Hi! Have Some Mini Reviews

Attack of the Killer Donuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Star Trek Discovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Justice League

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

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

 

Thor: Ragnarok

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

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

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Funny moment #213!

I had a great time!

 

Blade of the Immortal

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

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

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

 

Valerian and the City of One Thousand Planets

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

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

So let’s get this right:

Enslaved? Check!

Sex worker?Check!

Torture of yet another PoC? Check!

Comedy relief? Check!

Sacrifices herself to save the White protagonists? Check!

*Sigh!*

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

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

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And so am I.

 

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The Mist Movie Review

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

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

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

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

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The Grey Widower

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

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

The Stephen King Multiverse

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The Leviathan

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

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

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David Drayton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edward Norton

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Carmody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superstition & Stuff I’m Not Doing

Well apparently, I’m not reviewing any TV shows, which I probably should be doing. Actually, all it is is that I’ve been busy and tired to review the shows, and movies, I’ve been watching, and I’ve been watching a lot of stuff.

What have I been watching?  I have been watching The Walking Dead. So far I’m really liking this season. It’s very action packed, and full of feels, and I like that. All of my favorite characters are doing some next level shit as  the war between The Alexandrians, Hilltoppers, The  Kingdom, and The Saviors  heats up. I haven’t been feeling any urges to write about any of these episodes though, although I find  Morgan’s storyline the most compelling. I just learned that my precious tigress is dead. Shiva got taken out by a pack of zombies, while defending the life of her king. (RIP Shiva! You badass!)

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I’m so tired!

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Part of the reason I’m not reviewing so much is that I’m tired, but part of it is that I don’t actually know what to say about it yet.. There’s not a lot to be said about the plot, other than to recap it, and if you’re watching the show, you already know what happened. Morgan and Jesus came to “fisticuffs’ over the treatment of prisoners of war, and Carol got her kill on for a while, and Gregory kept it real by being an asshole. I do have thoughts about the characters, and major themes, but I think I’ll wait until after the first part of the season is done to comment on those. We’ve got three episodes left, so I think I’ll just do a summation of my thoughts at the end.

I always get fatigued in November and December, and not because I’m celebrating the  holidays. I’m not celebrating, or hosting or anything. It’s a combination of insomnia, sleep apnea, and finding human beings exhausting, even when they’re not jitterbugging with overexcitement  about the  holidays. (Also, some of it is just a change in the weather and age. Feeling cold all the time is just tiring. Y’all yunguns just don’t know!)

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And I don’t get any respite from the weather while at work. The PTB keep it freezing here, so all the women are wearing sweaters, and carrying around tiny electric heaters, while many of the  men walk around in shirtsleeves, and poke fun at us for being cold all the time. I can’t stand them!

 

Supernatural

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Where was I? Oh yeah, I’ve been watching episodes of Supernatural, but not reviewing those either. I have liked the episodes I’ve seen, but that one particular standout episode, that occurs every season, hasn’t happened yet. I’m waiting for that one. There’s only so many times I can say this episode deserves a B-. So far the show appears to be in a kind of holding pattern except for the return of Castiel from The Empty, but it’s still early in the season, so we have plenty of time to establish where the plot is going, but our theme is, as always, is family.

 

Ghost Wars

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I’ve been watching Ghost Wars, which is still chugging along on the Syfy channel. I’m liking this show, with one of my favorite characters being played by Meatloaf. He is doing an exemplary job on this show. I hadn’t paid too much attention to his acting before, but I love him in this show. He is tearing it up! The show is actually proving to be kinda scary. I’m not normally into ghosts. I don’t usually find them particularly scary, but the show is pretty good at establishing mood, and I find most of the characters likable. There’s a token Black woman,  a scientist from the local research center. No, I would not be surprised to find that some physics experiments were behind the influx and hostility of the ghosts.

 

The Exorcist

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The Exorcist has kicked it into high gear. The first few episodes were spent establishing the information about where, and who, the characters are going to be, and then trying to figure out who is possessed. So we’ve figured out  its John Cho’s character, who is possessed by a demon that’s masquerading as his late-wife, and this is really groundbreaking for American television because Asians don’t often get to be possessed by demons, and the show is actually proving to be compelling. There also an added gay subplot, as one of the priests is engaged in some flirtation with a local silver-fox, who looks like Anderson Cooper, (if he was a fisherman). There’s also a secondary plot about some type of holy order of assassins hunting down a cabal of demons, which is only of mild interest to me. I’ll have more to say about the treatment of the show’s traumatized children, and their disabilities, later.

I am working on some long form essays. I can still knock those out, it seems. And I have a bunch of ideas, that I’m not gonna tell you about, because I wanna surprise you. I’m going to  concentrate on those for a while, along with a few long form movie reviews, and eventually I’ll have something to say about The Walking Dead, and Supernatural.

 

Superstition

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What I have been enjoying is the show Superstition. I mentioned it before, and said I wasn’t greatly impressed with the acting,in the pilot,  and I thought the drama was a bit much, considering I didn’t know any of the characters, but I’ve kept up watching it, and it’s maturing into a compelling show.

Superstition has an all Black cast, about a family, The Hastings, who have a history of fighting monsters. It’s their calling, and their base of operations is a small-town funeral home in Georgia. It stars Mario Van Peebles, and while I was a bit dubious about the quality at first, I’m  glad  the show is here. Even if it doesn’t become a breakout hit, it’s still a good foot in the door, paving the way for other genre vehicles starring PoC casts, (so is The Exorcist).

That said, this show has greatly improved since the pilot. The acting has gotten much better, too. I’ve got a good bead on people’s relationships to each other, and the show can, and does sometimes surprise me, by overturning certain tropes, or not going in an expected direction, and it keeps me asking questions, on the basis of those relationships, which is proving to be the show’s strong point.

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Isaac Hastings & May, Chief of Police

The show stars Mario Van Peebles as Isaac Hastings, who taught his son Calvin the ins and outs of monster killing, and his wife Bea, who runs the day to day operations of the funeral home and, I think, is one of the keepers of the family lore, along with a woman of mixed parentage named Tilley. I’m not certain if Tilly is a member of the family or not, but she’s very smart and nerdy, and I like her. The local police chief is May (above), and she has a daughter by Calvin, named Garvey. Garvey is the least likable character on the show but only because, as is  typically written, she’s an obnoxious teenager. There’s nothing wrong with her acting. The character is just annoying.

