The Greatest Cinematic Moments On My TV This Year

(Even If Some of Them Were Not Movies)

Rather than do the typical Best of or Top Ten Movies of the Year list I’ve decided to talk about some of the greatest images that graced my TV this year (because I didn’t go to the movies much this year).

If you are a film and TV fanatic like me, then by the time you’re my age you will have amassed a ton of images that will sit with you and affect you for your entire life. I can’t list the number of movie and television scenes and images that have emotionally affected me in ways I’m still assessing today, and this year added another bunch of images that made me laugh, brought me to tears, terrified me, changed my thinking about the world and the people in it, or were sometimes just plain fun!

Last year, my mother (a devoted Horror movie fanatic) passed away in hospice at the age of 71. Every image of every movie that she carried with her is gone but I can still feel close to her through the movies she watched. I have always used stories (in books, movies, and songs), as therapy and this past year was exceptionally therapeutic for me in dealing with my grief. What I was going through didn’t feel quite so bad because I didn’t feel as if I was going through some singular event that other people had not experienced. I was able to process my feelings while watching some pretty intense cinema or alleviate my anxiety with laughter, and I was able to share these feelings with you guys by writing about them in this space.

This year was an incredible year of cinematic (and musical) healing for me.

May the next year be even better!

Keep Moving Forward

1.Moon Knight (Season 1: Episode 6)

This is my all-time favorite television series for this year (with Interview with the Vampire being almost a tie). This series is full of some great moments that are just plain fun, like the moment when Stephen, having stumbled upon his own version of being the Moon Knight gets into a final battle with the show’s primary antagonist. Stephen’s clueless version of Moon Knight wears an actual 3 piece suit. In the middle of the final boss fight, Stephen and Mark are expertly switching control of their shared body between them. Stephen gets knocked down, immediately hops back up, and brushes the dirt off his still immaculately white suit!

That there is what’s known as “swag”, or “attitude”.

I identified with Mark and Stephen’s journey of personal unification because I’ve been on that journey myself. When I was little, being on the autism spectrum meant there was a clear division between my intellect and my emotions. Like Mark and Stephen, I’ve spent my life attempting to unify the two sides of my personality, to join them together to work for each other. This is not a journey I’m ever going to finish, I think, but I have made enormous headway, and one of the greatest cathartic moments in the series was when Mark and Stephen finally did so, thus proving that the whole really is greater than the parts.

All of the fight scenes in this show are fire, and change and evolve as the relationship between Mark and Stephen evolves, to reflect their characters. I can fault Disney for a lot of things, but stinting on Action scenes isn’t one of them. I can always count on the MCU to bring me the very best ultra-violence. The choreography for their shows and movies is insane and watching heroes kick ass (and doing so with style) has always been a cathartic experience for me. I can identify with the hero and express my badassery in a perfectly safe environment while in my bunny slippers, and this series was awesome for that.

2.Everything Everywhere All At Once

I can’t say watching this was a mistake because I had no idea what I was getting into when I first watched it. EEAAO is very one of the most profoundly moving, touching, and hilarious movies in a year full of great films. It stars Michelle Yeoh, so I suspected there might be some Kung Fu, but the movie has a wealth of lovely surprises. It is about the frayed relationship between an overworked first-generation immigrant named Evelyn, who runs a dry cleaner with her annoyingly upbeat husband Waymond, and their nihilistic disaffected daughter Joy, all while undergoing a tax audit, planning a work party, and hosting her disapproving father.

One of the greatest treats of this movie was the re-emergence of Ke Huy Quan, from his decades-long retirement from acting, and who I fondly remember as Short Round from the second Indiana Jones movie (and Data from The Goonies). I don’t even begin to understand why but Short Round was always one of my favorite childhood characters and his name just stuck with me over the years until eventually, it became a nickname for my Mom, who was a whole inch shorter than me, which made me obnoxiously smug. I cannot explain why I had so much joy at seeing him alive and well, and being happy about this role.

That said, despite identifying with all the characters, my absolute favorite is Ke Huy Quan’s Waymond, and it is his philosophy of life that neatly cleaved my brain because he explains so much about how I try to approach the world, and why, despite this being one of those mother/daughter relationship movies you would think I’d be overcome by (and I was) it is Waymond who most easily resonates with me. Where Joy has fallen into despair and wants to end it all, it is Waymond’s philosophy, the exact opposite, that ends up saving Joy and the rest of the world from the annihilation that is the Everything Bagel:

 Waymond: When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naive. It is strategic and necessary. It’s how I’ve learned to survive through everything.

This is a philosophy I adopted because, like Joy, I’ve seen the opposite end of that spectrum and it’s not a philosophy that’s survivable. There were a lot of moments in this movie that made me cry because they just happened to hit me at the right time to affect me, like the conversations between Evelyn and Joy, but it was Evelyn’s conversation with an alternate universe Waymond that opened the floodgates and allowed me to mourn in a way I had not been able to in the wake of my mother’s death, (because I was still mostly in shock). This movie just showed up when I needed it.

Like all good mothers, my mom never liked seeing her children in distress, and I think she would be proud of how well I’m doing right now.

This is one of those movies that changes or reaffirms your thinking about the world, the people around you, and how you approach life.

Yeah, it’s one of those.

3.Men

I think a lot of people avoided watching this movie because of the title, but things are not as they seem. The title is provocative, but the movie isn’t about castigating men. It’s about one woman (Harper Marlowe) dealing with the particularly harrowing loss of just one man, and I’m convinced that most of it takes place solely within her own mind. In other words, the movie is a lot deeper than it looks.

One of the most interesting images is the only other actor in the movie, Rory Kinnear, has his face creepily (and sometimes unconvincingly) superimposed onto the bodies of all the other men in the movie, signifying that what’s being critiqued here are certain types of men and their behavior. That at base all of their behavior comes from one source, and are really just different manifestations of only one issue – misogyny.

There’s the husband who threatens suicide if she divorces him, and then hits her, the priest who blames her for his death, then makes a pass at her, the child who calls her a stupid bitch when she refuses what he wants, the cop who dismisses her concerns and later tries to assault her, and there’s the naked man who is symbolic of natural masculinity in the form of the mythic Green Man, who keeps trying to get into her house to do…what exactly? All of this is tied into images of the Green Man, the Earth Mother, Christianity, the cycles of nature, and the lies patriarchy has created about women.

My favorite scene however is just a touching and beautiful moment about a woman literally discovering her voice. Harper takes a walk in the countryside and comes to a large open tunnel. She spends a minute or two singing into the tunnel and listening as her voice boomerangs back to her. Her voice is high and pure and she takes an almost childlike delight in just making as much noise as she wants, in a public place, in a free and uninhibited manner. It just looked like she was having so muchf un, and every time I watch that scene I feel the urge to sing along with her.

The entire movie stops to accommodate this moment and I was as thoroughly delighted by it as Harper!

4.Thor: Love and Thunder

Sometimes, I love movies that everyone else likes to hate on, and you know what? I’m good with that. I love what I love for my own reasons, not theirs, and I stand by and will back up my reasons why I do, even though sometimes my reasons are just because I do. I know a lot of people hated this movie. I do not particularly care if they did or why because this movie just brought out the feels and the kid in me, and I needed that. I’ve watched this on Disney + multiple times and it brings out both the pathos and delight in me each time.

One of the more interesting aspects of this phase of the MCU is that much of it deals with mourning the deaths of loved ones and people’s response to mourning. From dealing with death badly in WandaVision, to how humanity dealt with the aftermath of The Blip in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, to the aftermath of Tony Stark’s death in Spiderman No Way Home to the death of Chadwick Boseman in Wakanda Forever, to this: Thor, mourning the loss of his entire family and homeworld and finding new love and purpose, against an antagonist who dealt with his loss through anger and revenge. Thor and Gor the Godslayer are mirror images of one another and each of them deals with loss in a way that heals or harms other people. Thor chooses to love while Gor chooses to kill.

But my favorite scene has nothing to do with that part of the plot, and it was difficult choosing between this scene and any scene that involved Thor’s screaming goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. There’s a scene in the movie where Thor is able to pass his powers to a group of frightened children to help them defeat the shadow enemies invoked by Gor, and that entire scene just gave me life! My favorite of all the children turned out to be the young Black boy who happens to be the son of Heimdall, The Bifrost Guardian. He has at least some of his father’s powers, but what was most admirable to me was his ability to step into a leadership role for the other children in the absence of the adults. I’m not normally into watching little kids engaging in acts of ultra-violence but Taika Waititi has a knack for making things that seem mildly subversive look like a great deal of fun. It doesn’t hurt that all the kids in the movie were the children of the staff on the set!

Oh, and the little girl with the laser-eye death bunny is the mood I’m carrying into 2023!

5. Interview With the Vampire (Season 1: Episode 7; The Thing Lay Still)

Interview with the Vampire was just voted by Vanity Fair as one of the best series on TV this year and I am here for it. This also showed up on my favorite TV series list too, because the show is simply wild. It’s crazy and beautiful, and sexy, and campy, gory, bloody, and brutal, but also deeply hilarious. Just when we thought the year was ending and there were no more high notes to be had, AMC handed us this beautiful gem of a series and we are all smitten.

Yes, they race-swapped Louis De Pont Du Lac from the books. He is now being played by Jacob Anderson (Greyworm in Game of Thrones), and he is (literally) killing it in this role. Anne Rice signed off on all this before she passed and her son Christopher (who is openly gay) also signed off on the rest, and those gay sensibilities show in the plot and themes. By changing the race of the character and making his sexuality explicit the writers have deepened the story considerably. Even moving the timeline to the early 1900s has made certain elements of the plot more interesting, since it’s now set during the Jazz age of the Jim Crow South. Also, changing Louis’s race has seemingly attracted a few straight Black male fans, which is not the demographic I first thought of when I heard this was getting made. They seem to really be enjoying the show too and good for them.

Sam Reid is also literally killing it as Lestat. In fact, he is so good he almost makes me forget the Tom Cruise version from the 1994 film. Almost. Reid so embodies this character though that fans are saying he is possessed by the spirit of Lestat, and when he and Jacob are onscreen together it’s like lightning, their chemistry is just that good. (It doesn’t hurt that they’re friends in real life.) Bailey Bass is an aged-up Claudia, and all those people who thought an older version of Claudia wouldn’t carry the same dramatic weight as someone much younger (in the books Claudia is about 6, which would be a logistical nightmare to film) well, those people were wrong. Claudia brings all the drama and hysteria of a teenage vampire to this role and she is great in it. And let’s not forget the award-winning playwright Eric Bogosian as Daniel, an older, less patient, and curmudgeonly version of the Daniel from the books, since this series is set 50 years after his first interview with Louis, which was never published.

For all the things that were changed, some things remain the same and that is the tumultuous relationship between Louis and Lestat. I’d say my favorite episode was the very first one in which the very closeted Louis meets and is successfully seduced by Lestat into becoming a vampire, but my favorite scene is the culmination of Louis’ season-long character arc in the final episode. He goes from being a deeply closeted gay Black man, unwilling to acknowledge it even to himself, to an out and proud gay Black man, and Lestat’s lover, at a grand New Orleans Ball, sharing a passionate kiss after inviting Lestat to a waltz, and something which thoroughly scandalizes their guests. It is one of the most beautiful scenes of the entire season, followed by one of the nastiest, goriest bloodbaths of the season.

This show was renewed for a second season before the first episode even aired, and I just don’t know what I’m going to do until it starts. The show is just really juicy and you have some idea of what’s coming in the future if you’ve read the books. The writers are doing everything right here. The writing is messy and florid and overdramatic, just like Anne Rice’s writing, and a lot of the dialogue is kept intact from her books. I hope the series lasts at least as long as Buffy, and it will be a miracle if it lasts as long as The Walking Dead, and I want to be right there until the end.

6. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one of the few Horror/Superhero movies out there and I loved it, especially since it’s directed by one of my all-time favorite directors, Sam Raimi, who included more than a few moments of sheer terror in his Spiderman trilogy of ten years ago. He kept that same energy here and there are more than a few of his favorite Horror movie tropes included in the imagery of this film, including a scene of The Scarlet Witch climbing out of a mirror, a multi-handed zombie version of Doctor Strange, and a scene where two wizards attack each other using musical notes. (Sam Raimi loves musicals so you know there was going to be a musical scene in here).

But above is one of my favorite scenes of Doctor Strange along with the young girl he’s trying to save getting blasted through multiple portals through other universes, paralleling a scene from the first movie where Strange gets blasted through different universes by the previous Sorceror Supreme, all of which look compellingly fun or nightmarish depending on which suit your fancy. There’s a world of dinosaurs, giant human bones, and cartoons, but the prettiest one is a world made of liquid crayons, I guess. ( And in a callback to something a character once said on Buffy the Vampire Slayer I think one of those universes was full of shrimp!)

Disney is finally starting to make movies that feel different from one another and include other genres, and this movie is a great parallel to Disney’s introduction of Horror themes and Supernatural creatures into the MCU this year in shows like Werewolf by Night and Moon Knight. I’m still going to call this the first MCU Horror movie because all of the tropes are right there. There are zombies, specters, jump scares, blood and gore (within reason), chase scenes from red-eyed phantoms, giant eyeball creatures, and a child in danger! If you liked the first Spiderman trilogy, and the Evil Dead movies, then check this out.

7. Love Death and Robots Season 3: Episode 4 (Tiny Zombie Apocalypse): Night of the Living Mini-Dead

This year’s Love Death and Robots season 3 was really strong this year, with some absolutely gorgeous animation based on Scifi Horror stories from my favorite writers, like Neal Asher, Michael Swanwick, Alan Baxter, and John Scalzi, in stories that range from poetic nightmares like Bad Traveling to comedies like Mason’s Rats, to tragically beautiful stories of conquest like Jibaro. I had several favorite episodes this year.

This one episode though is, hands down, one of the most hilarious zombie apocalypses I have ever seen. Yes, it’s even funnier than Shaun of the Dead, not just because it takes place in speeded-up miniature, but because of the incredible attention to detail in its homages to Night of the Living Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake, Train to Busan’s and Peninsula’s fast zombies and Mad Max vehicles, an Attack on Titan shoutout, and Resident Evil mutated zombies. But my all-time favorite scene is the one with the tiny monks Kung fu-ing zombie ass at a mountaintop Shaolin Temple, echoing a scene from the book World War Z. In fact, I would watch an entire full-length movie that included all the scenes from this short.

It’s truly the attention to tiny details that had me rolling though, from the opening scene of the desecration at the cemetery (and how it sounds) which awakens the zombies, to the jogger who pushes her friend at the zombies only to be eaten and revived herself, to the Popemobile spewing gunfire while donuting outside The Vatican. And I love how the zombie apocalypse just goes from bad to worse with irradiated and mutated zombies spewing green fire.

Good lord! This needs to be a full-length film! I’d watch 90 minutes of this utter mayhem!

8. The Northman

The single biggest factor in people’s attraction to this movie was the trailer and the scene where a scantily clad Alexander Skarsgard reaches up, catches a thrown spear, and lobs it back to hit the thrower. I’m not gonna lie, that was what originally attracted me to the film as well, and thankfully, the movie proved to have as much substance as style. See! Not everything I watched this year was frivolous!

The Northman is based on the Scandinavian story which inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Amleth watches as his father, a man he idolizes, is murdered by his uncle. His mother is seemingly kidnapped and he vows to avenge his father save his mother, and kill his uncle in that order. Amleth grows to adulthood, learns of his uncle’s location, and decides to implement this plan, while the audience heckles the screen to suggest that he could maybe let it go.

The movie is also about fate and destiny, and how that figures into the choices a person makes. Amleth is told several times by psychics that it is his destiny to avenge the destruction of his family but he is also challenged to give up his vendetta and settle down with his wife and children. He chooses his vendetta and although the motivation for his choice isn’t exactly wrong, at any point along his journey of revenge, he could have stopped and let his uncle live out his life in relative peace.

This movie turned out to have a surprising amount of depth. Surprising because I was expecting more flash than story, and I was expecting more of a Hamlet retread, and what I got was an exploration of the concepts of fate and destiny, and how much of a choice we have in what happens in our lives and the lives of others.

9. Nope

What can I say? This movie had all of my favorite things. ufos. blood, gore, excellent horsemanship, and two incredible lead characters, the brother and sister duo of Emerald and OJ Haywood, but my all-time favorite moment was when Emerald does this particular bike maneuver, called The Akira Slide. Since it was first seen in Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 anime film Akira this moment has been imitated and recreated in almost every animated series worth watching since!

The idea of a live-action Akira has been bruted around for over three decades and this scene is as close as we’ve come outside a few concept videos. In fact, Jordan Peele himself was slated to direct a live-action version but that fell through when he decided to devote his energy to his own projects. He said that an homage to the project he dropped seemed in order, though.

That’s it! Just a fun nostalgic moment in a great Horror movie that had me kicking up my bunny slippers!

(Note: I do not actually own a pair of bunny slippers.)

10. The Batman

I would not call this movie fun but I did enjoy it, and that kind of surprised me. I didn’t think anything was going to come close to being as good as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy but this was a nice try and I liked it. I think this is a baby Batman in his first few years in Gotham and you can kind of see that in his fighting style, but this scene is the one that I found the most compelling. This is the audience’s first sight of The Batman and I loved the sound design of this scene.

The music, the ominous sound of his footsteps just before he fades out of the shadows, and the sound of rain in the background. The whole movie sounds great, which is not something I usually pay a whole lot of attention to, but I’ve started to pay attention since Villaneuve’s Dune did it so well. This was a superb introduction to this version of Batman, who has yet to learn that it’s not enough for him to just scare Gotham’s predators. He needs to protect the innocent too, something he begins to understand during the course of the movie.

