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

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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

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And People’s Thinky Thoughts:

 

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

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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/

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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* 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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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)

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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)

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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/

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The Black Death (2010)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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/

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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/

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

My 2019 Fall Lineup

Here’s a quick rundown of the shows I’m most interested in for Fall. Some of these are already playing. Some, I’m less excited by the idea of the show, than the potential for it to be good, but of course, I always hope they’re good shows, whether I stick around for them or not.

Playing Now

Carnival Row (Amazon Prime)

I watched a couple of episodes of this, and  just wasn’t feeling it. I felt really distant from the characters, and I think its because of the acting. In a lot of ways this is  a typical historical romance film, but with an overlay of politics, as the different races of The Fae are displaced by violent colonization, to another world (not this one), where they are refugees and immigrants. There’s a lot going on with politics, some heavy enemies to friends romance, some tragic romance, and a police procedural. I’ll get into more details in a later post. I think some elements of the plot are intriguing, and some of it is just exasperating, but at all times, I definitely think it’s a more well thought out world than that Will Smith’s Bright,  which aired on Netflix, and  featured a lot of the same themes.

 

Wu Assassins (Netflix)

I watched a few episodes of this, as well, and I liked the plot, and a couple of the characters. The fight scenes are very well done, but there’s a slight tongue in cheek element to the show that kept pulling me out of the story, because some of it is a little ridiculous, and the writers seem to know that, on some level. Ironically, I would have been more intrigued without any of the supernatural elements. I’m going to watch a few more episodes, and see where it goes, but I’m not especially invested, although its not a bad show, and its nice to see Asian characters headlining TV series. I kept wanting to compare this series to Warrior, which was excellent, and Into the Badlands, which got three seasons, and this show came up wanting, mostly because of the acting.

 

The Dark Crystal (NETFLIX)

I haven’t watched this yet, but I fondly remember the movie from the 80s, and when I finally watch, it I’ll let you know what I think.

 

The Terror: Infamy (AMC)

Okay, I did watch a couple of episodes of this. I know a lot about Japanese history, and Japan  as a society, (basically I have a head full of trivia), but I am not Japanese, and just like the series Warrior, this show throws you right into the deep end, and you have to  understand what’s happening, and try to keep up. Since I’m not Japanese, or an immigrant, I understand what’s going on, on a surface level, while suspecting that there are deeper meanings behind what I’m watching, because there’s a lot of Japanese mythology involved. Is it scary? Yeah, sure, but its mostly scary to me, because I have no clue what the fuck is happening beyond some malignant  spirits,  tormenting people at a Japanese internment camp.

 

Two Sentence Horror (CW)

I watched a couple of episodes of this, and I’m lucky I found it, because there’s no promotion of this show at all. It’s  an anthology series, with each episode focusing on one story, for thirty minutes. I enjoyed the first story I watched, which involved a murderous vlogger, and it was interesting because the vlogger was a Black, female, serial killer, who made makeup products out of her victims. I am going to check out a few more episodes too, because I like the idea of the two sentence story, and it seems to have taken a page from the new Twilight Zone, by casting PoC in unusual roles. The second story I watched was about a Japanese family with an abusive ghost, that ended with me all up in my feels. So far, its not delivering what I expect, and I like that.

 

Cannon Busters (NETFLIX)

I haven’t watched any of this yet, and I’m eager to get started. It’s an anime by a Black team, with a Black cast, which is kind of cool. It heavily reminds me of Afro Samurai, and really looks like fun.

 

 

September

6: Travels with My Father (NETFLIX)

I’m really enjoying Jack Whitehall’s travels with his father. I watched the first two seasons, and really liked the dynamic between Jack, and his rather staid, and conservative, British father, who is annoying, but still manages somehow to still  be hilarious. The first season was Jack trying to get his father to loosen up by visiting some of his favorite places around the world. The second season was about his father giving him the same treatment on the continent. I’m looking forward to their adventures in the new season, when they visit some of the crassest places in America, thanks to Jack’s ideas about what American life is actually like.

 

6: Titans (DC)

I was a little disappointed at the ending of the first season, but I like the trailer for the second season, and it looks like fun because of the addition of Krypto and Superboy!. I’m going to check it out and see what other new cameos show up.

 

10: Mr. Mercedes (AUDIENCE)

I didn’t get into the last season too much, but this is the third season, and its  loosely (kinda) following the events of the second and third books, and its okay. I’m not a stan or anything, but its the kind of show you watch on a lazy Sunday night, when not much else is on TV.

 

18: American Horror Story:1984 (FX)

So, I know I’m going to watch this, although I am not in the mood to relive any of those 80s hair, clothes, and musical numbers. On the other hand, it does feature an 80s style serial killer, and the writers are all batshit, so I expect this to be halfway enjoyable, to the point where I just might stan, and geek out, since I lost interest halfway through the last season.

 

26: Creepshow (Shudder)

I haven’t seen much of this beyond the first trailer. I probably won’t see much of it because I refuse to sign up for yet another app just to watch one show.

October

*4: Raising Dion (NETFLIX)

This one I’m really excited about, as I saw the trailer for it over a year ago, about a young Black boy with superpowers, who is on the run from the government.This trailer really got me in my feels, because it isn’t so much about Dion and his powers, as it is about his mom, and her ability to cope with raising a super, and I like her already, just from the little snippets I’ve seen.