The show has a lot of Black women, and all of them have complicated, and occasionally mysterious, relationships with each other, which Calvin has to try to navigate, along with getting to know the daughter he never knew he had, reacquainting himself with her mother, and his childhood sweetheart, May, who is now the Chief of Police. He has already been through a bout of people fighting, as he has returned from the Iraq war, after having left town many years ago, and not had any contact with his family, after a falling out with his father.

The show is notable for its depiction of a stable Black family, depictions of Black love and loyalty and Black women actually holding conversations with each other, instead of screaming at each other. Its also important for PoC to be shown being heroes, saving themselves and each other, and being total badasses, in general. Calvin is obviously meant to be the everyman hero of the show. I like how the writers allow him to be human, complex, tragic, and also have a sense of humor. I love the female friendships (and mild enmities) on the show. I like what I see between Garvey and her Mom, Bea and May, and them and Tilly, who seems to be some kind of archivist or researcher. She’s the one who most often explains whats going on to everyone else.

What’s interesting  for me is Calvin’s flirtation with his old girlfriend, May. He was taken aback at the idea of having a daughter he didn’t know about but he’s taken it in stride and wants to get to know her better (though Garvey is having none of it. She’s used to not having a Dad.) I like that May and Calvin are trying to get back together, and making some effort at getting to know each other again. The show could’ve taken the easy way out, and had the two of them hating on each other, and I’m glad it didn’t go in that direction.

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I made the mistake of reading the reviews on IMDb, which truly indeed was a mistake, because some of the reviews seriously pissed me off. The show is being roundly hated on , while being compared to Supernatural. Superstition is everything that Supernatural isn’t, and it really isn’t fair to compare the two. For one thing, Superstition has a cast of WoC, who are well written and treated better by the script. None of the Black characters are there to make White characters lives better or happy, or sacrifice themselves for them. (And I am unlikely to be subjected to the image of an innocent Black woman being held at gunpoint, by a deranged stalker, because the Black writers  have at least some sensitivity to their audience.)

Other than a family fighting monsters, I don’t see  much resemblance. Half the shows on TV have the same premise as Supernatural, so I don’t understand exactly why that’s the comparison being made, unless of course the reviewers are Supernatural stans who just hate any shows about the supernatural, or are too young to remember that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a thing. There’s also a third reason, but I don’t wanna get my blood pressure up by talking about the Klandom today.

 

The Hastings aren’t travelling the country, evading demons, fighting angels, and developing superpowers. Their base of operations is a funeral parlour,  which they’ve been at for a long time, and everybody in the family knows what it is they do, and appear to be on board with it, including Garvey. They also have a society or person (I’m not sure which) which rivals them, called The Drudge. There are other mythologies and belief systems being represented besides European ones. For example, one of my favorite actors, Jasmine Guy, is doing a great cameo as a representative of  Anansi, named, of course, Aunt Nancy, and I love her already, and all she had to do was show up, and be intriguing.

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Isaac and Calvin Hastings

 

For the Hastings this is all just a job. The show tries to make what they do seem as normal as possible, as just a family profession. This show doesn’t talk down to its audience, or browbeat a point, because that’s not Peebles style.  Superstition doesn’t give you a whole lot of setup, which I had a moment getting used to. It throws you right in the deep end with Calvin. You learn what he learns as he learns it. You get one explanation and then it’s  on you to keep up. If you don’t pay attention to the dialogue and you miss something, you betta rewind, because it probably won’t be mentioned again, but still may be an important plot point later.

The atmosphere is one of normalcy, with routine answers to supernatural  puzzles, like trying to retrieve May when she gets trapped in a “mirror world” by an evil witch. There’s no oohing and ahhing about the paranormal in this show. It’s the bizarreness of the situations people  are put in, and the relationships between the characters, that is the source of most of the drama. Supernatural started as a show for teenagers, and still has much of that flavor. This is a show about grownups for grownups. The audience is expected to pay attention and keep up. I reminded more of the show Leverage, crossed with the X-Files, more than anything else.

Not that the there aren’t legitimate criticisms of the show. The pacing needs some smoothing, some of the acting is  still a little dodgy, but not enough to make me stop watching. It could use some memorable music. I don’t care so much about the special effects, as I don’t think that’s what makes a good show, and some of the acting could be tightened up a bit, but its far from being the worst show on TV, and shows real promise of future greatness, and I’m here for it.

 

So, I’m off for the next couple of days, and will get back to you, for some weekend reading, later this week.

TTFN

Bladerunner 2049 LinkSpam

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

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

 

Identity

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

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2017/10/17/blade-runner-2049-is-about-learning-that-youre-not-the-main-character-in-your-own-story/?utm_term=.47e2d3dd43f2

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/11/blade-runner-2049-knows-you-arent-special.html

https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/10/9/16433088/blade-runner-2049-spoilers-review

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/10/the-real-and-unreal-in-blade-runner-2049/542574/

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Dystopia

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

http://thephilosophicalsalon.com/blade-runner-2049-a-view-of-post-human-capitalism/

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

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/why-blade-runner-2049-may-have-been-a-victim-of-peak-dystopia-fatigue-w507722

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

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Race

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

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

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

@

http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/10/06/25457531/race-and-blade-runner-2049

http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2017/10/13/on-blade-runner-2049s-asian-influence-and-disconnect

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/blade-runner-2049-why-it-matters-deckard-is-a-replicant-1046963

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/06/blade-runner-2049-dystopian-vision-seen-things-wouldnt-believe

@

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

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

 

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Women

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

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

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

http://mashable.com/2017/10/14/blade-runner-2049-feminist-environment-patriarchy/#Dp20nOimkkqJ

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/10/20/blade-runners-immaterial-girls/

http://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/blade-runner/268248/blade-runner-2049-and-the-role-of-joi-in-a-joyless-world

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The Actors

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

http://www.vulture.com/2017/10/ryan-goslings-vulnerable-performance-in-blade-runner-2049.html

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THE MEANING OF LIFE IN ‘BLADE RUNNER 2049’

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

https://psmag.com/news/meaning-of-life-blade-runner-2049

 

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Audience

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

https://www.wired.com/2017/10/geeks-guide-blade-runner-2049/

Thangs I Been Looking At (Mini – Reviews)

Ghost Wars

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Superstition

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

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

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

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

 

Stranger Things Season Two

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jeepers Creepers 3

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

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

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

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

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

 

Seoul Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mummy

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

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

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

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

Mindhunter Review

*Amanda DobbinsWe need more expensive, mediocre, highly watchable television!

https://www.theringer.com/tv/2017/10/18/16495494/mindhunter-exit-survey

*Fennessey: One of the things I like about this show is that its pleasure is not derived from murder sequences, scenes that depict or dissect murder, or even the hunt for a killer. They’re process-driven, sure. But they are also skeptical of their heroes, unafraid to undermine their intelligence. This show isn’t about watching serial killers. It’s about watching watchers.