Honorable Mentions

11. Wednesday Season 1: Episode 4 – Woe What a Night

I think this particular scene is definitely going to go down in history as iconic. For context, this is Wednesday Addams getting down on the dance floor at the new High School she was exiled to after she released predatory fish into the swimming pool at her last one. There was blood. I have always liked this particular character, especially the movie versions since she always represented things I have either actually said to people (I know right?!!) or wanted to say to people. I even liked the 1960s baby-girl version of her, and if you look really close you can see Jenna reproduce baby Wednesday’s iconic dance moves from the earlier TV series. Wednesday dances like she’s challenging her partner to a duel.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this series. I was cautiously excited about it because it’s Tim Burton, who has made it clear that he feels about Black people the way I feel about finding a worm in my apple, and its teenagers being teenagers in a TV show. I’m not normally attracted to shows about teens but I will, on occasion, try them out and I actually liked this. It’s not a great show, but it is a lot of fun, not too deep, and worth a watch. The best thing about it is Jenna Ortega’s performance as Wednesday and her relationship with her bubbly roommate, Enid. From her demeanor, there is also the implication that Wednesday may also be queer, in which case people are already shipping her with Enid, and I’m cool with that. I did enjoy watching their friendship develop, since Wednesday is heavily, (and I do mean heavily), coded as autistic. She is touch averse, sensitive to bright colors, single-minded, and extremely focused, with a pronounced flattened affect, and I kind of liked that, since Autistic girls and women are rarely shown onscreen. There were a couple of times when something she said about how she sees the world resonated pretty sharply with me, and I had to pause and reflect.

But mostly the show was just good fun. I was initially put off that the only two Black characters in the series were assholes, but they were redeemed by the end of the season and turned out to be two of Wednesday’s strongest allies. I didn’t especially care for the drama between Wednesday and her mother (or the side plot that showed some of her parent’s history at the school) although I understand why it was added. Parental mismanagement of their children is a recurring theme in the series, although Luis Guzman was excellent as Gomez and the series does play up Wednesday’s Latino heritage a little bit. My favorite episode was the one where Uncle Fester comes for a visit. He is played by Fred Armisen and while he is never going to be in Christopher Lloyd’s league as Fester, he gives it a very good try. Christina Ricci also shows up as one of Wednesday’s teachers and her role is good, but not all that surprising.

This was a fun watch and I’m willing to check out the next season, especially if there is more weird dancing scenes!

The Eternals – There were so many great moments in this movie, although ultimately I feel it fell flat of what it was trying to do, I still enjoyed a lot of it. My favorite characters were, of course, Kingo and his personal valet, Karun. All of the characters had great chemistry with each other but I especially enjoyed watching these two. (Okay, The Eternals was, technically, released in 2021, but I didn’t watch it until 2022, so this counts in my book.)

Umbrella Academy – The opening dance number (The Footloose Dance Off) was one of its great highlights. I love a good dance battle! I love that the series continues this level of ridiculousness for the entire season. Another great scene was Victor coming out to his family as transgender and announcing his pronouns, and his brother’s quite unsurprised/semi-surprised reaction to having another brother.

Prey – The fight scenes in this movie were incredible. This movie was awesome, setting the Predator down in 1800s America among the Comanche People.

Black Adam – I’m an old-school Hawkman and Doctor Fate fan. I expected to like Hawkman and didn’t expect to like Pierce Brosnan’s version of this character, but he was most excellent (he predates Doctor Strange by twenty years y’all) and I hope to see more of him in some sort of prequel. I remember reading Doctor Fate’s books as a kid and I didn’t know I wanted to see this character onscreen so much until, of course, I got to see him!

The Woman King – The entire movie is simply gorgeous. The fight scenes are rigorously excellent.

Sandman – It was really hard to pick one scene from this series. Every episode had some truly gorgeous and meaningful scenes. Here, The Sandman (Dream) gets to find out what a day in the life of Death is like…

White Backlash Against Inclusive Fiction

In 1998, Samuel R. Delaney, acclaimed Black Science Fiction writer, was asked at an awards convention about racism within the genre. Here he is referring to the writing community but I’ve observed that this can be equally applied to every industry, including movies and television:

 As long as there are only one, two, or a handful of us, however, I presume in a field such as science fiction, where many of its writers come out of the liberal-Jewish tradition, prejudice will most likely remain a slight force—until, say, black writers start to number thirteen, fifteen, twenty percent of the total. At that point, where the competition might be perceived as having some economic heft, chances are we will have as much racism and prejudice here as in any other field.

We are still a long way away from such statistics.

But we are certainly moving closer.

We need to be clear that what we’ve been experiencing very strongly for the last six or seven years is a white social media backlash against women and PoC representation in popular media. As marginalized people are seen more often in media projects what we’ve also been seeing is a white, straight, backlash against their slightly more positive/nuanced depictions.

What Delaney means is that more racism will be expressed by those white people who feel most threatened by Black progress in that industry, and I can say this because this has been noted in every industry in which it has occurred.

This is not new! It hasn’t been new in over a hundred years.

What we’re seeing today in the pushback against Black actors in visual media has happened multiple times and in every industry, from music, to literature, to politics, to movies, and television. Every time PoC have made inroads into any field of endeavor there has been a white backlash against it. The only thing that changes are the industries in question, and their arguments against that progress. Now we see it happening in visual entertainment.

In the 1920s, Jazz was seen as barbaric and immoral. It was considered the kind of music that lead white women astray and put them in environments where Black musicians had access to them. All manner of immorality was attributed to Jazz including drug use, violence, and hypersexuality. The exact same criticisms were made against Rock in the 50s, Disco in the 70s, and Rap music in the 90s, when those gained ascendances in popular culture. Rock music was a genre that championed drugs and sex, Disco encouraged homosexuality, and Rap music was considered too violent for white sensibilities.

https://ew.com/tv/candice-patton-wanted-to-leave-the-flash-racist-misogynistic-fans/

The same backlash that we’ve been seeing for the last six or seven years against Black actors in the Fantasy genre is the same backlash we experienced when N. K. Jemison won back-to-back Hugo awards in 2016, 2017, and 2018 for her Fantasy trilogy The Obsidian Gate. As Delaney predicted, a select group of white male critics complained that women and PoC were getting too many awards, and so formed a contingent of fans and authors called “The Rabid Puppies” in an attempt to game the Hugo awards rules to win awards for themselves. In other words, they preferred to cheat, rather than accept that Science Fiction fans were a diverse group of men and women who had moved on from the type of Science Fiction they wrote, which centered on white European men as the heroes. Much of the hoopla in the industry has since calmed down, but that does not mean that parity has been reached for authors of color, and we have seen the exact same dynamic play out in other arenas where women and PoC have made any kind of inroads, including politics, where white men have decided that rather than share political power, they would prefer to game the system to keep it all of it for themselves.

In 2014, Candace Patton was cast as the Black love interest of Barry Allen in The Flash television series on the CW network. That same year, Disney released The Force Awakens, the first film in its latest Star Wars trilogy, and the lead character was a Black actor named John Boyega. They both experienced immediate backlash for daring to perform the fictional roles that they had been hired for. Candace Patton has received unending racist vitriol on social media for the last 10 years for playing the Black love interest of the lead white character solely because her character was a white woman in the comic books. And don’t make the mistake of thinking the only toxic fans are white men. White women established themselves firmly in the contingent for bigotry by weaponizing fandom against Candace and harassing and bullying John Boyega on social media.

https://www.thecut.com/2016/08/a-timeline-of-leslie-joness-horrific-online-abuse.html

In 2016, a new version of The Ghostbusters was released with an all-female cast and received immediate pushback from gatekeeping white male fans who believed they owned that franchise and argued that women couldn’t be fictional Ghostbusters. The movie starred three white actresses, but it is very telling that the onus of their hatred landed squarely on the only Black cast member in the group, Leslie Jones, who was driven from social media by the racist backlash against her original characters’ very existence. So we can see that even arguments that PoC and women make their own original characters rather than supplant characters who used to be white are simply a smokescreen for racist abuse. Original characters do exist and receive the same level of acting out and foolery that race and gender-swapped characters do, as we saw with the release of Black Panther.

In 2018, there was a massive backlash against the release of Disney’s tentpole superhero movie, The Black Panther, in which the same gatekeeping white male fans attempted to downvote the movie’s ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, causing Disney and RT to temporarily shut down the audience portion of the site to prevent the abuse. Thinkpieces were written denigrating the making of the film, and some fans engaged in violence callouts, falsely reporting that they had been harassed and/or beaten by racist Black Panther fans in order to sully the reputation of the film. Black fans had to be vigilant in protecting the actors from harassment on social media and debunking the claims of violence.

Every time Disney releases a film that isn’t centered on the heroic activities of straight white men there is a backlash from white men against those films, against the actors, and even against the fans who talk about them. Women and fans of color aren’t even safe in their own fan spaces as those will, at some point, be invaded by trolls and bigots spewing racist vitriol at them for daring to like a movie they were the audience for. We saw this with Captain Marvel in 2019, and Shang Chi and The Eternals in 2021, with each successive film being criticized as the worst film ever made in a franchise, how the MCU is failing, and the blogs, videos, and websites of fans of color being reported as abuse, and blocked on TikTok and Youtube for daring to discuss entertainment that is aimed at them as the audience.

This also happens with television shows. Since it is Disney that is leading the charge of diversity and inclusion in its many franchises, it is Disney’s fans and employees (the actors) who have borne the brunt of the backlash, during and after series like Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Ms. Marvel, and the newest series, She-Hulk. Why? Because the stars of these series are women and PoC. It is notable that there was no backlash against series with white male leads like Loki, Hawkeye, and Moon Knight which were also released in the last year.

These shows are not alone in having a racist fan problem. Since John Boyega’s debut as one of the first Black Stormtroopers in Star Wars, there has been a racist and misogynist backlash against every single advance of a PoC, or woman, in that franchise, especially in any film in which a white male wasn’t the star, but even a few that were, as with the last TV release, Obi Wan Kenobi, which prominently starred a woman of color. The lead villain of the series, Reva Sevander, is played by Yale graduate Moses Ingram. She had to endure toxic fans who called her everything but a child of god, questioned her undeniable qualifications for playing her role, and was flatly told by some of them that she could not be a part of Star Wars.

https://www.npr.org/2022/06/02/1102509719/star-wars-obi-wan-kenobi-moses-ingram-racist-messages-disney

In the past year, we have seen a racist backlash against casting PoC in any SciFi and Fantasy film or television series. The casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians TV series, the casting of Black Hobbits, Dwarves, and Elves in Amazon’s Rings of Power series, the casting of Halle Bailey in Disney’s live-action version of The Little Mermaid, and the casting of Black legacy characters in the Game of Thrones spinoff series, House of the Dragon, has racist/toxic fans pulling out all the stops to troll, harass, and make sure that Black fans, actors, and creators are aware that they don’t belong in genre films and series.

You also have those bad faith actors who try to hide their bigotries behind legitimate concerns, like questioning the credentials of the actors who were chosen, not understanding that when the only time you care about whether or not a character is qualified to perform the role they’ve been hired for is when they are a woman, or gay, or a person of color, that that too is performing a racism.

The Whiteness of the Past, the Present, and the Future

White people for the last hundred years of film and TV have crafted entire fictional universes with pasts, presents, and futures that were entirely centered around themselves, with not a single face of color to be seen. When I was a little girl, I was sitting in our kitchen watching some futuristic movie and turned to ask my mother why there were no Black people in the future. Really quick she said, “Maybe we left.” She’d noticed it too and seemed to have that answer ready for me, just in case.

White people who are making the arguments that we don’t belong are speaking from a long history of whitewashing, of never having seen Black and Brown faces in historical epics, present-day dramas, or futuristic landscapes unless we were playing happy slaves, silent victims, or menacing drug dealers. The industry was so whitewashed that when it eventually developed the use of color, Black and Brown people weren’t even a consideration, and color was only attuned to white skin tones. Movies and TV were so white that Black women didn’t have hair and makeup people of their own until a scant few years ago.

According to white people making the loudest noise, we don’t belong anywhere in their all-white fantasylands of the past or the future. Their entire understanding of historical events comes not from study, or reading, or actual knowledge, but from Hollywood movies in which our presence had been, downplayed, erased, or ignored, even in our own stories. Based on these deeply ignorant people’s understanding of history, the only stories in which Black people should be allowed to appear are the ones based on slavery, as if enslavement was our only contribution to the world. We’re not allowed to appear in movies set in the present unless we’re being killed or killing, and apparently, we don’t exist at all in the future, not just physically, but in any cultural or social contributions we made to the making of this country thast sre simply never referenced.

Candace Patton talked about how she didn’t have anyone to do her hair, and Black actresses called out Hollywood in 2020, for its lack of hairstylers for them. Many of them confessed to having to do their own makeup because white makeup professionals never bothered to learn how to do Black skin or hair. White hairstylists didn’t need to know that to have successful careers! There was such a complete lack of Black female stuntwomen that white stuntwomen wore blackface on the rare occasions that Black actresses needed stuntwork done! This was pretty rare indeed because up until about ten years ago we never got to be in Action movies often enough to need stunt doubles!

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/07/238957/black-hairstylist-diversity-issue-hollywood-2019

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/black-stuntwomen-ready-fight-hollywood-130058128.html

All of the white backlash against Black women (in particular) participation in genre media we are seeing today is just one part of the side effects of Hollywood’s insistence that there is only one demographic that needs to be pandered to, (therefore all the other demographics can be ignored), and the idea that movies with diverse and inclusive casts don’t make any money, (which results in the erasure of PoC in order for anything to be greenlit). Many films cannot receive funding to get made without a big enough named actor in the cast. Unfortunately, Hollywood not casting PoC in certain films and for certain roles results in actors of color (in particular Asian American actors) finding it nearly impossible to become big enough named actors to ever get projects funded. They can’t get to A-list status if they are never given the opportunity to do so.

Not being considered for roles in certain genres of film limits an actor’s career prospects, and when those roles are obtained (as with Candace Patton’s casting as Iris West in The Flash, Moses Ingram’s casting in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, and Leslie Jones casting in Ghostbusters) they receive no protection from their employers from the harassment and pervasive racist vitriol on social media, which is one of the nastier side effects of Hollywood never having hired actors who look like them for these roles in the past. Part of their employment means they are subject to public emotional abuse while working in a role they were paid money to perform. These actors often receive little to no support from their white industry colleagues or white female fans either (something which has only begun to change just this year!) It has continually fallen on the fans, especially Black women, to be their support systems under trying and stressful circumstances.

Until this moment passes, and seeing PoC in these types of roles becomes normalized, and white fans fully begin to understand that this is not a situation that is going to change (because diversity and inclusion is proving to be a very lucrative deal for the corporations engaging in it), we will continue to see this kind of toxic behavior, and we all need to be ready for that. Much of this behavior can be laid at the feet, not just of the kinds of fans who are used to being the only demographic that was pandered to for over a hundred years, but Hollywood’s idea that PoC, neither the actors nor the audiences, were worthy of consideration.

It is long past time Hollywood realized we too are worthy of being pandered to and that representation always mattered, not just to us but to white people who are unused to seeing PoC as anything other than the stereotypes which Hollywood has always given them.

As I stated when I first started this blog:

Black women like to have adventures too.

It is a shame I’ve had to wait nearly my entire life for Hollywood to realize women like me exist.

More New Trailers

Hey, we got a bunch of exciting new trailers that recently dropped so let’s check them out! Which ones are you looking forward to, and why. Let me know in the comments!

Jurassic World: Dominion

This is such a great trailer for the movie. I would watch an entire season of short snippets of people coping with dinosaurs, so I’m really excited to watch this. I hope it’s a really good movie because this was the kind of stuff I used to imagine when I was a kid and I don’t want to walk out of the theater disappointed.

Wow! I mean just think about it! What if dinosaurs existed at the same time as modern humans? We’d have to take the good (incredible images and photos) with the bad (possibly being eaten). What if you lived in a place with a dinosaur infestation? What would your insurance be like? How would you explain being late for work because there were some triceratopsians blocking the freeway? What if the local pack of herbivores showed up in your backyard and ate your flower garden? And let’s be honest here, there is a part of me that thinks watching human beings be menaced by giant predators is just deeply entertaining.

Incidentally, if you like this video there’s a trilogy of books by James David called Footprints of Thunder that has this same plot, with dinosaurs having made it into the modern world through a time rift! Not sure if it’s still in print but if you can find some copies, check them out.

As I mentioned before, my youngest niece and nephew have already decided we’re going to see this film, and I believe in shamelessly indulging their interests. My Millennial sister likes dinosaurs too, so I hope to turn this into a full family affair, (although my oldest niece may miss out because of work).

The Winchesters

Okay, I have no intention of watching this. I watched all 15 years of Supernatural and I have no more taste for their story. I stuck it out to the end, and have moved on. More than likely this is an appeal to a younger generation of supernatural fans who while they may have watched the old episodes, are probably more likely to watch this than those of us who sat through 15 seasons of the original series. The actors are all very pretty but I don’t know any of them and I don’t want to supplant any of my memories of the original with any images from this one, so I’m going to pass on it.

But I know there are some people who are greatly interested in this, so I’m giving y’all a heads up in case you hadn’t heard the news.

The Umbrella Academy

I am very excited about this series and I’m really looking forward to the season three premiere. If you haven’t seen the first two seasons, I implore you to check it out. There will be at least one character you will fall in love with. I thought the character I would love the most was Klaus, who acts like a free spirit but is mostly traumatized by his ability to speak to the dead, and so self medicates. To my surprise, my favorite character turned out to be Number Five, an old man in a child’s body (due to time mishap) and who is the smartest sibling along with being a complete badass.

But this series is notable for having Eliot Page. Eliot came out as non-binary transgender last year and everyone was wondering how the character he played on screen in seasons one and two would be treated in the story. It appears that the character has also come out as transgender since the writers changed the name of the character from Vanya to Victor. Hopefully, Victor won’t try to destroy the world again as they did in the first two seasons. See how new this is. This is something that so different from what we’re used to that I don’t even know how to talk about a fictional character. How do I talk about Vanya? Is it deadnaming to talk about her since the new character is named Victor? And is it okay because she’s fictional? Somebody help!

She Hulk

I was a huge fan of the Jim Byrne run of the She-Hulk comic series, and I love what they’re doing here with the character. They seem to have perfectly captured the sensibility and mood of the books and now I’m looking forward to this. It looks fun and funny. I love how they made her a sexual being with appetites who makes it clear that she wants what she wants. The comic book version was often sexy and sassy, with a lot of snark and attitude, and yeah, Bruce Banner is indeed her cousin.