I’m here for it!

 

6: Batwoman (CW)

A lot of people hate this show based on the trailer, but I’m actually intrigued. I first saw Batwoman, cameoing on another show, and I’ve read all the comic books about her. Yes, the dialogue needs some serious help, but I like the actress, and the action scenes look like fun. Kate Kane is not the only gay character in the DCEU, but she is the only one with her own show, so I’ll check it out.

 

10: Supernatural (CW)

I’m looking forward to the fifteenth and final season of this show. I told ya’ll I was in it to the end, and I meant it. The last couple of seasons aren’t as exciting as they used to be, but at least two or three times a season, the show airs a real gem, that reminds  me why I stan. As problematic as this show is, I still love The Winchesters, and I’m sticking with them.

 

11: Charmed (CW)

This is one of the few fantasy shows with women of color as the cast, including an Afro-Latina, and also several lesbian characters of color. Its also not a bad show, either. I didn’t catch all of the last season, but I’m gonna be right there for the first episode of this new one, so I can see what’s what.

 

15: Treadstone (USA)

This is intriguing. Its a show based on the  brainwashed sleeper agent idea behind The Bourne series. Treadstone was the program that created Jason Bourne, and this show is about the aftermath of that third movie, after Jason put a stop to it. I’m gonna check it out, because that world was interesting, and the fight scenes look really good.

 

21: Black Lightning (CW)

When the last season ended the family of Black Lightning was about to go global, to fight some kind of intergalactic menace, and I’m here for it. I am more than a little tired of the Tobias Whale storyline,  and wish they would move away from it. Also I’m deeply intrigued by what’s going on  in the ThunderGrace relationship, and I’m looking forward to some answers.

 

TBD: The Watchmen (HBO)

I no longer have access to HBO, so I probably won’t see this. I’m not especially intrigued  because, while I liked the movie okay, I’m really not much of a fan.  On the other hand, it’s Regina King, and I love her, and watching her play a vigilante is gonna be the shit, and this trailer slaps!

November

12: Disney +/ Available At Launch

So the Disney network starts on the 12th, and I’m looking forward to it for a number of reasons. There will be plenty of content, so I’m getting a good deal on my money, and I’m looking forward to watching several of these movies, like Fantasia, and Bao.

Movies

“101 Dalmatians”
*“A Bug’s Life”
“A Goofy Movie”
“An Extremely Goofy Movie”
“Bambi”
*“Bao”
“Big Hero 6″
“Born in China”
“Cars”
*“Fantasia”
*“Finding Dory”
*“Finding Nemo”
“Free Solo”
“Frozen”
“Fun and Fancy Free”
*“Hercules”
“High School Musical”
“Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”
“Inside Out”
“Iron Man”
“Lady and the Tramp”
“Lilo & Stitch”
“Mary Poppins”
“Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers”
“Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas”
*“Moana”
“Monsters University”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”
*“Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1″
“Ratatouille”
“Remember the Titans”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“Sleeping Beauty”
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
“Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace”
“Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
“Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”
“Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope”
“Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”
“Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi”
*“Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens”
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars”
“Steamboat Willie”
“The Good Dinosaur”
*“The Incredibles”
*“The Little Mermaid”
“The Parent Trap” (1961)
“The Prince & the Pauper” (1990)
“The Princess Diaries”
“The Rocketeer”
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (short)
“The Sword in the Stone”
“The Three Caballeros”
“Thor: The Dark World”
“Toy Story”
“Tron” (1982)
“Up”
“Wall-E”
“Zootopia”

 

The Mandolorian

This looks like so much fun.

 

The World According to Jeff Goldblum

So does this! Also, who doesn’t love Jeff Goldblum.

TBD

The Witcher (Netflix)

I talked about this in an earlier post. I’m not as enthused about it as some people.  Ironically, I’m really not into High Fantasy shows that have elves and orcs and shit,  because of the simplistic messaging and overwhelming Whiteness. Game of Throes only caught my attention because of the addition of Ice Zombies.

 

 

New And Exciting Trailers (May 23rd)

Terminator: Dark Fate

This movie actually looks very exciting, although I don’t know how it fits in with the rest of the franchise. I think Miles Dyson’s son Danny is in this one, there are several different timelines, of which this is but one of them, and Sarah Connor survived in this one. Remember, she didn’t survive in Terminator 3, and the World War happened in that one. The “terminators” look pretty cool too. I guess we have to keep upgrading in every film.  James Cameron is a complete, whole ass, but the man does know how to make an action movie, and the Terminator films (that he actually worked on), are some of his best work.

It’s nice to see Linda Hamilton kicking ass again, even if she is looking a little worn. Saving the world, time and again, will do that to a person, I guess.. I’ve never  been a really huge Schwarzeneggar fan, although I like him okay. I’m still I’m not greatly impressed by his presence here, (although he has been doing some  superb dramatic work in the last ten years. Check out the movie, Maggie. Its awesome, and he’s great in it.) I have had a huge crush on  Gabriel Luna, ever since Agents of Shield,  and I hope one day we get to see that Ghost Rider movie, with him as the star, although I just heard there will definitely be a TV show, on Hulu,  about Ghost Rider and Damon Hellstrom, starring Luna as The Rider. I like him as a terminator. He’s not as pantsshittingly scary as Robert Patrick, but he’s alright.

