Black Culture 2020: 101

This post is primarily for any of my readers who are not based in the US, who may have heard these things being referred to on Facebook and Twitter, but don’t know the meanings or origins.

 

What is a Karen?

You have probably been seeing this term everyhwere. White people keep trying to appropriate this term and diffuse it by using it for their own ends, because they don’t like the way its being used against them. It is a specifically Black term. We invented it, and it needs to be understood in that context.

This vlogger even goes into the different manners in which the term Karen is being misused. Its not about snitching, or acting irate, or someone with whom you politically disagree, and  is not meant to apply to ALL white women. Its meant to specifically be applied to  an incident involving a white woman that has a racial component.

 

Types of Karens - coolguides

 

 

What is cultural appropriation?

There is a thin line between Cultural appreciation and appropriation. I generally subscribe to the idea that there must be some kind of social cache, or  monetary benefit, for the people doing the appropriating, and vilification and discrimination on the end of the people who produced the terms or  items.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/black-slang-white-people-ruined_n_55ccda07e4b064d5910ac8b3

From “the bomb” to “holla” to the very short-lived “YOLO,” black slang words often go through the cycle of being used by black people, discovered by white people, and then effectively “killed” due to overuse and a general lack of understanding of how to use these words.

 

 

 

What is Black Twitter?

I kept seeing this question all over the internet, and I think I briefly addressed this before in another post. Black Twitter isn’t actually a place on Twitter. You don’t sign up for it, you simply participate in it. Its basically a collection of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Black people (mostly African American although others in the diaspora are free to chime in) of all walks and persuasions, having conversations, sometimes innocuous, sometimes important, sometimes deeply funny or political, in a loose chain of followers and retweets.

Anybody can join in but if someone tries to join in with some racist drivel, they will not just get blocked, they will get dragged for filth. Their wigs will be snatched, tea will be spilled, virtual hands will be thrown! Black Twitter is not afraid to call out individuals, international corporations, and even each other and has officially changed the dialogue on dozens of important issues in globally.

 

Trust me when I tell you, Black people know Black people, and we can always tell when someone is being inauthentic. There have been and continue to be, lots of attempts to infiltrate Black Twitter to introduce misinformation to the Black community, but one of the big things about Black Twitter is if you’re not a part of Black culture,  you can’t. (I am not currently on Twitter, but being deeply embedded in the culture means I can probably jump in anytime.)

 

What is A Hotep?

Answering one question can often lead to whole new questions. I briefly mentioned this before in another post. I’m gonna be nice and call the Hoteps, “Black Enthusiasts”, and they are sometimes called the Ankh -Right, but you can trust me when I say that they are, quite possibly some of the most exasperating Black people on Earth, because they are deeply homophobic, transphobic, patriarchal, and sexist. Incidentally there are female versions of the Hotep, called the Hertep!

 

 

What is Juneteenth?

This Friday is Juneteenth, a holiday which holds a special significance, in the Black community. It’s usually an opportunity to showcase Black achievement and joy, and there are still attempts being made to make it a National holiday.

 

What is Black Girl Magic?

This is probably another phrase you’ve seen on Twitter.There’s a reason that this phrase is trending in the Black community. From Karens to Black girls…

Here. Kendra Thomas gives a brief history of the mistreatment and rise of Black women in America. As I mentioned before, you can’t find information on some things unless you know which questions to ask.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Marion_Sims

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_B._Wells

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

 

This has been a cultural 101.

Next up: Black women in music, you probably never heard of!

 

 

Coming Soon!

I don’t know when I’ll ever feel safe sitting in any enclosed space ever again. If I do, I definitely will not be inviting my mother with me as she is severely immuno-compromised. Technically, so am I, but beyond that, I wouldn’t want to bring anything back home to her. In all likelihood, Dune and Tenet may be movies I’ll have to admire from afar. I hope not because I’m really excited to see them in a theater. If there’s a way t do so safely, while observing social distancing rules…

 

 

Tenet

This is the only movie that would possibly get my ass into a theater seat (which is never gonna happen, btw.) Nevertheless, I am very excited for this. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s work anyway, so that was gonna happen. This is the second trailer for the movie, which is aiming for a Fall release. This trailer strongly implies that its about superpowers and time travel.

 

 

 

The Old Guard

I always enjoy watching Charlize Theron kicking ass, and I like the idea of this young black female apprentice, to a kind of immortal being. I’m always for black female characters being shown as beloved, and delicate, flowers in need of being saved, we first need to get our feet in the door, and one way to do that is playing to our strengths in action films.

So far, the Hollywood idea of a strong black woman is measuring how much pain and anguish we can endure, how much abuse we can take and still keep ticking. We need to begin showcasing other versions of black women’s strength. Fortunately we are getting movies and shows like this.

I am told this is based on a comic book, and though I like the authors of the book, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before, so I’m going to be looking out for it. The Old Guard airs on Netflix in mid-June.

 

 

 

Da Five Bloods

I always say I’m not into certain types of movies. What I actually mean is I’m not normally attracted to such films, not that I don’t watch them, or have never seen, or liked them. Like War movies. I do have a couple of favorites, (Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket), but most of them I dislike for their reliance on spectacle with no message beyond glorifying life in the military.

I will watch this one because I like the director, the actors, (Delroy Lindo, who I’ve been in love with since Romeo Must Die), and because it’s basic premise, of a close group of Black men returning to Vietnam, so they can find the body of their commanding officer, just sounds appealing to me. I like remembrance stories, or more accurately, anti-nostalgia stories, and there aren’t a whole bunch of war movies which prominently feature men of color, telling what it was like for them.

This is also airing on Netflix in mid-June.

 

 

Gundala

Here’s a superhero story, I’m moderately excited about, set in Southeast Asia, which I’m going to check out soon. I saw the trailer for this months ago, but only recently got the opportunity to see it. This very much reminds me of the Black Lightning TV series, because it’s basic premise, a man of color, with electricity powers , who trains himself to protect his little piece of the world from corrupt government forces, is appealing to me.

 

 

Code 8

This is another one of those gritty superhero stories that sort of chronicle what life would be like if superpowers existed. I kind of like these downbeat superhero movies like Unbreakable, Chronicle, and yes, I include the Carrie movies. I am, however, not always in the mood for such downbeat material, so whether or not I see this ,depends entirely on how I feel that day. I may decide to watch another John Mulaney stand up instead.

 

This one is based on a short film, I saw last year, with the same name. I didn’t care for the Short that much, but the actual movie looks a little better.

 

 

Dune 2020

I’ve been a Dune fan since I was a teenager, and used to the read the first book in the series about every couple of years. It’s one of my few favorite SciFi stories. Yes, I did see the 1984 movie starring Sting. It’s okay, and I really liked it, but it’s not my favorite, and I’m going to pretend the TV version doesn’t exist.

Next year we’re supposed to be getting a remake of this movie by one of my favorite SciFi directors, Denis Villaneuve. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of his movies, including the Bladerunner sequel, so I’m really looking forward to seeing this, as this too is one of the few films that would actually get me into a theater.

The director has been sending out pictures of the cast and crew, and whooo yeah, I’m definitely excited for this version, which looks a lot more like I imagined it from the book. I hope it does well, but I still think y’all should be prepared for a lot of hate because there are PoC working in this movie, and y’all know how white fandom behaves when they think an entertainment product is the exclusive province of white people. There’s also the fact that it is a very loved book. I do plan to stay away from any Youtube videos talking about this movie because already there are a wave of people who are ready to ream it a new asshole before the movie has even been released.

That said, there have been some changes that some people will lose their shit over, and one of the bigger changes is that Liet Kynes is being portrayed by a Black actress. If you remember from the book, Liet is the father of Chani, but is not actually one of the Fremen, and Villaneuve says he changed the role because he wanted to portray a mother /daughter relationship, and the movie was getting very male-centric. Now, if you’ve read the book, you know what role Liet plays in the story and what happens to him ,but I’m still very excited to see what this actress is going to do, and how she will interact with the other characters. In the original film, Liet Kynes was played by Max von Sydow. Jason Momoa is playing Duncan Idaho, who is not one of my favorite characters from the book, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with this role.

Enjoy These Dune Images in Glorious HD, Especially Oscar Isaac ...
Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides
2248x2248 Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes 2248x2248 ...
Sharon Duncan Brewster as Liet-Kynes
Dune photos give fans their first look at Jason Momoa and Zendaya ...
Zendaya as Chani
Enjoy These Dune Images in Glorious HD, Especially Oscar Isaac ...
Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck
timothee chalamet dune | Tumblr
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho
HEAT WAVE          Timothe Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Jordan. Filming in the landscape was really surreal says...
Timothy Chalumet is Paul Atreides, and Rebecca Ferguson is Lady Jessica
pThe House Atreides Left to Right Timothe Chalamet as Paul Atreides Stephen Mckinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat Oscar...
 House Atreides
Behold Dune: An Exclusive Look at Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya ...
Javier Bardem as Stilgar

The Strong Black Woman

At The Take, they’re examining the movie trope of the Strong Black woman. This stereotype is a conflation of The Mammy and Sapphire stereotypes, always angry, telling it’s like it is, emasculating, and strong beyond reason, in her ability to overcome suffering. The Strong Black Woman is a stereotype created by black women as a way to counteract the nastier stereotypes, but it has backfired, because it is often the only recognized narrative of us.

What the stereotype ignores is that our ability to be strong is often based on our ability to endure suffering, whereas for white women, it’s often an ability to act like white men do in movies, kicking ass, shooting guns, and not needing a man. Often, when Black women protest this stereotype, it’s because so much of it consists of not needing a man, which is often used as an excuse to not write romances for Black women. The SBW isn’t a bad thing, but when it’s the only image that’s presented onscreen, it becomes an issue.

One of the side effects of this superwoman stereotype is that so many people have bought into it, that it affects our lived experiences, and our vulnerabilities are ignored. Suicide rates among black woman are never discussed, we receive less medical care because it is actually assumed that we don’t feel pain, our strength is often exploited as a benefit to others, our mental health, and inner emotional life is never explored.

This is slowly starting to change, with more nuanced portrayals, especially in TV. We’re finally getting the message out to all women, that it’s okay to be vulnerable, to be soft, to cry, how hard it is to live up to this impossible stereotype, and that taking care of our emotional health isn’t a selfish act.

This is why diversity in storytelling is so important, because with more Black female representation, the lone black woman, who don’t need no man, doesn’t have to stand in for all Black women, in the way that Scarlett Johansson had to be a stand-in for every white woman, in the MCU.

Favorite Songs About Vampires

I’m feeling a bit of Pop Culture nostalgia this week, so here, have some of the vampire songs that are always on MY playlist!

 

Gordon Walker - Super-wiki

Black Vampires Through the Years | Black vampire, Eddie murphy ...