                                   ———-Excerpted from the Mindhunter Exit Survey

I’m just going to showcase this review of Mindhunter from Bitch Media. It highlights all the good and bad, from the perspective of a fan of Forensic Science shows.

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I’m also a fan of Forensic Science shows, in general, and I did like this show a lot, but it does have some real issues. Those particular issues didnt stop me from bingewatching it though, mostly because, on the issues of racism and misogyny, I expect only the absolute bare minimum, from a White male Hollywood director like Fincher, who has never addressed those specific issues in any of  his movies. (Now if this were Bryan Fuller, I’d be more upset. I expect more social awareness from Fuller, than I do from Fincher.)

Hollywood’s writers, who tend to be White and male, have a blind spot when it comes to certain issues and most of them are highlighted in this show. Not wanting to address those particular issues, (like  racial corruption in the FBI and COINTELPRO) doesn’t make those issues go away, and this is something that made me increasingly uncomfortable as I watched, as  I know something of the FBI’s sordid history.

I would have found this a far more interesting show had its focus been on one of the much smarter women, like the lesbian psychologist who gives the lead character all the correct answers, or the girlfriend with an actual sociology degree. I would have liked to have seen whatever dynamic played out with the killers being interviewed by someone they would normally consider one of their victims.

One thing that the article doesn’t mention is the latent homosexuality, in this all male environment, which is tinged with just a hint of violence between the main character and his interviewees. This is noticeable especially in the scene with Edmund Kemper, who makes a habit of invading the character’s personal space ,and touching him in an almost intimate manner, when they first meet. I think this is entirely unintentional on the part of the writer, but probably not on the actor’s part.

Cameron Britton and Jonathan Groff in Mindhunter

 

On the other hand, I do realize that’s not the show’s focus, (as its not a critique of the FBI,) and I do know more than I should about some of  the serial killers being interviewed in the show, having read John Douglas’ seminal book of the same name (and all his other books). Edmund Kemper, Jerome Brudos, and Dennis Rader (known as BTK) are all featured, and I can see that much more attention was paid to getting their details correct than in approaching social issues. Also, Douglas doesn’t address any of these issues in his book, so the writers may have been performing their idea of faithfulness to the source material.

PROFILING 101

THE WHITE MEDIOCRITY OF “MINDHUNTER”

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/mindhunter-white-male-problem

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‘Ford is a mediocre white cishet male hostage negotiator for the FBI, who we are introduced to during a hostage situation. While the hostage was not harmed, the perpetrator–who was suffering from mental illness–committed suicide. We learn, though, that Ford already exhibits some of the character traits that will lead him to criminal psychology; that is, exploring not just what killers do, but why they do it. Post-hostage scene, Ford’s mediocrity is increasingly apparent to everyone except, perhaps, the writer and director, who clearly envision him as a determined and dedicated individual hellbent on finding answers, but who the audience might peg as a white guy to whom white-guy things happen.’

 

Mindhunter is available on Netflix, and despite its problems, is actually is worth watching, although it’s a much better show if you know nothing about the history of the FBI. Hopefully, the writer will become a little more daring with his characters and plot, in the second season.

Note: This is a vert talky show. There are no car chases, gore, or scenes of women screaming and running. The horror doesn’t derive from watching the killers take lives, but talking about why they did it, and how, and the focus, and casualness, with which they approach the concept of killing other human beings, as a hobby. 

28 Days Later (2002): The Evolution of Selena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It won’t be October, but I’m still going to do that last review, which is Gugu M’Batha-Raw From Blade. Stay tuned!

They Came From Netgalley

 

 

I was really excited to get these from Netgalley, and I’m happy to share my thoughts about them with you guys. I’m usually never able to finish reading these before I get the next book, or the original is released but, I like to take my time and get the full flavor of a book before reviewing it.

 

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng 

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I don’t think I’m going to finish this book. I was initially very excited at the idea of Christian Missionaries from the Victorian era visiting the land of Fairy, as that is such a novel concept, but this book has turned out not to be what I’d hoped. What I thought would be  a kind of expedition to strange lands and peoples,  with grand adventures, heroes and villains, turned out to be a lot slower and more contemplative. This isn’t a bad book, I just don’t think I’m the audience for it.

First,  let me start off by emphasizing, for me, this is a very slow book. There’s almost no action, and little investigation of the Fairylands, even though I’m almost a third of the way through. The main character, a woman searching for her brother who has become lost in Fairyland, has been trapped in the same location since the beginning of the book, a large mansion where her brother resided. She is an acceptably brave and intelligent character, and I like hearing her thoughts as she narrates the story, but she hasn’t gotten a chance to have any real adventure, which I thought this book would be about. The most notable thing she has done is find an important book in the mansion’s  library, meet a couple of  fairy house servants, and hold a church service.

I also feel some type of way about missionaries in general (as in not approving of them) but so far the proselytizing has been kept to a minimum. It’s not  that type of book, for which I am grateful, but I still don’t know if I want to keep reading it.

 
Magicians Impossible by Brad Abraham

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This book is much more promising. I like the action in this book. What I don’t like is the protagonist. The lead character is just boring and so very ordinary. Jason Bishop has a mysterious past, and a father he barely knew, who was said to have committed suicide. When he attends his father’s funeral, he starts an adventure where he discovers that he comes from a line of mages, and that his father was one of the primary players in an ongoing fight between several magical societies.

I don’t dislike this book, (I really like  it!) but Jason is not an exciting  character, and maybe that’s the point.  Maybe there’s some character growth later in the story? I don’t dislike him though. That would require that he have enough personality to dislike. On the other hand, the other characters are really interesting. There’s a female  Punk/Mage I really liked, and the bad guys are suitably nasty, and everyone is after Jason. Jason  has to try to navigate an entirely new and unknown world, manage his own magical gifts, and figure out who are his friends and enemies.