 

 

Star Trek: Picard: (CBS)

I’m cautiously excited about this show. I was a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I liked Picard, although I thought sometimes that he was a bit of a stick.But I am a big Patrick Stewart fan,and he always brings his Shakespearean A- game to everything he does.

This show takes place in the 18 years after Star Trek Nemesis, after Picard has seemingly retired from Starfleet, and is said to be less action oriented, with more drama. The trailer looks a little melancholy, though. I wonder if it will tackle some of the themes from the movie Logan, and how much diversity there will be, because the new Trek Discovery is tearing it up in that department.

I also like the idea of the individual stories of different characters in Star Trek. I’d watch a show about Worf’s early life, or Data’s life before he joined Starfleet. Picard will be airing on CBS All Access sometime later this year, and I will consider signing up for it again.

 

 

Downton Abbey

My best friend at work is a huge Downton Abbey fan. I’m a fan too, but I don’t know if I wanna watch a two hour movie about it. Anyway, she’s trying to get me to see it at the theater with her, and I’m considering it. She and I rarely get to watch movies together because we have such widely different tastes in what we consider entertaining. I’ve told her  many times that if no one is being horribly killed, eaten, or having their ass thoroughly kicked in the movie, I’m probably not going ot see it in the theater.

But I really do like the show, the trailer is alright, and it’ll be one of the few opportunities for the two of us to hang out at the movies together.

 

 

Crawl

This is the movie my Mom is trying to get us to go see next. I have no objection to watching this in the theater. This is what I call a safe scare, in that its fairly predictable. People gonna do stupid shit, and die, and some of ’em gon’ get ate. Those are the kinds of things that happens\ in giant killer animal movies ,and I’m cool with that. Its a nice, easy, popcorn movie, that’s not too intellectually taxing.

 

 

IT: Chapter II

I have no particular investment in this movie, but I know some of you guys are big fans. I was unimpressed by the book, and the original made for television movie ,and I wasn’t too keen on the first Chapter of this remake, which kind of bored me. But, this is a Stephen King movie, so I hope it does really well. I always hope his movies do well in the theater, because that means we’ll get more Stephen King movies.

 

 

Judy

Wow! I don’t think you guys understand just how much this movie means to so many people. I’ve loved Judy Garland since I was a little girl, when I first saw her in The Wizard of Oz. Over the years, I’ve watched her in a lot of movies (most of them starring Mickey Rooney), with one of my favorites being Easter Parade. 

This is a grand trifecta of “I’m gonna need a box of tissues-itis”, because I love the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow,  I’m a big fan of movie musicals, and ITS RENEE ZELLWEGER AS JUDY- FUCKING-GARLAND!!!

 

 

Batwoman (CW)

Batwoman is probably one of the worst trailers ever released by the CW, but I’m gonna give most people’s opinions on this show the side eye because Youtube says this about every single trailer about any show with a woman at its helm, and comic book fanboys, who have never read any of the books, are known to be complete hysterics. This is the CW. Its not a show aimed at guys (not that they can’t enjoy it) but squarely aimed at the kind of women who watch Supergirl, a show I find deeply annoying.

That said, I’m also giving the trailer the side eye, not just because it is distinctly cringeworthy, (Yeah, it stinks), but  unlike a lot of people, I understand that most trailers are not created by the same people who created the source material, and quite a number of them have been designed to make a person not want to see the film or show. I’m long used to parsing what bits and pieces I can from trailers, to determine whether or not I want to watch a thing, and I’m actually excited about this show. I’ve loved a lot of shows, and movies, that had shitty trailers, so a shitty trailer doesn’t necessarily mean anything to me. This trailer is just the latest thing for people to be outraged about. All I know is that I have every intention of seeing the show and will probably like it. Maybe.

I actually have read the comic books though,  and I really enjoyed them. I got no problem with the feminism angle, as the feminism shown on the CW has always been very White, ham-fisted, and more than a little cringey. For me, this trailer is just more of the same. I also really, really, like that actress, and this show is groundbreaking in ways the MCU has not even tried to be. It is the only superhero show on TV where the title character is gay! There are other gay characters in superhero shows, but none of them are the  leads, so this is a first, and I suspect a lot of people (especially the ones who are unsatisfied with gay representation in the MCU) are going to tune in for the  premiere, just for that reason.

Also this character isn’t new to me. I’ve seen her in Legends of Tomorrow, which is another cheeesy superhero show, that I happen to actually like, and I was impressed by the character.

 

 

His Dark Materials (HBO)

I’ve not been a big fan of the series this is based on,  by Richard Pullman. I can’t say much about it, other than it looks faithful to the movie, The Golden Compass, which came out a few years ago, so if you remember that, then this is a TV series based on that movie, and you may like it. In this universe, people have familiar-like companions that accompany them everywhere and look like different animals. This is HBO hoping to hit it out of the park again, with a follow-up to Game of Thrones. Hopefully, there will be fewer rape scenes, in this show.

I had not the intention of watching this, because I’m really not a fanatic about Fantasy series and movies, although one might get the impression that I was, based on the things I’ve reviewed on this blog. In fact, my taste in Fantasy shows is entirely arbitrary, depending on a number of unexplainable factors. What is more likely to happen is that I’ll skip the first couple of years, pick it up somewhere in its third or fourth year, and then really enjoy it.

