’t’ also bring the biases and cultural baggage of the ‘real world” with you to fandom. It would be fine if your safe space didn’t come at the expense of the marginalized BUT IT DOES. When you ignore our mistreatment you condone it, and your escapist fantasies hinge on us quietly taking the abuse meted out by shitheels like @geeky-jez, @adjectivebear, and @oldstupidtemplar.
Now, does this mean you have to constantly make callout posts? Nope, not even close. But there are plenty of us who do, or who discuss the racism and other faults inherent in fandom on the regular. Don’t feel personally up to leading the charge when it comes to fandom’s terrible behavior? Well then it’s time to share the voices of those who do. Your lack of input on any given issue leaves marginalized fans wondering where you stand – relogging our words, NOT sharing the content of problematic members of the community, and generally trying to be aware are basic steps you can take to show your solidarity.
Like it or not, you are going to be on a side, so make sure it’s the side you genuinely want to be on.
*Actually, I’m hoping this essay isn’t true, and that Rosita was just being salty with Sasha, because the alternative is too painful to contemplate. Everyone was able to save Sasha, but I’m getting a very bad feeling that no one will be able to save Rosita.
Rosita was salty AF because Sasha didn’t just sleep with Abraham.
He was in love with her. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He wanted to make her full of his babies. She was his lady.
And Rosita was someone he used to fuck.
Rick’s gonna officially marry Michonne. As soon as they find Father Gabriel, I am telling y’all. He has the same heart eyes Abe used to have Sasha, or Glenn had for Maggie. And Michonne’s whispering about how they’re the one’s that live.
I mean, that is it for them–there is no one else. Rick knows it. Michonne knows it. Y’all know.
I like rosita and everything but she was getting on my last nerve this episode
I hate how bitter & reactive Rosita’s character is being written the last few episodes. Sasha is not her enemy and the writers shouldn’t be forcing cattiness on her from Rosita.
Rosita isn’t “salty” or jealous of Sasha.
She’s going through the last stages of deep depression right before a suicide attempt, (-pushing people away, fatalistic mindset, etc).
Negan beat Abraham to death and then after failing to goad her, beat Glenn to death and took Daryl. Then when she tried to commit suicide by Negan and take him out at the same time by shooting him, it backfired and Olivia was killed instead.
That scar she carries on her face is emblematic of that deeper pain. In the scene where she received the scar, she was literally daring Negan and Co. to kill her for her mistake, and they didn’t. They killed yet another person on her watch, while she lives with it being, in her mind “her fault”.
I’m honestly, disappointed in the line of thought in this post, because it might come from a similar place to the lack of empathy we’ve witnessed for Sasha’s pain. Shs was called all kinds of bitter, annoying, angry, when really she was just hurting; going through her PTSD. …All because she’s a black woman.
Rosita isn’t some basic angry “fiery” jealous Latina, mad because she was jilted… She’s beenbeyond that.
Every line she gave was a sign of a defeatist fatalistic mindset. “What’s the use trying because it will go wrong anyway.” The unspoken train of thought is that people died and will continue to die, and she’ll probably have a hand getting those people killed.
That’s why she spoke to Sasha and Morgan in that way she did about the deaths.
It’s also probably the reason why she stashed that bundle of dynamite, because she’s planning on rectifying her “mistakes”.
Rosita isn’t jealous or mean or a being an annoying bitch….
SHE’S BEING SUICIDAL, because she hates herself for what she sees as her role in getting the people she loves killed. If you were paying attention to the episode where Denise got killed, she actually read Rosita correctly, right before that arrow went through her head (yet another lost life on Rosita’s conscience, where she probably thinks she didn’t push the issue enough of her staying behind).
Rosita is a deeply sensitive empathic person, who gives everything to everyone else. That’s why she’s acting this way. ….She can’t have people caring enough to get themselves killed for her again (hell, even Spencer’s sorry ass was another one she thinks is on her, because she was the only one with clues to what he would attempt).
Her whole M.O. for who and why she’s survived this long is her love and caring for others. Her selflessness, to the point where it just wasn’t emotionally healthy. …But, it helped her survive the zombie apocalypse.
Everything that you see Rosita doing, is her purposely pushing people away so they won’t miss her when she’s gone after she “corrects” her “mistakes”.
We know what it is to see WOC’s pain dismissed because of super-basic and wrong unfeeling, bitchy stereotypes.
Can we not do that to Rosita?
