I know, I know! Normally I don’t pay any attention to the Oscars but this year I will because why not?
I’ve actually seen a number of the movies that were nominated and most of the movies are easily accessible for me to view them. There are only about three movies that are not readily viewable but I still hold tremendous respect for either the actors or the directors so have no objections to their nominations. This is not a list of nominees, btw. (I have a link to that below.) This is a list of movies I’d love to win in their respective categories and why I chose them, along with which movies should have been included in that category but weren’t.
Will I watch the Oscars this year? I don’t know. Maybe. I didn’t watch last year’s much more spectacular episode, so it very much depends on how I feel or what I’m doing on the night in question. I hope there is not a repeat of what happened last year although Jimmy Kimmel is NOT a particularly funny man and I’m not looking forward to watching two or three hours of his horrible jokes. Don’t get me wrong, I like it when movies I like win awards, but I’m not that heavily invested and most years I just check to see who won after it’s all over.
Okay first up, the biggest snubs of last year:
Till – Neither the movie nor its Black female director was recognized by the Academy.
MEN – Should have been nominated in the Sound category. The movie sounds gorgeous and it’s also not too bad in the Original Score category.
The Woman King – Should have been nominated in the category of Best Picture and Gina Prince-Bythewood for Best Director (rather than the usual boys club we got for Director.)
Nope – Should have at least been nominated in the Sound, Editing, or Cinematography categories, or even for original Screenplay. Jordan Peele deserves some kind of recognition for this movie.
She Said – This should’ve been nominated for Best Screenplay and Maria Schrader should have gotten a nod in the Best Director category.
The Northman – This is another movie that could have been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay or at least for its Cinematography.
Now, on to my favorites:
Everything Everywhere All At Once – I don’t think I can express just how meaningful this movie was for so many people and that needs to be recognized in some way. The cinematography was superb, the acting was phenomenal and the writing was incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie that made me cry and laugh from one moment to the next and had some beautiful messages in it. I think this one will become one of those cult classics people talk about for decades.
The Daniels for Everything Everywhere All At Once – They did an incredible job on this film. I love Spielberg, and he is who will probably win, but it is The Daniels who truly deserve to be recognized in some manner.
The Awards season has two major comeback actors, Brendan Fraser, and Ke Huy Quan. Ke is not nominated in this category but Fraser I feel deserves all the honors here. I am not as familiar with his action adventure and comedy work as I am with his dramatic works. I know him as an incredible dramatic actor who deserves recognition for his role in The Whale.
Michelle Yeoh – It’s not that the other actresses in this category don’t deserve this nomination but I’ve been following Michelle’s career since the early 90s when she starred in a movie with Maggie Cheung called The Heroic Trio. So yeah, I am a very long time fan of her work and I just want her to win this because it would be the culmination of a very very long journey for her.
Best Supporting Actor
Ke Huy Quan – Words cannot express how much everyone’s embrace and remembrance of this actor means to him, I think. I’m also surprised at the sheer outpouring of love and affection the world is showing for this actor. Also, I just want him to win because it would be an incredibly beautiful story of dreams fulfilled and I know his Oscar speech is gonna kill it!
Best Supporting Actress
Angela Bassett – I think she should win because Angela has been bringing her A-game since the beginning of her career and she deserves that recognition. Wakanda Forever is one of the first MCU films to be recognized in this category, and Basset just tore it up in her role as Queen Ramonda. That speech she gives at the beginning of the movie gave me chills.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Glass Onion – This is one of the most fun movies released last year. I was one of those people who was mad a Rian Johnson for what he did to the Star Wars franchise but I can forgive him for that after watching this movie. It’s just so much fun, filled with so many Easter eggs, messages, and layers, and yet it still manages to be light-hearted and not so deep it cannot be enjoyed in a superficial manner. This was just a well-written film.