But who knows?

 

 

The Dark Crystal

I saw the original movie when I was a kid, and I remember being terrified of the Skeksis, and enchanted by all the other creatures in the movie. If you haven’t watched the original film, please find a way to stream it, or get the DVD. It really should be as much of a classic as Labyrinth. In fact, if you liked Labyrinth, you will probably like this too.

 

 

Border

I started watching this on Hulu, and will probably not finish it any time soon, but I thought I’d mention it here, because its a very odd and beautiful movie, which  heavily reminded me of  Thelma, which I also watched on Hulu. I like odd and melancholy romances, and this one has been classified as one of the weirdest movies of the year.

Avengers Endgame: Thoughts

You know how I roll on this blog.

Damn right there are going to be spoilers.

I cannot talk about how much I loved this movie without spoilers. So, if you have not seen the movie, get thee the fuck outta here, go watch it, and only then, will you be welcome in this space. (If I’m cussing, it’s  a sign that I’m extremely happy!)

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I spoke about my history of comic book reading, in a previous post, about how the first Marvel books I remember reading, were Conan the Barbarian, and Red Sonja, which I probably should not have been reading, since I was about 9 or 10 years old, but I’d found a stash of these books in the basement of a house we’d just moved into, and since no book ever passed by me without going unread, there I was. I got away from Marvel comics when I was about 12, as I was reading Horror comics by that time. I started reading superhero comics, in earnest, when I was about 14, or 15, starting with The New Mutants, moving on to The X-Men, Spiderman, Doctor Strange, and finally, The Avengers.

Of all The Avengers characters, Doctor Strange is one of the few standalone character books I ever read, along with Thor, and Spiderman. They were the only superheroes I truly stanned, having read nearly all of their different iterations. I never read a single Captain America, Incredible Hulk (I knew him only from the TV series), Iron Man, Antman, Hawkeye, or  Black Widow stand alone book. I knew nothing about the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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That said, I’ve seen all the MCU movies, and of all the films, and I’ve  only seen a handful of them in the theater; The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spiderman Homecoming, Captain America Civil War, and Black Panther. The rest I watched on TV, sometimes when I didn’t particularly feel like watching them, like Antman and Thor: The Dark World, and I’m going to continue to talk shit about Antman, despite the fact that I really enjoyed both movies. I  reserve the right to talk shit about movies and characters I love.

Of all the movies, the some of the most fun ones were the Iron Man films. Despite me trash talking Tony Stark at every opportunity, I actually like the character, a lot. The Captain America movies were a surprise favorite, as I had not one ounce of interest in that character beyond his being the leader of The Avengers, in the comic books. As the leader of The Avengers, I’d read Cap say those famous words countless times, and I knew Cap’s history because they talked about it in other comic  books, that were not about him. Black Widow made no impression on me in the comic books. I have never found Russian spies to be interesting  in even my best moods.

All this to explain how incredibly geeked out I was while watching this movie. I can’t wait to see this at home, when it comes out on DVD, so I can dance around the house in my bunny slippers. I loved, loved, loved, the end of this movie, and I’ve been trying really hard to avoid the whiners and complainers (and some of the more hysterical people) on Tumblr, while I read  the reviews. I will not allow any fan wankery to harsh my buzz!

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The Movie:

This is going to be a very long post. First of all, there aren’t any social justice issues to be made of this movie, despite people trying really hard to do so. Most of this movie is just pure fan service, and since I’m a fan of the comic books,, I’m perfectly okay with that. This movie throws the viewer right into the deep end. If you didn’t see any of the other MCU movies, or haven’t read any of the comic books, you probably won’t care about any of the things on the screen, and will probably just be bored, although I have come across people who did none of those things, yet still enjoyed the movie just for itself. If non-fans can still totally get into it, that is the mark of a well written film. For fans of the books and movies though, it hits all the right emotional notes, at all the right times. It has great action scenes, great callbacks to stuff that happened in the other twenty or so films, and the hundreds of comic books, and even a few tears were shed.

 

Now I’ve done some reading, and its my understanding that because of the all the time traveling in the movie, what the characters did was create alternate universes, and the one we end with is a brand new universe, in which a lot of things didn’t happen. Every time they removed one of the stones from some past event, they changed a time line, and created another universe. Steve remaining in the past with Peggy created a new timeline as well. At least that was how it was explained to me, but often  I care little about such plot details. Unlike a lot of people, I didnt get myself too worked up about it.

I did appreciate the way the movie handled the aftermath of Thanos’ Snap. Its been several years, and humanity is still in recovery mode and dealing with its grief. We get a micro look at this trauma through Hawkeye, when his family disappears. Now imagine Hawkeye’s scene happening everywhere, and remember most people wouldn’t know what had happened, or why, or how.  This is  like the TV show The Leftovers, which deal with the aftermath of The Rapture, and how the survivors deal with the disappearance of half of humanity, over its three seasons.

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This movie doesn’t  have time to go into too much detail,  as it’s three hours long already, but it does handle a lot of character, and personality issues effectively. About the first thirty minutes of the movie is just watching these characters deal with their loss. Humanity is pretty resilient, and you can see that most people are holding on by their fingernails. You got Natasha crying in the office, Steve looking more lost than usual, and Imma talk about Thor in a moment.