All that aside, I do hate the CGI. It looks awful and cheap and simply not up to Disney standards. The face is just wrong, especially in her Hulked-out state, and her body looks too thin, and not very muscular, which is a real problem I have with female characters who are supposed to have super strength but whose arms look like twigs. I hope they correct all this by the time the series airs. (Note: Jane Thor and King Valkyrie have just the right amount of muscle for such characters).

Note: I read that the CGI has been upgraded to look a bit better, so I checked it out, and the trailer was improved a bit. She looks more muscular than before, but her face still looks a little bit off to me. It’s not as bad as in the original trailer though.

Sandman

I have not read the Neil Gaiman comic books on which this series is based, something I plan to correct before the series airs in August. Since I am only passingly familiar with The Endless, I don’t know enough to be really excited about this, but so far, I like what I see, and I’m looking forward to reading the books, and watching the show.

But, whether or not I watch this also depends greatly on what else will be out at the time. Sometimes I have every intention of watching some show or movie, and then I don’t, or only watch some of it, not because it’s bad or anything, not because I’m bored, but because it’s sometimes hard for me to keep up the momentum, which has been stolen by another series. But even if I don’t watch the series, I intend to refresh myself with the books, which I haven’t even glanced at since I was a young’un.

New Thor 2 Trailer

Well, I already had plans to see this. Yeah, I’m an MCU fan and no shame in that, because I go to the movies to have fun and adventures, and MCU films deliver every single time. If I’m gonna spend that much money to be entertained I want it to be worth it. (Yeah, I’m not going to pay the cost of birthing a child in the US to watch a movie about pain and tragedy, unless it’s by Martin Scorcese.)

One of the primary reasons I love Taika Waititi (the director) is his ability, almost his compulsion, to take famous characters, sometimes famously evil ones, and deconstruct them, making them human and relatable, while never denying they’re not actually good people. He did this with vampires, Hitler, pirates, and superheroes, and he’s done the same thing for Thor, and I find it a really interesting habit. I’m gonna have to talk about that some more in another post.

So, yeah I’m looking forward to his interpretation of Jane Thor, King Valkyrie, and this new villain, Ghorr the Godslayer, who is played by Christian Bale.

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning

Okay, these actors are starting to get up there in years, (except for Rebecca Ferguson, who I believe might be a vampire), but I don’t care. The Mission Impossible franchise consistently hits it out of the park in the Action genre, and you have the usual required scenes of Tom Cruise jumping onto something while clenching a woman, and running really fast somewhere. I’m probably not going to see this in the theater because it’s simply not on my list of movies to watch this Summer. My mom used to throw my whole watchlist into disarray every year, but fortunately, I can dictate to my sister’s kids, and they kinda have to go along with my tastes if they wanna eat free popcorn.

I don’t actually have much to say about this trailer except the Action doesn’t look as wild and crazy as it has in previous films, but maybe they’re just holding back on those images, and when you’re sitting in the theater you’ll get that familiar sensation of your stomach dropping down to your knees, and you’ll clench the arms of your seat in terror, and paying five thousand dollars to see it will have been worth it.

Willow

I don’t normally engage in a whole lot of nostalgia, but for this movie, I will make an exception! The original movie was released in the 80s, and when it was available for TV, I remember watching it multiple times. It’s been thirty+ years and we have a sequel television series. As soon as I heard there was a trailer for this, my mind started playing the John Williams theme from the original. Yep, I still fondly remember that.

The reason the movie was so special to me was because of Warwick Davis. He was my first exposure to a dwarf actor, and I thought he was very handsome and very charming. In the movie, he is tasked with the care of a tiny baby girl that is the “chosen one”, But the movie isn’t about her, because she’s, like, one year old and has no speaking parts, so much as the hero’s journey of Davis’ character, Willow. It’s a little bit of a remix of Snow White, and surprisingly progressive for its time, with a woman warrior character and an evil Queen.

This sequel happens many years later and the “baby” is an adult, and Willow and some companions have been called to save their world again. The original was also my first real exposure to High Fantasy that I actually liked, as I was mostly indifferent to these types of books and movies, and most of them made no impression on me. But Willow snuck in and got to me, and I’m obviously going to have to do a deep dive before this series release!

I’m looking forward to it because it looks like a lot of fun and the nostalgia factor really kicked my ass while watching this!

Resident Evil

Despite that I’ve watched almost none of the movies, I do love a good horror series with lots of monsters, so I’m looking forward to this series. I’m not enthusiastic exactly, but anytime I’m watching a trailer, and I am sitting on the edge of my seat or just nope the fuck out (the giant spider scene), it’s definitely worth checking it out. so zombies, spiders, chainsaws, Black women being included in the story? I’m in!

I am glad to see more Black girls and women being involved in fantasy and horror movies and series. For the longest time, at least since the seventies, the existence of Black women as an audience that could be pandered to was not a thing. There’s nothing wrong with being pandered to in a narrative, despite the fact that straight white male audiences want to turn it into a dirty word, which is really ironic since for the past seventy years they have been the ones being pandered to by every form of entertainment media that existed.

Creators, almost all of whom were white men, literally didn’t think about other groups of people, in fact making it expressly clear that white men, between the ages of 15 and 35, was the ideal audience they were chasing after, and there is a contingent of online assholery that actually wants to go back to a time when we were considered nothing but maids, slaves, and servants to be abused in whatever stories we were in (hence the current online trolling of Black actresses who happen to find work in these genres). I’m glad to see these creators and writers remembering that WoC watch shit too, recognize that we also have money and choices, are willing to chase after PoC for their money, and that we want to see ourselves in these narratives as heroes and villains. Putting that message out into the world is one of the primary reasons I started this blog.

So yeah, I’m excited to see a Black girl in this series who is apparently being a total bad ass.

Strange World

I am a really huge fan of Lost World type movies, and my personal favorite is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. I just love watching movies about goopy aliens, monsters, and weird environments and this looks like hella fun, plus it’s got this retro-vibe that I find aesthetically appealing. I don’t normally watch a lot of the kid’s stuff on Disney, and I don’t go to those type of movies anymore (cuz I don’t have that kind of money), but I would pay money to go see this. I think it’s just going to be on the Disney+ app though which has more than shown it’s worth in the series Wandavision, Hawkeye, Moon Knight, and a bunch of movies and documentaries.

I’m not sure how I feel about the characters, because as I said many times, it’s not just a plot or some imagery that pulls me into something. It’s got to have at least one or two characters I’m drawn to, although the characters do look really cute! I didn’t see much of their personalities in this trailer so I don’t know what to think of them yet, (and although the pilot looks appealing, it doesn’t mean I will like her) but the trailer looks like weird goopy fun, which is enough of an attraction for me, I guess. It’ll get a look-see.

The Menu

And finally there’s this gem, starring Ralph, Fiennes, and one of my favorite new actresses, who I hope will be around for a good long while, Anya Taylor-Joy! I have the feeling this movie is about one of my favorite topics, cannibalism, and I’m always up for a good humans eating humans movie, especially if it’s an “eat the rich” story. I only just heard of this movie, so I don’t have a lot of knowledge beyond the visuals, but I will probably watch this when it streams.

Starring the Landscape: The Suburbs – Such A Nice Place To Kill

 

Image result for suburbs gif

There are few movies that feature the suburbs before the 1950s. Most movies,  up to that point, were about city-living, because for most people, that was where the excitement was. All the action happened there, and the suburbs and small towns were places to escape from. You couldn’t have a life in those places. At least, not an interesting one. After the second world war, the suburban population exploded thanks to programs like the GI Bill, which allowed white people to buy homes away from the city, and the massive funding of the highway system, which allowed white people to flee the cities, and still be able to reach the places of work they left behind

https://www.history.com/news/gi-bill-black-wwii-veterans-benefits

While the GI Bill’s language did not specifically exclude African-American veterans from its benefits, it was structured in a way that ultimately shut doors for the 1.2 million black veterans who had bravely served their country during World War II, in segregated ranks.

If you want to discuss themes of conformity, existential angst, boredom, dullness, ennui, and escape from any of those issues, then you need to set your story in the suburbs, with its endless miles of strip malls, identical pastel housing, well kept patches of lawn, and daily rituals of pleasantness. The suburbs, in the movies, are used to represent stability, order, the status quo, and the mainstream. In other words, normalcy. In the ‘burbs, one day is much like the next, the unexpected doesn’t occur,  and change is not encouraged.

film gifs Page 1466 | WiffleGif

The suburbs are often shown as unexciting places that are meant to be escaped from, or unexciting places into which some excitement falls, and the members of the community must deal with the repercussions, or the members of the community must fight off the encroachment of some thing, or someone, in order to keep the status quo, in order to return to “normal”. Many Horror movies set in suburbia followed the standard formula of something from the “outside”  disrupting stability, and needed to be defeated.

The reason why Horror works so well in suburban settings, is because of the underlying sense of  the suburbs as a safe space,. The suburbs were established as a place  away from the “darkness” (i.e. PoC), and sins of the city, but in horror movies, the suburbs are  invaded by something dangerous, that is either  masquerading as a member of the community, like Fright Night. Sometimes the horror comes from within, when a disruption is caused by someone rebelling against a community which insists on controlling its members through authoritarianism, (The Stepford Wives), murder (Suburbia), or in one particular  short story by Robert R. McCammon, He’ll Come Knocking At Your Door, being sacrificed to nameless gods, in exchange for good fortune. The theme is that the good fortune of living there comes at a price. It can cost the inhabitants their autonomy, their sense of individualism, or their lives.

gif film Jim Carrey love it the truman show long post queenton •

The suburbs were created as a way to escape “the other”, (known as “White Flight”.) The suburbs themselves were supposed to be free from the encroachment of the violence, and incivility, and crime that white people were told, by the mainstream media, had overtaken the cities. What the residents did not take into account was that because of the inter-connectedness of American society, the decline of cities would eventually lead to the decline of the suburbs, as well. And, as PoC gained access to the suburbs, during the 80s, which was the height of the Slasher film era, those white people who could afford to leave, ran away to the ex-urbs, (a district outside a city, especially a prosperous area beyond the suburbs),leaving their poor white cousins behind. Since a system had already been set up, so that housing values declined with the “encroachment” of PoC, these white people were now trapped in these supposedly safe, but declining areas, being invaded by the poc they had been told they needed told to escape from, and unable to afford to leave.

In the early years of suburban movies and shows, the suburbs were a utopia, and saw the residents engaged in melodramas, or kids adventures, such as Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and Peyton Place, but as television moved into the 60s, the movies, and shows, started hinting at the darker underbelly, as in the  movies of Douglas Sirk, and shows about non-conformity, like The Addams Family. In these, the suburbs are shown to be a deceptive environment, where dark things could flourish behind its walls, like pedophilia, and domestic violence. It is not the actual environment of the suburbs that produce feelings of horror, and disquiet, but the people who live there. What kind of human beings could live in this  boring, carefully arranged world, with its identical homes, and territorial picket fences? Apparently the kind who are hiding secrets.

douglas sirk gifs | WiffleGif

This may seem obvious), but suburban horror is known for being made in spaces where people are, but a film’s tension comes from where people are not. Slasher movies, in suburban environments, focus attention on hidden, dark, out of the way spaces, like abandoned houses, empty schools, and even deserted streets at night. The 1978 Halloween, for example, took place largely at night, and the streets and neighborhoods are curiously empty. There is the sense that other people are around, but they are locked away in the well-lit houses, where they don’t answer their doors to people in distress. Several times, in the movie, Laurie Strode, the movie’s Final Girl, yells for help in the middle of the street, or hammers on doors, to no response. For most of the runtime of the movie, she appears to be entirely alone in this environment, as she frantically dashes from house to house.

And there are secrets here, too. Secrets that eventually come back to disrupt the lives of the inhabitants. This is the premise of The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, in which the sins of the parents are visited upon their children, in the form of a dead pedophile, on which they’d enacted vigilante justice, by burning him alive in a school basement. Their sons and daughters are systematically murdered by this angry ghost. Angry ghosts are also the motivation behind hauntings, in movies like the 1982 Poltergeist, in which the Freeling family are haunted by ghosts in their brand-spanking new, suburban development, which was built on a cemetery from which none of the bodies had been removed. The ghosts in the  Amityville Horror from 1979, go back even further, as the movie posits  that the house was built on  Native American burial grounds. The metaphor here is that the suburbs are not as historically, or emotionally, sterile or pristine as its inhabitants are led to believe. This land has a backstory, and its foundation is built over a dark, and malignant, underbelly.

Sometimes, these stories are cautionary tales, about distrusting people, and usually follow a standard formula of something from “outside” infiltrating this peaceful space, and masquerading as one of its inhabitants, as in 1985’s Fright Night, in which a teenager becomes convinced that his new neighbor is a vampire, or that there is some form of corruption growing within it, like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, in which an ordinary looking menace is hiding in plain sight, or just living in the suburbs itself is the danger, in movies like The Stepford Wives from 1975,  and 2007’s Disturbia.

Chief Brody GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

A classic “the horror comes from outside” story is Steven Spielberg’s 1976 Jaws. Amity is a small New England suburban town, that is visited by an avatar of death, in the form of a mindless killing machine, a Great White shark. The town’s new Sheriff, Martin Brody, himself an outsider, along with a local boat captain, and a wealthy marine biologist, have to  destroy the shark to restore order, because, according to the Mayor, no tourist will visit a Summer town where they can’t swim at the beach, and without tourists the town can’t survive. The presence of the shark threatens to throw the entire economic system into disorder, and destroy the town. Along with an intrusion from an indifferent outside force, such movies also included  trash talkin’, about cities, as hellish landscapes, filled with crime and poverty. In one scene, Martin Brody explains to Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper, the reasons why he left the city:

Brody : [Drunk] I’m tellin’ ya, the crime rate in New York’ll kill you. There’s so many problems, you never feel like you’re accomplishing anything. Violence, rip-offs, muggings… kids can’t leave the house — you gotta walk them to school. But in Amity one man can make a difference. In twenty-five years, there’s never been a shooting or a murder in this town.

The idea of the suburbs, as a safe haven from the death and disorder found in cities, didn’t get it’s start in horror films, but it was one of the reasons used to get White citizens to buy into the value of living so far from the it. That nothing ever happened there was part of the appeal. Brody’s postioning of Amity as an innocent, place that is free of danger, is thoroughly ironic, considering one of his kids is almost eaten by the shark.

Because Horror films, (and real life), have shown us that terror and death will come for us all, and cannot simply be escaped by driving further away, across some water, or in the movie, It Follows, in the water.

In It Follows from 2016, several teens living in the declining suburbs of Chicago, are  hunted by an avatar of death that is transmitted via sexual activity. The beautiful, but listless, Jay has already experienced tragedy with her father’s death, but after a sexual encounter with a young man who is not who he claims to be, she finds she is being stalked by an invisible, powerful entity, whose only purpose is to kill her. She can stave off death by having sex with someone else, thereby passing it on, but she will never escape it entirely, because just as in the real world, one cannot pass off death to another to save oneself, nor know the hour of one’s death. The film’s theme is based on the existential angst, that comes to the young, only after they begin to realize their own mortality. 

…and you have no suspicion that death, which has been making its way towards you along another plane, shrouded in an impenetrable darkness, has chosen precisely this day of all days to make its appearance, in a few minutes’ time, more or less…

— — — Marcel Proust — The Guermantes Way

Fright night GIF - Find on GIFER

In Suburban Horror, the suburbs can be infiltrated by something dangerous, that may be masquerading as a member of the community, as in the movie Fright Night, from 1985. Jerry Dandridge is a vampire, able to successfully blend into the suburban environment, by simply conforming to the manner of dress, rituals, and behavior of its inhabitants. He is handsome, polite, charming, and friendly, introducing himself to his neighbors and accepting, and extending, invitations. His house is well taken care of and he causes no disruptions. He fits right in, thereby not arousing suspicion, except from a single teenage boy, that no one believes. Not because no one believes in vampires, but because Jerry laughs at people’s jokes, and wears turtleneck sweaters. Witness the scene when Charlie calls the police to investigate Jerry. The detective visits Jerry’s home and finds no signs of disorder. The lawn and hedges are nicely kept, the garbage is taken out, and the “gardener” says Jerry is away on a business trip. The horror comes from the idea that this “safe” place is harboring a creature that is only pretending to be human. It is especially telling that this movie was released in the 80’s, at the height of the AIDs crisis, as Jerry Dandridge is also a metaphor for another hidden monstrosity, the “predatory gay man” with his pretty face, loyal male hangers-on, and effete European mannerisms, who moves to the suburbs, so he can “infect” the children.

The suburbs are a stand in for conformity and authoritarianism. Sometimes suburbia doesn’t just produce, or expose, darkness, but actually IS the horror. Homeowners Associations, with their stifling and authoritarian rules about the length of the grass on one’s lawn, the color of one’s home, how many Christmas lights can be used, and/or the number of cars that can be parked in one’s driveway, eliminate any forms of individual expression, in favor of suffocating monotony. Obedient wives, toxic masculinity, and forced camaraderie are the norms illustrated in the film, The Stepford Wives. Based on the satire by Ira Levin, the movie takes place during 70’s First Wave feminism, as Joanna, a successful photographer, moves to the well to do town of Stepford Connecticut, with her husband and children. She grows increasingly frightened of her neighbors, and her gaslighting husband, who tells her there is nothing for her to fear. The horror in Stepford Wives is not the death of Joanna’s body, (although that’s part of it), but that she can see the death of her sense of self, through the deliberate destruction of her individuality. By the mid-70’s, the suburbs had received a reputation as the place where a woman’s dreams go to die.

The Stepford Wives. Excellent. BUT NOT TRUE~... |

As more PoC could afford to move into suburban areas in the 80’s, a siege mentality set in, as the residents believed their territory was being encroached upon, which partially accounts for the glut of slasher films released between 1980, and 1989, and all of the other suburban invasion films released along the same timeline, which pictured the suburbs being invaded by violent beings of all kinds, from aliens (Critters), to serial killers (Freddie Krueger), to creatures of folklore (Gremlins), that came there to kill, rape, or create disorder.

What the residents failed to take into account, and still do, was in fleeing the cities, they simply carried all of their pathologies with them, engaging in the same activities, from which, they were attempting to flee. After all, you cannot run away from yourself.