*MikeyMagee breaks down why La La Land, while a perfectly acceptable movie, isn’t nearly as groundbreaking as people would have you believe, relying as it does, on the safety of White nostalgia, for its accolades.
Let me start off by saying that I really enjoyed La La Land. I didn’t hate it at all. I enjoy old Hollywood films. I liked Singing in the Rain, and Meet Me in St. Louis, and Victor/Victoria and Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. And as an homage to those kinds of films, La La Land was wonderful
But…that’s about all it is. La La Land (while nice for what it is) wasn’t anything innovative, or new. Instead of breaking new ground it instead returned to an old past that prided itself on exclusion (and let’s be real, old Hollywood was all about excluding nonwhites and LGBT individuals.)
And the movie approaches all of its subjects from a very Eurocentric perspective. It’s a very white film, and that was very apparent as I watched it. Take Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who wanted to “save jazz” and was disturbed by his friend Keith’s more modern interpretation of the genre. When Sebastian was busy shaking his head at Keith’s innovation all I could do was sit there and think “Well, what’s Keith supposed to do? He’s working in an industry that routinely celebrates white mediocrity and ignores Black innovation!” Keith was a black man who had to work even harder to make a dent in the same industry that Sebastian was working in as well. That’s how racism works.
When Sebastian was talking about the history of Jazz, he left out many (racial) aspects of it. Like how it was spread by the Harlem Hellfighters in World War I, how Jazz was originally played by and for black people. That when white people began to play Jazz they had more access to high end bookings, and shows, etc. When Sebastian said he wanted to keep Jazz from dying, all I could think of was, “Well, maybe you should keep your white gentrifying hands off of it then…”
And then there was Mia (Emma Stone) who was working to be an actress. And her struggles there in. And all I could think about was how far more difficult it would be for an actress of color in her shoes. At least Mia had roles she could audition for. For a lot of nonwhite actresses simply having a script that requires a nonwhite woman is a luxury.
I mean, with all the stuff going on in America right now, I don’t think a film that runs on nostalgia and an over romantic view of America’s history is good. And if a film is going to get that much critical acclaim (I mean, 14 Oscar noms?) then I’m expecting it to break new ground and forge a path ahead. But La La Land did not do that. In fact, it did the exact opposite.
Moonlight, is without a doubt, my favorite film of the year. And yeah, I may be biased because I’m a black gay man, but I don’t really care. It’s hard to find movies that showcase the Black identity. And it’s hard to find movies that showcase the gay identity. And it’s damn near impossible to find movies that show off the black gay identity. And believe me, I’ve looked. There are great black gay films out there (Blackbird, Rag and Tag, Naz and Malik, Brother 2 Brother, to name a couple). But Moonlight is in another league altogether. Moonlight actually starts a conversation in both of those communities. It looks hypermasculinity within the black community and outlines the consequences, and it shows that there are such a thing as Black Queers (something the LGBT community hasn’t figured out yet). And as Black Queers our experiences diverge from white LGBT experiences and black heterosexual experiences. It’s an entirely new narrative that gets no spotlight in the mainstream (and frankly, it still hasn’t. Moonlight was an indie film on a shoestring budget that isn’t even playing in commercial theaters anymore.)
Moonlight is a movie that requires contemplation. It’s not easily digestible like La La Land. It challenges as well as illuminates. Moonlight forces people to look at themselves and their ideals. It makes you uncomfortable and has a longer impression. La La Land is just more of the same. It’s nice for what it is, but I hate that people are going insane over a movie that’s been done a thousand times, and will continue to be done.
It’s as I said before, white mediocrity will always be rewarded at a higher rate than black innovation, and that’s what’s driving me nuts.
*Actually, its almost like if you build it, they will come. I’m glad this is happening really, although I don’t necessarily feel that White people have anything to offer, in conversation, on some of these shows. But I’m glad other people are at least willing to give the shows a try and get something positive from them.
Kip Adotta is a Cleveland comedian mostly famous for a bunch of parody songs written during the eighties and nineties. He was one of my favorite comedians growing up. The first time I heard the song Wet Dream, I think I was about 14, and it just tickled the Hell out of me.
For some reason Kip likes to appear in his music videos dressed in a fedora and trenchcoat, but do’nt hold that against him. He’s actually pretty funny. If you like ridiculous puns and juvenile whimsy, he’s your guy.
If you’re old enough to remember The Dr. Demento show, then you will probably remember at least a couple of these songs.