The magic in the books is the typical bombastic hand waving sort, but it’s also abetted by actual card magic,  which I thought was a lot of fun. Despite the presence of Jason, I am looking forward to the next book in the series, as we get past all the introductory stuff of Jason picking up skills, and meeting the other characters. Once we get into the serious world-building, this will be a wonderful series to tide you over, between Harry Dresden novels, which is the greatest compliment I could give to an Urban Fantasy book.

 

The Change Series by Guy Adams

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I remember reading something very similar to this book a few years ago. That opening chapter scared the Beejesus out of me because I had no idea what was happening. I never got a chance to finish that book, and I think this is it.

Something happened. As in Robert McCammon’s short story ‘Something Passed By’, something happened on Earth that was so awful, that most of the people who witnessed it died. The ones who didn’t die were  mentally and physically altered and all the rules of the world changed. No one can get near any of the cities without dying, animal life has been altered, and strange and malevolent creatures prey on the people who are left.

Howard managed to survive the invasion but has amnesia. He doesn’t remember what happened but knows he needs to make it to the city of London. On the way he encounters machinist biker gangs, deadly blackbirds, and a mechanized monster that eats people and incorporates their bodies into its own.

This is a six-part series ranging from London, to Paris, to Tokyo, chronicling the adventures of various characters as they deal with this new and changed world. What makes the books so frightening is that all of the changes are inexplicable and unexpected. We learn about the nightmares of this world at the same time the characters do. The world was a known thing, but now all bets are off, and almost anything at all can happen to them as they try to survive, not just the monsters created in the wake of The Change, but the people who were badly affected by it.

The latest in the series, about the adventures of a young girl in Tokyo, named Noriko, is available  on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

Alien Vs. Predator & Demon Knight

Who Saves the World

(We do!)

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Here’s the second set of reviews for 31 Days of Black Women in Horror Movies for the website Graveyard Shift Sisters.

You may not think these two movies have much in common, but you’d be wrong. They have at least two things in common, Black female heroes, and Black female heroes who live to the end of the movie.

 

http://www.blackhorrormovies.com/scary-sistas-a-brief-history-of-black-women-in-horror-films/

 

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If you’re not aware of the old movie trope, “The Black Guy Dies First”, then you don’t know how groundbreaking it is for a movie to not only have a Black hero, but for that Black hero to live all the way to the end of the movie ,while saving the world. This was famously spoofed by the Black slayer named Rona, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with her snide remark to Buffy, “The Black girl gets it…”

Thanks to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, horror movies have always tried to have progressive representation. This certainly isn’t true of all such movies, but Horror and Scifi movies are at least willing to break with the tradition of a White male hero and cast women, and PoC, as the stars of the movies. From The Afflicted with its Asian male lead, to Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis, and Sigourney Weaver in Alien,  from Danny Glover in Predator II, and Wesley Snipes in Blade, many of these movies have become iconic films by overturning the tradition of having a White guy be the hero.

Predator, the franchise ,was itself willing to break with tradition, after casting Arnold Schwarzeneggar as the hero of the first movie, by casting Danny Glover as the hero of the second. That movie is also unique in casting a Latina, Maria Conchita Alonso, as one of that movie’s good guys, who also gets to live to the end.

 

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Alien Vs Predator is just continuing this habit by casting Sanaa Lathan as Alexa Woods,  the guide for a team of archaeologists, who are exploring the Antarctic for alien artifacts, along with Charles Bishop Weyland, the CEO of Weyland Industries, and the prototype for Bishop, the android from Aliens. Suffice to say,, she is the only  survivor, after the team gets caught in the crossfire between the Aliens, and the Predators who came to Earth to hunt them.

Alexa is as tough as they come. She’s brave and determined, and finally rewarded for her fortitude with the proper facial scars of a successful Predator, by the other Predators, who have been watching the events from on-high. I haven’t watched this movie in a few years. I have to admit, I failed to appreciate its novelty when it was released. It’s only on later viewings that I realized the film’s uniqueness. It, and the fearless Alexa Woods, have since become a favorite. (I find it especially interesting that most of the reviews of this movie seem to ignore her presence in it, although fans of the movie seem to really like her, and Danny Glover.)

This movie is also notable because Alexa is also a scientist, an environmental technician. As depictions of Black women in science are really hard to come by at the movies, its important to take note, its the Blerdgirl who saves the world.

http://www.btchflcks.com/2016/07/when-will-black-women-play-leading-scientists-more-often.html#.WfDwM1tSxD4

 

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Irene goes out like a Boss!

Demon Knight is notable not just for Jada Pinkett as Jeryline, the hero of the movie, but for also starring CCH Pounder as Irene, her bullying work release employer, who is every bit as badass as she thinks she is. I did not fail to appreciate the release of this movie. Mom and I were already Jada Pinkett fans after her work in A Lowdown Dirty Shame and we were looking forward to seeing her work it in our favorite genre, Horror. We were not disappointed. Jeryline is smart as fuck, and fearless too. From the moment you meet her character, she is sympathetic, and you start to root for her to survive this movie, because you just know, somebody’s gonna die!

William Sadler (another favorite of mine) plays Frank Brayker, as a Knight of the Cross, attempting to keep a Holy artifact out of the hands of Billy Zane’s Collector, to keep the world safe from demons. The artifact is meant to hold the blood of Christ, but over the centuries, the Keepers of the “The Key” began to fill it with their own blood. The blood in The Key is sanctified  to create protective barriers, or to kill demons directly, and when the last of the blood is used, the Keeper, who is immortal as long as he/she carries it,  dies.

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When Brayker finally sacrifices his life, he passes The Key to Jeryline. The person who carries The Key must be a thief,  in homage to the first carrier of The Key, a thief who stole Christ’s blood at God’s command. Jeryline fits the bill because it was the reason for her prison conviction. In the end, Jeryline defeats The Collector, in a novel way that would never have occurred to Frank, and sets herself on the road, followed by a new Collector, a Black man carrying a suspicious looking guitar case. (My mom and I applauded.)

I was disappointed to learn there would be no sequel to this movie. I would’ve loved to have  seen this take place in Georgia or Louisiana, with an all Black cast.

Hollywood is still somewhat stuck in the rut of pandering to the White male demographic, but that is slowly beginning to change, especially after the success of Get Out, and the forthcoming release of Proud Mary in January, and Black Panther during Black History Month, next year. Hollywood could use Indie and genre films as an example of how to craft movies that appeal to other than White men.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT, Jada Pinkett, 1995. (c) MCA/Universal Pictures
Jeryline – Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight 
In this cult classic, Jerlyline is the definition of survivor. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind nor kick a serious amount of ass, both of which she did!