Best Original Screenplay
The Banshees of Inisherin – This movie definitely got me in my feels. I know I said other movies should have been nominated in this category but this is what we go so this is what I’m picking. I suppose I’m going to have to talk about this movie at some point because it’s a lot deeper than it at first appears, and its message, about two friends who have a falling out because one of them simply doesn’t want to be friends anymore, may not be as pessimistic as it seems.
Best Animated Feature Film
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio – There’s nothing deep about my choice here. I haven’t even finished watching this movie. I just want Guillermo to win every award he gets nominated for because I love his work. This is an easy choice to make.
Best International Film
I haven’t watched any of the films in this category, so I have nothing to pick. I’ve only heard about a couple of them by rough description.
Best Documentary Feature
The only movie I heard of in this category was Fire of Love, which I have not seen, so I can’t actually pick anything. I would have preferred that the documentary, Use of Force, about police brutality in the US, be in the nominations, but I guess either no one saw it, it just didn’t get enough votes, or maybe it was just too damn depressing.
Best Film Editing
Everything Everywhere All At Once – Of course, I picked this film! And yes, it was very well edited.
I have such tremendous respect for all the movies in this category, I simply couldn’t pick just one of them. These are all beautiful-looking films that I have, unfortunately, only watched the trailers for. I hope to watch all of these before the Oscars air, and I want to see all of them, but the ones I’m most looking forward to right now are Bardo and Tar.
Best Costume Design
Ruth Carter – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Ruth Carter has won for the first film so why not give her this one too? Surely her costuming skills have not degraded since the first film? Bassett’s wardrobe in this movie was giving me life. We also got to see some nifty new costumes for the Dora Milaje. and the costumes for the Namor’s people (most especially Namora) were stupefyingly gorgeous! Ruth Carter is a fashion genius.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Of course, Ruth Carter deserves this one too.
Best Music (Original Song)
Lift Me Up – Rihanna (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever)
Best Music (Original Score)
The Banshees of Inisherin – The music does a lot of work illuminating the mood of this film.
The Batman – This is one of my favorite scenes!
Best Visual Effects
This was another category where I couldn’t choose just one although I am leaning in the direction of either Avatar or Wakanda Forever, even though the other films they are up against are not slacking as far as imagination.
[There are a lot more categories than the ones I listed here, but wasn’t, because I wasn’t especially invested in the winner or didn’t know enough about the category to become invested.]
Rather than do the typical Best of or Top Ten Movies of the Year list I’ve decided to talk about some of the greatest images that graced my TV this year (because I didn’t go to the movies much this year).
If you are a film and TV fanatic like me, then by the time you’re my age you will have amassed a ton of images that will sit with you and affect you for your entire life. I can’t list the number of movie and television scenes and images that have emotionally affected me in ways I’m still assessing today, and this year added another bunch of images that made me laugh, brought me to tears, terrified me, changed my thinking about the world and the people in it, or were sometimes just plain fun!
Last year, my mother (a devoted Horror movie fanatic) passed away in hospice at the age of 71. Every image of every movie that she carried with her is gone but I can still feel close to her through the movies she watched. I have always used stories (in books, movies, and songs), as therapy and this past year was exceptionally therapeutic for me in dealing with my grief. What I was going through didn’t feel quite so bad because I didn’t feel as if I was going through some singular event that other people had not experienced. I was able to process my feelings while watching some pretty intense cinema or alleviate my anxiety with laughter, and I was able to share these feelings with you guys by writing about them in this space.
This year was an incredible year of cinematic (and musical) healing for me.
May the next year be even better!
Keep Moving Forward
1.Moon Knight(Season 1: Episode 6)
This is my all-time favorite television series for this year (with Interview with the Vampire being almost a tie). This series is full of some great moments that are just plain fun, like the moment when Stephen, having stumbled upon his own version of being the Moon Knight gets into a final battle with the show’s primary antagonist. Stephen’s clueless version of Moon Knight wears an actual 3 piece suit. In the middle of the final boss fight, Stephen and Mark are expertly switching control of their shared body between them. Stephen gets knocked down, immediately hops back up, and brushes the dirt off his still immaculately white suit!