 

Bite Me! Top 10 Hottest Black Vampires | Vibe

I was on Tumblr, and I noticed a trend of people recommending vampire songs that 1. I didn’t recognize, and 2. Were all by white people and groups, as if PoC had never had any interest in vampires, and never made any songs about them. I really hate lists of music on there anyway. I have pretty wide ranging tastes, but these lists always seem to have the most obscure musical groups these people can find. Why these people can’t ever seem to listen to just regular songs, that maybe more than five people have heard, is a mystery! At any rate, there was one list I found, I listened to a couple of the songs and I think that person just has bad taste in music, because they were fairly bland. I mean if you’re gonna go through the trouble of making music about vampires, the least you can do is be EXTRA, like all the artists on this list.

But I’m often exasperated by the rather “twee” musical tastes of Tumblr patrons, who can be somewhat limited in their musical tastes, and helluva lot younger than me. Vampires are a global mythology, in that nearly every continent has one, so I’m also pretty sure other parts of the world have songs about them, but I’m Black, and American, so this is my focus. Maybe, at some point, I’ll do some research to find songs from other countries.

 

 

Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus ( The Hunger 1983)

Cinematic Black Women Vampires | 1970's-2000's | Black vampire ...

This is the classic Gothic vampire song, used in countless movies, and shows, that feature vampires. The first time I heard it was in the 1988 movie, The Hunger, which starred Catherine Deneuve, and David Bowie, as modern day vampires. If you haven’t seen that movie than check it out, as it’s an interesting snapshot of a very specific musical period (Goth) in the early 80s. The music, fashion, cinematography, and acting are all artifacts of that particular time, and the movie was groundbreaking, in that it was a mainstream movie, that featured an openly lesbian relationship, as Deneuve’s character puts the moves on Susan Sarandon.

Remember, that in 1983, this movie was the coolest shit we’d ever seen, because American culture hadn’t yet been saturated with Gothic imagery. In fact, I blame this movie for it!

 

 

Love Song For A Vampire – Annie Lennox (Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992)

This is one of my favorite songs, and I believe it was specifically written for the movie, in which it was featured during the end credits. I was a huge Annie Lennox fan in the 80s, otherwise I’d probably have never paid any attention to it. It helps that Annie Lennox always looked suitably vampiric since the beginning of her career, which had been going for ten years strong, by the time she made this song. It fits the film perfectly, in that it has this deep throbbing heartbeat sound, just underneath the listeners perception, the instrumentation, and singing is lushly romantic and overdone, just like the movie, and still gives me chills so many years later.

You really need to hear this with headphones to get the full effect.

 

 

Moon Over Bourbon Street – Sting (Interview With The Vampire 1994)

This song was also written in the late 80s by the newly solo lead of the British rock band, The Police. Sting wrote this after reading Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, so I was expecting this song to be in the movie that was made in the 90s, but no luck. It wasn’t in it. But this isn’t my favorite version of this song, I prefer the Wozniak Club version, which I liked to jam to in the car, on my way to work. Of course, this is exactly the type pf song that would be played in the vampire club!

 

 

No One Believes me – Kid Cudi (Fright Night 2011)

https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/African+American+Vampires

Vampires have made only infrequent appearances in African American folklore, and, similarly, African Americans have been largely absent from vampire movies and novels through the twentieth century. 

When people recommend vampire songs, everyone seems to forget that Black artists make songs about vampires, too! I came across quite a few of them when researching this. This was the feature song for the Fright Night remake made a few years ago. The remake was not especially successful, and didn’t feature this song anywhere in it, which may account for why so few people know about it, but this video was, and remains, one of my absolute favorites.

 

 

After Dark – Tito and the Tarantulas (From Dusk Til Dawn 1996)

This is the song that plays when Satanica Pandemonium does her dance, for the two brothers, at the Titty Twister bar, featured in the movie. It’s not my favorite, but I like Tito and the Tarantulas other songs, and just want to recognize that Mexican people got vampire songs.

 

 

Seduction/Surrender – Grace Jones (Vamp 1987)

Images of THE VAMPIRE BITE | Vampire bites, Vampire pictures ...

 

 

For some reason, all vampire movies must have a Club scene. We got vampires walking up in there, vampires owning clubs, dancing in clubs, hunting for a meal in the club, or all of the above. In 1987, Grace Jones owned, danced, and hunted, in the Club featured in this nearly forgotten movie. This song was specifically adapted for her strip scene.

The Hunger opens with a club scene, Interview with a Vampire has a club with actors, From Dusk til Dawn is set in a bar, Near Dark gets a bar scene, so do both Fright Nights, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, most TV shows feature clubs owned by vampires, and yes, the Blade movies have nearly famous club scenes!

 

 

Fatal – RZA (Blade 3)

20 Years Later and 'Blade' is Still Singular and Relevant | Black ...

 

As far as I’m concerned, despite the groundbreaking first film, it’s the second film, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, that’s the best of the Blade movies. This is Blade’s song, from the third, thoroughly awful, film. The song is every bit as badass as he is, and featured in the end credits, and it’s by the f*cking RZA, from Wu Tang! C’mon! How does anybody miss listing this song in any recommendations of vampire songs? On the other hand, the third film sucked, so that might have been the reason people simpy don’t remember that the RZA made a vampire song.

 

 

 

 

Cry Little Sister –  Gerard McMahon (The Lost Boys 1987)

The Lost Boys' Cast: Where Are They Now? - Biography

I’m putting this here because this is my favorite song from this movie. If you haven’t heard the soundtrack, it still holds up after some thirty years, and has a lot of great songs, including the title song.

 

 

System – Linkin Park (Queen of the Damned 2002)

Descendants of Sophia | Queen of the damned, Vampire queen ...

This is the song from the movie, where Alaska walks up in the club, and literally sets the roof on fire.

 

 

Confusion Dance Theme Remix –  New Order (Blade 1998)

This is the song from the film’s iconic opening scene, called the Blood Rave, where we’re introduced to the Blade character, and what he does for a living: killing vampires! This is very probably one of the most famous intros in vampire filmdom (is that a word?) The song itself doesn’t actually have anything to do with vampires, but every time I listen to it, this scene is what plays in my head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teeny Tiny Reviews From April

Here’s a incomplete list of movies and shows  I watched in April. For the most part, I liked all of these. I can tell I liked them because I finished watching them. I’m one of those people that feels absolutely no obligation, whatsoever, to finish consuming something I can’t stand. That’s a “young person whose got a lot more years ahead of them” type of thing! I’m also not one of those people who think you can’t have an opinion on something you didn’t finish. I mean, I won’t finish a cup of sour milk, but I can still know I didn’t like it. I feel like it’s the same for books, movies, and shows. I mean, you ain’t got to suffer your way through some shit, to know you’re wading through a pile of shit. You know what you like.

I have been watching tv shows, but most of it’s stuff that already aired, since there’s no new stuff being released right about now.

 

Unnamed Korean Drama

(Close-Knit 2017)

You may notice a trend of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese movies. Yeah, I’ve been watching a lot of those since I can now access Japanese Netflix, thanx to my IPVanish app.

Wel, this one didn’t have the  title in English, so I had to research it. A lot of the shows don’t have English titles, or translations, but I’m really used to figuring out what’s happening in Asian movies, after decades of watching this kind of thing. This one did have translations in English though, so I didn’t have to figure it out too much, otherwise I would have been deeply, and I mean, deeply, confused about this movie.

This is about a little girl who goes to live with her uncle, and his common law wife, after her mother temporarily deserts her. She is often bullied at school, but there’s a little boy, often bullied himself, who keeps trying to reach out to be her friend. Her uncle lives with his transgender girlfriend, and after some initial confusion, she and the little girl start to bond, to the point where the girlfriend considers suing the mother for custody. This movie is the game Japanese director’s attempt to tackle a controversial lgbtq issue in Japan, so it’s a little heavy handed in some places, frustrating in others, and sometimes, it’s just vague, but I’m a sucker for found family stories.

It’s a beautiful story, though,  and I really liked it. The little girl is unwilling to get close to people because she keeps experiencing the instability of being abandoned by her mother, every time her mom gets a new boyfriend. She is also reluctant to get close to her uncles gf, but it isn’t until the two of them bond over knitting, and the gf’s transgender status (she is pre-op) that the girl allows herself to open up to the little boy who’s trying to be her friend. Unfortunately, her friendship with him doesn’t work out, because his mother is deeply transphobic, and makes the girls living arrangements her personal business, to the misfortune of this lovely found  family.

Without the translation, the most confusing part of the movie, are the knitting scenes. We get a backstory on the gf, from when she came out to her mother. Her mother, while initially confused, became deeply supportive of her daughter, going so far as to knit her a pair of tiny breasts. I mention that she is pre-op, because part of the plot is that the gf spends a lot of time knitting penises. When she finishes making exactly 108 of them, she will burn them in effigy, and that will be when she is ready to have her bottom surgery.

She teaches the little girl to knit by making these penises, and that’s how the two of them bond. At one point the gf allows the little girl to squeeze her breasts, because of her intense curiosity about her gender status. She becomes less confused, but the girlfriend’s breasts are still a focal point of their relationship, because the little girl begins associating them with the warmth, comfort, and motherhood she wasn’t getting from her own mother, especially since the gf is the one who cuddles her against those same breasts, when she gets afraid in the middle of the night. The girlfriend becomes a figure of maternal love and stability for her, but even though they have chosen each other, they cannot be together, as mother and daughter, because society will not allow it.

I though this was a beautiful little story, not too emotionally taxing, with an open ending, that was somewhat bittersweet.

 

 

Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Life of Harley Quinn (2020)

I had so much fun watching this movie. Sometimes you really can tell the difference between a movie directed by a man, and one directed by a woman, and that seems to be the case with this movie. The story itself isn’t all that different from what would appear in a film made by a man, but it is definitely a comedy, and the emphasis is on different parts of the story, over others, and the story beats, and pacing, are different, and the tiny details can mean a lot to a female audience. Still, you can sort of tell a woman did this movie, because it feels like most of the kinds of art made by women, in which the relationships between the characters are what’s  of primary importance, and that’s what’s going on in this film.

You’ll hear from a lot of male critics that the movie was bad, but really it’s that the movie is simply made with a different audience in mind, and so there’s an emphasis on different things in the movie, the kinds of things that might not appeal to male viewers. Since personal relationships are of deep importance to women in the real world, movies that emphasize that can be greatly appealing to a female audience, and we don’t consider such movies to be a failure. As women, we may be looking at the film through a different lens.

Another appeal for women is how the women interact, and I think that was this movie’s greatest appeal. The women in the movie aren’t at loggerheads just to have drama. They’re at odds with each other for real reasons, based on the plot, and they’re brought together through the plot, and learn to get along to survive the plot. The biggest problem I had was that the movie isn’t pretty. I’m not used to comic book movies looking like this, expecting a much more anti-septic, and polished, look. It looks kind of dirty and grungy, and the cinematography looks really different than a Christopher Nolan film, or anything in the MCU. Harley definitely lives in Gotham’s armpit, as do all these characters, and it shows.