It’s a cheesy old adage, but it’s true. Wherever you go, there you are. What does it mean? It means that if you don’t like yourself, or you haven’t made peace with yourself for things you’ve done in the past, you will be dealing with that baggage forever.

You may even be cursed to make endless movies about it.

Starring The Landscape: This City Is Horrible

There are two different stories in horror: internal and external. In external horror films, the evil comes from the outside, the other tribe, this thing in the darkness that we don’t understand. Internal is the human heart.

John Carpenter

 

city gif on Tumblr | Night city, City lights at night, City aesthetic

When I was a child, the very first city related Horror movies I remember, were Godzilla, and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, two stories about larger than life monsters destroying the biggest things humans have ever built — cities. These movies made an indelible impression on a little girl who lived in the city, and loved dinosaurs. It explains my love of Kaiju stories, from Godzilla, to Cloverfield, to Pacific Rim, and how movies about the destruction of cities have often moved me the most.

I grew up watching these films during the Cold War, between Russia and America, under the constant threat of mutual nuclear annihilation. I remember having nightmares about that, and avoiding movies and shows where it was depicted.

The underlying tone of most of these films is apocalyptic, with many of them indirectly referencing atomic energy. The destruction of entire cities, by some ravaging creature that was caused by atomic bombs, was often a stand-in for nuclear holocaust, natural disasters, or mankind’s hubris. These movies were terrifying, but still invoked awe and wonder, for something greater, whether that was a giant ape, a massive venom spewing dinosaur, or a fifty foot tall woman. They also provided a sense of comfort, as order, and the status quo, were restored at the end.

The stories are all about scale. The monsters are larger than life, meant to distract our attention from the city, and have the side effect of making us realize the more important things in our lives, like our loved ones, or unaccomplished personal goals. The monsters are often huge and unknowable things, that are impossible for any one individual to overcome, much like the city itself.

The monster must rival the size of the city. In 1953, New York got destroyed by a rampaging beast, awakened in the Arctic, by an atomic bomb. It was one of the first atomic age horror movies, and it set the stage for the destruction of New York, by similar beasts, like King Kong, the Cloverfield monster, and Godzilla, for the next fifty years, albeit with different motives.

Best Godzilla 1998 GIFs | Gfycat

After Godzilla in 1998, New York was destroyed again in 2008’s Cloverfield, where the lead character, who has planned to move out of the city, realizes what’s most important to him is his ex-girlfriend, when the city is invaded by some giant creature, of unknowable origin. He sets out to rescue her, in an effort to let her know how much he values her. The live action scenes of the two of them trying to escape the destruction of the city, by the rampaging creature, are juxtaposed against the live action footage of their lives during happier times. Here, the horror comes from the contrast of their human connection, with the disruption of order represented by the monster.

In 1954, long before he reached New York, Godzilla (Gojira) trampled Tokyo for the first time, and that film is an example of true urban horror, tragic, and awful, channeling the real citizen’s pain and bewilderment, after the nuclear bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki nearly ten years before. None of the many Godzilla films that followed captured that level of intensity.  Godzilla even became an endearing and protective father figure, in a series of zany comedies, which featured other monsters. It was almost like the Japanese were healing themselves of their trauma, through film.

That is until the Fukushima disaster of 2011, a real life horror, in which a massive, earthquake-driven, tsunami, caused a meltdown of the nuclear facility in Fukushima on the same day. Nearly 16,000 people lost their lives, and the entire city of Fukushima had to be evacuated. Five years later, Shin Godzilla was released, and successfully captured all the horror and tragedy of those two events , becoming yet another example of Japan reliving its worst nightmares, through the medium of film.

 

 

As in suburban settings, there are three types of Horror stories about the city. someone or something invades the city, which brings about the city’s destruction (external), something insidious is growing within the city or its people, (internal), and destroys its citizens, or it’s the setting itself that is the horror. Movies like Dracula, Blade, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Train to Busan, are examples of these, although they have different goals. One is about the xenophobic fear of disease and contagion from outside the city, or growing within it, one is about the dehumanization of city life, and the loss of individual selfhood, and another is about human connections during its destruction.

Francis Ford Coppola’s version of the Dracula myth was released in 1992, and by that time, most of its original xenophobic themes had been papered over with themes of sexually transmitted disease, and romance, but there are still remnants left behind. Dracula is an outsider, from the Middle East, who brings the plague of vampirism to the busy streets of London, which, in the Victorian 1880s, was in the midst of an industrial revolution. In the real world, talk of outsiders bringing disease, has once again reared it’s ugly head, as the British government threatens to separate from the European Union, while its members speak out against illegal immigrants from places like Iran, Pakistan, and Iraq. So it’s quite a coincidence that there happens to be a yet another version of Dracula, this time set in modern day London, airing on Netflix right now.

Body Snatchers Point GIF - BodySnatchers Point Epic - Discover ...

Contagion is also one of the themes present in the movie Blade, and its sequel, Blade 2, as New York threatens to be overtaken by a plague of vampires growing within the city of New York, and is also the theme of several alien invasion films, where “sentient diseases” are passed on to unsuspecting human beings through non-consenting fluid exchange, in movies The Invasion, a remake of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, a movie which is not as effective a story, without the sounds and images of the city of San Francisco as the backdrop. The setting is contrasted against the funny, quirky, Dr. Matthew Bennell, and his close friends. One of the other messages of the movie is how the city encourages social isolation, and dehumanizes the inhabitants, as much as the alien invasion.

In fact, the nature of city life, makes it nearly impossible to tell who has been reborn as an alien, and who has not, and that is the point. The people of San Francisco are so separated from one another, that no one really knows any of the people around them, so it’s impossible to notice if anyone has changed, even after multiple people tell the lead characters that their friends, lovers, and spouses, are not who they say they are.

The individual stories of the invasion victims are tiny, compared to the size of the city, and only heightens the pointlessness of their struggle to tell the world that an alien invasion has occurred. City people are so good at not minding the business of others, that by the time Dr. Matthew Bennell has noticed that people are losing their humanity, it’s too late to do anything about it. The city and the invasion are too huge and implacable for one person to make a difference.

The theme of dehumanization is also captured in movies like Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and Train to Busan, where a select group of individuals run a gauntlet of ravenous, once human, creatures, while trying desperately to hold onto the last shreds of their own humanity, both literally and figuratively, as civilization collapses around them. The focus of these types of stories are on the humans attempting to survive a chaotic environment, rather than the inhumanity of the monsters. The audience is drawn into the story through the kinds of decisions they make, which determine what kind of people they are. The audience is meant to identify with them, and place themselves in their shoes, thereby illuminating their own character.

 

 

Zombie movies are  a way to tell an intimate story in an oversized location. Many horror movies set in cities tend to focus on small dramas that happen during its destruction. In Train to Busan, the lead character, a callous business man, who cares more about his job than his family, learns to reconnect with his neglected young daughter, the people around him, and his own conscience, as he tries to protect her, during a zombie apocalypse. The zombie apocalypse is used as a backdrop to tell the story of a man regaining his humanity in the face of everyone losing theirs.

Sometimes, city dwellers themselves are monsters, and the the city is shown as a darkly cynical place, a cutthroat “urban jungle”, where people prey on one another, and no one can be trusted. City living is badmouthed in other movies. There are people who will rape or kill you at a moment’s notice, something which was not entirely an incorrect observation, especially during the 60’s and 70’s, when New York city was a much seedier, and more pornographic place, and Times Square in particular, before its gentrification and cleanup. Now, Times Square is clean and neat, but in the 70s, it was rife with strip clubs, open prostitution, porn theaters, and drug use. The frantic sights and sounds, river of traffic lights, buzzing of neon signs, sleek fashions, inclement weather, and constant chatter of people, are the hallmark tropes of city living. Cities are shown as cold, fast, sleek environments, often at night, using cool blues, and hot reds, which serve as  visual shorthand for lusts, and desires, but also  the emotional disconnect of the characters.

Image for post

 The movie Candyman was loosely based on a combination of African American urban legends, and the lives of the Black citizens of the Cabrini-Green housing projects of North Chicago. In the years since its creation in 1957, crime, gangs, and administrative neglect, created horrifying living conditions for its residents. Now add an immortal monster, that preys on their pain and sorrow, and what is depicted is an insidious horror, The Candyman, who was created out of  Black anguish, and white racist hysteria.

Much of Cabrini Green was eventually torn down in the 90s, and the last few buildings were destroyed in 2011. In 2020 Jordan Peele will release the spiritual sequel to the 1992 original film, which will tackle themes of displacement, and gentrification by affluent white residents, who of course, are not immune to the horrors of the city, no matter how much they tell themselves that they are improving it with their return.

Seven: The Brilliance of David Fincher's Chase Scene | Den of Geek

In 1995s  Se7en, Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt, she a schoolteacher, and he a cop, move back to the nameless every-city featured in the film. Unused to the grit, and callousness, she tells Morgan Freeman’s William Somerset, “I hate this city…the conditions here, are horrible.” And she is right. In Se7en, it is always raining, everything is gray, and littered with garbage, and the only warmth to be found is in Gwyneth’s character, and the home she has made for her and her husband. Throughout the movie, Somerset gives several speeches about the apathy of the people who live there, and how easy it is for human beings to not care about each other. The two people who claim to care the most about the city’s plight, are on opposite sides of the law. One is a serial killer, whose only solution seems to be causing more misery, by killing its weakest inhabitants, and the latter is Somerset’s hotheaded partner, who is eventually broken by his interaction with the former.

Cities can be a visual shorthand that represents the dehumanizing future that comes with technological progress. Got a horror story involving robots (The Terminator), or virtual reality, (The Matrix), then the best way to tackle so many sub-themes at once, is to set it in a city. Movies that question humanity, (The Fly), and reality (The 13th Floor), through technology, are almost always set in cities.

Movie of the Month - Dark City (July 2017) - Movie Forums

Just the name of the movie, Dark City (1998), invokes images of tall buildings, trash strewn alleys, crime, and permanent darkness, all of the shorthand that’s been used in Film Noir to indicate the horror of city living. Film Noir comes out of the German Expressionist cinema of 1920’s Berlin, and the American movies released in the 40’s, are based on that concept, while also referencing the crime and pulp fiction novels of the 30’s. In Film Noir, a person’s fortunes can turn on a dime, and human beings are the monsters, and with their suspect motivations, and weaknesses of character, they often bring about their own demise.

Dark City contains several monsters, including the actual  city itself, as it grows and transforms, at the whim of its alien masters. This is a literal parallel to real life cities, where, unlike the country with its bland stability, sites and markers come and go, the city grows and changes, and no where is there a fixed position.

In Dark City, a nameless man is pursued by strange men in black, for a series of murders he doesn’t remember committing. He spends most of the movie in pursuit of his memories, while discovering that the city itself is a lie. As the story progresses, we are introduced to alien possession, superpowers, and multiple themes about identity, alienation, and existential dread, which would be more difficult to impart, if the movie were set, for example, in the desert, which is representative of a different type of isolation.

It is said that there are a million stories in the naked city, and whether they are small and intimate (Rear Window, American Psycho, 1408), or huge and bombastic, (War of the Worlds, Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman), that’s a promise for many more lives and cities to be destroyed, and more themes to be explored, in the foreseeable future.

Let’s hope we can survive them all.

Fall Series and Films 2020

Okay, I was initially just going to post only those shows I was invested in watching, but decided to add at least a couple of shows that, while I might not be especially enthused about them, I’m sure someone reading this, is.

So, here’s a thoroughly incomplete list of new Fall shows that someone, who is not necessarily me, might be interested in watching in October.

 

Walking Dead: World Beyond

This is one of the shows I’m not terribly enthused about, because I’m not really in much of a mood for apocalyptic fiction, right now, it’s based off The Walking Dead series, which is now in its 1,000th season, and I refuse to get attached to any of the characters I see here, just in case they die horribly in the first two episodes.

Pretty much the only thing I got out of The Walking Dead, was not to care about any of the characters, because they’re  all just gonna be horribly killed at some point, and since characters are how I get invested in a show, well…

On the other hand, it does look intriguing, because it answers some questions about those helicopter people who approached Rick that one time, and what happened to Rick after his supposed death.

One theme in zombie fiction, that I am seriously tired of, is the travelogue narrative ,where, as soon as the world goes into lockdown mode, someone decides to take a road trip to find some lost loved ones, sometimes with neighbors, or a dog in tow, and they have harrowing adventures, and this seems like more of that. *Sigh*

 

Utopia

I want to like this but I’m just not feeling it. I will look at the pilot though, and maybe I will want to see more of it. yeah, I have no idea what it’s actually about ,and I don’t even care, which is how I know I probably won’t be jumping on this.

 

 

Lovecraft Country 

I have mixed feelings about this show. On the one hand it is directed by a Black woman, and I’m just now coming off The Old Guard, which was also directed by a Black woman, and I’m feeling confident. Its also produced by Jordan Peele, and the original story was written by Matt Ruff, and I read and liked the book okay. It also has monsters in it, and I like to think the racistly racist Lovecraft is rolling over in his grave at having his universe adapted to serve Black characters. Its about a Black family that take a road trip and encounter a mystery and some Lovecraft style monsters.

But…I’m not at all in the mood to watch any more oppression narratives that are rooted in Black pain and trauma. I don’t want to watch any more shows, or movies, set in the Slave era, or Jim Crow South, where we get to watch the characters suffer, and I’m strongly inclined to pretend this doesn’t exist, and will not exist any time in the future.

 

 

Project Power 

Unlike a lot of other whiners on Youtube (and other media), I’m not yet tired of the superhero genre, especially if they keep putting interesting versions of it onscreen, but then, I’m a person who much more carefully chooses these movies and shows, rather than rushing to watch every single thing with a superhero in it, and I also tend to like non-superhero, superhero movies like Unbreakable, The Old Guard, and this vehicle here.

I really like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jamie Foxx ,and I’ve never seen the two of them in a movie together, and it looks like fun, I guess. I think I read a book that had something of the same premise waaay back in the 90s, and I think there’s been a least a couple of comic book stories, where gaining superpowers through drugs, was an idea.

 

Truth Seekers

I really like Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Ive seen most of their movies together, and I loathe the paranormal investigation reality show genre, so I’m actually looking forward to this parody.

 

 

The Good Lord Bird

That thing I said about Slave era narratives is still true, but I find myself greatly intrigued by this movie, because its a comedy that stars Orlando Jones, an actor I love, and Ethan Hawke, who, as John Brown, looks unrecognizable in this movie, and who was great in The Magnificent Seven remake, and Daveed Diggs, who plays Frederick Douglas. I also like it because it is a comedy where the plot isn’t rooted in the consumption of Black trauma.

It actually looks really, really, funny ,and the young girl we see in the trailer is actually a young boy who has  disguised himself as a young girl because he found his life easier that way, and he sort of accidentally falls under Brown’s care.

You guys have got to read the book on which this movie is based, because Brown is a real hoot. Brown himself is a trigger happy abolitionist, who guns down any slave owners, and slave patrols he happens to encounter, making no effort to protect himself from harm, because he believes he is doing God’s will and that he is already protected.

 

 

Star Trek: Lower Decks

I’m not sure this is the best use of the money we gave these people for those last couple of Star Trek movies, so I’m just gonna leave this here.

I mean, I’m not opposed to an animated version of Star Trek, but I am opposed to an animated version of Star Trek. Heck, I didn’t even watch the original animated Trek, from the 70s. But you know what, I’m not gonna act like one of those fanboy purists who refuse to watch something just because its radically different from whatever came before, and I loved that Spiderverse movie. Not that this is, in any way, Spiderverse level entertainment, but I might be surprised.

 

An American Pickle

At first glance, this doesn’t seem much like something I’d watch, but I Seth Rogan okay, I like time travel movies, it looks funny, and I like the initial setting of Victorian New York.

 

Things I looked At: Mini Streaming Reviews (February)

Here’s a short list of things I watched on Netflix and other streaming services, mostly at random. I just clicked on or rented stuff that had pretty promo pictures,  happened to be a subject I’m interested in, or was recommended to me by some algorithm. Not all of these are TV series, however. A few are movies, but I decided to include them, because watching them on a streaming service was really the only way I was ever going to watch them.

 

Rurouni Kenshin

These movies are based on the Samurai X manga. I don’t know if this is like the anime, because I have never watched that, and  have only a passing familiarity with the Manga, which I read many years ago, but remember liking. These movies (there are three of them so far, with more to come later this year), heavily remind me of Blade of the Immortal, which was brutal, bloody, fun, only these have a slightly, “relatively”, more positive message, and a sense of humor. Well, I laughed at it, but y’all know I’m weird.

In the first movie, the lead character, named Kenshin, is a former assassin, who decided to give up killing, and wander the countryside helping people. This appears to be a very popular theme, because its basically the same plot of Blade of the Immortal, and a bunch of other samurai movies. A young woman who runs a martial arts school of some kind, stumbles across the protagonist, and he decides to help her with a problem she’s having with a rival school, that wants to take over hers.

A plot by some minor government official to take over the government in some drug related scheme, and a couple of Kenshin’s old enemies coming back to get revenge, give plenty of opportunities for fight scenes ,which are also interesting, because although Kenshin has decided to give up killing, he still carries a sword, but its a a reverse katana, with the killing edge on the wrong side. He can swing it expertly, but it takes a conscious effort to use it to kill, which he has promised his love interest he would never do again, and opens up some interesting dialogues about pacifism, and to what purpose  violence is used.

But mostly, its just a lot of really exhilarating sword fights. I loved watching the fight scenes, especially Kenshin’s fighting style, which is fast, and inventive. Because he’s not actually trying to kill many of his opponents, but they have no problem taking his life, the fights never get boring, and if that’s what you’re looking for in a martial arts film, then check out the entire trilogy.

At least two of these movies are available on YouTube, and there wasn’t any English translation for the one I watched. So not having it be dubbed or subbed, made me deeply curious about the conversations the characters are having with each other, during the fight scenes, where they often pause in their sword swinging, to exchange words. When I finally got to see the translated versions, it turned out that those conversations were completely unimportant, and that most of the deeper philosophical discussions, take place during character monologues.

 

 

 

Attack on Titan

Wow! These movies were awesome, emotionally draining, and  very energetic. There are few slow moments in them, and not much of either movie’s time is wasted.