What was not taken into account by Thanos in his megalomania, is that there would be planets and cultures, (the Snap happened everywhere, but we only see Earth), that because of the way they were set up, they would not only be devastated by such an event, they would never recover from it. (I’m pretty certain that on at least some  planets, everyone is dead.) The Snap most likely killed more than half of humanity anyway, because there would be tens of millions of residual deaths in the aftermath. All of the sick, the very young, and the very old, the suicides, and  basically anybody who couldn’t fend for themselves, would probably die in the weeks after the Snap.

I was reminded of this by the book, The Stand by Stephen King, in which a pandemic wipes out most of humanity. There’s a chapter in the book that chronicles  the deaths of all those who didn’t die from the pandemic itself. The residual deaths, like accidents, other infections, and  illnesses and suicides. I was also reminded of reading stories about the aftermath of the Black Plague and how that so thoroughly changed the social and economic systems in Europe afterward. The Snap was infinitely worse.

Thanos is a megalomaniacal, psychotic, selfish,  dumbass, who really didn’t think any of this shit through, and caused psychological and emotional trauma on an untold massive scale, so huge it  can’t  be imagined. I do not think of Thanos as the greatest villain in the MCU, because I have no respect for a dumb villain. He’s the not even the greatest on the scale of power, and/or amount of damage he caused, because that title belongs to Galactus. This is a fanboys idea of a villain. I am always suspect of people who claim to want to do good for the world, but can only do so by killing as many people as possible. King Leopold, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Josef Stalin all held similar philosophies. Only in Thanos’  case, we’re supposed to be okay with what he did, because it was random, and not personal.

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There’s’ no depth to Thanos’ philosophies. There’s no nuance to his character, either,  despite the Russos trying to shoehorn in some pathos, to make him seem more sympathetic.  He’s just another big, dumb, brute, with the ability to kill more people than the men named above. Like most villains , he simply  wants to kill, and he invented some  reasons for doing just that. reason he invented so that he wouldn’t have to face the idea that he is, in fact,  a monster.

You wanna know how I know this?

Because Thanos didn’t Snap himself. He destroyed the Gauntlet after the Snap, but he didn’t destroy himself, and when The Avengers showed up to beat his ass. he wanted them to affirm his goodness, and be grateful to him.

I knew the movie was going to hit some emotional hot points during the scene where The Avengers track down Thanos, and try to get him to change things back, only to discover that he destroyed the Gauntlet. He starts to go into his usual villain monologuing, but Thor cuts that shit short by suddenly chopping off his head. I wasn’t expecting that, because I’ d, once again,  resigned myself to listening to, yet another, psychopath’s self -serving justification for evil.

Of all the characters, Thor was the most sympathetic, and the most  obviously affected by everything that happened. In the entirety of the MCU, with the exception of Hawkeye,  Thor  lost his entire family, most of the people he was supposed to protect, and his planet. He’s also suffering from a great deal of survivor’s guilt. You can tell he spent a lot of time dreaming of having the opportunity to kill Thanos, because the last time he had it, as he said, he didn’t go for the head. He didn’t prevent the Snap, and his last gesture is utterly futile.

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I like the way the movie handles Thor’s depression and PTSD. This is what  depressed people do. They stop caring about what they look like (and Thor was always rather vain about his looks, so his getting fat was  significant), or they drink a lot, or just stop moving forward, and become very passive. But once he is given the opportunity to go back into the past and change events, he jumps at it. Thor is depressed, but it is never shown to be a weakness. He is never bothered by his size. He owns it, and is still the Lord of Thunder, and he would thank  you to remember that he can still kick ass. I didn’t like the other characters making fun of him for being fat, though. The humor felt forced and out of place (except for his Mom, because that’s such an incredibly Mom thing to say, and she was very obviously worried about him).

The different pair-ups in the movie are fun and interesting.  The writers pair Thor with Rocket, the only other  Avenger, besides Hawkeye, who has lost his  family. I hated Thor: The Dark World because that’s the movie where Thor’s mother dies, so one of the  tearful moments I was talking about earlier, is  when he goes back to the past and sees her again. He also gets some tough love from Rocket about losing loved ones.

Natasha dies the same way Gamora did, only her death was voluntary. I’m not a huge Black Widow fan. I mean she’s okay, and she gets some good moments in the movie, (throughout the entire MCU actually), but I was largely unaffected by her death, because she was not a character that resonated with me, although I recognize she meant a lot to other people. That said, I still wish it had been Hawkeye who died, because I care less about him than I do Natasha, and she deserved a better send off. I understand why he was allowed to live, but I still wish he’d died in her place. I’m also not a fan of Hawkeye because in the wake of the Snap he decided it would be a good idea to travel the world killing Brown men, as the comic book character Ronin. His answer to his grief at so much death, is to go out and  cause even more death, and I had an issue with that.