Funnily enough, my favorite character turned out not to be Dinah Lance, but The Huntress. She was such an delightfully odd character, and showed some aspects of Spectrum behavior, although her uncertainty about her social skills might have had something to do with either her unconventional upbringing, or that she’s a loner, who has never had any friends. I liked Harley, but Huntress turned out to be an unexpected fave.

I really enjoyed this movie, though. It’s the complete opposite of everything in the movie Joker, so if you are any of the many women who hated that movie, then try this one, because it’s a helluva lot more fun. It’s hilarious to point at both these films and even say they are about comic book characters, let alone set in the same DC universe. The story arrangement is a little different than I’m used to, since it’s told from Harley’s point of view. There’s a lot of pausing, and back and forthing, and a couple of side issues, because Harley is a somewhat disjointed storyteller, who is mildly unreliable as a narrator, but she is zany and energetic, and a likable anti-hero, and we can see the faint seeds of the real hero she will eventually become. The movie isn’t deep, but it’s a helluva lot of fun, and I want to talk about it later in more depth, because there are a lot of fun and interesting things to be said about it.

 

 

Joker (2019)

Despite all the controversy surrounding this film, I genuinely liked this movie, as an interesting piece of filmmaking. It’s true, that it’s not an especially deep film, but that isn’t always required to like a film, and so I let that pass. I also didn’t care much for its message about yet another white guy feeling disgruntled about his life, and going on a killing spree. There are far, far, too many of these types of shows, and movies, in pop culture, and this is another one that presents the same theme, and yet, asks no questions about it.

On the other hand, it is a gorgeous looking movie, although I did think it was much too derivative of Martin Scorcese’s early works, Taxi Driver, and King of Comedy. Joachin Phoenix turns in a splendid performance though, and there were moments where I was greatly moved by the pathos and beauty of his character, his acting, and the cinematography. I’m tired of this sort of plot,  but  the director did a superb job of evoking sympathy for this character. Was this an Oscar worthy film, I don’t know, but in my opinion, it was worth watching. And I will probably watch it again, at some point, for the acting, and aesthetics.

 

 

Memories (1995)

This is a 90s animated anthology, from the maker of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo. It consists of three stories about technology gone wrong, and people’s interactions with it, but I’m only interested in the middles story in particular, Stink Bomb. I thought it was hilarious, and kind of sad. There’s a message in it, but I’m not quite sure what that message is. Nevertheless,I really enjoyed it.

The Big Stink is the middle story, about a down on his luck office worker, who gets infected with a kind of biological warfare gas, that kills anyone within a certain mile radius of him. He, of course, doesn’t know this. All he knows is that people keep dropping dead around him, as at first, he tries to make his way home, and then attempts to outrun whatever is killing the people in his vicinity. For some reason, I found  this part, deeply funny, although if you think about it too long, it’s pretty horrifying. The attempts by the police, and the military, just get more and more outrageous, as they escalate from guns, to tanks, and then to missile strikes, in an effort to stop him from reaching the city. The ending of this one was very satisfying, though.

 

 

Roujin Z

This is one of my favorite little known Katsuhiro Otomo movies. I love the premise of it, which just thoroughly tickles me. It’s got a good strong story, and like his segment in Memories, Stink Bomb, there’s a deeply hilarious idea gliding just underneath the surface story of a rogue robot destroying a large city.

This was the movie that made me think about the different attitudes towards AI between the East and the West, which I am really going to have to have a deeper discussion about. I think I mentioned before that Japanese culture doesn’t have the same type of fears about automata that the US does. If you go by the types of books we write, the movies we make, and the types of discussions we have surrounding technology, then Westerners have some kind of deep atavistic fear of dolls, and robots. We are forever making stories about rebellious, or angry, simulacra that want to destroy their makers, and I want to examine this further.

Roujin Z is about a newly invented, healthcare,  AI robot, that is given custody of an old man with dementia, who thinks the robot is his long dead wife. The robot, which is a kind of mobile care vehicle and bed, begins to take on the persona with which he treats it, and decides  to care for him in the way his wife would have. He expresses an interest in visiting the beach, which is several miles away, and the robot decides that’s a good idea, and sets out. This causes complete chaos, as officials try to stop the robot, without hurting the old man, and the robot knocks down anything and everything in her path, to accomplish her goal, like houses, street posts, and cars. It wasn’t built to be so powerful, but it was built to modify itself to the needs of its patients, and that’s where the problem lies. Remember, the officials have no idea why the robot bed has gone rogue, and keep speculating that it is abducting the old man (which it is, but with good intentions). This is the case of  an AI that isn’t actually malevolent, but as in a lot of Japanese films, creates havoc while doing its job too well, which is an attitude not often seen in American made movies of the same type.

 

Ajin

This is another one of those Manga movies I never read, but I enjoyed this live action version, about a private war between these two immortal mutants, one of whom wants to destroy humanity for experimenting on his kind, and the other trying to protect humanity from him. Or that’s what I got out of the plot, because I watched a version of this that had no English translation. It’s got a lot of the old ultra violence in it though, which I appreciated.

Since there were no subtitles, I didn’t catch any deeper themes in the movie, but I loved the special effects, where their bodies reconstituted after their deaths, and they produce these ghostlike creatures (which look like they’re made of ashes) which battle each other kind of like Pokémon, which was fun.

 

 

Monstrum

If you are a fan of the Kingdom series, and Train to Busan, than you should check this movie out, if you can find it. It’s very much in the same sort of vein as Kingdom, in that it’s an historical monster movie, with gorgeous costumes, clever swordplay, and elements of class warfare. Where Kingdom and it’s cinematic counterpart (Rampart) contain zombies, this one just has a random giant monster.

The movie it most reminded me of was Alien 3, actually, but with more likable characters, and a more streamlined plot.  The king receives some sort of dog like pet, which soon grows to tremendous size and becomes untrainable. The king keeps it locked up in his dungeon, where it’s gone more than a little feral, but some bright soul sets it  free, presumably to destroy their enemies, the creature goes on a rampage through the capitol, and must be stopped by a hero with a bad reputation. It’s not an especially deep film, but it was a really good, straight up, horror movie, with lots of suspense. If you liked Bong Joon Ho’s The Host, then you’ll like this one, too, which is like an historical version of that film. 

 

 

Tokyo Ghoul

This was another movie I watched without subtitles. What I got out of it was this young man who discovers he’s a creature called a ghoul, which feeds on human beings, and he spends most of the movie having tentacle battles with the other ghouls. There are a lot of tentacles in this movie. That’s mostly what I remember. That, and I thought the movie had some truly disgusting scenes, which were, well, mostly just disgusting. It wasn’t particularly scary, or even fun, but it was fascinating in a “The Thing”, kind of way.

There’s a sequel to this movie which I’m debating whether or not I should watch since I didn’t get much out of the first movie beyond “ewwww”.

 

Kipo and the WonderBeasts

I’ve also been watching a lot more stuff that’s fun, stress free, and animated. Kipo definitely fits those criteria. This cartoon was sooo much fun! All the characters, outside of the Wonderbeasts are PoC, one of which is gay, it’s funny, has a lot of adventure, is reasonably intelligent for kids. I’d also like to add just one more thing to make you watch this:

‘ Drum & Bass’ Bees

or Giant Disco Bees, as I like to refer to them.

The story takes place far into some Earthlike future, where most humans are living in underground cities. After a horrible incident, Kipo gets separated from her father, and the rest of her community, and stranded on the surface, where she has to make friends and allies, to help her find her way back underground. It’s also a found family story as we watch these very different characters, with different attitudes and agendas bond, and have adventures.

if like me, things are just too stressful to watch horror movies, or thrillers right now, then series and movies like Kipo are well worth the watch. 

Also Watched:

Penny Dreadful (New show)

What We Do in the Shadows (Second Season is off to a hilarious start.)

Brooklyn 99 Finale (This was a great season! Jake and Amy’s baby is born in the final episode. Holt’s arch-nemesis, Munch, dies. We get a Halloween Heist episode, and we get an episode focusing on Cheddar, and Kevin.)

Schitt’s Creek Final Season (This was such a great show. It’s deeply funny, really sweet, it has great characters and character arcs, and moments of real pathos. It had a beautiful finale, culminating in the wedding of one of the lead characters, to his husband, after two years. It’s not too emotionally taxing, and a lot of fun. One of the most underrated shows on Netflix.)

Let’s Go Waaay Back to the 80’s

Bosom Buddies

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Way back in the 80’s, this little gem starred Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari, and lasted for two years. I do have to admit, there is no way in hell you could get this on TV right now. In this environment, this show would be a massive mistake. But I loved the hell out of this show when I was about thirteen or so. There was just something about the goofy  humor of this show that just appealed to me, and Tom Hanks had incredible comedic timing.

The show is about two ad agency illustrators, working in New York city, who cannot afford an apartment together, so their friend Amy suggests they dress up like women to get in to the much more affordable all women’s apartment building that she lives in.They take on the personas of Buffy (Hanks) and Hildegard (Scolari), two sisters from some podunk town in the midwest.

A lot of the humor came out of the logistics of their double lives as men at work, and women in the evening, and navigating Buffy’s crush on his pretty blond neighbor down the hall. But it wasn’t all funny, sometimes the show liked to get serious by addressing the bigotry experienced by their glamorous Black neighbor, or discussing fatphobia, as Amy dealt with being a large sized woman, and along the way the guys got to know first hand what it was like to experience New York social life as women.

This show used to air on Hulu, but now the only place  can find it is on Amazon for pay. Its unlikely to experience a revival any time soon. We’ve grown in maturity, and awareness  since then, and you couldn’t do a show like this now  without making a lot of changes. This is another one of the many hundreds of shows and movies that has done the work of associating transgender women with the idea of deception, associating it with men in women’s clothing, and has helped to contribute to transphobia.

Another interesting note, is that in just about every single famous actors or comedian’s background, is a show or movie, which puts them either in drag, or has them play flamboyantly gay characters. These cross dressed characters, and flamboyant gays were ALWAYS meant to be laughed at. One of the other side effects of constantly having straight men mock lgbtq characters for laughs, is that real life lgbtq people simply didn’t get taken seriously as real people. The height of this show’s popularity was also the height of the AIDS crisis, which was ignored by the Federal government, because it was believed by them, that God was killing the correct people.

 

 

 

Knight Rider

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I never developed the great love for David Hasselhoff that Dean Winchester did from watching this show. I liked the show when I was a teenager, but I think I mostly just loved the car, and wished I had one just like it. In fact, they used to produce these as toys when I was a child, and when my brother got one as a gift, I appropriated it for myself (i.e., I stole it), to use for my Barbie dolls.