That there is what’s known as “swag”, or “attitude”.
I identified with Mark and Stephen’s journey of personal unification because I’ve been on that journey myself. When I was little, being on the autism spectrum meant there was a clear division between my intellect and my emotions. Like Mark and Stephen, I’ve spent my life attempting to unify the two sides of my personality, to join them together to work for each other. This is not a journey I’m ever going to finish, I think, but I have made enormous headway, and one of the greatest cathartic moments in the series was when Mark and Stephen finally did so, thus proving that the whole really is greater than the parts.
All of the fight scenes in this show are fire, and change and evolve as the relationship between Mark and Stephen evolves, to reflect their characters. I can fault Disney for a lot of things, but stinting on Action scenes isn’t one of them. I can always count on the MCU to bring me the very best ultra-violence. The choreography for their shows and movies is insane and watching heroes kick ass (and doing so with style) has always been a cathartic experience for me. I can identify with the hero and express my badassery in a perfectly safe environment while in my bunny slippers, and this series was awesome for that.
2.Everything Everywhere All At Once
I can’t say watching this was a mistake because I had no idea what I was getting into when I first watched it. EEAAO is very one of the most profoundly moving, touching, and hilarious movies in a year full of great films. It stars Michelle Yeoh, so I suspected there might be some Kung Fu, but the movie has a wealth of lovely surprises. It is about the frayed relationship between an overworked first-generation immigrant named Evelyn, who runs a dry cleaner with her annoyingly upbeat husband Waymond, and their nihilistic disaffected daughter Joy, all while undergoing a tax audit, planning a work party, and hosting her disapproving father.
One of the greatest treats of this movie was the re-emergence of Ke Huy Quan, from his decades-long retirement from acting, and who I fondly remember as Short Round from the second Indiana Jones movie (and Data from The Goonies). I don’t even begin to understand why but Short Round was always one of my favorite childhood characters and his name just stuck with me over the years until eventually, it became a nickname for my Mom, who was a whole inch shorter than me, which made me obnoxiously smug. I cannot explain why I had so much joy at seeing him alive and well, and being happy about this role.
That said, despite identifying with all the characters, my absolute favorite is Ke Huy Quan’s Waymond, and it is his philosophy of life that neatly cleaved my brain because he explains so much about how I try to approach the world, and why, despite this being one of those mother/daughter relationship movies you would think I’d be overcome by (and I was) it is Waymond who most easily resonates with me. Where Joy has fallen into despair and wants to end it all, it is Waymond’s philosophy, the exact opposite, that ends up saving Joy and the rest of the world from the annihilation that is the Everything Bagel:
Waymond:When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naive.It is strategic and necessary.It’s how I’ve learned to survive through everything.
This is a philosophy I adopted because, like Joy, I’ve seen the opposite end of that spectrum and it’s not a philosophy that’s survivable. There were a lot of moments in this movie that made me cry because they just happened to hit me at the right time to affect me, like the conversations between Evelyn and Joy, but it was Evelyn’s conversation with an alternate universe Waymond that opened the floodgates and allowed me to mourn in a way I had not been able to in the wake of my mother’s death, (because I was still mostly in shock). This movie just showed up when I needed it.
Like all good mothers, my mom never liked seeing her children in distress, and I think she would be proud of how well I’m doing right now.
This is one of those movies that changes or reaffirms your thinking about the world, the people around you, and how you approach life.
Yeah, it’s one of those.
I think a lot of people avoided watching this movie because of the title, but things are not as they seem. The title is provocative, but the movie isn’t about castigating men. It’s about one woman (Harper Marlowe) dealing with the particularly harrowing loss of just one man, and I’m convinced that most of it takes place solely within her own mind. In other words, the movie is a lot deeper than it looks.