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Tony goes out like a boss, tho’. I’m actually okay with Tony dying, I was long ready for it, and think that’s a fitting end to his character arc. I was one of the few people, who liked Tony, who was unbothered by his death. Yes, contrary to me always talking shit about Tony, I actually loved that character, and I’m gonna miss him. Thanks to Downey, he was a consistent asshole, and I kind of liked that Tony fucked up about as much as he saved, and had to constantly be put back in line by his friends and co-workers. Sometimes heroes have unlikable personalities. He didn’t resonate with me, but I really like Robert Downey, I loved the way he portrayed the character, and Tony’s passing marked the end of an era.

I loved Steve’s character arc too. I did see some grumbling from the more hysterical members of Tumblr, about how Steve choosing to live out his life with Peggy was a selfish gesture, but those people can shut the fuck up, because they very obviously do not care about Steve’s emotional well being. If anyone deserved to live out his selfish fantasy, it was Steve Rogers. I loved the end scene with him getting that dance from Peggy, and I hope they danced a lot, and had lots of fat babies.

Of all the characters, I would say that Nebula is definitely one of my favorites, because she has such a satisfying character arc. I love how her character came full circle from wanting to kill her sister, to protecting Gamora’s life by killing her alternate self.

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Also, I just like her personality, and her interactions with Tony. Of All the Guardians, she seems the one I’d most likely end up being friends with because she seems most like me in real life, which is literal minded, and very strong and  serious looking, but with a heart like a marshmallow. I love how Guardians of the Galaxy laid the groundwork for her being able to convince the Gamora of the past to help her defeat Thanos. Without that groundwork, without Gamora’s loss, she would never have been in that position, and I’m glad the Russos chose to honor what James Gunn did with her character.

I was also very touched by Rocket’s growth as a character too, for which Gunn is also responsible for laying the groundwork. Rocket is still an asshole, but he’s like Nebula and Tony, an asshole with a heart. Its interesting to watch him move to a point in his character where he offers solace to others  (Nebula) and, tough love styles of advice, (Thor).

My other favorite was Hulk. He managed somehow to fuse the two halves of his personality into a whole, and I liked that. He did come across as somebody’s corny dad, and I really enjoyed how happy he seemed to be with his life. The complete opposite of Thor, and Hawkeye. People seem to forget that Hulk was the one to bring everyone back with his own Snap, and spent the rest of the movie injured because of that, (because he was the only one left alive who could survive using  the Gauntlet).

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Favorite Moments:

I had loads of favorite moments.

  • The opening scene where Hawkeye loses his entire family. Its just very emotionally moving to watch it from the point of view of someone who has no fucking clue what just happened.
  • After five years, most cities are overgrown with vegetation. It reminded me of the documentary Life After People. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.
  • Tony and Nebula playing paper football. Nebula wins, but since she can’t smile, we can’t tell if she’s actually happy.
  • Rocket and Nebula bonding over their shared loss.
  • Steve Rogers kicking his own ass. In the five years since he worked for Shield he developed a lot more skills and we have finally answered the question, at least in the MCU, who would win in a fight between Steve and Mr. I Can Do This All Day.
  • Tony meets and makes peace with his father.
  • Bruce looking embarrassed about his behavior during the first Avengers movie, and trying to fake being angry.
  • The Hulk having to use the stairs because none of the others would let him get on the elevator. There  were a helluva lot of stairs, so I’d be angry about that too.
  • The final boss fight was every comic book splash page ever created. Its why so many of us loved these movies. We’ve been reading about these events and characters our whole lives, and to see this, larger than life, on a movie screen, well…words cannot express.
  • When the wizards showed up at the final battle, I think I openly cheered.
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy and The Ravagers all show up to kick Thanos’ ass. It took me a minute to place where all those spaceships came from. They didn’t all come from Wakanda.
  • The moment in the movie that made the whole audience cheer is when Captain America picked up Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and the two of them trade weapons back and forth, throughout the fight, until Thor decides that Steve gets the little weapon.
  • The audience’s second favorite moment is when Steve utters the famous words: Avengers Assemble! which is not something he got to do in any of the other movies.
  • Sam Wilson’s quietly stated, “On your left.” into Steve’s ear! This just made me grin so hard, since I really love Captain America Winter Soldier.
  • The arrival of Black Panther/ the arrival of everybody really.
  • Tony hugging Peter, and Peter being perfectly okay with it and saying,  “This is kinda nice.”
  • Pepper Potts has her own Iron Man suit.
  • Carol Danvers and Scarlet Witch   get to put their shit down, and go toe to toe with Thanos.
  • That look on Tony’s face when Doctor Strange gestures at him. Tony knows what he has to do. He knows the gauntlet will kill him, but picks it up anyway.
  • We get an A Force moment of all the women Avengers, (although I’m gonna be seriously pissed if we never get an A Force movie, since they have been treating a lot of the women of the MCU like afterthoughts, including Black Widow). Let me go on the record as stating I want an A Force movie!
  • Basically, the entire battle scene was awesome!
  • Pepper telling Tony that he could rest, just brought all the feels.
  • The disintegration of Thanos and his army!
  • Sam Wilson gets the Captain America shield. Y’all know I’m a Sam Wilson stan so yeah, I totally geeked out at that moment.
  • Thor and Peter Quill arguing over who gets to be in charge of the Guardians.

So yeah, while I thoroughly enjoyed myself, if you’re not a fan of the MCU, or superhero movies in particular, your mileage may vary.