As far as I was concerned, K.I.T.T. was the star of the show, voiced by William Daniels, and quite frankly, I thought the car was smarter than uh…whoever that guy was driving it. A few years ago there was an episode of Supernatural that referenced Knight Rider by having Sam Winchester get turned into the classic car. Y’all don’t know how much that whole thing just made me giggle like a complete fool. Even the theme song is a classic. If you were a teen when the show aired, you know how hugely popular it was, even to the point of having copycat shows, that tried to have cool classic cars that solved problems.

 

 

Designing Women

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 This was very probably one of the most progressive feminist shows on Tv, and one of the templates for feminist shows that came after it. A group of white women living together, with different sexual morals, and ethics, arguing about them, while working. The only drawback I had to shows like these were there were never any women of color, lesbians, or poor, or disabled women involved in them. This was First Wave Feminism, which meant it was almost exclusively about white working women. There was no intersectionalism at this point.

The two stand out characters were Julia, and Suzanne Sugarbaker, who were meant to be direct contrasts to one another, and Suzanne was every bit as regressive in her politics, as her cousin, Julia, was progressive in hers. Suzanne was open in her sexuality, but often treated everyone around her as if they were her personal servants, which gave Julia plenty of opportunities to give speeches, show disdain for her behavior, or teach her a lesson in how to be less judgmental. In fact, Julia’s, breathlessly, outraged performances, were often the highlight of an episode. A lot of the shows messages were pretty heavy handed, but it was the kind of stuff a teenage girl needed to hear.

Meshach Taylor also managed to get some good one liners and quips as a kind of business handyman, sort of like the character of Benson. He was the transportation and heavy lifter, doing the kinds of physical work that these four, upper class, Southern white women certainly weren’t going to be doing for themselves. He was often put upon by Suzanne, but most of the time, he managed to get the last word, without coming across as threatening. In fact his character was so non threatening I assumed, in my uninformed teenage mind, that he was gay! But at that age I had not reckoned with the social dynamics of the modern southern bigotry of white women interacting with black men. He had to be nonthreatening, and couldn’t possibly be depicted as any kind of sexual being in the presence of four professional white women. Nevertheless, I do remember liking his character.

This is another comedy, like Bosom Buddies, that didn’t age well. You could make a show like this today, but it would be bland, yet at the same time, polarizingly heavy handed.

 

 

Accents in Movies: Depicting Class

In the 1991 Jonathan Demme film, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter, in one of the film’s most cringeworthy scenes,  properly deduces that Clarice Starling is “poor white trash”. Working from his own collection of  stereotypes, the observation of her good bag, cheap shoes, and Appalachian mountains accent, he correctly guesses that she’s not more than one generation out of the coal mines. Clarice’s accent, as much as her womanhood, marks her as “other”.

Everything about her, from the opening running scene, in which she is ogled by a pair of classmates, to the elevator scene where the height differential between herself and her classmates makes her stand out, to the soft Southern accent, with which she replies to her supervisor, it is shown that Clarice does not belong there. Although later, Clarice uses her accent to gain the trust and compliance of a roomful of rural professionals, who are suspicious of her presence, as a woman in an all male environment, and as a member of the Federal government. She uses her accent to show that she is actually one of them, from the culture in which the idea of the Wise (or Conjure) Woman is important, and respected.

When you watch that scene again, take note of the strength of the accent, and her use of words. She says to the men, “We’ll take care of her. Just go on now. We’ll take care of her.” And they unquestioningly obey her request, much as they would, if their mothers, or grandmothers had said it. She has successfully conveyed to the men, that she is one of them, a member of their social class, who knows how these things are done.

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Clarice is a pretender to social class, which is a nice parallel to the film’s antagonist, Jame Gumb, who pretends at being a transgender woman. The only person who is not fooled by Clarice’s  pretense at urban sophistication, is  Lecter, who has a distinct, upper class, European accent, reminiscent of the Lithuanian nobility, from which he came. To  less discerning characters, like Chilton, or the room full of cops that she orders around, Clarice can pass as a member of the middle class. The moment she speaks, people assume she isn’t, but to someone like Lecter, her lack of breeding is clearly evident. Both her, and Gumb’s, (his is Southern Californian), accents mark them as outside the mainstream. Except for the three primary characters, Lecter, Gumb, and Starling, all of the other characters in the film, including Clarice’s Black roommate, played by Kasi Lemmons, all have the  Standard American accent.

The American Standard is the king of American accents, it is the default, so common it goes unnoticed, and the most well favored. It’s also called the Central Midwestern accent, used in places like Northeastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan to the far north, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and is the accent most often heard from news anchors, public announcers, and even AI programs like Siri, and Alexa. There are other accents in those regions, that coexist along side it, but the American Standard is the one which is preferred.

 

https://www.stagemilk.com/american-accent-guide/

It is also somewhat of a constructed concept. What I mean by that is that nobody grew up in Standard America. The sound we’re talking about is what is called a prestige dialect. Most countries (and most languages) have a prestige dialect which is exactly what it sounds like: the speech sounds most commonly identified with status within a given society. Linguistically it’s not simply status but also clarity, intelligence, socioeconomic influence and general power. 

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Unlike Clarice, I have this privilege. I call this Accent Privilege, in the sense that my regular speaking voice doesn’t have an accent that is noticeably different from that of the mainstream, Midwestern accent. This happened by sheer luck. I just happened to be born into one of the regions where this is the most prevalent accent. People often judge others on how they speak, and if you have no noticeable accent,  that judgment is favorable most of the time. My accent marks me to others as being intelligent, educated, and/or middle class. My words are treated with either trust or suspicion, based on who I’m talking to. White people consider me “safe”, and are reassured by my ability to be clear and articulate, but I was often asked by my Black classmates, why I spoke like a white person, as the Midwestern accent is heavily associated with Whiteness. I did not grow up as a member of the middle class. Like Clarice Starling, I’m pretending to a social class I was not born into, but which people assumed I did, and my accent helped to sell it, because, like her, I’m barely one generation away from the cotton fields.

But I do also engage in what is known as “Code Switching”, where people from other cultures, or just different regions of the country, speak differently, in different spaces, often “switching” back and forth, between their normal speaking voice, and American Standard.  Why? Because many people are often uncomfortable with, and disrespectful, and suspicious of other languages, and vernacular English, like AAVE (African American Vernacular English). When I’m in my home, I speak the way my family speaks, and since the majority of them are from rural Mississippi, we speak AAVE, but I don’t speak at work that way. For one thing, my job involves answering phones, and a certain mode of professional speaking is required for that type of job. It would be considered “unprofessional”, and in the minds of some people, low class, for me to answer the business phone, as if I were at home. I don’t talk to my supervisors, the way I talk to my mother, for example, (and neither do most people, regardless of whether or not they have accents.

Now, when I’m talking about accents, for the purposes of this post, I mean the entirety of a person’s manner of speaking, including word usage, because only certain types of accents are associated with the use of certain types of words, for example, the use of the word, “y’all”.

 The mainstream Midwestern accent is the default accent used in almost all of American television, and movies. Having a Midwestern accent means a person gets treated as trustworthy, their words are given more weight,  given the benefit of the doubt,  assumed to be educated,  to have a good job,  and to be non-violent. In America, sounding like an American, means having  “no accent”, but that wasn’t always the case.

In the early part of the 20th century, the Mid-Atlantic accent was what was used, until it fell out of favor, in the fifties, for a more “natural” sounding speech pattern.

 

Of course this is an accent, too, in the same way that “White” is a race, but this “lack” of accent (just like whiteness) is so ubiquitous, that most people don’t  notice it.

The way someone pronounces their words, is used in movies and shows, not just to reinforce stereotypes, but as a  form of shorthand, to show a person’s character, and social class. Filmmakers use accents to show audiences that a character is good,  evil,  smart, gullible, suspicious, or trustworthy.  Turn on any American TV show, watch any movie, and chances are, those with Midwestern accents will be the majority of the characters, and probably  will be  the protagonists, heroes, or in positions of authority. They will also almost always be White.

You will not find  a lot of characters in mainstream media with deep Southern accents, Western twangs,  Texas Drawls, Valley Girl speech, Arabic, Southeast Indian, or Caribbean  accents, unless they are also shown as poor, incompetent, corrupt, or played for comic relief. In other words, characters never just have accents. There is always a reason for the accent, and some  point about that person is being made.

For example, the accent, in mainstream media, is used to indicate if someone is considered an American citizen. For the past twenty plus years, the Simpsons,  has had the running gag of an immigrant named Apu, a stereotypical character from India, who has  a strong accent,  is the father of a small multitude of babies, and runs a convenience store. This character is meant to be funny because of how he speaks, not necessarily because of anything he does, as his very existence in Springfield, (the setting of The Simpsons), is meant to be comedic. His accent also paints him as a perpetual foreigner. Asian Americans are especially susceptible to this stereotype, as no matter how many generations they’ve lived in America, they are often still assumed to be from somewhere else. And if they have an accent then doubly so.

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

The perpetual foreigner stereotype is a racialized form of nativist xenophobia in which naturalized and even native-born citizens (including families which have lived in the country for generations) are perceived as foreign because they belong to minority groups.

I spoke, in an earlier post, about the use of accents in the movies of the Coen Brothers, where everyone’s speech patterns and accents are used as indicators of people’s socio-economic status, the status they aspire to be, or simply framed as comedic.  In The Ladykillers, Tom Hanks broad Southern  accent is associated with television conmen, corrupt religious authority, and the Antebellum era of Georgia.  His accent gives the audience ideas about the  type of man he is. The audience doesn’t know he is a grifter and conman by his deeds. We know this by the long association, that has been made in mainstream media, between his accent, and untrustworthiness. All we  need is to hear is his caricature of a Southern accent, to understand that he is unreliable, and also that  the movie is meant to be a comedy.

 

In Raising Arizona, Hi, a criminal recidivist,  his two  best  friends, both prison escapees, and a murderous biker, all talk in what I call “downspeak”, where they talk as if they were  college educated, but with the Southern twang that is meant to indicate their social class, and criminal status. This is what I meant by the association of word use and accent. The humor comes from the incongruity of Hi, and his companions, using words not normally associated with their accents. Not only that, but Hi’s word use can also be seen as aspirational. He talks the way he wishes to be seen by others, which is smart, educated, middle-class, and therefore a reliable narrator, but we  laugh at the way Hi speaks, because his accent marks him as a member of the trailer park class, no matter what words he uses.

Accents are especially interesting  when it comes to Black characters. Blackness, throughout most of film history, has been  almost always associated with buffoonery, poverty, criminality, and a lack of education.  So  it is interesting that even though the largest population of Black people in the US, live in the South, Black people in Popular media, rarely have Southern, Californian, or even Texan accents, and those times when they have  a Southern accent, it represents childlike helplessness, that they have wisdom above their station, or in the case of Black women, that they are deeply religious.