 

 

http://wickedhorror.com/top-horror-lists/7-fierce-black-women-in-horror/

Yes, Black women want to have onscreen adventures. We like to see representations of us in movies, and TV shows, being heroes, being brave, and fearless, and saving the world, just like White women, (and I’ll wager that Asian women, and Latinas want to see this too.) There have been so many demographics Hollywood has been ignoring for decades. Horror movies, by their nature, seem willing to be different, to overturn tropes, and even mock its own stereotypes.

These aren’t the only Horror movies featuring Women of Color, they just happen to be two of my favorites. Its about time for me to watch them again.

*     *     *   *   *     *       *      *    *       *

https://blackgirlnerds.com/black-women-and-feminism-in-horror-films/

In all these films, these women used their brains, brawn, and instincts to survive amidst a mostly white, male cast. They weren’t treated as servants or sex slaves except for that cringe worthy scene in 28 Days Later.

All three women fought just as hard or harder than their white, male counterparts; proving that they could and did survive regardless of their gender or race.

Weekend Link Roundup

Here’s some interesting reading from around the web, for the weekend. Some of the articles are older, but no less relevant:

 

Asian Erasure

*From Firefly and Star Wars, and from Bladerunner to The Matrix. What do these movies have in common? They’re all about the future, and they all have a certain Asian aesthetic. Unfortunately they also have no Asians in them. Hollywood loves seeing an Asian future, as long as there are no actual Asian people in that future. The Chinese population is some 1.3 billion people.  People classifying themselves as White make up only 11% of the world’s population and are set to be even less than that in the future as their population continues to decline, yet, there’s no evidence of that in any of the most popular movies about the future.

https://boingboing.net/2017/10/11/cyberpunks-asian-representat.html

https://moviepilot.com/p/what-is-cyberpunks-obsession-asian-imagery/4379249

https://www.avclub.com/read-this-why-does-cyberpunk-keep-making-asian-cities-1819366143

http://www.slashfilm.com/blade-runner-2049-asian-culture/

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mb7yqx/cyberpunk-cities-fetishize-asian-culture-but-have-no-asians-blade-runner

 

Hollywood’s “Little” Problem

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https://www.thedailybeast.com/hollywoods-other-open-secret-besides-harvey-weinstein-preying-on-young-boys?via=newsletter&source=Entertainment

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/corey-feldman-elijah-wood-hollywood-897403

https://www.thedailybeast.com/elijah-wood-calls-out-hollywoods-pedophile-problem

 

Toxic Masculinity in Pop Culture

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http://www.vulture.com/2017/04/nice-guys-in-movies-arent-nice-anymore.html

https://www.themarysue.com/toxic-masculinity-in-jessica-jones-kilgrave-as-a-nice-guy-and-will-simpson-as-misogynistic-hero/

https://www.themarysue.com/wolverine-toxic-masculinity/

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/how-fargo-captures-sad-realities-toxic-masculinity

http://www.ebony.com/news-views/toxic-masculinity#axzz4w4vfOIGI

https://www.thecut.com/2017/10/this-isnt-toxic-masculinity-its-sociopathic-baby-men.html

 

Neo Yokio Review

 

  1. Lord help the poor souls for whom Neo Yokio is their first introduction to anime — and let that same Lord (whatever benevolent nerd deity presides over these sorts of things) bless the brave souls who watched this inane attempt at entertainment knowing that so much greater anime exists in the world.

    Neo Yokio, a Netflix original series created by Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and starring the vocal talents of Jaden Smith, Jude Law, Susan Sarandon, Jason Schwartzman, and Steve Buscemi, among many others, takes place in a futuristic New York City that’s underwater south of 14th Street. In this version of New York, which is randomly and inexplicably peppered with elements of Japanese culture, one’s social standing — showcased on the all-knowing “Bachelor Board” in Times Square — is of the utmost importance, and those with old money look down upon the “magistocrats,” demon-slaying members of the elite who have worked their way up, through exorcisms and social engagements, into the class of nouveau riche (aka “Neo Riche” ::queue eyeroll::).

    Our hero (a term I’ll use with the same degree of irony that Neo Yokio overuses to no end) is Kaz Kaan, a young magistocrat who spends his time exorcising some demons but even more time complaining about his social status, shopping, and bemoaning his relationship status to his friends and mecha British butler, Charles. And what’s the plot, you may ask — a fitting question, but one for which Neo Yokio has no answer. The show literally follows Kaz as he mopes around, goes on errands, and tries to figure out how to become the most eligible bachelor in Neo Yokio. If there’s a reason why we should care about Kaz’s problems, it’s unclear. After all, with its fixation on brand names, fashion, and the superficial minutiae of Kaz’s upper-class life, Neo Yokio presents itself solely as a satire of classism and commercialism in our culture, right? Maybe.

    That’s just the problem — it’s unclear. For all its posturing about class, Neo Yokio never actually commits itself to saying anything about it. We see the characters bask in their privilege and throw around their money carelessly but the only instance of real contrast is when we see how Kaz treats Charles and the few characters he briefly encounters in the service industry (including the sales clerk at Bergdorf’s, whom he only refers to as “sales clerk”) with utter disregard. The characters — and the show in general — exist in a kind of vacuum, making it impossible to determine whether the show is taking itself seriously or not at all — and if it’s satirizing a group of people or an idea, who or what exactly that is. None of the characters are written with any depth and none of them reveal the show’s true aim. Sure, fashion blogger Helena St. Tessero awakens to the superficiality of Neo Yokio and initially seems like she’ll be the lens through which we may see the satirized world (think the smart, incisive gaze of Daria, who reveals the stupidity of those around her), but she too is exaggerated to the point of no return (read: is turned into a terrorist-recluse), leaving us with equally fatuous celebrations and dismissals of this upper-class life.

     

@@

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Writing With Color

 

*Here’s some basic writing advice, for writing just about any marginalized group, (and eve nsome very common, not so marginalized groups) so you don’t come off looking like a racist twat! Now this is not to say you can do none of these things. Some of them can be done without offense, if you have a damn good reason for doing it. Some of the others…not so much.

 

Common Micro-aggressions: African Americans and/or
Black People

Anonymous said: What are some common micro-aggressions that a black american will regularly have to deal with?