One of the most interesting images is the only other actor in the movie, Rory Kinnear, has his face creepily (and sometimes unconvincingly) superimposed onto the bodies of all the other men in the movie, signifying that what’s being critiqued here are certain types of men and their behavior. That at base all of their behavior comes from one source, and are really just different manifestations of only one issue – misogyny.
There’s the husband who threatens suicide if she divorces him, and then hits her, the priest who blames her for his death, then makes a pass at her, the child who calls her a stupid bitch when she refuses what he wants, the cop who dismisses her concerns and later tries to assault her, and there’s the naked man who is symbolic of natural masculinity in the form of the mythic Green Man, who keeps trying to get into her house to do…what exactly? All of this is tied into images of the Green Man, the Earth Mother, Christianity, the cycles of nature, and the lies patriarchy has created about women.
My favorite scene however is just a touching and beautiful moment about a woman literally discovering her voice. Harper takes a walk in the countryside and comes to a large open tunnel. She spends a minute or two singing into the tunnel and listening as her voice boomerangs back to her. Her voice is high and pure and she takes an almost childlike delight in just making as much noise as she wants, in a public place, in a free and uninhibited manner. It just looked like she was having so muchf un, and every time I watch that scene I feel the urge to sing along with her.
The entire movie stops to accommodate this moment and I was as thoroughly delighted by it as Harper!
4.Thor: Love and Thunder
Sometimes, I love movies that everyone else likes to hate on, and you know what? I’m good with that. I love what I love for my own reasons, not theirs, and I stand by and will back up my reasons why I do, even though sometimes my reasons are just because I do. I know a lot of people hated this movie. I do not particularly care if they did or why because this movie just brought out the feels and the kid in me, and I needed that. I’ve watched this on Disney + multiple times and it brings out both the pathos and delight in me each time.
One of the more interesting aspects of this phase of the MCU is that much of it deals with mourning the deaths of loved ones and people’s response to mourning. From dealing with death badly in WandaVision, to how humanity dealt with the aftermath of The Blip in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, to the aftermath of Tony Stark’s death in Spiderman No Way Home to the death of Chadwick Boseman in Wakanda Forever, to this: Thor, mourning the loss of his entire family and homeworld and finding new love and purpose, against an antagonist who dealt with his loss through anger and revenge. Thor and Gor the Godslayer are mirror images of one another and each of them deals with loss in a way that heals or harms other people. Thor chooses to love while Gor chooses to kill.
But my favorite scene has nothing to do with that part of the plot, and it was difficult choosing between this scene and any scene that involved Thor’s screaming goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. There’s a scene in the movie where Thor is able to pass his powers to a group of frightened children to help them defeat the shadow enemies invoked by Gor, and that entire scene just gave me life! My favorite of all the children turned out to be the young Black boy who happens to be the son of Heimdall, The Bifrost Guardian. He has at least some of his father’s powers, but what was most admirable to me was his ability to step into a leadership role for the other children in the absence of the adults. I’m not normally into watching little kids engaging in acts of ultra-violence but Taika Waititi has a knack for making things that seem mildly subversive look like a great deal of fun. It doesn’t hurt that all the kids in the movie were the children of the staff on the set!
Oh, and the little girl with the laser-eye death bunny is the mood I’m carrying into 2023!
5.Interview With the Vampire (Season 1: Episode 7; The Thing Lay Still)
Interview with the Vampire was just voted by Vanity Fair as one of the best series on TV this year and I am here for it. This also showed up on my favorite TV series list too, because the show is simply wild. It’s crazy and beautiful, and sexy, and campy, gory, bloody, and brutal, but also deeply hilarious. Just when we thought the year was ending and there were no more high notes to be had, AMC handed us this beautiful gem of a series and we are all smitten.