In the 1986 movie, Crossroads, starring Ralph Macchio, and Joe Seneca, we can contrast Willie Brown’s poor, Mississippi Delta accent, with Eugene Martone’s middle-class, New York accent, something which Willie never lets Eugene forget throughout the film. They’re both musicians who specialize in playing the guitar, but one of them was born into poverty and plays the Blues, a style of music that is dismissed as “primitive” by Eugene’s music teachers, and the other was born in one of world’s most cosmopolitan cities, and plays Western European Classical music, which is sneered at by Willie, as not being “real music, that comes from the heart”. In this movie, it is Eugene who is out of place, as his accent is commented on by the other characters in the film, and marks him as being from a different socio-economic class.

The Northern Blaccent, where a person speaks AAVE, but speaks it with a Midwestern accent, is often representative of  the “thug”, or gang banger stereotype, and appears to be a universal Black accent,  not closely associated  with any particular region of the US, which means that no matter where the movie or show is set, the accents of Black characters in Popular media, tend to remain consistently Midwestern. Once again, this is not a hard and fast rule, as exceptions can be found, but it is a pattern, and the idea that Blackness alone, is so associated with criminality, violence, and unreliability, to such a degree, that none of those qualities need be further indicated by a strong accent, is disturbing.

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When a Black character speaks SAE (Standard American English) onscreen, without an accent, then it connotes all the same qualities that it does in the real world, respectability, and safety. A decade after the demise of the Mid-Atlantic accent, used by White actors, Black characters were still using it. The use of AAVE in movies and shows, did not reach full use by Black characters until the mid seventies, after which it became associated with Black youth culture, and the Blacksploitation movies of that era. The use of AAVE, in mainstream media, came about as a result of the resurgence in Black Pride, when young Black people dismissed respectability politics, in favor of more natural manners of speaking.

Actors like Sidney Poitier, and other actors during, and after, the Civil rights Era, had a distinct, clipped, educated,  Mid-Atlantic accent, which was meant to show that he was a fine, upstanding Black man, to be respected. The purpose of this manner of speaking was meant to counteract the “Coon” manner of speaking that had been heard in most mainstream films, featuring Black characters. His tone, and speech, are meant to convey authority. This was a man who could be liked and trusted, and  this was illustrated in the 1967 movie, In the Heat of the Night, in which a Black Philadelphia cop, Virgil Tibbs, is sent to a small town in Mississippi,  and works with the town sheriff to solve a murder.

Poitier’s voice is deep, firm, and commanding, because sometimes, the tone and timbre of a person’s voice are important, as well. In this scene, notice the difference in his voice, compared to that of the white sheriff, whose voice is of a higher register, and a more casual tone. The Sheriff’s accent is a soft Southern drawl, his tone holds just a touch of ambiguity, because while he is assured of his own authority, he is uncertain of Tibbs, but like the plot of every cop film of the 80s,  the two men begin  to respect each other, as they are forced to work together.

 

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In Hollywood films, the accent that receives the most negative depictions, outside of the Northern Blaccent, is the  Southern Twang. White people with Southern twangs from places  like Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Appalachians, are often depicted in films as toothless, criminal, incestuous,  “rednecks”, “trailer trash”, and “hillbillies”. They are often shown as uneducated, overly religious, violent, poor, and gullible members of the lower classes, (they often populate Horror movies set in rural America, like The Texas Chainsaw massacre, and Deliverance, which is something I’ll be speaking about in a later post.) We are meant to laugh at them, disdain them, be afraid of them, or disgusted by them. The audience is almost never meant to think of such individuals as their equals. Contrast this attitude with that of earlier in the twentieth century, before television, when such people were often held up as admirable examples of Americans, who were the “salt of the Earth”. They weren’t respected, but at least were not blatantly denigrated in most media depictions of them. They were shown as ignorant, but level headed, uneducated, but sensible. Over time, with the advent of television, which was aimed at a middle class audience, the depiction of white poverty became almost entirely negative.

Also on The Simpsons, there is another recurring character named Cletus, The Slack Jawed Yokel, and his theme song and  vignettes are every stereotype of rural poverty, which pretty much sums up how this character is meant to be seen, but because this is a white character, no one thinks of it as being especially mean-spirited, despite the fact that the people writing the show, don’t share the socio-economic background of the character. We are meant to laugh at him, and his antics, not sympathize with him. (TBH, many of The Simpson’s recurring characters are  collections of various tropes.)

We can more clearly see this stereotyping at work, in the 1993 movie, Kalifornia, between  two couples who share almost nothing in common, beyond having white skin. The don’t share income levels, background, or education. Early and his girlfriend, Adele, both speak with a Twang which, outside of their dress and demeanor, indicates their low social and economic status, compared to Brian and Carrie, who speak with the “accentless” accents of the Midwest. Brian and Carrie are both urbane, educated, middle class, and look down on, and mock Adele and Early as “poor white trash”. When the two couples meet,  Carrie expresses reservations about Early and Adele, and finds them funny. Throughout the movie, she regularly expresses disgust, and embarrassment, for the couple’s mannerisms, speech, and lack of boundaries.

Early is a murderer, with a long criminal background, and  on parole, while he and Adele inhabit a trailer, they cannot afford. Adele, while sweet, and good-natured, is also  dimwitted,  gullible, and easily manipulated by Early, who is physically abusive towards her. Adele is  more open with her sexuality. She isn’t slut-shamed in the film, but her manner and dress is distinctly different from the cool, modestly dressed, and sexually aloof Carrie, who Early covets as being beyond his ability to acquire. Carrie’s hair, makeup, and clothing, all indicate that she is a member of the middle class, while Adele’s childlike hairstyles, and lack of makeup, indicate her lack of sophistication. This is actually pretty typical of Hollywood versions of White people with strong Southern accents, but there are at least two exceptions to this, as well.

 

The Texas Drawl, for example, which is commonly given to hyper-masculine, and  heroic White men, like John Wayne, and the Southern Belle, a white woman of at least middle class status, who is  depicted as either  a simpering, or  fiery, damsel in distress, like Scarlett O’Hara.

In genre movies that take place in Fantasy and Science Fiction settings, the Midwestern accent is still dominant, even if there is no reason why a story set in Medieval England, or Outer Space is filled with Midwestern American speaking people, outside of being the actors hired for those roles. Most of the lead characters in Game of Thrones have either staunch Midwestern, or upper class British accents, when there is no reason for such a class station to be alluded to at all, in such a setting. If the characters in a world based on Medieval European history, can have modern British and Midwestern accents, and not be argued as historically inaccurate, than why not any of the many twangs, drawls, Indigenous, Asian, or even Eastern European accents? Why are posh British accents always used to denote the upper classes and nobility even in fantasy settings?

In the Lord of the Rings movie franchise, Viggo Mortensen is a multilingual actor, of Danish heritage, who speaks with a pronounced American accent in the movie. Of all the accents he could have chosen to use, why use that one? The Hobbits all use a variety of English, and Midwestern accents, that are meant to sound casual, but are still “low class” English, or Midwestern standard (and sometimes both in the same character). Although the movies are shot in New Zealand, none of the primary actors have Kiwi accents, which for the Hobbits would be just as valid as the English and Midwestern accents they’re using.

All of the members of the nobility, for example, including the fantasy creatures, regardless of the region of Middle-Earth, or the culture they’re from, like the elves, and dwarves, have English accents. Now I do understand that many of these accents are the natural voices of the actors hired for the roles, but what is never taken into account by audiences is that, that too, is a choice the creators made. The creators of the movies took the time to have the actors speak invented languages, and they could have easily taken the time to make up accents, but chose not to, which probably means, just like the audience, they didn’t hear it either. They could have taken the time to use different accents, for different cultures, or regions of Middle Earth, but didn’t.

Contrast that decision with the accents used in the movie Black Panther. Yes, the accents are all over the place, but according to some of the countries referenced by dress and custom in the movie, the actors accents are not the real accents of any particular region, or tribe, and as a result, many Africans found the accents funny. The Wakandans do speak something like the real language called Xhosa. The bottom line is someone thought about how the characters should sound, and made a deliberate choice that all the members of the fictional nation of Wakanda, would have a certain accent, while it seems no particular thought was given to the accents of the characters from Lord of the Rings. The actors just all used their natural voices there.

When The TV series The Witcher was announced, there was a great deal of argument about adding people of color to the cast, saying that they didn’t belong in a story based in  Polish folklore, because that would not be “Historically Accurate”. This is an argument I’m getting especially tired of hearing,for stories set in Fantasy settings, that involve elves, dragons, and magic, especially since none of those same  people complained about any of the characters lack of Medieval Polish accents, or the lack of any of the languages of Poland. It’s not accurate for any of the characters to have either American or British accents, but no one complained about them. No one complained, because they are not meant to notice that the  “accentless” accent, of Midwestern America, is actually a very specific, and just as contrived,  accent, aimed at a specific audience the films.

Would we take any of these films as seriously as we do, if all the characters spoke like Cletus, from The Simpsons?

In Star Wars, most of the characters (even robots) have either British or Midwestern accents, as well, and there is no particular reason why no one has a Blaccent, or speaks like they’re from Georgia, Pakistan, or Indonesia, although in Science Fiction, this is changing, as in some of the films, most notably in Rogue One, the actors of color all kept their original accents, from places like Mexico (Diego Luna), and China (Donnie Yen).  At least part of the reason we don’t often hear other types of accents in genre films is those types of actors are rarely chosen for those roles,  the disrespect and mockery of accents outside of the Midwestern standard, and  the fact that British accents are the only accents that generally don’t receive mockery in American culture, (although men with such accents are sometimes coded as villainous gays.)

Asian accents on television and in movies are often subject to ridicule and satire. Starting with Mr. Yunioshi, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to Long Duk Dong, in Sixteen Candles, Hollywood has a long, and sordid, history of mocking Asian accents, often using White actors. Asian characters may be stereotyped as  smart, or  “model minorities” in comparison to Black characters, but they are still shown as being less American, through depictions of broken English, ignorance of American culture, and mock languages, like the sing-song noises directed at Asian Americans, even if they were born in America.

Any non-American accents will receive mockery though, no matter what the the race or culture. I’ve caught myself mocking the Australian accent of Steve Irwin, Michael Caine’s Cockney accent, or laughing at fake Irish and Scottish accents. All accents that are considered by mainstream media to be comedic, or just of the “lower classes”.

All this means is that all accents are unworthy, and that the only one that should be respected (or just never noticed at all) is the accentless accent of the Midwest. And let’s be absolutely honest, not even all Midwestern accents are considered equal. The Northern Midwest has its own distinct sound, and is often used in movies as a form of comedy relief.

Here, Amy Walker talks about some of the more common American regional accents.

 

Essentially, the Midwestern accent  is as  ubiquitous, and invisible as whiteness. It is an accent without an accent, it is everywhere, and because its so pervasive, no one can hear it.

Hi Everyone!