Behold this masterpost of common micro-aggressions towards African Americans and/or people in the African Diaspora, several of which may be applicable to other PoC. Micro-aggressions can be perpetuated by White people as well as fellow Black people and People of Color.

This is just to give a thorough understanding of some of the things a Black person (often in America) deals with. Don’t run forward and jam-pack your Black character with every one of these experiences, though I can say I’ve personally experienced every one of these or know someone who has.

General Micro-aggressions

  • People excusing blackface.
  • Having our grammar and annunciation corrected.
  • “I don’t see you as a Black person/ I don’t see colour.”
  • Calling Black people ghetto, thugs, rachet, sassy, urban…
  • People debating why they should be allowed to say the n-word.
  • Then saying the n-word anyway.
  • Whispering, spitting, or stumbling over the word “Black” as if it’s a curse.
  • Refusing to pronounce your name right, or just calling you by a different name that’s easier.
  • Alternatively, “jokingly” calling you a “ghetto” name.
  • Constantly mixing up unrelated and not even resembling Black people, because you know.. ‘Black people all look the same’.
  • Dismissing our experiences as “just overreacting,” defending the wronging party, or using our plight to talk about one’s own experience (e.g. “well as a gay man i’ve got it rough…”).
  • Telling racist jokes and calling you sensitive when you don’t find it funny.
  • “______  is the new civil rights movement!” Black folks are still fighting for their rights so…

Media

  • Fox news (xD)
  • Caricatured depictions of Black people on TV.
  • Casting calls for Black people only tailored for “race roles.”
  • Media treating white criminals and killers better than Black victims (see these headlines).

Stereotypes

  • Assuming you only listen to rap/hip-hop/r&b.
  • Assuming you love chicken, Kool-aid, and/or smoke weed.
  • Assuming you’re good at sports.
  • Assuming there’s no father in the picture in Black families.
  • Assuming all Black people (see: young girls) have children.
  • Calling Black people who don’t conform to one’s image of Blackness, “less black,” acting white or “oreo.”

AAVE

  • Non-Black People mimicking/imitating AAVE.
  • People falling into AAVE when talking to Black People.
  • “Why don’t Black people speak real English instead of ‘ebonics’?”

Insults/doubting intelligence:

  • You’re so articulate!”
  • You take advanced classes?!”
  • “How did she get into that [prestigious school and/or program]?”
  • “They only got x because they’re Black/Affirmative action.”
  • Assuming a Black person (usually male) attends college because of a sports scholarship.
  • Counselors discouraging Black students to take prestigious coursework, assuming it’s too difficult for them.

 Respectability politics:

  • “You’re a credit to your race.”
  • “I’m glad you’re not like those other Black people. You’re not ghetto or listen to that rap stuff..”
  • Tone policing: dismissing someone’s reaction/argument/etc. because they are too “emotional.” Thinking that we need to be calm in order to be taken seriously.
  • Pitting African immigrants against African Americans, especially those coming to America for education, aka “Good Blacks.”

Beauty Standards and Dating

Fetishization/Othering

  • People asking you what you are or where you’re really from.
  • Referring to Black people or our features as “exotic.”
  • Referring to Black people’s skin as chocolate or other foods.

Black Women/Misogynoir

  • Saying Black women are ”strong, independent and don’t need no man.“
  • Calling Black women ”sassy“ or angry if she shows passion/emotion.
  • Referring to white and non-black women as “girls” and “women” while calling Black women “Females.”
  • [White] males who apply courtesy to white women (holding doors, giving up seat) but don’t apply the same to Black women.
  • Referring to Black women on government assistance as “welfare queens” (While ignoring that white people get more government assistance than Black people in the USA).
  • “Black women All woman are beautiful.” (StopThatPlease.)

Hair.

  • People touching/petting your hair without consent.
  • “So is that your real hair? Are those extensions?”
  • Calling natural black hair unprofessional.
  • White people appropriating Black hair styles (dreads, twists, etc) and being praised as edgy, while it’s “ghetto, unprofessional, and unclean” on our own heads.

Poverty Assumptions:

  • “Do you live in the ghetto?”
  • “Can you afford that?”
  • “Here are the value prices of this product…”

Racial Profiling + Criminalization:

  • Crossing the street to avoid passing Black men/people.
  • Following in stores, assuming Black people are stealing.
  • Moving aside when we pass, clutching purse, locking doors.
  • Asking Black people for I.D. when paying with card (while white people are not asked).
  • Being pulled over + arrested at astonishingly higher rates than white people.

For a fuller understanding of micro aggressions and the effects it has on individuals overtime, please see this: “These incidents may appear small…”

~Mods: Colette and Alice

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Stereotyping Tropes List (TVTropes)

A masterpost of the Stereotyping Tropes from TVtropes.org. This list is identical to the one linked above, save the addition of Indigenous peoples, which was added. Check for the titles with links, as it leads to more pages of tropes. 
For an assortment of other related tropes, some not mentioned here, see “Race Tropes” as well as “Prejudice Tropes.” Advice on handling characters that lean towards harmful portrayals can be found in the tropes & stereotypes tags at writingwithcolor.


General

Africans

African Americans/Black

Americans

Arabs

Asians

Australians

Brits

Canadians

Chinese

Dutch

Eastern Europeans

Europeans

French

Germans

Indians

Indigenous

Irish

Israel

Italians

Japanese

Jewish

Latin Americans

Nordic Countries

Russians

Scots

Spaniards

 

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*Okay, I had to put this up. This is, hands down, the funniest story I read on the internet all week, and this is next to The 15 Blackest Things About The New Black Panther Trailer , that I posted earlier.

Now while you’re reading this, continue to picture giant koi bloop blooping in a pond. They have no idea they’re the partial cause of all the chaos. They just wanna get fed.

I’m like,”Guys, ain’t nobody thinkin’ about y’all right now!”

The Great Flamingo Uprising

(Edited after additional information was obtained from zookeeping cousin)

I told this story to a few guildies a while back and decided to archive it in a longer format; so here is the story of The Great Flamingo Uprising of 2010 as told to me by my favorite cousin who was a keeper at the time.

In addition to the aviary/jungle exhibit, our zoo has several species of birds that pretty much have the run of the place.  They started with a small flock of flamingos and some free-range peacocks that I’m almost certain came from my old piano teacher’s farm.  She preferred them to chickens.  At some point in time they also acquired a pair of white swans (“hellbirds”) and some ornamental asian duckies to decorate the pond next to the picnic area.  Pigeons, crows, assorted ducks and a large number of opportunistic Canada geese moved in on their own.