I know a lot of people wanted to see other things happen in the movie, but at three hours and with so many characters, some of them had little room to do anything more than stand still, for a second, and pose for the camera. The movie simply couldn’t cover everyone, and didn’t. But what it did do, for the characters and the emotions, was exactly what it should have done. The trailers promised a certain type of movie, and that’s exactly what  was given.

Favorite Character:

I have a lot of favorite characters, across the entirety of the MCU, but my top three are Spiderman, Drax (of all beings!), and oddly enough, Captain America.

I’ve always been a Spiderman fan, since I was a kid, watching the TV show during the 70s. I like Drax because he’s simply ridiculous. There’s just something about his character that just speaks to my inner silliness, and I always enjoy seeing him on screen. I was surprised Captain America made any part of the top ten because I had no interest in the comic book character, but Chris Evans just tore it up!, and there’s a part of me that just loves the noble warrior hero.

 

Favorite Movie:

Its really hard to pick a favorite, so I have once again, a top ten of favorites. I have no choice but to rank them, and the ranking could change based entirely on my mood. Of all the MCU films, the movie that remains consistently at  number one would be Spiderman Homecoming. I know everyone thinks I’d choose Black Panther, which is definitely in my top ten, but that’s somewhere around number five, because the number two movie on my list is Captain America Winter Soldier. and another surprise movie is Doctor Strange, coming in at third place. I was not at all prepared to like Doctor Strange. In fact, I was prepared to hate it, but I’ve found that I love the MCU magic users.

I’m very much looking forward to the next ten years. We’ve got more sequels coming up, and some new characters like The Eternals, who I know nothing about, so that will be brand new for me, and Shang Chi, because I love martial arts movies.

So until the next phase,

Make Mine Marvel!

 

 

Thoughts for the Weekend

 

The Media

This article talks about why one of the reasons people think the world is  going to hell. It is the prevalence of negative news. The very nature of the news, the tagline being, “If it bleeds, it leads.” accounts for the greater and greater amounts of negativity we see in the news. Each story has to be sensational, outrageous, and/or gory.

A couple of years ago, my habit, like thousands of other people, was to get up each morning, and turn on the news. I stopped doing that. When I get up in the morning now, I watch something light and fun, that doesn’t require too much thought, like a comedy I recorded the night before, or favorite episodes of old shows. I’ve found that I feel more positive throughout the day, I’m less angry, I’m nicer to my co-workers, and generally more cheerful, at the start of the day, than when I watched the news.

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The media exaggerates negative news.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/17/steven-pinker-media-negative-news

Whether or not the world really is getting worse, the nature of news will interact with the nature of cognition to make us think that it is.

News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. We never see a journalist saying to the camera, “I’m reporting live from a country where a war has not broken out”— or a city that has not been bombed, or a school that has not been shot up. 

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Game of Thrones

If you do nothing else this season of Game of Thrones, you have to read the weekly rundown of the show, by the fans at The Root. Even if you hate the show, don’t watch the show, or know nothing about the show, you should read them anyway because they are, hands down, some of the funniest reviews of anything on the internet. At this point, reading the weekly review becomes part of the show. For those of you with real stamina, you can try reading the show’s live tweet on Black Twitter.

I am always amazed that so many Black people love this show, including many non-geeks. It took me years to really get into it, because I just wasn’t interested. I followed the show off and on for the first three seasons, but didn’t become any kind of fan until season five, after the episode Hardhome, which I understand was the turning point for a lot of people.  Last weekend was the culmination of that particular episode, so there are plenty of spoilers in the post.

I want to point out that Arya Stark is one of my all-time favorite characters on the show, and has been my go-to Baby Badass since season five.

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Arya Stark Forces Night King to Drop Out of Presidential Race

Although he has not issued a formal statement, representatives for Walker—also known as the Night King—confirmed that the blue-eyed devil will not take part in the upcoming primaries, citing the fact that he had lost support among a key group of supporters—namely, the Arya Stark demographic.

 

#NotToday: The Night King nor Kim Kardashian Could Stop Us From Keeping Up With The Battle of Winterfell

With five or six tea lights lighting the battle scene on our screens, The Red Woman came and did what the fuck she had to do and said let there be light and lit the field with fire. Too bad the fire didn’t do shit for our screens our Daenerys’ vision from the sky.

 

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 Robot Fear

This is a very interesting article about how Western nations view robots vs. how cultures in the East view them. The Japanese, for example, have a very different attitude towards robots than Americans. The article credits part of that to the Western attitudes towards systems of chattel slavery. The East had slaves, but the systems there were not set up the same here, or perpetuated throughout that country’s other institutions, either.

I also think part of the issue is not just our attitudes about the treatment of slaves, but the Western religious ideas behind them, and the idea of karmic retribution that has attached itself to those ideas. We need to add decades of movie and TV narratives in which robot slaves turned on their owners. I wrote before about how a lot of futuristic fiction involves imagining what White people have done to other cultures, happening to White people, usually by beings once held in bondage, like robots. The term “robot” was invented in the West, and violent retribution by them, is one of its earliest Pop culture themes, as in the 1927 Metropolis.

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WHY WESTERNERS FEAR ROBOTS AND THE JAPANESE DO NOT

https://www.wired.com/story/ideas-joi-ito-robot-overlords/

It’s not that Westerners haven’t had their fair share of friendly robots like R2-D2 and Rosie, the Jetsons’ robot maid. But compared to the Japanese, the Western world is warier of robots. I think the difference has something to do with our different religious contexts, as well as historical differences with respect to industrial-scale slavery.