Yes, they race-swapped Louis De Pont Du Lac from the books. He is now being played by Jacob Anderson (Greyworm in Game of Thrones), and he is (literally) killing it in this role. Anne Rice signed off on all this before she passed and her son Christopher (who is openly gay) also signed off on the rest, and those gay sensibilities show in the plot and themes. By changing the race of the character and making his sexuality explicit the writers have deepened the story considerably. Even moving the timeline to the early 1900s has made certain elements of the plot more interesting, since it’s now set during the Jazz age of the Jim Crow South. Also, changing Louis’s race has seemingly attracted a few straight Black male fans, which is not the demographic I first thought of when I heard this was getting made. They seem to really be enjoying the show too and good for them.
Sam Reid is also literally killing it as Lestat. In fact, he is so good he almost makes me forget the Tom Cruise version from the 1994 film. Almost. Reid so embodies this character though that fans are saying he is possessed by the spirit of Lestat, and when he and Jacob are onscreen together it’s like lightning, their chemistry is just that good. (It doesn’t hurt that they’re friends in real life.) Bailey Bass is an aged-up Claudia, and all those people who thought an older version of Claudia wouldn’t carry the same dramatic weight as someone much younger (in the books Claudia is about 6, which would be a logistical nightmare to film) well, those people were wrong. Claudia brings all the drama and hysteria of a teenage vampire to this role and she is great in it. And let’s not forget the award-winning playwright Eric Bogosian as Daniel, an older, less patient, and curmudgeonly version of the Daniel from the books, since this series is set 50 years after his first interview with Louis, which was never published.
For all the things that were changed, some things remain the same and that is the tumultuous relationship between Louis and Lestat. I’d say my favorite episode was the very first one in which the very closeted Louis meets and is successfully seduced by Lestat into becoming a vampire, but my favorite scene is the culmination of Louis’ season-long character arc in the final episode. He goes from being a deeply closeted gay Black man, unwilling to acknowledge it even to himself, to an out and proud gay Black man, and Lestat’s lover, at a grand New Orleans Ball, sharing a passionate kiss after inviting Lestat to a waltz, and something which thoroughly scandalizes their guests. It is one of the most beautiful scenes of the entire season, followed by one of the nastiest, goriest bloodbaths of the season.
This show was renewed for a second season before the first episode even aired, and I just don’t know what I’m going to do until it starts. The show is just really juicy and you have some idea of what’s coming in the future if you’ve read the books. The writers are doing everything right here. The writing is messy and florid and overdramatic, just like Anne Rice’s writing, and a lot of the dialogue is kept intact from her books. I hope the series lasts at least as long as Buffy, and it will be a miracle if it lasts as long as The Walking Dead, and I want to be right there until the end.
6.Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one of the few Horror/Superhero movies out there and I loved it, especially since it’s directed by one of my all-time favorite directors, Sam Raimi, who included more than a few moments of sheer terror in his Spiderman trilogy of ten years ago. He kept that same energy here and there are more than a few of his favorite Horror movie tropes included in the imagery of this film, including a scene of The Scarlet Witch climbing out of a mirror, a multi-handed zombie version of Doctor Strange, and a scene where two wizards attack each other using musical notes. (Sam Raimi loves musicals so you know there was going to be a musical scene in here).
But above is one of my favorite scenes of Doctor Strange along with the young girl he’s trying to save getting blasted through multiple portals through other universes, paralleling a scene from the first movie where Strange gets blasted through different universes by the previous Sorceror Supreme, all of which look compellingly fun or nightmarish depending on which suit your fancy. There’s a world of dinosaurs, giant human bones, and cartoons, but the prettiest one is a world made of liquid crayons, I guess. ( And in a callback to something a character once said on Buffy the Vampire Slayer I think one of those universes was full of shrimp!)
Disney is finally starting to make movies that feel different from one another and include other genres, and this movie is a great parallel to Disney’s introduction of Horror themes and Supernatural creatures into the MCU this year in shows like Werewolf by Night and Moon Knight. I’m still going to call this the first MCU Horror movie because all of the tropes are right there. There are zombies, specters, jump scares, blood and gore (within reason), chase scenes from red-eyed phantoms, giant eyeball creatures, and a child in danger! If you liked the first Spiderman trilogy, and the Evil Dead movies, then check this out.