Now; the ponds that dot the zoo property (I don’t remember how many there are but the one by the picnic area is the only one with swans) were also full of ginormous koi fish, some of whom by now are at least three feet long.  Sensing an opportunity to cash in on the koi, the zoo put up little vending machines all over the place that dispense handfuls of food pellets.  I swear to god the fish can hear the crank turning, and will show up at the nearest railing, blooping expectantly at whoever happens to be standing there and doing their best to appear starving and desperate.

Like this.^  And they weren’t the only ones who learned to associate the sound with the imminent arrival of food.  The Canada geese knew a good deal when they saw one, and had long since ceased to migrate anyway.  They formed roving gangs of thug-geese and staked out their turf around the vending machines, ready to mug anyone with pocket change.  Picture yourself as a small child squaring off with a bird as big as you are fully prepared to strip search you while standing on your feet and yelling “HWAAAAAKK!!” in your face.  It’s deeply traumatizing to you and incredibly hilarious to your parents.

Anyway.

The flamingos had their spot near the zoo entrance and never seemed to mind the presence of the other birds, as they kept themselves to themselves and didn’t really like the taste of fish pellets.  The problem lay in that their shrimp pond was close to a vending machine.  Ordinarily that wouldn’t have been an issue at all, but eventually the goose population grew large enough that one of the gangs decided to annex it.  Being territorial little shits, they would harass the poor flamingos any time they strayed within ten feet of it.  The flamingos tolerated this for years until one day they snapped collectively.  Here’s a summary of the incident in chronological order.

1.) It was a hot day, so everyone in question both human and avian, were cranky by the time the zoo even opened.
2.) A few flamingos (let’s call them The Jets) strayed into the radius of the vending machine and were immediately confronted by the indignant hissing geese (The Sharks)
3.) Possibly due to heat and the simple fact that the geese had been giant douchebags for far too long, the flamingos decided fuck it, this time they were going to FIGHT BACK DAMMIT, and swarmed the geese en masse.
4.) Chaos ensued.  The geese were outnumbered 4 to 1 but had the advantage of being able to scream for back-up.
5.) Hearing the shrieking Canada geese and the bellowing of the enraged flamingos, the peacocks came to the conclusion that the apocalypse had come upon them and began to gather in the surrounding trees in droves and wail in despair.  Or cheer them on, whichever.
6.) NOISE
7.) Apparently one of the siege tactics employed by geese is to shit explosively all over everything.
8.) The geese, having secured reinforcements from all over the zoo, went berserk and proceeded to attack EVERYBODY who had come to watch be they human or otherwise.
9.) The flamingos were chasing/being chased by the geese through the crowd accompanied by cheers/wails from the peacocks in the box seats.
10.) Complete pandemonium when the zoo tram became stalled by the flamingo pond due to battling birds.  The Jets, sensing these were somehow reinforcements on the side of the Sharks, charged the tram.  Adults were doing the duck and cover.  Small children were screaming, adding to the noise.  People were slipping on goose shit and hitting the ground in the fetal position, only to be stampeded by the rampaging flamingos.
11.) The koi continued to bloop hopefully for food.
12.) Two of the geese were cornered by a rival gang of their own and were chased into the swan pond.  Cue slow-motion.
13.) The swans detected an enemy presence in their territory and by god, SOMEBODY was going to PAY.
14.) The staff were having no luck in breaking up the fight and on the verge of giving up and just building another zoo elsewhere when the hellbirds stormed the battlefield, trumpeting battle-cries, to dispense feathered justice.  The staff promptly dropped their brooms and fled.
15.) Birds scattered in all directions.  Up, down, sideways.  Some people not present in the park circle swear a couple of geese flat out teleported into the petting zoo. A few ducks vanished in the chaos, presumably eaten by the swans.
16.) Two of the zookeepers barricaded themselves in the snack bar and refused to come out.
17.) The uprising was squashed in less than two minutes.  Number of casualties was unknown, feathers were flying everywhere and there was enough goose shit to build another bird.  One staff member had been knocked to the ground and was left with a melon sized bruise courtesy of one of the hellbirds.  Several children were traumatized, probably for life.  The zoo eventually removed the vending machine by the flamingos.

The geese went back to being giant douchebags. Because geese*.

Addendum:  Somehow, my aunt D got hold of this story and posted a link along with the comment: “This sounds exactly like our zoo!”
Zookeeping cousin replied: “This was exactly our zoo.”

*I’m really not kidding.  This is a photo, taken at our zoo, of a gorilla being chased by one of the thug geese.

 

*Yeah, the hellbirds came in and broke that whole shit up in two minutes!

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*I’m in agreement with this, really. It would make for some very intersting names:

I think we should make Puritan naming customs cool again, but like, updated to reflect Millenial values. So we can have names like Resistance Jones, Self-Care Williams, and I-Am-Not-Throwing-Away-My-Shot Anderson.

  • I-Will-Face-God-and-Walk-Backwards-Into-Hell Watson
  • Hydrate Mather
  • Healthcare-Is-A-Right-Not-A-Privilege Bradford
  • Body Positivity Watts
  • WTF-the-Fuck Preston
  • Cinnamon Roll Milton
  • Y’all-Need-Jesus Henderson
  • Snape-Was-Not-a-Hero Whitaker
  • Battery Life Wiggins
  • Reblog-If-You-Agree Bolton
  • @Horse_ebooks Humphrey
  • Renewable Moore
  • I-Came-Out-to-Have-a-Good-Time-and-I’m-Honestly-Feeling-So-Attacked-Right-Now Rutherford
  • Representation Hopkins
  • Organic Hurst
  • Money Cat Wallington
  • Fuck-It Wentworth
  • Impeachment Shepard
  • Don’t-Forget-To-Like-And-Subscribe Simpson
  • Consent Pimple
  • I-Bless-the-Rains-Down-in-Africa Woodford
  • Green Hoyle
  • Social Anxiety Travers
  • Kinkshame-Not Bailey

 

Tomorrow: A rare weekend posting. I finished the first part of my Bladerunner review.

The Girl with All The Gifts (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 Days Later will be my next review.