Once again, I’ve only read a couple of the books, one of which was an anthology. I’ve never watched any of the anime, and I have only a passing idea what all this is  about, from watching some of the most terrifying trailers I’ve ever seen, and people talking about it on Tumblr. I don’t know how close the plot of  this movie, and its direct sequel, is to the original manga. The basic plotline is the same though.

Humanity lives in walled cities, to protect themselves from massive, (once human), beings, that have a nasty habit of eating the smaller versions. The movie is pretty graphic about this. There’s a lot of body horror, as people are grabbed, eaten, squeezed, pulled apart, stepped on, and otherwise massacred, by these giant gluttonous monsters. There’s also a certain amount of body horror with the monsters too. They are humanoid creatures with disfigured faces, and bodies, who are always eagerly smiling.

It’s interesting that one of the tropes of Japanese Horror films is the grinning monster, with probably the only American equivalent to this being evil clowns, and Japan does not have that trope. I personally find grinning, (non-human), monsters pretty horrible too, but I don’t see as much of that in American horror, but then Americans tend to be much more emotionally open in public, too. I suppose, in a society where privacy, reserve, (and melancholy), is encouraged, someone walking around with a massive cheerful grin would immediately mark themselves as other than normal, possibly even monstrous, and certainly untrustworthy. Its not that Japanese people can’t be zany, or don’t have emotions, its just that in the interest of personal privacy, they try to keep it themselves, a close circle of friends, or on TV shows.

There’s also a group of soldiers, and volunteers who create a new method for killing the Titans, that requires them to engage in a little too up close and personal manner, as the Titans are nearly impossible to kill, in any normal fashion. There is a lot of dismemberment, and eating, of the brave soldiers. We follow their adventures, and  interactions, although I did find myself not caring too deeply about them,  because I don’t feel that the focus here was on character development. It’s not that I didn’t feel anything for the characters, so much as their relationships with each other were sort of underwhelmng, next to the horror of what was happening to them. I was also irritated with them, as there are a lot of images of them just standing about and staring, as the Titans do stuff. I kept yelling at my TV because the humans simply were not taking adequate precautions to save their own lives, like dodging, or running away. On the other hand, I do live in Tornado Alley, so I’m guessing that watching giant things move slowly across a landscape, is something that is universally hypnotic.

In the first movie, the humans are living  peacefully, the idea of the Titans  is long ago and far away, until a brand new Titan shows up, that is significantly larger and stronger than any Titan seen before it. It turns out that the Titans do have some residual intelligence, as they have deployed this new guy to break down the walls, so they can just walk in and feast, and the humans are just not ready for any of it. In the second film, the people rally, and with the help of a half human/half Titan, and even a little bit of martial arts, (because that is a requirement for all Asian action movies), they manage to defeat them, or at least make them go back  wherever they came from.

There’s a lot of nudity, because naturally the Titans don’t wear clothes, and lots of bloody and disgusting things happen to the human body, so be warned. You kind of have to be in a certain mood to watch it.

 

 

Inuyashiki

What I was expecting when I saw the trailer for this was a wacky, Japanese romp with superpowers,. To be fair, the trailer I saw didn’t have captions, and I might not have been paying as close attention as I should have been, but the trailer does mostly focus on all the action scenes. This movie is not a comedy. While its message was a bit heavy handed, and there were definitely some tears, I actually did enjoy this. It wasn’t what I expected, but I’ve learned, over the years, not to be angry at getting the unexpected in a story. I only get angry when I get LESS than what I expect, and I got a lovely and moving story of  family dynamics, reparation of father /daughter relationships, and loneliness. Keep in mind that I hadn’t even read any of the Manga, if such exists, let alone seen any anime. I walked into this movie completely blind, except  for having watched the trailer.

Inuyashiki is the story of an old man, (the title character), who is having a very bad day. He is a deeply lonely, and isolated man, who, one day, finds out that he is in the end stages of cancer, gets  bullied at work, and then loses his job. He is emotionally distant from his wife, son, and daughter, and finds it impossible to tell them not just about his impending death, but his real feelings for them. His daughter is especially angry, because he has never shown her how much he cares about them, although this is stated as a lack of protection, since he kept telling them that the reason he worked so hard, and was never home, was to protect their future. I was starting to get really annoyed with how much of an asshole she was, until I realized there was a point to it.

Inuyashiki goes to the park one night, gets kidnapped by aliens, and in their efforts to cure him, (at least that’s what I think they may have been doing, because its never stated in the movie why the aliens did this), they turn him into a machine/cyborg, who is able to manifest machine parts, weapons, and even fly, possibly done through nanites. The very first thing he does with his powers, is heal a little boy, who is dying of cancer, at his hospital. This outlines the type of man he is, that the first thing he does after getting superpowers, is to save another life. These superpowers are yet another thing he cannot tell his family, but he does confide in one of his daughter’s classmates, who coaches him in how to use his new superpowers.

At the same time, another student, the close friend of Inuyashiki’s coach, whose name is Shishigami, is also kidnapped at the park, and turned into a robot of some kind. Both he and Inuyashiki were both in the same place emotionally. They were alone and depressed, and dealing with highly volatile issues. In Shishigami’s case, it is school bullying, and the death of his mother, from cancer. Shishigami does share knowledge of his new abilities with his best friend, but it says a lot about his character that he demonstrates his abilities by killing an innocent creature. Shishigami of course meant to go on as he started. he becomes first a murderer, and then a mass killer, with his superpowers allowing him to kill people through their phones and other video screens.

We have these two men, both of them undergoing uniquely personal tragedies, but their reactions are completely different. Inuyahsiki dedicates himself to saving lives, and Shishigami decides to do the opposite. Inuyahshiki  is an old man, at the end of his life, so  finds life more precious than Shishigami, who is young and angry at having been mistreated by his classmates, and can only think of revenge. Shishigami is unable to think of life as precious, viewing people as disposable, and this is how he treats most of his victims. The first time he kills people, its just a random family whose home he invaded. He is brutal, without mercy, and unnecessarily cruel. When he finds out his mother has cancer, he saves her life, but in his rage at the unfairness of it, he decides to kill more people. For Inuyashiki, all life is  beautiful however, and he works hard not to kill Shishigami, understanding his pain, and viewing even his cruel existence as precious, and salvageable.

Needless to say, the two of them are on a collision course ,as Inuyashiki sets out to stop Shishigami from killing people, and the last third of the movie is taken up with their furious, and energetic, battling through the skies of the city of Tokyo, which is what you see in the trailer. Ultimately. during all this fighting, Inuyahsiki’s daughter’s life ends up in danger, and he gets plenty of opportunities to protect her from his nemesis. This results in her discovering her father’s superpowers, of course, and a reconciliation between them, as they both share this new thing that mom doesn’t  know about.

I found the whole thing very touching, even if it was, as I said, a little heavy handed in its messaging. One of the interesting things about a lot of Japanese genre movies is that characters rarely exchange important information with each other. The dialogue between characters is often kept very simple and unremarkable, while most of the important things get said in monologues, with characters appearing to just talk to themselves in the middle of some important event. That’s something that, once you notice it, takes a little getting used to, but over all, I liked the movie,   its message, and it was worth the time I spent watching it.

 

 

Wellington Paranormal

Ever since Barney Miller, I’ve had this thing about cop comedies, and I don’t know what that’s about. I won’t watch dramatic cop shows, and generally spurn mystery thriller cop shows, unless Black actors are the stars. From shows like Barney Miller, Reno 911, Brooklyn 99, and Monk, to movies like Beverly Hills Cop, Hot Fuzz, and Mall Cop,  to The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, I’m noticing a trend. I’m attracted to laughing at, and with, cops. So Wellington Paranormal is right up my alley ,as it contains three of my favorite topics, the paranormal, and cops who are deeply funny.

Wellington Paranormal is  a loose spinoff of the movie What We Do In The Shadows, about the adventures of four vampires living as flatmates in New Zealand. Its also the second spinoff from the movie, as the first one, a series with the same name, and basic setup,  is set in America. In the movie, there’s a scene where the police get called to the vampire’s house, because the neighbors were concerned, when the vampires were engaging in some general domestic violence.

Wackily, this show is about the two cops who get called to the house, Officers Minoghe, and O’Leary (their actual real life names). If you have seen the movie, (and if you haven’t, you need to, even if you never watch either of the spinoffs), then the blithe obviousness of the two cops is the basic attitude of the show, as the two of them get conscripted by their boss, (Sgt. Maaka Pohatu), to deal with paranormal events and situations in the city of Wellington.

In the first season, they deal with such silliness as  a body swapping demon (shoutout to The Exorcist), zombies, and werewolves, while giving each one of these issues about the same amount of portentous gravity, which means none at all. O’Leary and Minogue are the anti-Scully and Mulder of the detection world, and that is never not funny to me. The two of them find a way to make even the wildest, most batshit of circumstances, appear utterly mundane, which is where most of the humor comes from, but at least 20% of the humor comes from their interactions with each other, and their boss, who takes things way too seriously.

In the second season, they tackle a town full of alien clones of themselves, in a direct callback to  The X-Files, a possessed car, a group of high school witches, in a shoutout to the Midwich Cuckoos, and some possessed cell phones. So yeah, the creator’s reference game is on point, and another nice gesture is that their boss gets a lot more airtime in the series. The closest comparison for some people will probably be Brooklyn 99, but its really not much like that. Its more of an X-Files parody, so if you liked that show, and would like to see it treated  it with the level of  silliness it deserved, then you will probably have to pirate it, as its not available in the US.

Back Down Memory Lane…Again

Cleopatra 2525 (2000-2001)

Even though I watched this show for its entire two season run,  I don’t actually remember a whole lot about this show, except that it was cheesy, cheap, and starred the modern Goddess, Gina Torres, She of the Divine Facial Features. Perhaps that’s all one actually needs to know about this show to be intrigued.

This was girl-power before such a phrase existed, or rather, somewhere around the same time that it came into being. The term girl-power has been around for a very, very, long time. I remember it being mentioned on The Powerpuff Girls, when I watched that show with my baby sisters, when they were, in fact, actual babies!

Anyway, the basic plot is that the young blonde girl, whose name is actually Cleo, although she’s not important while standing next to Gina,  was an exotic dancer, who got put in a Futurama type situation, where she wakes up so far into the future, that the world has become completely unrecognizable to her. She joins these two young women who are fighting against some type of totalitarian authority that likes to use drones, cameras, and an evil clown type guy to oppress them. Its really is kind of like Tank Girl meets Futurama meets Charlie’s Angels, as there were at least some good action scenes.

Once again YouTube has full episodes of this show, so check them out and let me know what you think, unless of course, you are going to argue against the beauteous divinity of Gina Torres, in which case you can keep that shit to yourself!

 

 

Special Unit 2 (2001-2002)

Not to be confused with Special Unit, which was your standard police procedural, this is Special Unit 2, a standard police procedural starring paranormal creatures. I remember eagerly looking forward to this becasue Buffy the Vampire Slayer was airing around the same time ,and this was a cheap, funny knockoff blend of that and a cop show.

The show really didn’t take itself at all seriously, it was zany and cheesy, and actually pretty funny. Or rather, it fit my idea of deeply funny, at the time I watched it, since I was just a kitten then. I don’t know that my humor has changed all that much, but I’m about to find out, as I plan to watch it again, since a lot of the episodes are available for free, on YouTube.

The show is about Nick and Kate, two seemingly regular cops who are part of a special unit of the Chicago PD, who deal with things like dragons, unicorns, elves, and gnomes, while trying to keep these creatures a secret from the rest of society. Needless to say, a lot of lying is involved. The show really did try to mine the Buffy and X-Files shows for some of its plots, and occasionally got a little serious too, although there was a lot of it that was played for laughs, including a gnome type character who worked in the office, and specialized in being a thief. I remember really enjoying the acting on this show, which was played very tongue in cheek by both Nick and Kate, with surprisingly little of the “will they-won’t they” dynamic that seemed required of such shows.

In fact, of all the characters Kate was probably my favorite, next to the, highly irreverent Carl, the Office Gnome. The show was interesting because Kate was the show’s regular everyperson, who stumbles onto some grand secret of the world, and is the audience’s stand-in, as we learn about this world at the same time, and this was probably why I liked her, since female, audience stand-ins, are kind of rare in this genre.

 

 

Haunted

I remember really liking this show, at the time, because there really wasn’t anything else like on the air at the time, except maybe Millennium, and the X-Files, and Angel, and even those shows attempted some occasional lightheartedness. This show did none of that. It remained horribly gloomy right up until the end of its seven episode run, and the dark gloominess of it was probably why.  There was almost no color in this show, except for the presence of that one Black guy these shows had to hire, to reach compliance for diversity back then. The show starred Matthew Fox, before he became famous for starring in the show Lost. I did not understand his appeal in that show but I did get the whole brooding loner thing in Haunted.

Matt Fox is a private detective, named Frank, who once got killed by a serial killer of young boys,  who now hunts for missing people. Oh, and because he died that one time, he can now see ghosts. Specifically he is haunted by the spirit of his own missing son, whose disappearance caused the collapse of his marriage, and he can also see the spirit of  the serial killer, Simon, whose accidental  death he caused, which also cost him his job. I loved the show, and it was largely because of the presence of Matthew Fox’s acting skills, and the cinematography, because the show was gorgeous, with lots of black, grey, and rain.

I managed to find a couple of episodes on Youtube, which is where dead shows go, apparently, and I’ve actually re-enjoyed the couple I watched.

 

 

Reaper

This was another show that I remember was a lot of fun. Not so much for its first season, but in the second season the show made a  u-turn, and kicked the plot into high gear. The writing got better, and the characters were energetic and fun, unlike the first season where the actors tried to take things a little too seriously for the silliness of the plot.

It starred that guy from Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, Tyler Labine ,who was the sidekick of the lead character, Sam, a slacker who had  somehow been  coerced into collecting souls for Satan. I don’t remember liking Sam very much in the first season, but in the second season things got better when he found out the reason why he’d been chosen to be a Reaper was because he was Satan’s son, with Satan being played by the most excellent Ray Wise, who for some reason, was named Jerry. I remember thinking Wise was waaay out of league for this show, becasue he made what was otherwise simply a “meh” show, a very good one.

Despite Sam being the son of Satan, he continued to be whiny and incompetent at his job, and was most often saved by his accomplices, an ex-girlfriend from school, and Tyler’s character. Strangely, it’s often Satan who comes off looking sympathetic in this show, even while committing what are clearly evil acts, or acts that are at least deeply annoying ones for Sam. He and Sam used to have interesting discussions about the nature of Heaven and Hell, and why Satan can’t eat ice cream.

 

Witchblade

This was a very short lived series based on the comic books. I had actually been reading the comics right before the series was announced so I was very excited to see what they were going to do with the show. The trailers were intriguing and I liked the actress Yancey Butler, who I had last seen in the movie, Hard Target, years before. The show proved to be not as exciting as the trailers lead me to believe. The actng was fine, but the plot didn’t actually seem to go anywhere, and some of  had nothing to do with what I read in the comics. On the other hand, there were some hot guys in it, so there…

I feel like I need to explain what the Witchblade is to people who have never even heard of it, since this show has been off the air for almost twenty years, and has largely been forgotten except by its die-hard fans. Its a mystical gauntlet, suit of armor, that’s intelligent, chooses its wearer, and forms a partnership with them. They can hear it speaking, although I saw no evidence of this ability in the show. It was an extremely powerful McGuffin, that all of the other characters seemed to want, even though those who werent worthy of wearing it could potentially lose their arm.

Now we need to talk about the actress Yancey Butler. This is complicated because for the past twenty years, she’s had some substance abuse issues. At one point, getting arrested for passing out, and crashing her car, after which she was ordered to enter a rehabilitation program. I had to read about that on her IMDB page. She has started acting again (and is as beautiful as she ever was despite all her troubles), and is active on Twitter now, which is how I heard about her newest movie. At any rate, her problems didn’t start with the show, and I distinctly  remember reading about some of the problems she had  on set because of them.

Yancey,  like  countless women before her is a beautiful woman who developed substance abuse issues while working in Hollywood. I don’t know for sure if this was a problem before she started work as an actress, but I do know that Hollywood is a toxic place, that regularly chews up young actors, and then spits them out, severely damaged. And after #MeToo brought this knowledge into the mainstream, in a different way than before, its very difficult for me to believe that sexual assault and sexual exploitation doesn’t have at least some role to play in the massive amounts of substance abuse that we see in its participants. I sincerely hope that was not the case with Yancey, that she has gotten the help she needed, and worked past her demons.

 

 

 

 

Kindred: The Embraced

This show was loosely based on the role playing game, Vampire The Masquerade, which I never actually played, although I did read a few of the guide books, so I knew a lil’ sumthin-sumthin’ about that universe. So when I say it was loosely based on it, I mean exactly that. The show was pretty damn loose. So loose,  that all it seemed to have in common with the game, was its vocabulary. It was like someone read the books, but then  decided to base the show on a school book report about those, instead.

That said, I actually, sorta, liked the show. It was bad, yes, but it also had some really intriguing shit in it that kept me watching. Since the show only lasted 8 episodes, I guess other people felt the same way. Its not that the show was awful. It had some great characters in it, but it did have some terrible acting, and the plot became more convoluted with each episode. I guess the closest I can get to describing it is a Vampire Godfather, as it involved clashes between the various vampire clans in a city, along with their rulers, followers, and hangers-on. All of which has something to do with a renegade cop, named Frank, who stumbles across their existence when he falls in love with a female vamp.

The lead character was Julian Luna, played by Mark Frankel, who I thought was Latino, then later believed to be Italian, but turned out to actually be English. I found him interesting mostly because I thought he was pretty, and had a very nice voice. The best character was a member of Clan Nosferatu ,who are very old, deformed, and look somewhat batlike, with talons, long teeth, and pointed ears. Daedalus, as he was called, was played by one of my favorite actors, whose name I forget now, but that actor performed like he was in a Shakespearean play, while Luna acted like he was in the movie The Godfather III, and Frank the cop’s girlfriend, busily being extra, acted like she was in a Gothic soap opera. So the acting and dialogue was all over the place, but it best written for Luna and Daedalus.  I do remember the two had frequent conversations with one another, and that I looked forward to the times when they were onscreen together.