I am currently, like a lot of people, in a lockdown city, here in the US, due to the C- 19 pandemic, and I’m not working. Unfortunately, now is also the wrong fucking time to have either the flu, or allergies, both of which are currently kicking my ass, but I am otherwise okay. I live in a predominantly Black neighborhood and although we rarely panic about anything, yes, people are buying lots of toilet paper.

My Mom and I went shopping this weekend, and while there was a very mild air of excitement, kinda like what’s felt before a National holiday, most people were quite calm, and polite. I saw only one woman wearing a face mask, and one guy with rubber gloves. The handful of white People I saw had amassed lots of toilet paper, while the Black customers seemed like they were just buying food for their unexpectedly early, out of school children. Schools will be closed here to the end of the school year, but the kids are still going to be fed, because otherwise the school lunches, that were bought in advance would go to waste, so that’s good. Voting has been postponed til Summer, movie theaters are closed, and I have no idea when I’ll be back to work, although thankfully, I’m one of those people with fully paid leave.

I’m thinking of donating to people without paid leave, so if anyone knows any organizations that will do that, then please hit me up on Tumblr with the details.

I have no intention of talking about the pandemic on this blog, mostly because reliable information can be found everywhere else, and I really don’t have strong feelings about what’s happening. It is what it is, I’m gonna roll with whatever happens, and my white noise about it isn’t going to be helpful. I’m going to continue to post what’s in my queue, talk about movies and shows, and try to be entertaining, with an occasional deep thought.

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.

…And Then It Imploded!

All four of these huge racial implosions happened in the space of a year:

 

Star Wars

This one started in December, just after the release of the last film in the Skywalker trilogy.

In the latest news on racism, we have John Boyega, now that he is free of Disney, which means he is also free of any promotional obligations to them, is lowkey stating what every Black person has felt about the Star Wars fandom, since he first encountered its most toxic members nearly six years ago: F*ck you arseholes!

For the past two weeks he has been trending on Twitter and certain members of the fandom are mad as hell! Here’s an overall  assessment of the situation from Youtube’s Clownfish TV.

This entire thing is so long and convoluted that I cannot possibly go into everything wrong with this fandom. So here’s some links, most of which are all kinds of fun as John speaks in his own words, on his own terms, and let’s  toxic fans have it.

I have long observed that you do not come for British actors and comedians on social media. They are a class of entertainer who have absolutely zero f*cks to give as regards American’s delicate feelings, and tolerate no nonsense from us. Yes, it is primarily Americans who are acting a damn fool about all of this. Americans are so used to throwing their weight around in other countries, that I’m not surprised we try the same shit on social media, and then act surprised when people from other countries push back.

https://www.cinemablend.com/news/2486615/john-boyega-get-candid-about-stupid-star-wars-fan-conflicts

https://www.cbr.com/star-wars-john-boyega-toxic-fandom/

Incidentally, both Kelly Marie Tran, and Oscar Isaac, both pulled a Mark Hamill, and have made it clear they are through with this particular  Disney franchise, and were dissatisfied with how their characters were mistreated in the story. This entire thing must have been especially trying for Kelly Marie, who started out in the franchise as a sweet and bubbly newby, who was excited by her new role, was having a lot of fun, and looking forward to an illustrious career, and look what the so called “fans”  did to her.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-persecution-of-kelly-marie-tran-how-star-wars-fandom-became-overrun-by-alt-right-trolls

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/star-wars-actress-kelly-marie-tran-reveals-how-she-coped-with-internet-trolls-after-casting-201413884.html

Tran, Boyega, and Ridley have endured years of trolling and bullying from a virulently toxic fandom. (Daisy, less so since, as she isn’t on social media.)

 

American Gods

This happened in the fall of last year:

In October and November of last year, one of my favorite actors, Orlando Jones, found out he’s been fired from the cast of American Gods. where he played Anansi, and African Trickster god. Here’s the timeline of the event from Orlando’s viewpoint. According to Orlando, it’s a complete, racist,  wtf*ery…

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Here are Jones’ comments on his departure from American Gods.

September tenth, 2018, I was fired from American Gods. There will be no more Mr. Nancy. Don’t let these motherfuckers tell you they love Mr. Nancy—they don’t. I’m not going to name names, but the new season three showrunner is Connecticut-born and Yale-educated, so he’s very smart. And he thinks that Mr. Nancy’s angry get-shit-done is the wrong message for black America. That’s right, this white man sits in that decision-making chair, and I’m sure he has many black BFFs who are his advisors, and made it clear to him that if they did not get rid of that angry god Mr. Nancy, he’d start a Denmark Vesey uprising in this country. I mean, what else could it be?

To the wonderful Neil Gaiman, thank you for allowing me to play this role, for writing this wonderful book, for opening the door for me to become a writer/producer on season two of American Gods, thank you, sir. To the magnificent Bryan Fuller and the incredible Michael Green, thank you for creating this series and for allowing me also to become Mr. Nancy. I hope the fans enjoyed it, because really this is about you. I hope you loved it as much as I loved doing it, and, you know, we’ll see each other again real…

https://slate.com/culture/2019/12/orlando-jones-fired-american-gods-mr-nancy-charles-eglee-starz-gaiman.html

I have no plans at this time to watch the third season. The showrunner for hte first season was Bryan Fuller who is an exemplary showrunner, and out gay man, and has no problems with writing complex, and sometimes, controversial shows. The second season saw new showrunners, and while the season wasn’t a bad season, the drop in cohesion and quality was noticeable. I expect it to drop even further wit hthe ousting of Orlando, and a writer’s room that doesn’t want to be bothered writing its Black characters.

That some of it held together at all, is apparently due to Orlando Jones stepping in to help write not just his own character, but many of the of the characters of color  on the show, as the writers couldn’t bring themselves to be bothered to do it, and for which he received no producer credit. They also did not announce his firing in a timely enough manner for him to audition for a new position in an another show.

Here’s what Orlando stated, in his interview with TVLine:

I showed up in Season 2 of American Gods, and they hadn’t written for my character at all. They certainly knew I was coming. That was literally the studio’s job. And they didn’t do that job. And I wasn’t the only person: They didn’t do it for all of the characters of color. So if you really care about these characters of color, then why don’t you write for them? So, I found myself in a very odd situation, because Neil Gaiman was the one who asked me to write a [character] Bible for Mr. Nancy [at the start of Season 2]. I didn’t jump into the writing process and throw my weight around. I was invited by Neil Gaiman. And when I wrote that character Bible and sent it to him, I got back a message I wasn’t expecting. As a fan of the human and, you know, as a writer myself, I was overjoyed. It was all caps the email, you know, “I F–KING LOVE IT. Spread it around.” …I spread around that character Bible. And I suddenly found myself writing, not just Mr. Nancy, but Ibis and Salim and the Jinn and Sam Black Crow and Shadow Moon and all of the characters of color who weren’t written.

Not only did the creators of the show fire Orlando Jones, but they also got rid of the Jinn and Salim, the only MENA actors in the series, and the only openly gay couple (which the show was too chickenshit to show last season), that I’ve ever seen on TV.

I don’t think the creators on these shows realize what a massive fanbase some actors of color have, and Orlando has a huge Black fanbase on Twitter, with whom he regularly interacts. They are incredibly loyal, and vocal about their love for him, and producers and creators of these shows do not understand how much we certain Black actors, They need to recognize that it is that fanbase that’s tuning in to watch these shows. Celebrities like Orlando, Viola Davis, and Gabrielle Union, have a huge cache of good will in our communities, and to dismiss or disregard it, is sheer stupidity.

What has happened since is that about half the main cast has vacated the show. Mr. World. The Jinn, Salim, and New Media.

 

******

What happened here is not that much different from what happened on Sleepy Hollow. A show that was based on a Black female character got new showrunners, who mistreated the lead actress, and decided to focus more of their writing on the White characters in the show to the point where the original lead actress was simply written out of her own show (and replaced by a lighter skinned actress, btw). Not because of anything she’d done, but because the writers either didn’t want to focus on her,  didn’t know what to do with her character, or were too lazy to write a woman of color.

I say let this new season of American Gods go the same way as Sleepy Hollow. its not a good look when a successful show keeps cycling through more and more mediocre (and cheaper) showrunners. I won’t be watching the new season, and believe we should ignore it until it goes off the air. Don’t talk about it, don’t tweet about it. Let the third season be its last.

https://wearyourvoicemag.com/entertainment-culture/the-sleepy-hollow-ing-of-american-gods

Last week, Jones went public on Twitter about being let go from American Gods, citing that Eglee did not think the “angry” message was the right one to send to Black America and that he would know since he writes from “a Black male perspective”. 

What we are witnessing, once again is “whitening” of a show. Every time Hollywood creates a show aimed at a Black audience, they consider that audience to be expendable once the show gets good ratings. They then try to reset the show to appeal to whiter audiences, instead, get rid of everything that drew us to the original story-line (watching characters of color in a fantastic setting), and  considerably “lighten” the characters each season thereafter.

The decline of American Gods and its once sharp-as-nails grasp of the concept of race in America mirrors such issues, with the departure of Mr. Nancy bringing the casting of Herizen Guardiola as Yoruba goddess Oshun back into question. Oshun, sans her appearance in Lemonade, has always been depicted as a beautiful, darkskinned goddess. And it takes a specific type of toffetry and caucasity to assume the opposite and also assume that there cannot be two darkskinned goddesses onscreen at the same time (re: Bilquis).