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

http://www.graveyardshiftsisters.com/2017/09/watch-31-horror-movies-starring-black.html

 

Star Trek Discovery S01E03 Review: Context Is for Kings — The Supernatural Fox Sisters

In “Context Is For Kings,” we finally get to meet the namesake of Star Trek: Discovery. The U.S.S. Discovery is a brand new ship on a mysterious mission. It’s a scientific vessel, but with locked lab doors and black alerts. And it may hold the secret to winning the war against the Klingons.

via Star Trek Discovery S01E03 Review: Context Is for Kings — The Supernatural Fox Sisters

 

I did not watch this particular episode except in a couple of snippets online. It was very uncomfortable viewing, but I guess that was meant to be like that. I didn’t expect Michael to receive warm welcomes on the Discovery, but I was dismayed at the shitty behavior displayed by the rest of the crew towards her and wanted to “Force Choke” every single one of them, including her roommate. I understand their feelings about her, but it still felt and looked bad, and I’m not used to that level of sneering contempt from a Star Trek crew, (although the STNG crew was occasionally pretty snobbish.)

On the other hand, it does make for great drama, so I guess that was the point. I liked this review though, which gives a great overview of the episode, without any spoilers, which is totally unlike my overly-detailed ramblings. I can’t watch the show, but I ‘ll watch the snippets, and forward these lovely reviews from the Supernatural Fox Sisters.

The Problem with White Critics

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

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

http://www.blackenterprise.com/lifestyle/does-racism-impact-the-way-reviewers-rate-tv-shows/

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

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

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

https://www.themarysue.com/tone-deaf-moonlight-hidden-figures-reviews/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://splinternews.com/theres-a-huge-divide-between-how-black-and-white-critic-1797478105

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

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/detroit-and-the-problem-with-watching-black-pain-through-a-white-lens_us_597f8907e4b08e143004bbf1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need more critics of color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://howlround.com/the-need-for-cultivating-theatre-critics-of-color

 

 

 

American Horror Story: Cult Election Night

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I didn’t like this episode.

Not because it was a bad episode, but because it was really, really hard to sit through.

For the record, I don’t have a problem with clowns. Clowns don’t particularly bother me, but I do have a problem with the rhetoric spouted by Evan Peter’s character (Kai) during this episode, and Sarah Paulson’s character’s panic attacks.

It’s extremely difficult to watch someone have a massive panic attack, when you suffer from anxiety yourself, and I had no idea in advance of those scenes, that they were going to happen. Ally (Paulson) didn’t  have just one attack either, she had at least three of them, and seemed at least mildly  hysterical the rest of the time.

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The episode is named after last year’s election night. On that night, we see Ally have her first attack, which I, at first, thought was a bit over the top (only because that wasn’t my reaction to the election), while acknowledging that she had some good points. Her reaction after the election was bad enough, but Ally is a person without any down points in her emotional makeup. She seems to be upset all the time, if only by a matter of degree. She is beset by a host of various anxieties, phobias, and panics, and the rest of the time she seems barely holding on by her fingernails.

Now couple that character with Evan Peter’s Kai, who saw the election as an opportunity to engage in unrestrained assholery, (just like plenty of White men did in the real world), and a speech he later gives at a local government meeting on the nature of fear, and you can see why I found this episode less than entertaining. I get the writers rather heavy handed point, but I still didn’t like hearing it, as it ‘s not too different from the kind of shit actually being said by the president right now.

This wasn’t helped by the show’s usual overwrought style of writing, and the general plot. The whole thing, when it wasn’t triggering my own issues, was also  unbelievably over the top.

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After the election, Kai goes upstairs in his house, and smears his face with what appears to be Cheeto dust, Ally’s neighbors are murdered in a parody of the movie The Strangers, or The Purge, I’m not sure which, and Ally gets menaced/chased by clowns at the local store, while two of the clowns have sex in the produce section. (I had the distinct impression that that may have not been a consensual act, which upsets me even further. I will not watch rape scenes!) On top of all that, the young lady, who is hired to babysit her and her wife’s son, has all of the acting range of a lobotomy patient, and happens to be an associate of Kai. I guess her job is recruit Ally’s kid, or something.

When Ally’s neighbors are murdered by clowns, she later finds out that the babysitter had taken her son to watch the event through the window. This is really the point where I gave just up and just checked the fuck out. I don’t know, and don’t wanna know, what happened between any of these characters. At that point, I decided I really needed to watch something else, or just turn off my TV.

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Lets face it. This show has finally defeated me.

It upset even my less than delicate sensibilities, and that’s saying something, since I’ve been a fan of this show for the past three years, and sat through some of the most  blatantly outrageous bullshit that the writers could possibly dream up. And that may very well have been the writer’s point. If so, then they won! I give up! They’ve finally gone so far that even I can’t watch this show without laughing, scoffing at it,  or crying, and sometimes all three at once.

Either that, or this show just struck too damn close to home for me to be able to comfortably watch it. I watch some shows to get away from reality, which is bad enough in Trump’s America, with its daily list of atrocities committed against PoC. On the weekends, I usually turn off all social media, just as a matter of self care. The last thing I ‘m going to find entertaining, right now, is a parody of my own  terrifying reality, (although I realize that this may be a form of coping for other people.)

I don’t know that I’ll watch this for the rest of the season. I’m loathe to stop, but I don’t know if I can sit through any more of this. Ally is a really hard person to get past, although her wife has the patience of Job. I like her. (As someone who not only deals with her own issues, I also happen to be the caregiver for someone who is not unlike Ally, so I could identify with her behavior.)

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I love that the show depicts a loving and supportive relationship between these two women, where they talk it over,  and work at trying to do and be better, instead of simply fighting, for extra drama. They show love and affection for each other without it turning into titillation for the male gaze. It’s just another relationship, like hundreds/thousands, of other relationships. Their son is adorable too, but I’m also not here to watch their child be corrupted into whatever Kai is, which seems to be the babysitter’s plan.

Plus, there’s all the damn clowns. I get that clourophobia is a thing, but it isn’t my thing. I just don’t find clowns to be all that scary. They’re  less scary than all the other shit happening in the world of the show. And oh yeah, that skin crawling feeling you get at looking at images of human flesh dotted with holes, that’s called Tripofobia. I know you’re just going to ignore my advice, but nevertheless, I feel I absolutely must caution you DO NOT GOOGLE THAT WORD!!!!!

I probably won’t be reviewing any more episodes unless there’s a huge event of some kind.

How can a show be both terrifying, and absolutely ridiculous?

Get Out: The Importance of Black Friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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