 

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Yarn Industry Diversity

Here’s a short list of Knitting designers, and Dyers of Color in the industry.

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Black Yarn Dyers and the case for Purposeful Support

https://theyarnmission.com/black-yarn-dyers-and-the-case-for-purposeful-support/

It’s not about tokenism.” Rather, we insist that folks support artists simply because they are Black. Especially for their Blackness we recognize that for so many it would mean “in spite of their Blackness.” This is what pro-Black looks like to us since we are working towards a liberation in the face of rampant, engrained, and internalized anti-Blackness. 

 

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Comedy

I’m still not over Nanette, which is still airing on Netflix. It just floored me. I’m guessing it floored a lot of people, since so many wrote think pieces about it. I do believe Hannah Gadsby is the future of comedy, while people like Bill Maher, Jerry Seinfeld, and Louis C K, are comedy’s past. I noticed that when women do comedy, (any marginalized people, really), they are as as liable to cause tears as much as laughter. The only male comedian I’ve ever seen who captures that particular vibe is Patton Oswalt, in his stand-up, Annihilation, )where he talks about the death of his wife).

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Bill Maher Is Stand-up Comedy’s Past. Hannah Gadsby Represents Its Future.

https://www.vulture.com/2018/07/bill-maher-hannah-gadsby-stand-up-comedy.html

Nanette is also a deconstruction of stand-up specials, as well as several generations’ worth of straight male–crafted opinions on what “good comedy” is and what “great art” is. Gadsby poses a question which, if answered affirmatively, would validate her stated wish to quit doing stand-up: What if “funny” is the enemy of “honest,” or at least at cross-purposes with it?

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Reverse Racism Claims

Recently Jordan Peele came into the cross hairs of the White Bigot League, when he stated that he wasn’t looking to hire White men for any of his lead roles, as that had all been done before, and he wants to try something different. I think this article perfectly captures all my thoughts on this issue.

For the record, he never said he wouldn’t  cast any White people in his movies. What he said was he wasn’t going to cast them in the lead roles.

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There’s Nothing Wrong With Jordan Peele Not Wanting to Cast White Male Leads

https://www.thewrap.com/jordan-peele-no-white-male-leads-nothing-wrong/

But racism becomes a social disease when it systematically and systemically places one race at the top of a hierarchy at the expense of other races. That is why the N-word stings so much more than any word blacks ever coined to denigrate white people. It’s why blackface hurts in a way that whiteface doesn’t. There are centuries of brutal history to back up the sting.

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Black Romance

I thought this article was especially interesting. I do not read Romance novels, as a general rule but I used to have a disdain for them. At some point, I realized my disdain was contributing to an atmosphere in Pop culture that devalues the interests of women, and if the hobbies and interests of women aren’t considered important, then imagine how denigrated Black women’s interests must be.

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Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/04/fifty-shades-of-white-romance-novels-racism-ritas-rwa?src=longreads

Some booksellers continued to shelve black romances separately from white romances, on special African American shelves. Accepted industry wisdom told black authors that putting black couples on their covers could hurt sales, and that they should replace them with images of jewellery, or lawn chairs, or flowers. Other authors of colour had struggled to get representation within the genre at all.

 

 

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US

I promise this is the last article I’m going to post about this movie. Its just fascinating how much (and how many) meanings people are finding in this movie.

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

Jordan Peele may have crafted the first horror movie to truly dismantle the MAGA era and how African Americans fit into it.

 

 

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Poverty

Hollywood has crafted a lot about how we think of the world, its situations, and the people around us. I think many of us would be surprised at how much of our “knowledge” of the world comes from movies.

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Perpetuating the poverty myth: How Hollywood gives us the wrong ideas about poor people

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/perpetuating-poverty-myth-hollywood-gives-us-wrong-ideas-poor-people-210440365.html

Pimpare believes that at this time of deep divisions in America, movies that accurately portray modern-day poverty are more important than ever. “We are geographically so segregated, racially segregated, and we are very much economically segregated — so it may be that for growing numbers of people, the only opportunities they have to gain insight into lives of poor and low-income people are through mass media,” 

 

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Representation Matters

Yahp!

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https://the-orbit.net/progpub/2018/12/26/representation-matters/

For myself and many African-American moviegoers, one film has stood out from the rest. Not because the others listed (or those absent) are sub-par movies, but rather, because the Black Panther was the kind of movie we have long thirsted for. The first Black superhero of Marvel Comics got to headline the first Black superhero movie from Marvel Studios, with a Black director, a predominately Black cast, diverse presentation of Black bodies, an Afrofuturist aesthetic, complex nuanced characters largely devoid of stereotypes, a rich backstory, and a massive budget. A monumental box office hit, the movie shattered record after record on its way to a final global tally of roughly $1.3 billion. 

 

In Defense of After Earth (2013)

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

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

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

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

After Earth (2013)

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

No!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitai Raige No, sir.

Cypher Raige This is Earth.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fred Harris touched on some of my suspicions, here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you shouldn’t either.

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

Own your feelings!

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

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

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

‘Love, Death & Robots’ suffers from blatant sexism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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