*****

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But the producers of American Gods aren’t just in trouble for this issue. Fremantle Media, an Australian based company, that usually produces Reality TV shows, is being investigated for the firing of Gabrielle Union, a Black actress from America’s Got Talent.

https://www.kingofreads.com/a-complete-timeline-of-the-gabrielle-union-americas-got-talent-saga/

The Romance Writers of America

Most of this happened in December of last year, and continues to now:

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Last year, I published a link to an article on the lack of diversity n romantic fiction, and how women of color were fighting to be included:

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

********

NOW:

The Romance Writers guild imploded earlier this month ,in a series of vents which has culminated in the mass exodus of at least a third of its members. Here’s a timeline of the events, as we understand them:

https://www.claireryanauthor.com/blog/2019/12/27/the-implosion-of-the-rwa

********

a summary of my understanding of the situation

  • courtney milan is a chinese-american romance author and was the chair of the romance writers of america ethics committee
  • she wrote a twitter post where she called a book by kathryn lynn davis ‘a fucking racist mess’ (because it was)
  • davis and suzan tisdale file a complaint because How Dare She
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  • are you guys seeing this because oh my fucking god ARE YOU SEEING THIS
  • “it was the nineties and she did a lot of research into chinese people, you’re just racist against white people”
  • they kicked courtney off the board because of this
  • immediately people started resigning because that’s horseshit
  • so many people resigned
  • SO MANY
  • it turned out the people resigning were some of the only people keeping the absolute bugfuckery of the people in charge at bay
  • the decision was rescinded like “oh whoops our bad” but like?? too late????
  • all the dirty laundry is coming out on twitter
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  • there are petitions to get the president, president-elect, and executive director of rwa recalled because they’re clearly fuckups
  • either the rwa is going to need to go through some big changes, or a lot of authors (particularly queer authors and authors of color) are going to have to make their own org
  • the founder of rwa was a black woman so bigots taking over is especially fucking galling
  • courtney milan is also the reason we have dinosaur emojis
  • that’s not really relevant except who the fuck steps to the woman who got us dinosaur emojis

 

  • Courtney Milan is not only a great author and the person who gave us dinosaur emojis.
  • She is also a lawyer who clerked for Federal Judge Alex Kozinski.
  • In 2017 she spoke the WaPo and exposed Kozinski’s pattern of sexual harassment, also shedding light on how the clerking system’s confidentiality rules created an environment in which it was effectively impossible to make complaints about the judge one served under.
  • This is a massive clusterfuck from the ground up, but particularly because Milan is just about the worst possible person to fuck with in a situation like this.
  • The Board also took on the Case of the White Lady Publishers Who Don’t Like WoC Pointing Out Racism on Twitter, but has this same week refused to speak on Dreamspinner Press not paying authors.
  • So that’s a look at the priorities of what is *supposed to be* an authors’ advocacy professional org.

courtney milan managed to do a TON of good while she was on the board by taking neither prisoners nor shit, and being very vocal about calling out fuckery in the community, but now it’s looking like there were people within the rwa looking for excuses to get rid of her for exactly those reasons

hopefully they’ll be able to get the org back into good hands, because otherwise that’s a lot of resources that are going to go to waste (think: millions of dollars) while good people have to start over

 

******

*This entire timeline has resulted in the  canceling of their annual awards event.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/01/08/romance-writers-america-cancels-awards-program-writer-racism-controversy/

 

 

The Knitting Community

This began around this same time last year, and wound up in the Summer months:

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Since this event began Ravelry has banned any form of support for Trump from its website. You can still be a conservative and discuss politics, you’re just not allowed to openly express any support for him, or his administration, on the site.

We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry.

This includes support in the form of forum posts, projects, patterns, profiles, and all other content. Note that your project data will never be deleted. We will never delete your Ravelry project data for any reason and if a project needs to be removed from the site, we will make sure that you have access to your data. Even if you are permanently banned from Ravelry, you will still be able to access any patterns that you purchased. Also, we will make sure that you receive a copy of your data.

We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.

The Community Guidelines have been updated with the following language: “Note that support of President Trump, his administration, or individual policies that harm marginalized groups, all constitute hate speech.”

Policy notes:

  • You can still participate if you do in fact support the administration, you just can’t talk about it here.
  • We are not endorsing the Democrats nor banning Republicans.
  • We are definitely not banning conservative politics. Hate groups and intolerance are different from other types of political positions.
  • We are not banning people for past support.
  • Do not try to weaponize this policy by entrapping people who do support the Trump administration into voicing their support.
  • Similarly, antagonizing conservative members for their unstated positions is not acceptable.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/xwnp4a/the-real-reason-ravelrys-ban-on-white-supremacy-is-surprising

 

 

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

Image result for watchmen tv s gifs/manhattan"

 

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

Viewing List – November Edition

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

 

Dolemite is My Name

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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.

The Irishman (Netflix)

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*****Here Be Spoilers****

 

Let’s  get something out of the way first.

Yes, I’m aware of what Scorsese has said about the current crop of superhero movies, and yes, I was offended, until he clarified his statements in a recent Vanity Fair article. I’m glad he did, because I was prepared to stay mad at one of my all-time, favorite directors. Well, I’m not as angry, but he is not wrong. He’s not right though, mostly because I don’t think its fair to compare the two types of movies. They serve very different purposes for their audiences in that one type of film consists of exciting power fantasies (like the first half of the movie Goodfellas), and righting wrongs, and Scorsese’s films seem to be about the consequences of that amount of unchecked power,  and what it actually gets you. Superhero movies make no claims of depth.  They are not dramas, although movies like The Dark Knight, The Winter Soldier, and Logan come very close.

The Irishman had a brief theatrical run, of about a week or two, before it settled on Netflix, which is where I viewed it, with a great deal of anticipation. There’s a lot of backstory about why the movie is airing on Netflix, but I’m not covering that here. Like a lot of people, I went into this expecting something similar to Goodfellas, and Casino, since Scorsese seems to have some sort of lock on the depiction of  White men in the mafia life. The movie is definitely about gangsters, and appears to be having some kind of dialogue with the other two films. It would be interesting to watch all three of these movies back to back, to see what they are saying to, and about, each other.

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I loved this movie, and I wasn’t expecting that. Everyone involved is at the top of their game. I didn’t think Scorsese had a lot more to say about the mafia life, that he hadn’t already said, but he does.

Like the other two films in this trilogy, it’s a meditation on crime and regret. I think a lot of people have had a  very wrong takeaway from Scorsese’s movies. Although he seems both fascinated with , and terrified of, this lifestyle, he definitely does not approve. These are the kinds of people he knew growing up, and he seemed to have kept, in the forefront of his mind, that they were not good people, no matter what their claims of nobility, or  how fascinating their lives were.

These films are not a glorification of their lifestyle.  Henry Hill, in the last third of Goodfellas, just flat out states this. Scorsese has never sugarcoated who and what these people are. The violence in these films is always  sudden, and brutal.  Hill spoke on the topic in Goodfellas, but here its just shown. Scorsese always  has  his characters realize, by the end, the horror of the decisions they’ve made. Every participant ends up  dead, or regretful, and there is a an onscreen commentary, on the fate of each one of the character’s introduced, in the film. The bottom line is, if you choose the mobster life, because you have romanticized notions about it, it will end badly.

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I knew a young Italian man, in college, who told me that his father met some people in the life, but he also told me that one of the key things is never to invite them into your life. Don’t ask them for favors, don’t hang out with them in their places, don’t befriend them. They’re like vampires. You have to let them in.

A classic example, is the restaurant owner from Goodfellas, who allows Tommy, and his friends, to frequent his restaurant. Just like Henry did as a child, he thinks its exciting to be associated with these men. He admires the life, and believes he is friends with them, until the time comes for Tommy to pay the massive bill he’s run up on his tab. These guys are just taking advantage of him, but he is still too enamored of their life to see that. In an effort to get Tommy to pay his bill, the restaurant owner goes to Paulie, (Tommy’s boss), and makes Paulie a partner, in exchange for taking care of Tommy’s bill. Paulie takes advantage of him too, until he  goes out of business, as they steal  him blind, eventually the restaurant gets burned down for the insurance. The owner romanticized their lifestyle. He failed to see them as the unprincipled thieves they were. He invited them in, and he lost everything. The same thing goes for the character of Spider, a mirror of the young Henry, who romanticizes their lifestyle, and gets killed by Tommy, for standing up for himself, with not a single tear shed by any of the witnesses.

The Irishman  follows another low grade member of a mafia crew, a hitman named Frank Sheeran, (Robert DeNiro), as he befriends various mobsters, and paints houses (carries out mob hits). Most of the movie is about his friendship with Jimmy Hoffa, (Al Pacino), and his confession that he killed him, after being assigned to do so by his then bosses, one of which is also a close friend, Russell Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci. The movie is based on a book by Charles Brandt titled “I Heard You Paint Houses?”, which is the line in the movie said by Pacino, when he and Frank first meet over the phone. So once again, you have someone who invites these people into his life. Hoffa knows who, and what, these people are, but he romanticizes the life, and has an outsized sense of his worth to them.

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Right away, the mood and setting are very different than the other two movies, (Goodfellas and Casino), which open with exciting scenes of violence, (and interestingly, with men in cars). This movie is reflective and melancholy. The opening scene is a quiet shot of Frank, in a senior citizen’s home, reminiscing about his past, to his lawyers. The movie is a flashback, but unlike Henry Hill”s story, Frank has no misty-eyed remembrances for the things he’s done. He joined the mob because he was a soldier who needed to do something with his life, after he came back from the war. He didn’t join because he loved the life, or glorified its denizens, and this is probably why he survived, although that’s no consolation, either. He is an old man filled with regret, and we come to have some amount of sympathy for him, although Scorsese never lets us think, for a moment, that he is a good guy. Nor does he show Frank as vicious or evil, for its own sake, although the things he does, are indeed,  vicious, and evil. Scorsese presents him as just a guy, who made the best choices he could, in the circumstances presented to him.

Deniro definitely deserves some form of recognition for his role here, but the two major highlights of the movie, for me, was Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa, and Joe Pesci’s much quieter turn, as Russell Bufalino. You want to be reminded of his role as Tommy in Goodfellas, but this character is wholly unlike him. Bufalino is smarter, and more calculating, with a cool menace that the hotheaded, showboating, Tommy lacked. He and Frank become friends, and get to be quite close, but Frank, (and hence the audience), never forgets the power dynamic between them. Russell is his boss, and should Frank prove to be a threat, or an inconvenience, Russell could have him killed, and it would be just business.

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This was the most interesting part of the movie for me. Y’all know me. I love to watch different types of  characters interact. It’s interesting because movie audiences don’t often get to watch the  process of two grown men, who have been steeped in pride and machismo, their entire lives, put themselves in the vulnerable position of trusting a stranger, while navigating the power and violence of their positions,  to  become friends. You can see them feeling the other out, trying to reach a place of comfort. I found myself totally caught up in the moment. The faint distrust, and the questions they ask of each other, without actually asking them: What do you want from me? Are you a stand up guy? Will you give me straight answers? Can you be trusted?

Frank’s relationship with Hoffa is covered just as deeply. The most  fascinating part, is comparing how trust is shown between Frank and Hoffa, and Frank and Russell. Scorsese doesn’t fall into the trap of having the characters make grand declarations of how much they love and trust each other. There are scenes with Frank and Russell hanging out with each other’s families, or having dinner together. Some scenes with Frank and Hoffa are just them talking in Hoffa’s bedroom, before he goes to sleep. At one point, Hoffa nods off while talking to Frank, he trusts Frank so completely, and Frank just quietly sits there for a while, watching him sleep, and glancing out the window, and that scene is unexpectedly moving. It’s hard to know what Frank is thinking during that scene. The specter of violence hangs over everything he does, and that scene is even more tragic, when you know what happens between them later.

There are not a lot of women in this movie, and none of the men have any moral standing. The moral center of this film is Frank’s daughter, Peggy, (Anna Paquin) who sees her father beat a man on her behalf, when she is a child, and this impacts her relationship with him, for the rest of their lives. She gets probably three lines in the entire movie, but Scorsese sets her up, by giving us long closeups of her face, and her disapproval, and fear, of her father, (and by association, Russell), is apparent. We don’t need a loud, dramatic shouting match between them, to know that she has seen what kind of man he is, and  will never love him. Frank tries to reconcile with her before his death, but she will have none of him.