Whenever anyone else was onscreen, the dialogue and acting were cringeworthy at best. There were a couple of star struck young lovers from different clans, who were abysmal in their acting, especially, and I had to look this name up, Brigid Walsh, who played the human descendant of Julian, named Sasha Luna. Dear Jeebus! she was awful, which was not helped by her horrid dialogue. She played that role, as  someone who had perhaps heard of “acting”, by rough description, like she was playing the role of a  “professional angry-face” Model!

I would also like to offer my  apologies in advance for subjecting y’all to these images. Trigger Warning for: music video bad attitude, smirking, sniping, sarcasm, general batshittery, and horrible acting.

 

But the cancellation of this show seemed inevitable,  as soon after, or just before, that happened, Mark Frankel died in a traffic accident, while riding his motorcycle. I distinctly remember the reporting of this on the news,and  feeling some type of way about it.

The State of the Union: Black Film Entertainment 2010-2020

Film

This is not a comprehensive list of movies released in the past ten years, that featured a Black cast, or had Black directors, or writers. This is just a list of movies, listed by year, that I thought were the most influential, that I actually watched, liked, or know other people really loved, for that particular year. There have been a lot more released than what’s on this list, but 2018 was a record year for the number of Black films released, and/or nominated for awards.

In my mind, the past ten years has been one of the Blackest decades in film, since the 90s, not just because of the number of movies released, but the quality of the films, and  the attention and writing  surrounding them, thanks to social media. Black Panther, and Get Out were probably two of the most written about Black films in cinema. There is an encyclopedic number of writings on these films, examining everything from the plot, themes, and  characters,  to wardrobe, and  hairstyles. In fact, writing about Black films has almost become an industry in itself.

 

2010

For Colored Girls – an adaptation of the book by Ntozake Shange, and written and directed by Tyler Perry.

*Book Of Eli –  Denzel Washington stars as a blind man, traveling through an apocalyptic landscape, carrying precious cargo.

Lottery Ticket – Not one of my favorite films, since I’m not a huge fan of such broad humor, but it is a reminder that Black comedies, in the tradition of Friday, are alive and well.

 

2011

*The Help – Again, this is not one of my favorites but I’m putting this movie here because it is often in attendance at conversations about the White Savior trope in movies.

Madea’s Big Happy Family – Madea is the  only Tyler Perry character I can stand to watch, but it greatly appeals to people with a certain form of humor that  I don’t particularly share, and it helped make Tyler Perry one of the wealthiest Black men in Hollywood.

 

 

2012

*Beasts of the Southern Wild – The story about a little girl growing up in a dysfunctional family in Louisiana.

*Django Unchained – A cathartic fantasy Western starring Jamie Foxx.

 

2013

12 Years  A Slave – Oscar nominated film directed by Steve McQueen, and based on the autobiography by Solomon Northup.

*Belle – One of my favorite historical films, because historical films about Black women, that don’t prominently feature slavery, are kind of rare.

*After Earth – I’m one of the few people who actually loved this depiction of a Black father and son’s relationship, set in the far future.

Fruitvale Station – Ryan Coogler’s Oscar nominated film before Creed, based on the true story of the shooting of a young Black man in a NY subway station.

 

2014

Dear White People – About a Black student who runs a radio program at a White college.

*Ride Along – An action film, in the vein of Bad Boys, starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube.

*Selma – One of the first Oscar nominated films directed  by a Black woman, Ava Duverney, and based on the true life story of MLK.

 

2015

Beasts of No Nation – A movie starring Idris Elba about child soldiers in an unnamed African country.

*Creed – Ryan Coogler’s second film after Fruitvale Station starring Slyvester Stallone and Michael. B. Jordan.

Dope – The coming of age story of a Black boy in California

*Chocolate City – Black cinema’s answer to the male stripper movie, Magic Mike

Straight Outta Compton – The backstory of the Rap group N.W.A.

 

2016

Fences – Based on the play of the same name, by August Wilson, and starring Denzel Washington, and Viola Davis

*Hidden Figures – Based on the real life stories of the Black women involved in the US Space program

*Magnificent Seven – A remake of the 1960 movie with the same name, and starrring Denzel Washington in a diverse cast.

*Moonlight – Oscar winning movie about the early life of a young gay Balck man in California.

Queen of Katwe – About a young female chess player in Uganda, starring Lupita Nyongo, and directed by Mira Nair

 

2017

All Eyez On Me- The stardom story of the rap artist Tupac Shakur

*Get Out – Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a horror movie about white racist bodysnatchers.

**Girls Trip – A comedy starring an all Black female cast, including Queen Latifah,  and one of the top comedies of the year.

Marshall – A legal drama about Thurgood Marshall, directed by Reginald Hudlin

*Sleight – A superhero origin story of a young Black man who builds a device which gives him magnetic powers.

 

2018

BlackKlansman – Award nominated film by Spike Lee about a Black undercover agent infiltrating the KKK.

*Black Panther – Award nominated superhero movie about the King of a fictional African country called Wakanda, and part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

**First Purge – The fourth film in The Purge franchise, focusing on the original purpose of The Purge, and set in a Black neighborhood.

The Hate U Give – A drama based on the book by Angie Thomas, about a young girl dealing with the aftermath of witnessing the police shooting of her friend.

If Beale Street Could Talk – Based on the book by James Baldwin, a young woman is under pressure to prove her lover’s innocence before the birth of their child.

*Sorry to Bother You – Award nominated film about a telemarketer who discovers he has magical voice powers.

*Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse – Oscar winning animated film about the Afro-Latino Spiderman, Miles Morales.

Widows – An action thriller staring Viola Davis. A group of widows pick up where their husbands left off after they get killed in a bank heist.

*A Wrinkle In Time – A film  based on the young adult novel by Madleine L’engle, and directed by Ava Duverney.

 

2019

*Us – Jordan Peele’s second horror movie, about a family terrorized by a group of doppelgangers, while vacationing with friends.

21 Bridges – A cop thriller starring Chadwick Boseman.

**Black and Blue – A Black female cop witnesses a murder by her fellow officers, who along with a neighborhood gang, set after her in pursuit, before she can become an informant.

*Fast Color – About three generations of Black women, with super abilities, who have a family reckoning, after one of them becomes a person of interest to the American government.

*Dolemite is My Name – an award nominated biographical comedy about the Blaxploitation director Rudy Ray Moore, starring Eddie Murphy.

Harriet – The semi-biographical story of Harriet Tubman

*Little – A comedy about a mean Black woman who wakes up one morning as a little girl. The movie has an all female cast, and was produced by the 14 year old Marsai Martin.

Queen and Slim – A young Black couple goes on the run, becoming folk heroes, after they kill a police officer who threatened their lives.

 

The past ten years was seemingly a record for the number of movies released that had Black casts,  contained Black themes, or had Black writers and directors, which reached mainstream audiences, or won critical acclaim. Of all the films I listed, twenty of them were either nominated, or won, mainstream awards.

These movies were also rich in their variety, and I have to give credit for that. We have a full roster of comedies, superhero movies, thrillers, and even horror, and I hope this is a trend that continues. It’s not just that we need more films with Black artists, we also need more variety in the films that get made, instead of an emphasis on only crime or  historical misery.

 

Forthcoming in 2020:

**Antebellum – A historical genre bending mystery starring Janelle Monae

Bad Boys For Life – Action movie sequel starring Will Smith

**Tenet – Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending mystery thriller starring John David Washington

**Respect – An Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson

Soul – Animated film from Pixar, about a Black jazz player navigating the afterlife

Coming 2 America – Sequel to the 90s comedy starring Eddie Murphy

**Candyman  – A remake of the original 90s classic, directed by Jordan Peele

Trial of the Chicago Seven  

The Photograph

**No Time To Die – Starring one of the first Back female agents in the franchise who takes over the 007 title.May be Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond.

**Bloodshot – an action sci-fi thriller starring Vin Diesel

The Lovebirds – A romantic comedy thriller starring Issa Rae.

The Banker 

**John Henry – Action drama starring Terry Crews

 

*Indicates that I’ve actually watched a movie.

**Most anticipated

 

Geeking out About: The Watchmen TV Series

Image result for watchmen series gifs"

Last Sunday was the season finale of the nine episode Watchmen TV series, on HBO,  and I’ve been having all kinds of thoughts. From the first episode, to the finale, my thoughts have just been all over the place. This show took me on a journey, but it was satisfying, and I’m not as angry with Lindhelof as I was when the series began. This makes up for some of his past transgressions, like Prometheus, and the ending of Lost. I was exasperated by some of it, some of it galvanized me, and some of it made me feel really, deeply, some type of way. The plot is a little too intricate to get into here, but I have provided plenty of links, for those who are curious.

First off, the series is a direct sequel to the comic book, and not the much maligned movie from a few years ago. This story (most of it) takes place thirty years after the events in the book, with flashbacks to some periods in between. I talked about the setting  in a  mini review.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2019/10/28/october-viewing-list-ii/

 

Review

https://tv.avclub.com/life-on-earth-gets-a-lot-weirder-but-watchmen-continue-1840145375

Image result for watchmen series gifs"

And People’s Thinky Thoughts:

 

https://www.vulture.com/article/watchmen-hbo-easter-eggs-references-episode-guide.html

Image result for watchmen series gifs"

https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a29592776/watchmen-redfordations-racial-injustice-act-explained/

https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a29565670/watchmen-hbo-backlash-controversy-white-supremacy/

Image result for watchmen tv s gifs/manhattan"

https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/10/20/20919750/watchmen-hbo-regina-king-review-damon-lindelof-race-policing

https://www.thedailybeast.com/hbos-watchmen-pisses-off-comics-fanboys-its-woke-propaganda

Image result for watchmen tv s gifs/manhattan"

 

https://www.motherjones.com/media/2019/12/the-best-tv-show-about-racism-was-a-comic-book-fantasia-heres-how-watchmen-did-it/

Viewing List – November Edition

These are the reviews from things I watched in October and November. I will try to make these as short as possible, but y’all know I’m good at blabbing about TV shows, so wish me luck with that.

 

Dolemite is My Name

Image result for dolemite is my name gifs

I was kinda excited about seeing this, nevertheless i was surprised by how much I liked this movie, and I can think of no better actor to play Rudy Ray Moore than Eddie Murphy, a comedian I have  always had tremendous respect for, and who really doesn’t get enough credit for all the work he’s done, in the past 30 years.

Now, I have to give a little bit of background here. I grew up in the time period in which this movie is set. I would have been 2 maybe three years old at the beginning of the movie, but I have very distinct memories of grownups being really excited about Moore, and Yes, I did encounter a couple of those racy album covers in my mom’s collection, but I don’t think she knows I remember she was a Rudy Ray Moore fan.

I have a very clear memory of mom, and her then boyfriend, taking us to the Drive-in to watch The Human Tornado, which came out in 1975, and was a sequel to Dolemite.  I would have been five, and my brothers would have been 3 and 4. She would have had the assurance that, since we were babies, we would all be asleep by the opening credits. I don’t think she knows I was wide awake No, I wasn’t scarred for life or anything, but I definitely  remember parts of  the movie, and even some  it’s theme song. I know this is a genuine memory because I have never seen the movie as an adult.

Image result for dolemite is my name gifs

Anyway, all this to say that this definitely brought back some memories. There are some things about Black culture that only Black people know. I’m gonna let y’all in on a little secret.

Black people have our own stories, which seem to parallel stories from other cultures. Most of them you’ve probably never heard of,  unless you grew up in the culture, or have parents of a certain age, like my Mom. My mom used to tell us stories about the Signifyin’ Monkey, the lion, and the elephant, (only without all the cursing, and never the whole story, since its fairly raunchy.) Probably not the sort of things one would tell one’s kids today, but things were different back, then, and my Mom was kinda weird. It has a pretty long history, too. If you have ever  read American Gods, Anansi tells a story that is directly based on the folklore tale , titled How the Monkey Got the Tiger’s Balls:

Numerous songs and narratives concern the signifying monkey and his interactions with his friends, the Lion and the Elephant. In general, the stories depict the signifying monkey insulting the Lion, but claiming that he is only repeating the Elephant’s words. The Lion then confronts the Elephant, who physically assaults the Lion. The Lion later realizes that the Monkey has been signifyin(g) and has duped him and returns angrily to castrate the monkey, rendering him unable to reproduce.[3]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signifying_monkey

http://mogley.tripod.com/monkey.html  

The Signifyin’ Monkey is part of the Dolemite theme song. Since this is a Rudy Ray Moore biopic, there’s a lot of cursin’, and some mild nudity. Its not half as raunchy as the actual Moore, but I think he’d be satisfied with what was shown in this movie.

Image result for dolemite is my name gifs

I also enjoyed it outside of the nostalgia factor. There’s a scene, in the early part of the movie, where Rudy encounters a plus size woman whom he recruits into his comedy troupe. This woman later  became known as  Queen Bee, who was every bit as raunchy in her style of comedy as Rudy. The story is arranged in such a way that you’re meant to cheer Rudy as a driven, hard working man, who triumphs against the small minds of others. Needless to say, most comedians probably couldn’t get away with most of the comedy routines, in this movie. The seventies featured a lot of new culture, that we take for granted now, and one of those things was raunchy Black comedians.

There were plenty of Black comedians before Rudy, who said some fairly racy stuff, but they mostly worked what was known then as The Chitlin’ Circuit, which were a collection of venues where only only Blacks could perform, since they still, even in the seventies,  considered too raunchy to play in the mainstream (i.e. White ) circuits. Rudy was one of the first of these type of comedians to go (sort of) mainstream, in that even White people heard about him, although he still would never have been invited on The Johnny Carson Show. So, the movie is one of those low key inspirational films, about overcoming racism in Hollywood. The first half of the movie is very caught up in people telling Rudy “no” , telling him what he can’t do, or making fun of him for wanting certain things, and Rudy going off to do those things anyway.

I have since learned that Eddie Murphy has received a Golden Globe nomination for this role. but I don’t think he will win. He does some great work here, but its not the best work he’s done, and really, I thought it was a walk in the park for him. He can play this type of role in his sleep. But I did enjoy watching him, because his charm makes the occasionally cringey plot, very watchable.

 

The Mandolorian

Image result for mandalorian gifs"

I am loving The Mandolorian, and not just for the Baby Yoda scenes. (No, that isn’t actually Yoda, but some distant descendant, since this series is set after Return of the Jedi.) This series is full of some of the classic themes we expect from Star Wars. George Lucas has said the original Star Wars was based on the works of Japanese film Director Akira Kurosawa, most specifically, Seven Smaurai, and you can see some of the influence here.

In fact the series heavily reminds me of the Japanese Manga called Lone Wolf and Cub, in which an itinerant samurai, a ronin, wanders the Japanese landscape, with his tiny son, searching for vengeance, and  getting into various adventures. The only differences between that, and The Mandolorian, is the son doesn’t have force powers, isn’t on anybody’s wanted list, and isn’t half as cute as Baby Yoda. The show takes care to focus on the relationship between Mando and Baby Yoda, too. There are a lot of really cute moments between them, and the public seem to have really taken a shine to the little guy, much the same as his adoptive Dad.

Image result for mandalorian gifs"

Its also a classic story about a character’s personal growth.  Mando starts out as a bounty hunter, who is just there for the work, so he can buy some new armor, but makes the decision to take the baby and run, rather than deliver him/her to his clients. There are larger mysteries which haven’t been answered yet, like who exactly is the Mandolorian, why does everyone want the baby, and where did this baby come from.

The production values, the costumes, acting, and special effects, are all top notch. It really does have the look and  feel of one of the movies, which makes it very easy to watch, although this luxury comes at the expense of the episode running times, which never get beyond 45 minutes. I can live with that, especially since the action scenes are the highlight of the series. In one of the earlier episodes, there is a full on fight between a team of Mandolorians and the various ne’er do wells, and criminals, on the planet on which they’ve all been hiding out. When CG is used, its mostly for the creatures, and action scenes, and is largely invisible, as its supposed to be.

 

 

Image result for mandalorian gifs

 

 

 

 

War of the Worlds – BBC Version

 

There have been umpteen different versions of this show. A book, a radio program that, as it is rumored, gave some people the shits back in the thirties, as they thought it was real, several movies from the fifties to the nineties, one of which starred Tom Cruise, another TV show, and now this.

Its a three part miniseries from the BBC, and so far I’m really liking it. Its got some nice production values. You can see where the money went in this one. The special effects are well done, and not that usual cheap TV stuff you sometimes get in big idea shows, and the show, quite frankly, looks gorgeous. The acting is acceptable,  although the only actor I truly recognize is Robert Carlisle.

And this show is not fucking around with its theme. H.G.Wells wrote the novel as a reaction to the British annexation of the Congo, and the atrocities that were being committed during the colonization of India. He wrote a book about the violent colonization of England by a superior technological force, as a condemnation of the British Empire’s activities, and the show makes this connection loud and clear, right in the opening credits. In the first fifteen minutes of the show, you hear characters having conversations about the might of the British Empire, and how wonderful it is to live in such a powerful country. By the end of the first episode though, the Martians have shut that talk down.

Image result for war of the worlds bbc

 

There’s also some melodrama involving the two stars of the show, Rafe Spall, the brother of Timothy Spall, as a fellow named George, and Eleanor Tomlinson as his paramour, Amy. The two  are madly in love, but cannot be together, because George’s  wife refuses to divorce him, She hates him, and wants to remain married to him just to spite him. The family is scandalized, his older brother,  is outraged, and the  the rest of the community don’t know how to think of this thing, where the two of them are living together, unmarried. Plus Amy is pregnant.

I was not initially interested in the melodramatic aspect of the show, but the show does this thing, where it flashes back and forth to the future, after the alien invasion has been conquered, but the Earth is a literal hot mess, because the aliens weren’t just there to invade, they were terrraforming. Amy is wandering through the red deserts of what used to be England, with her young son. She has been separated from George for a long time, but still holds out hope of finding him. I didn’t care, at first, but I decided that I liked the characters. At least, I liked Amy, and that seems to be enough for me to start to care the rest of it.