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Frank doesn’t just regret the things he did when he was younger, but all the familial relationships he let fall by the wayside, while prioritizing his relationships with the men he worked for, all of whom are now dead. He has to pay for his own funeral, buying his own tombstone. There’s no one alive, who would come to his funeral, anyway. The movie ends with Frank, alone in his room. He is the last one left of that old life, and he has nothing to show for it. Once again, Scorsese presents the mobster lifestyle as empty and meaningless. If you don’t die horribly, at the hands of someone you trusted, then you die alone, with no one to care.

There’s a lot of the movie I didn’t talk about, like the cinematography, and music, which are pretty standard for a Scorsese film, with some upbeat sixties songs, the most prominent song being, In the Still of the Night, by The Five Satins, which bookends the movie. There are two opening scenes, one with Frank beginning his story in the nursing home, and the other, the beginning of the story, which features him and Russell, taking a road trip, with their wives. The movie starts out really cute, with the wives fussing with their husbands in the car. Everyone is very comfortable with each other, at first, but as the trip continues, the tension begins to mount, as we overhear increasingly nervous phone calls between Russell, Frank, and Hoffa, finally culminating, in the last third of the movie, in Russell’s order to Frank.

The cinematography is superb ,as usual, but there are a few uncanny valley moments in the film as Deniro, Pesci, and Pacino had to be de-aged in a few of the scenes. The de-aged faces aren’t as emotive as their actual faces, so I kept getting jarred out of the story, by wondering every now and then, how the actors got de-aged for their roles, but this doesn’t happen a lot, and is easily ignored. If you’re not a fan of Scorsese’s mobster films, this still may be worth a look for you, because its very different in tone, but I do have to warn you,  that just like in the other movies, the violence is flat, graphic, and unforgiving. When it comes to acts of violence, Scorsese does not fuck around, or wince. People get beaten and shot, and there’s a harrowing scene where Frank shoots up a restaurant full of people. I have become a lot more squeamish, as I’ve gotten older, and these scenes were hard for even me to watch.

Despite its three hour run time, the movie didn’t make me feel restless at all. I sat through the entire three hours, and never missed them, or a moment of dialogue. The movie simply pulled me right in. It was moving, with moments of sheer horror, and is a testament to Scorsese’s skill as a director, as nothing is explicitly stated by any of the characters, yet its message is loud, and clear. I don’t know if this movie will be nominated for an Oscar. It, and everyone involved, should.

The Irishman is the best movie I’ve seen this year.

SCP: Special Containment Procedures

 Hi! Welcome to my new obsession!

The shared world of SCP has been around for about ten years now, but I’m just now hearing about it, and I’m kinda mad about that. SCP is a shared world anthology series, not unlike Wikipedia, about an organization somewhat like the Men in Black, that does all of the above for paranormal events, people, places, monsters, objects, and any other things that may potentially harm humanity, are just plain weird, or anomalous.

SCP is old enough  that you can spend weeks reading about the different events, protocols, and monsters of this universe, some of which are truly terrifying, some of which are deeply funny, and some of which are just cute. Anyone can contribute (once you’ve done your research) usually in the form of stories about the organization’s encounters with the weird, dangerous, and/or paranormal. Strictly speaking, there isn’t any canon, and writers are free to reference other characters, events, and  monsters in their own works. Some of these works take the form of personal narratives, fictional stories, biographies, and internal memos of the various anomolies.

For those of you have a little trouble with the written word, there is a huge trough of videos about SCP on YouTube, some of which are audio versions  of  the more famous and popular encounters, some are examinations of various creatures, and artifacts, and explorations of events and places.

For a quick rundown of the past ten years, including stories about experiments, first encounters, and biographies of the hundreds of creatures, beings, places, artifacts, and events, you can visit the following Wiki:

SCP Foundation

 

What is the SCP Foundation?

Most of the things featured, in this shared world, are about monsters, (and y’all know I love monsters), but there are also quite a number of benign objects, and a few downright cute ones, which are often classified not just according to their level of danger to humanity, but how much, or how little, procedure is involved in containing them.

I spent the entire weekend watching videos about the different creatures, places, and events of the SCP, from the funniest (a company that that will get a regular, plain, ol’ llama out to you immediately, no matter where in the world you are), to the most terrifying, ( a god-like creature, that is  set to destroy the world, after the breaking of seven chains, six of which have already broken), to the cutest, (a small orange blob that loves to be tickled, and might be the savior of humanity! ), to just the oddball, (a vending machine that can dispense almost any beverage that can be imagined, a shower curtain that kills you with your worst fear, and a company that specializes in selling dinosaur meat.)

 

There are a number of different  “object” classes, and the site is also used as a guide, for writers who wish to contribute to this shared world experience:

Safe

Safe-class SCPs are anomalies that are easily and safely contained. This is often due to the fact that the Foundation has researched the SCP well enough that containment does not require significant resources or that the anomalies require a specific and conscious activation or trigger. Classifying an SCP as Safe, however, does not mean that handling or activating it does not pose a threat.

For a complete list of Safe-class articles on the site, click here.

Euclid

Euclid-class SCPs are anomalies that require more resources to contain completely or where containment isn’t always reliable. Usually this is because the SCP is insufficiently understood or inherently unpredictable. Euclid is the Object Class with the greatest scope, and it’s usually a safe bet that an SCP will be this class if it doesn’t easily fall into any of the other standard Object Classes.

As a note, any SCP that’s autonomoussentient and/or sapient is generally classified as Euclid, due to the inherent unpredictability of an object that can act or think on its own.

For a complete list of Euclid-class articles on the site, click here.

Keter

Keter-class SCPs are anomalies that are exceedingly difficult to contain consistently or reliably, with containment procedures often being extensive and complex. The Foundation often can’t contain these SCPs well due to not having a solid understanding of the anomaly, or lacking the technology to properly contain or counter it. A Keter SCP does not mean the SCP is dangerous, just that it is simply very difficult or costly to contain.

For a complete list of Keter-class articles on the site, click here.

Thaumiel

Thaumiel-class SCPs are anomalies that the Foundation specifically uses to contain other SCPs. Even the mere existence of Thaumiel-class objects is classified at the highest levels of the Foundation and their locations, functions, and current status are known to few Foundation personnel outside of the O5 Council.

 

Most of the contained creatures and artifacts do not have names, only numbers, but same have both. Some of the more famous SCPs are The Shy Guy, The Flesh That Hates, and The Blood Pool, which are some of the more horrific “things” the organization keeps a watch over.

 

The  top five most terrifying SCP encounters:

 

There are also a number of security clearance levels with D and E being the lowest.

Class D personnel are expendable personnel used to handle extremely hazardous anomalies and are not allowed to come into contact with Class A or Class B personnel. Class D personnel are typically drawn worldwide from the ranks of prison inmates convicted of violent crimes, especially those on death row. In times of duress, Protocol 12 may be enacted, which allows recruitment from other sources — such as political prisoners, refugee populations, and other civilian sources — that can be transferred into Foundation custody under plausibly deniable circumstances. Class D personnel are to be given regular mandatory psychiatric evaluations and are to be administered an amnestic of at least Class B strength or terminated at the end of the month at the discretion of on-site security or medical staff. In the event of a catastrophic site event, Class D personnel are to be terminated immediately except as deemed necessary by on-site security personnel.

 

There are a few channels on YouTube that explore and chronicle these creatures and events. For those of you who are not interested in being scared, there’s something here for you too, as there are a number of deeply funny SCPs out there. There are several different classes of SCP. The less strange and horrible ones are  classified as SAFE. If you’re not a fan of horror, try to steer clear of anything labeled Keter, or Euclid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New TV Trailers (November 2019)

Per my usual announcement, whenever I make these posts, some of these I’m excited for, and some a little less so, but I hope to be able to watch most of them.

 

Doctor Who Series Twelve (2020)

I really enjoyed having a lady Doctor, mostly because she heavily reminds me of a cross between David Tennant, and Peter Capaldi ,and I’m not sure if that’s on purpose. I could have done without a few of the episodes, in that the writing, and story, wasn’t the best on at least a couple of them, but there were at least a couple that stood out too, and since we have a new crop of writers this season, I’m looking forward to what they’re going to do. At least the trailer looks exciting.

 

 

 

 

Antelbellum (2020)

No one knows anything about this show, movie, or whatever. I’m intrigued by the trailer though, and I really like Janelle Monae, so I’m going to check it out. Jordan Peele is one of the producers on this, so it should be an interesting story, even though I generally try to avoid slave narratives, because I’m really, really, tired of them. However, if someone has a clever way of approaching it, I’m willing to give it a try..

 

 

Hunters (12.15)

This airs on Amazon Prime next month, and I’m looking forward to it. Its about a clandestine group of Nazi hunters, and its set in one of my favorite fashion decades, the seventies.

 

 

 

 

V Wars (12.5)

I don’t know what to think or feel about this show. I want to like it, but I’m not a fan of the lead character, and TV has messed up too many vampire shows for me to feel at all confident about this one. I have read some of the books this is based on, and I wonder how closely the show will follow them, which chronicles a breakout of vampirism in America, and it will destroy society, unless humanity wipes it out. I’m not a huge fan of the book series, either, mostly because I didn’t like the writing style. I want to like this though, and I’m going to give it a try.

 

 

 

Lincoln (1.10.20)

For some reason, I was really excited about seeing this. I do not normally seek out cop and detective shows, but I like the books this character is based on, and I liked the movie, which starred Denzel Washington. Some things I’m just not attracted to but if it has an interesting twist, has a diverse cast, or an actor I’m especially fond of, I’ll at least try it.

 

 

 

 

The Outsider (1.12.20)

This is another show based on a Stephen King novel, called The Outsider. I liked the book okay, although I don’t think it’s one King’s best. It did keep me intrigued, though. If you haven’t read the book, I’m not going to give away one of the plot details, on which the initial mystery is based,  which is classic  King, however. Also, if you are a fan of Holly, from the Finders Keepers series, she is one of the major characters in the book, which almost counts as a standalone adventure for her.

 

 

 

The Neighbor (12.31)

Okay, this looks and sounds almost exactly like the plot of the 80s show, Greatest American Hero, which starred William Katt, in which an alien crashes to Earth, and gives  special artifact to some nobody who happened to be close to the crash, which gives him superpowers, which he then has to navigate without any instructions. I’m not especially excited about it, but the trailer looks really cute, and its on Netflix, so it will be easy to check it out.

 

 

 

A Christmas Carol (12.19)

Every couple of years someone has to make a new version of Dicken’s classic Christmas story, and quite frankly, even  I’m not immune to a sappy, holiday story about the redemption of an asshole. I used to read this book every year, and I’ve missed a few, so its probably time to break it out of the mothballs in my closet, and read it again.