The show opens with her and George witnessing the launch of the ships from Mars. Its a little different from the movies, because the ships look like meteors as they land, and that’s hat people think they are. They look like black globes that float off the ground, and are capable of setting people on fire from a distance. The tripods break out of the ground after the globes explode, and start their rampage, although the tripods aren’t so much interested in annihilating people, as they seem to be in seeding the planet with various gasses and chemicals. Like I said, this is not an invasion, exactly. They are transforming Earth into another version of Mars, and if you look at the flash forwards, their mission seems successful.

Image result for war of the worlds bbc

 

I did have some criticism about characters doing stupid things, but this is only because this is one of those situations where the audience knows more about what’s going to happen than the characters do, so there were a lot of instances where people are standing around looking at things, while I yell things like ,” Get the fuck out of there!!!!’, and, “Run!” There are  various government officials who act like the mayor from Jaws, and simply bluster uselessly at the reports they’re getting from other parts of the country, about the annihilation of entire towns, even though the city is filling up with refugees from those areas. The British are so full of themselves about the initial events, that I have to admit, it was a bit satisfying watching them get their asses handed to them by the Martians, which point the show is trying to make. Basically, the show is saying that the British “ain’t all that!”

There are lots of closeups of boiling ant colonies, along with images of English people living their best lives, not unlike the ants, walking the streets of their mighty London, and looking quite busy, and the tripods themselves look very insect like, such that there is a connection being made between the idea of  invasive species, and the colonizing aliens, and that what is being done to England by the Martians, England is currently  doing to other countries, and been quite proud of themselves for it. We know the English are proud of their activities, but we don’t get any idea how the aliens feel, though. There are scenes where people touch the black globes that have dropped to Earth, and see smeary lingering images of their hands and faces, in the glossy sheen of the alien device, in a very,  “We have met the alien, and they is us.” type moment. So yeah, the show ain’t being  coy regarding its critique of British empiricism.

The setting for the various iterations is England, at the height of the British Empire, when it was engaged in the violent colonization of different countries. The English were largely brought low after WW2, (look up London Blitz), so its interesting that the first American version showed up in the fifties, (1953), when America, having won some victories during the war, (and starting to feel itself to be the shit) began engaging in its own world dominance behavior. (Before the War, America pursued an isolationist stance.) The 1953 version, (and subsequent invasion movies, like Strange Invaders, and Independence Day), were not about the humbling of America, so much as they were  America conquering some  great enemy, against all odds.. The 2005 version is a response to 9/11, where its made clear that the alien invasion is a stand-in for the terrorists, and America doesn’t triumph, so much as get lucky.

Not all alien invasion movies are violent. Some of them are enlightening, like 2001, and/or  hopeful, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This series is in the truest spirit of the book, however, which was a rebuke to British hubris.

Image result for war of the worlds bbc

* https://www.post-gazette.com/ae/movies/2012/06/13/Behind-the-fiction-lie-factual-themes-in-alien-movies/stories/201206130200

Once they were analogies of the Cold War or Vietnam. Sometimes the underlying theme is corporate greed, environmental destruction or fears of technology supplanting humans. The movies feed on public fear of enemies from abroad, which in today’s world, he said, could even include mortgage bankers.

October Viewing List

Raising Dion

Image result for raising dion gifs

I binge-watched this entire series last weekend. While it wasn’t entirely what I expected, it wasn’t bad, and I will be back for a second season. It was a pleasant series, not as intense as I thought it would be, pretty fun in a lot of places, with the occasional thrill of tension  in others.

I did go into this with some assumptions based on the trailers. I thought it was going to be a straight superhero origin story, but it turned out to be as much about Nicole, his mother, as it was about Dion.

Nicole was a  professional dancer, now turned single mom, after the death of her husband , and she and Dion have moved to Atlanta. Nicole is one of those people whose life always  seems to  careen from one disaster to another, and when Dion develops superpowers, that just complicates her ability to find and keep a job. When we first meet them, she is still job searching, with the help of her older sister, and she still has not yet told Dion that his father is dead, and won’t be coming home, which is rather heartbreaking. (She eventually gets around to telling him.) Dion’s dad died under mysterious circumstances, and Nicole is still in  mourning, while her sister and her girlfriends do their best to console her.

 

The show mostly turned out to be a mystery, and not the government thriller I thought it would be, as Nicole delves into how her husband died, while he was  working for a Biology corporation. She’s spurred on this journey by Dion’s development of powers, so while trying to figure out how Dion got powers, she is also trying to find out what happened to her husband.

I wasn’t into the plot too tightly, but I did enjoy the secondary characters, like her husband’s best friend, Pat, who starts out  endearingly dorky, and obviously crushing on her, and  great as Dion’s godfather. Later in the series, his story changes, and I wasn’t ready for that ,and I was kinda mad about it. Her sister is one of those likable/unlikable people, who at first, seems super critical, but will totally ride or die for her little sister, which made me like her more. I liked these two characters okay, and Nicole was okay too, although I could have done with a lot less dancing in a couple of the episodes.

The two stand out characters for me though were Dion and Esmeralda. The actor playing Dion is as cute as a button, and Dion is imaginative, and kindhearted, which goes a long way with me. Esmeralda is a gem ,and that actress reallt endeared herself to me. Esmeralda is especially smart and insightful and I was glad to see that the show didn’t focus all her personality into her disability, but it does inform certain aspects of her personality.

Esmeralda uses a chair, and when we first meet her, is around the time that Dion discovers he has powers. He declares that he is a superhero, but Esmeralda reminds him that he isn’t a superhero yet, and has to earn that title. One of the things she says about herself is that she can turn invisible, and this is important, because people’s disregard of her allows her to be especially attentive. Because people don’t pay close attention to her, she is able to pay attention to things other people ignore, as she is the first person to figure out, (outside of his mother), that Dion has powers.

So yeah, I already like the characters, and the show is pleasant enough. There are no world ending stakes involved this season, as the story remains mostly small and personal, which will give the show room to expand, as Dion grows into his abilities.

 

Batwoman

Related image

I can’t say that  enjoyed this episode, but I didn’t hate it either. It was a busy episode and I’m still processing it. Let’s just say there is some real potential in the show, and that there is room for some improvement. It was occasionally cheesy, and yeah, some of the dialogue needs help, but it wasn’t actually a bad show, and I’m gonna stick around for the rest of the season, because the action scenes were top notch and I just like Ruby Rose, the actress who plays Batwoman.

I’ve been a fan of Batwoman/Kate Kane fan since she was re-introduced a few years ago, and Rose just perfectly fits this character. Once again, I was not heavily invested in the plot, and I wasn’t  really feeling many of the side characters either,  except for Kate’s bubbly stepsister, Catherine, who is the daughter of her father’s second wife, and is a medical student. Kate lost her mom and bio-sister in a car accident, when she was a child, and she hates Batman because he was there to save them, but left the scene, and Kate watched them die.

We meet up with her while she is undergoing some Bruce Wayne type training with some sassy Indigenous guy, with long White hair, at the behest of her father who, for reasons of love and safety, is trying to keep her out of his hair, after she got kicked out of military school, for fraternizing with another female, her girlfriend, Sophie.

Related image

She and Sophie are given a choice. They can reject their relationship and stay in school, or they can be expelled. Kate chooses to be expelled, but Sophie chooses to deny the relationship and stay. At first, I  was mad about it, but Sophie is a Black woman, from a modest background, who worked damn hard to get where she is, and while she appears to love Kate, she is not willing to sacrifice her potential career for her, as she may not get another chance in life. As she tells Kate, she doesn’t have the luxury of being able to take a stand, while Kate comes from a wealthy family, who will always take care of her, and I thought that was a nice touch.

So Kate’s dad sends her away for some training, and Sophie stays behind and gets a job with The Crows, Kate’s father’s security agency, something which Kate covets, but her father gives her the runaround about. When Sophie gets kidnapped by a villain called Alice, Kate returns to a Gotham which has been missing Batman for  three years. Kate is desperate to save Sophie, and prove herself to her father, and we get some twists and turns in the plot, and some fairly emotional scenes between Kate and Sophie, and Kate and her dad. I thought all that  was too much too soon, as I don’t feel we had enough of a setup to warrant tearful conversations, yet.

Anyway, there was a lot to unpack, as the show covers a lot of emotional  territory, along with Kate finding the Batcave, and meeting one of her father’s  security consultants, named Luke, who appears to have no actual security skills beyond having a big brain. We get a little bit of backstory, and a subplot about a traitor among The Crows.

Image result for batwoman gifs

I liked that the show made some real efforts at diversity. There are plenty of poc in the cast, and they all have distinct personalities. There are only two White guys in the cast, Kate’s dad, and  one of the villains, and I find it interesting that shows are doing this thing now where they do cast White men, but only as secondary characters, or villains, the way it was done in Star Trek Discovery. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens often enough that I’ve noticed it.

This isn’t my first run in with Kate Kane. I first saw her in a crossover episode with Legends of Tomorrow, a show i still like and occasionally watch, and will be watching this season  because there’s supposed to be another crossover with Arrow, and Supergirl, called Crisis on Infinite Earths.Now, i’m probably one of the few comic book readers who has not read that particular series of books. As I’ve said, I was a Marvel fan at the time of that event, and I could care less what happened in the DCU comic books. I don’t dislike the DCU. All the characters I know are all current, or former, members of the Justice League, Teen Titans, or Legion of Superheroes. Of those characters, the only ones I truly cared about, at the time, were the members of the Justice League.

I will will watch all the shows and some of the movies, though. I’m picky about a lot of pop culture, but  I’m not entirely sure why some things capture my attention, while being indifferent to other things. For example, I didn’t ever give a flying rat’s ass  about Aquaman in the comic books, but I liked the movie version just fine. Well, anyway the big new event this season on the CW is the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, with multiple Supermen, which should (and it better) be exciting.

 

 

 

The Dead Don’t Die

Image result for dead dont die gifs

This is an exceedingly odd zombie film, which I had a lot of fun watching. Even though most zombie movies give me anxiety, I watch them anyway, because, its zombies, and there was a little of that tension here, but the movie was more comedy than horror. Its not the kind of comedy seen in Shaun of the Dead, or Evil Dead II. Its more of an intellectual kind of comedy, that doesn’t make you laugh out loud, so much as make you nod, and chuckle,  which is the hallmark of a Jim Jarmusch film, really.

The movie has an all star cast of Bill Murray, Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Rosie Perez, Tom Waits, Tilda Swinton, and a bunch of others, and is a very oddball film. it heavily reminded me of the movie Rubber, a movie in which a telekinetic car tire goes on a killing spree, in Southwestern America, and if you have not seen that movie, then you probably should. At the very least it will prepare you for watching any horror  movie directed by Jarmusch.

According to the movie, there is a worldwide zombie outbreak because the earth has been thrown off its axis by fracking, or something, but this isn’t important, and barely mentioned in the film. Ronnie (Murray) and Cliff (Adam Driver), are the Sheriff and deputy of Centerville, a small Midwestern town. The first time anyone notices things have gone off kilter is when Cliff notices that the sun has not set at the correct time, and  the town crankypants, (Buscemi), notices his chickens and cows are missing. When the diner is attacked by two zombies, Ronnie and Cliff investigate, and Cliff reaches the swift conclusion that it was zombies.

Image result for dead dont die gifs

There are long moments of characters standing around, or sitting somewhere, having bland conversations about the situation, the world, or sometimes each other.The town is visited by what Cliff calls hipsters from Cleveland. Cliff takes a liking to one of them, but its all pointless since everyone in the movie gets eaten, even after Cliff warns them to stay inside and not go out at night because of the outbreak.

The humor comes from the laconic acceptance, by  all the characters, that the town has been invaded by zombies, and from the activities of the zombies themselves.  The director has taken the idea of the zombies being attracted to the the things they did in life, and just ran with it, which results in the Chardonnay quote, seen in the trailer. From time to time, one of regular humans will freak out about the situation, which is only meant to offset the calm of the other characters. This movie is the exact opposite, in mood,  of The Walking Dead TV shows. The zombies are given odd quirks of personality. They still eat people, but they also like tennis and coffee. There’s a country song that plays throughout the movie, called The Dead Don’t Die, and I kind of liked it. When Ronnie asks why that song keeps playing on the radio, Cliff explains  that that is the theme song.

Image result for dead dont die gifs

Tom Waits plays the  homeless guy, who lives n the woods, named Hermit Bob, who makes voiceover observations of the events happening in the town, and  whom everyone thinks is crazy.  He’s also the only survivor at the end of the film. I  liked Cliff, who is both pragmatic and intelligent. He occasionally mentions that he’s got a bad feeling, and when Ronnie asks why, he says he read the script, and that things do not end well, which is correct. They don’t. Ronnie is unperturbed by Cliff’s insistence that there is a movie script for their scenario, and that he read it.

Swinton plays the new town mortician who also turns to to be an alien. You could tell she was a strange one, because she  made weird observations, and  carried a samurai sword that she was extremely good at using. She is both delighted and unbothered by the zombie outbreak. Yes, there is a UFO in this movie. From time to time, one of the characters will  forget that they are in a Jim Jarmusch movie,  and behave as if they are actually in a big budget zombie movie instead, and try to do something heroic, but it doesn’t work. The movie ends with the deaths of all the other characters, and  Hermit Bob shaking his head with the  observation that the world is a messed up place.

Movie Disease Vectors: Pass It on

I mentioned in an earlier post that one  of the primary staples of the Horror genre is the fear of disease, or loss of bodily autonomy. The Fly is a perfect encapsulation of this theme. The Horror genre also likes to combine the two fears, as in the movie, Slither, and part of the fun of watching such films is figuring out how you would, or could, survive the fate of the film’s characters.

Image result for disease gifs

I was revisiting some commentary I’d left on another website, and  discussing disease vectors. I was specifically discussing zombification, and where and how such a disease would get started. I mentioned a game I was playing called Plague Inc.

I don’t know if any of you have heard of Plague Inc., but it’s a fascinating way of learning how disease works, and the CDC itself approves of the game, and offers suggestions. The objective of the game is to kill  the human race, anything less than that and you lose. You must kill off all humanity. I’ve only won the game once on the easy setting, and trust me, it’s not a triumphant feeling.

Plague Inc. is a strategy title in which you take control of a deadly pathogen and, beginning with patient zero, attempt to spread the plague across the entire world and wipe out the human race — which does its best to adapt and stop you in your tracks at every turn.

You have to factor, not just where the disease begins, but how fast it travels, based on how its victims contract it, how the disease gets spread to different locations, and carefully calculate how fast it works on its victims bodies. You receive points on how effective your disease is, and you can use those points to buy specific attributes it, like new vectors, that can slow it down, or speed it up. If the disease kills its victims too fast, then it dies out before it can infect enough people. If it works on its victims too slowly, then the disease will be cured before it can infect enough people. What you want is a disease that spreads quickly, through as many vectors as possible, while leaving its patients alive just long enough that scientists don’t realize how fatal the disease is.

Horror movies base a lot of their plots off diseases, some of them pretty rare, and some of them entirely  fictional, but they all operate from the same basis. Diseases need to be spread somehow, and just like other living organisms, the virus or bacteria, or whatever the disease is based on, wants to survive and multiply, and can only do that by infecting as many people as possible. Horror movie diseases echo real world versions in that they need to have vectors.

 

28 Days Later (2002)/Train to Busan (2016)/World War Z

Image result for train to busan gifs

These three movies are too similar in their depictions of zombification not to be compared. The only differences are that in 28 Days Later, the victims are still alive, and slowly starve to death, while in Train to Busan, the victims are the reanimated dead. The diseases are spread very much the same,with humans as the transport vector. and these diseases spread very quickly because the victims are fast, chasing and infecting, more victims.

Much like  Rabies, both diseases are spread through contact with infected saliva, like a bite, or interaction with bodily fluids. The diseases in the movies are spread so fast because the victims are compelled to seek out new hosts, and because it works on the body much faster than any known real life diseases, so its not very realistic in the depictions of the diseases themselves.These diseases work too fast on the bodies of the victims, but the vectors for them are realistic enough.

 

 

World War Z (2013)/The Invasion (2007)

Related image

The vector for the zombification in World War Z is similar to the the one used in The Invasion, which is kind of a slick remake of The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. The vector, in both cases, is humans, but one extra thing these two diseases have in common is how they react to the human body, in that a previous infection of some other disease, can render a person immune to the current one.

I think World War Z got this idea from the science of immunology.h I have it on good authority that that is not how  disease works in real life, and in World War Z,  it is more how predator/prey relationships sometimes work. In the real world, what would happen is one kind of disease suppressing one’s immune system, and  making a person vulnerable to other infections. One of the things that World War Z gets right, however are that boats and planes are two of the vectors for transport of the disease.

In The Invasion, the “disease’, which is really a kind of sentient virus, is passed via bodily fluids. The victims produce a milky saliva that they use to infect more victims, usually by adulterating beverages. This is another disease that spreads quickly, as the first victims are compelled to seek out more.  A person becomes a “podded” after they fall asleep, and a brief period in which the body tries to fight off the infection through other means, like a fever. In 1400’s England, there was a brief epidemic of something called The Sweating Sickness, that could kill a person within hours of infection. The name, and cause, of the diseases is still unknown, but it is similar to The Invasion, in that the victims suffer “night sweats” which coats their body in a gelatinous like “pod”.

Any … form of sensing the presence of infected prey, unless they just kind of know it preternaturally or something, would require methods we’re not currently aware of.

https://www.vulture.com/2013/06/biophysicist-assesses-world-war-z.html

 

The Stand – Stephen King (1978)

Image result for the stand gifs

The disease chronicled in The Stand is not fictional. It is very  real. Called the Superflu, it is spread the same way regular colds and flu is spread, with the only difference between it and the regular flu, is  that the Superflu was genetically modified to be a weapon. Scientists hardly needed to make a super version, as there have been several times that the flu has wiped out whole populations of people. There here have been several of these over the past 300 years. The last major Flu pandemic happened in 1918, called the Spanish Flu, it killed some 50 to 100 million people worldwide. Because the flu is easily transmitted,  it is capable of infecting a lot of people, without their knowledge. The description of the Superflu, or as its called in the book, Captain Trips, closely resembles descriptions of The Spanish Flu.

One of the most interesting chapters in King’s novel, chronicles the transmission of the disease from patient zero, to the rest of the population, illustrating the futility in trying to contain it. The disease travels just fast enough, and kills just slow enough, that no one realizes they have been infected, and are able to pass it along to many unknowingly, by touch. Just like the real flu Captain Trips is contagious before they show any symptoms, after which the disease is airborne, in infected droplets from  mucus.The only difference is that Captain Trips had a 100% mortality rate. If you caught it, you died.

The flu is transmitted through droplet, so if you catch it it’s because you have someone else’s spit in you. So if you do think you have the flu, you should wear a mask when you go outside. And if you refuse to get your flu shot, you should also wear a mask. Droplet range is about three feet. People can sneeze as far as 20 feet but about 3 feet is the contagious range.

That’s what made The Stand so scary. People would go through their days coughing and sneezing, thinking they were just suffering from a light head cold. But as they were going throughout their day, they were infecting everyone they had come across. And then a week later they were dead.

https://factandsciencefiction.com/the-flu-stephen-king-the-stand/

Image result for bubonic plague

 

 

The Black Death (2010)

Image result for The black death movie  gifs

The tile of this movie is a reference to the  Bubonic Plague, AKA The Black Plague. In the mid 1300s, the Black Death was responsible for killing a third of Europe’s population, and parts of the Mediterranean and Africa. The disease still exists today, even here in the US. One of the vectors for Bubonic plague are rats, (and other small rodents), which carry the infected fleas, which can carry the disease quickly and quietly into populated areas. One of the other vectors is humanity. People infected with the plague are highly contagious, and can pass it on, much like the flu.

The bacteria that cause plague, Yersinia pestis, maintain their existence in a cycle involving rodents and their fleas. Plague occurs in rural and semi-rural areas of the western United States, primarily in semi-arid upland forests and grasslands where many types of rodent species can be involved. Many types of animals, such as rock squirrels, wood rats, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, mice, voles, and rabbits can be affected by plague. Wild carnivores can become infected by eating other infected animals.

https://www.cdc.gov/plague/transmission/index.html

 

Cabin Fever (2002)

Image result for cabin fever gifs

Just as in The Invasion , this disease can be passed on by human beings coming into contact with the bodily fluids of the infected.  In the movie, several college students come in contact with  water that’s been contaminated by an infected  body. As the disease progresses they begin to bleed profusely, and the skin begins to slough away. The basis for the disease in the movie is called necrotizing fasciitis,, aka Flesh Eating Bacteria. (I caution you to not Google images of this disease, unless you have a strong stomach. For the record,  it looks exactly like the disease in the movie.)

 If you have necrotizing fasciitis you have a life threatening condition that could spread to kill you within hours. Once you have it you can go from swollen calf to death’s door within a period of days.

https://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2003-09/catching-cabin-fever/

 

Pontypool (2009)

Image result for pontypool gifs

This is a unique and  interesting movie in that the vector of contamination here is speech. The use of certain words must be said and heard in a specific arrangement in English, which creates an infection that takes over the brain, and turns the victim into a living zombie.

The disease in the movie mimics some actual speech disorders, like “spasmodic dysphonia”, the speech disorder most famous for its use in the movie Us by Lupita Nyongo, who got into  some small  trouble for it.

“There are three stages to this virus. The first stage is you might begin to repeat a word. Something gets stuck. And usually it’s words that are terms of endearment like sweetheart or honey. The second stage is your language becomes scrambled and you can’t express yourself properly. The third stage you become so distraught at your condition that the only way out of the situation you feel, as an infected person, is to try and chew your way through the mouth of another person.”

https://longsworde.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/the-zombies-of-pontypool-language-as-a-virus/

 

Afflicted (2013)

Image result for afflicted movie gifs

 

The basis for much of the mythology of vampirism is a disease  called Porphyria, a set of several inherited, blood disorders, that result in the body being unable to create hemoglobin. Some of the symptoms of  porphyria are paleness, lethargy, and extreme photsensitivity, all symptoms displayed by the character in the movie. Porphyria, however , is not infectious.

In The Afflicted,  Derek, begins to exhibit all the symptoms of vampirism, after an encounter with a pretty girl at a nightclub. He first exhibits flu like symptoms, before the disease is offset  by the other  symptoms of vamprism,  super strength, and speed. In the movies, vampirism is contagious through contact with saliva, in much the same way as rabies, to which it also bears a similarity. For example, animals with rabies often display “hydrophobia”, an aversion to water, which might have given rise to the belief, that vampires could not abide running water.

The different genetic variations that affect heme production give rise to different clinical presentations of porphyria — including one form that may be responsible for vampire folklore.

https://vector.childrenshospital.org/2017/09/gene-protoporphyria-blood-disorder/

Image result for porphyria

Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected animal. Globally, it kills an estimated 59,000 people each year — that equates to almost one death every 9 minutes. Initial symptoms are only flu-like, but once they appear, rabies is almost always fatal.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321780.php

 

Slither (2006)

Image result for slither movie gifs

 

The alien in this movie doesn’t resemble any kind of human disease, but it does resemble the actions of a particular fungus. The cordyceps fungus operates in much the same fashion as the alien in the movie: infect, zombify, repeat. In that way, the creature, also called The Long One,  grows to consume the life of an entire planet. The alien mimics the life cycle of cordyceps by controlling the hosts to infect more hosts, through the use of mobile spores, which look like worms.

The cordyceps fungus also infects an ant or other insect through spores. After the host is infected, it is instructed by the spores to climb to a high point, before more of the spores burst from its body, infecting the rest of the colony. In the movie, after a person is directly infected  by the primary host, their bodies are instructed to feed until they grow to enormous size, after which their bodies burst, releasing the spore-like worms.

After patient zero, Grant Grant, is infected by an initial spore (in the shape of a needle), he is instructed to feed, and impregnate more hosts. The alien takes on the intelligence level of its hosts, although it does have its own  memories, which are shared among its hosts, and  is specifically referenced, in the film, as a “Conscious Disease”.

It’s A Black Thang Tuesday

The theme this week is awesome little black girls!

Battle at Big Rock

Did I say I love dinosaurs, and that I will basically watch any movie with dinosaurs in it (including the cartoon ones)?

I loved this little short because it combines two of my favorite things, smart, little, black girls, and dinosaurs. Why? Because I used to be a smart, little, black girl who loved dinosaurs!

 

 

 

Harriet

I probably will not be seeing thisi nhte theater, but it looks intriguing, so i’ll definitely stream it later. I don’t rely on movies to tell me my history. I prefer non-fiction for that, but movies are supposed to be a  stepping stone to knowledge, not the end.

 

 

Dilili In Paris

I think this movie came out last year, but I’m still gonna shill for it, because its exceptionally cute. Its about a smart, little Black princess, who gets into adventures, when she visits Paris for the first time.

 

 

Doctor Sleep

I’m looking forward to this movie, but not just because there’s a smart little Black girl in it. I did enjoy the book, which is the sequel to The Shining, and I like really Ewan McGregor.

 

 

 

 

In the Shadow of the Moon

Okay, here’s another time travel story, from Netflix, where a young woman keeps returning from the dead, in an attempt to save the world.

 

Little Monsters

If Lupita Nyongo’s  presence in this movie doesn’t do anything to attract you, then how about Lupita and zombies? How about Lupita, some kids, and some zombies? How about Lupita at Summer Camp, with kids, fighting zombies?

 

 

THOMAS BLACKSHEAR II

I just love this man’s art. its so classic, yet so emotional.

http://www.thomasblackshearart.com/other-paintings/4594227570

ABOUT THOMAS BLACKSHEAR

After graduating in 1977 from the American Academy of Art in Chicago,

Thomas Blackshear worked for a year for the Hallmark Card Company in Kansas City, Missouri. While there, he met the famous illustrator Mark English and became his apprentice for several months. By 1980, he was working as head illustrator for Godbold/Richter Studio.

He became a freelance illustrator in 1982 and has been self-employed ever since.

Known for his dramatic lighting and sensitivity to mood, Blackshear has produced illustrations for advertising, books, calendars, collectors’ plates, greeting cards, magazines, postage stamps, and national posters. His clients range from Disney Pictures, George Lucas Studios, and Universal Studios to International Wildlife and National Geographic magazines. He has illustrated thirty United States postage stamps and a commemorative stamp book titled I Have a Dream.

Blackshear has also designed and executed illustrations for four collectors’ plate series. He is known for his best-selling Christian prints produced for DaySpring’s Masterpiece Collection. In 1995 he created Ebony Visions, which has been the number-one-selling black figurine collectible in the United States for the past twenty years. He won Artist of the Year in 1999 for that line from the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers and the prestigious International Collectible Artist of the Year Award in 2001. In 2006, Blackshear had a one-man show through the Vatican in Rome. There he unveiled his painting of Pope John Paul II for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Pope John Paul II Foundation.

Blackshear’s work has appeared in the Society of Illustrators annuals 24, 25, 27, 28, and 30, and in Volume 2 of Outstanding American Illustrators Today. His many awards included Gold and Silver Honors in the 1982 Kansas City Art Directors Club; two Gold Awards and Best of Show in 1986, Best of Show in 1989, and two Gold Awards in the 1990 Illustrators West Shows; a Gold Medal in the 1988 National Society of Illustrators; two Silver Awards in the 1989 San Francisco Society of Illustrators Show; and the Plate of the Year Achievement Award in 1990. His paintings are displayed at the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, Texas, and the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia.

Thomas Blackshear II is represented by Broadmoor Galleries, Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Trailside Galleries, Jackson, Wyoming, and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Related image

 

Why Tony Stark Had To Die

What I’ve actually  noticed about the MCU version of Tony Stark, is that a lot of the people who stan hard for this character, are people without a fundamental understanding of what he is, why he is, and why, after everything that happened in the MCU, Tony was never meant to be the one who got to ride off into the sunset, while holding his sweetheart’s hand.

In other words, Tony had to die.

Related image

 

Often, when a character who has done something bad or evil sees the error of their ways and does a Heel–Face Turnin the course of fighting to undo the damage, their redemption comes at the cost of their own life.

——– https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RedemptionEqualsDeath

Tony needed to pay for the misdeeds of his past, (something he’s been trying to do since the first film), and according to the conventions of  Western literature, such characters can only atone for their sins by dying, and when they do die, their motivation must be pure.Tony is a redemptive figure, who tried sacrificing his life to atone for his sins multiple times, but only experiences a true atonement, at the end of his arc, as it should be.

Darth Vader from Star Wars, Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy, Diablo from Suicide Squad, Venom, the father from A Quiet Place, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, and Steve Rogers, are all examples of pure self sacrifice. It is the kind of sacrifice that comes from a place of pure love, of one’s son, of one’s friends, of the world in general, or one’s children, with no thought to how your death might benefit  you.

Although giving one’s life out of love for another is rare, it is not as uncommon as might be thought. Perhaps we only hear about it occasionally because the circumstances in which it might manifest itself are, fortunately, not so common. This self-sacrificing love was referred to by the Buddha when he said that a loving friend would “give what is hard to give” [1] or be prepared “to sacrifice his life for his friend”. [2] The Jatakas say something similar concerning one’s family: “Whatever your circumstances, do the necessary to alleviate the suffering of your father, your mother or your sister, even to your last breath.” [3] One is reminded of what Jesus said some five centuries later: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” [4] 

—-  https://www.bhantedhammika.net/like-milk-and-water-mixed/self-sacrificing-love

Related image

Redemption arcs make their way into Western Literature,  through the  Christian belief system, (although other religions also feature this belief), with the ultimate sacrifice  in the Bible’s New Testament, referring  to the  deliverance of Christians from sin (salvation), through the death of Christ. In this instance, Tony, who is established as a Christ figure, (a very common trope in Western films), sacrifices his life for the salvation of the human race from Thanos, (who is set up as a Satanic figure, in the Avengers narrative, but Thanos is a whole other story.).)

In the movie, Constantine, which is also heavily based on Christian narratives, the main character knows he’s going  to Hell for the sins he committed in life. He’s seen Hell, and knows its demons are waiting to have a reckoning with him. He is terrified of it, but knows it is  soon, when he finds out he has lung cancer. At the end of the film, he saves the soul of a young woman named Isabel, who committed suicide, and consequently, went to Hell. He commits suicide too, knowing that the Devil will come to collect him personally, which he does. Lucifer grants Constantine a wish out of gratitude for thwarting another demon’s plans, (quid pro quo). Instead of wishing for a longer life, or not to go to Hell, Constantine wishes for Isabel to be released to Heaven. Lucifer agrees, but realizes just too late, that he cannot take Constantine to Hell now, because he committed a genuinely  pure act of self sacrifice.

Tony has tried a few times to sacrifice his life, but his motives were never pure, and his act of sacrifice was interrupted each time.

Image result for tony stark gifs

I’m honestly baffled that people didn’t see his death coming, but then, I have never seen Tony through rose tinted glasses. I actually like Tony, and appreciated that most of his  character arc was him being an unremitting shit, but  at least trying to atone for his sins, and failing as much as he succeeded, but I will not lie about the type of man he was.

Tony Stark was an asshole.

And what’s more, Tony knew he was an asshole, too, which is why I posit that the many sacrifices of his life he tried to make, came from a selfish foundation. Even after his death, the MCU is still dealing with the aftermath of the decisions he made, and the people he hurt, when he was alive. Most of the villains that Tony fought throughout his own trilogy, in The Avengers, and Spiderman, came about through  his callous disregard for how his decisions affected the lives of the average man. I spoke before, about how Tony’s shortsightedness limited his morality.

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

Related image

Stark was an arms dealer, and war profiteer. He made money from war, and up until  that came back to bite him on the ass by nearly killing him, he spent no time thinking about the amount of death  his weapons, (the guns, the missiles, the ammunition), caused in the world. Tony  always had a close relationship with death.  He and death were old friends, and he was one of Death’s greatest enablers, through The Stark Corporation.

It is not until his own weapons are used against him that Tony experiences “SATORI“, a moment of sudden enlightenment. He broke up with Death, and had been dodging Death’s retaliation ever since. Sooner, or later, it would have caught up to him. He  takes steps to rectify the damage he caused, by stopping his company’s arms dealing, but that is not enough. He creates the Iron man suit, so he can stop those he once armed, but that opens a whole new can of worms, because now other weapons dealers, following Tony’s  example, want their own version of the Iron Man suit. He’s simply created a new weapon for people to fight over.

At every step, Tony creates some new world horror, in his attempt to atone for the harm he caused earlier in his career, when he didn’t care. Ironically, one of the better things that came out of his creation of Iron Man, was the creation of the Avenger’s Initiative, which Nick Fury was inspired to create. (Nick Fury went on to commit his own sins in his attempt to protect the world.)

In the second Iron Man film, the events that occur may stem from decisions his father made before he was born, but Tony’s decision to go public with his identity in the first movie, has repercussions in this, and  the third movie. In the third movie, we learned that Tony’s earlier, callous, disregard for other people’s feelings is what helped create The Mandarin, and his decision to directly challenge The Mandarin in a public forum, nearly cost his and Pepper’s life.

Related image

 

Throughout the movies, Tony, people often confront Tony. People like to pull out his sins, and slap him in the face with them, and that often works to change his behavior, so this is how I know Tony feels some type of way about the kind of life and living he made for himself. When he thinks he’s going to die in Iron Man 2, Tony goes on a drunken spree, and has to be saved by his friends. In Civil War, he’s confronted by the mother of one of the victims of the Ultron Incident which spurs him to sign The Accords, and the entire plot is based off the events in Sokovia, in Age of Ultron, which would never have happened, if Tony had not made the decision to try to protect the world via robot. Even Steve gets in on the act, in the first Avengers film , calling Tony out as a useless coward. Tony tries to prove he isn’t, by attempting to sacrifice his life at the end of that movie.

 

Image result for death of /iron man mcu gifs

Tony often put himself in situations where death was inevitable. He is afraid to die, but he can’t seem to stop himself from challenging the thing he most fears. (Challenging the things he fears is one of the things he has in common with Steve Rogers, although Tony does it for different reasons.) He is saved several times, by Rhodey, by Pepper, by his team, in The Avengers, and Captain Marvel in Endgame. I suspect that Tony doesn’t think much of his life, of how he has used it, and he probably thinks his death would have more meaning,  yet he doesn’t really  want to die. When Doctor Strange gives him the signal, there is no doubt in his mind what he is meant to do, and he doesn’t hesitate.

Tony once served death, chased after death, challenged death, and flirted with death. Yet, so terrified was he of dying, that he was willing to commit rather extreme acts of self harm to stave it off (the ARC reactor in his chest, for example).  The other times, when Tony tried to sacrifice his life, his motivation was not pure. He was doing it because he thought he deserved to die, and that is a selfish reason. It is only fitting that at the denouement of Endgame, Tony finally, gracefully, and willingly accepts death, and is not doing so to punish himself, or for his own salvation, or the accolades he think he will get when he’s gone. He does it to save the lives of his friends, and loved ones, standing just a few feet away. Removing the immediate threat is his primary goal ,and his death is just the price he must pay for that. His motivation this time is love, and unlike all the other times when he nearly died, his motive is pure.

Image result for tony stark gifs

Tony is the only White male character, I’ve ever  liked, who was so incredibly flawed, and in some instances, actively shitty. In any other circumstances, Tony would have been considered a sympathetic villain, but here, in the MCU, he is cast as a damaged, but heroic, character. I don’t like Tony because he is a hero. I like him because he knows how flawed he is, and desperately wants and tries to be one. (I also love Robert Downey’s performance, which closely echoes Tony’s character arc, if you know anything about his personal life.)

I am not comfortable with the lionization of Tony Stark, by his fans since  his death, however. They build up his character in ways he was not, which does a disservice to the character, his story arc, and Downey’s performance. All along, Downey knew exactly the type of character he was portraying.

I feel it is disrespectful to the character, to make him out to be something he was not, because that ignores his character arc, and diminishes the meaning of his death.This is not the story of a “good” man, who did even more good when he died. This is the story of a horribly flawed man looking for salvation from his sins. I’m probably one of the few fans who doesn’t mourn Tony’s death. In an earlier post, about Endgame,, I said I was alright with Tony dying, and this is  why. In Avengers Endgame, he actually achieved the redemption he was always seeking, and did so without hesitation.

Tony died very well, because he deserved to.