7. Love Death and Robots Season 3: Episode 4 (Tiny Zombie Apocalypse): Night of the Living Mini-Dead
This year’s Love Death and Robots season 3 was really strong this year, with some absolutely gorgeous animation based on Scifi Horror stories from my favorite writers, like Neal Asher, Michael Swanwick, Alan Baxter, and John Scalzi, in stories that range from poetic nightmares like Bad Traveling to comedies like Mason’s Rats, to tragically beautiful stories of conquest like Jibaro. I had several favorite episodes this year.
This one episode though is, hands down, one of the most hilarious zombie apocalypses I have ever seen. Yes, it’s even funnier than Shaun of the Dead, not just because it takes place in speeded-up miniature, but because of the incredible attention to detail in its homages to Night of the Living Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake, Train to Busan’s and Peninsula’s fast zombies and Mad Max vehicles, an Attack on Titan shoutout, and Resident Evil mutated zombies. But my all-time favorite scene is the one with the tiny monks Kung fu-ing zombie ass at a mountaintop Shaolin Temple, echoing a scene from the book World War Z. In fact, I would watch an entire full-length movie that included all the scenes from this short.
It’s truly the attention to tiny details that had me rolling though, from the opening scene of the desecration at the cemetery (and how it sounds) which awakens the zombies, to the jogger who pushes her friend at the zombies only to be eaten and revived herself, to the Popemobile spewing gunfire while donuting outside The Vatican. And I love how the zombie apocalypse just goes from bad to worse with irradiated and mutated zombies spewing green fire.
Good lord! This needs to be a full-length film! I’d watch 90 minutes of this utter mayhem!
The single biggest factor in people’s attraction to this movie was the trailer and the scene where a scantily clad Alexander Skarsgard reaches up, catches a thrown spear, and lobs it back to hit the thrower. I’m not gonna lie, that was what originally attracted me to the film as well, and thankfully, the movie proved to have as much substance as style. See! Not everything I watched this year was frivolous!
The Northman is based on the Scandinavian story which inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Amleth watches as his father, a man he idolizes, is murdered by his uncle. His mother is seemingly kidnapped and he vows to avenge his father save his mother, and kill his uncle in that order. Amleth grows to adulthood, learns of his uncle’s location, and decides to implement this plan, while the audience heckles the screen to suggest that he could maybe let it go.
The movie is also about fate and destiny, and how that figures into the choices a person makes. Amleth is told several times by psychics that it is his destiny to avenge the destruction of his family but he is also challenged to give up his vendetta and settle down with his wife and children. He chooses his vendetta and although the motivation for his choice isn’t exactly wrong, at any point along his journey of revenge, he could have stopped and let his uncle live out his life in relative peace.
This movie turned out to have a surprising amount of depth. Surprising because I was expecting more flash than story, and I was expecting more of a Hamlet retread, and what I got was an exploration of the concepts of fate and destiny, and how much of a choice we have in what happens in our lives and the lives of others.
What can I say? This movie had all of my favorite things. ufos. blood, gore, excellent horsemanship, and two incredible lead characters, the brother and sister duo of Emerald and OJ Haywood, but my all-time favorite moment was when Emerald does this particular bike maneuver, called The Akira Slide. Since it was first seen in Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 anime film Akira this moment has been imitated and recreated in almost every animated series worth watching since!
The idea of a live-action Akira has been bruted around for over three decades and this scene is as close as we’ve come outside a few concept videos. In fact, Jordan Peele himself was slated to direct a live-action version but that fell through when he decided to devote his energy to his own projects. He said that an homage to the project he dropped seemed in order, though.
That’s it! Just a fun nostalgic moment in a great Horror movie that had me kicking up my bunny slippers!
(Note: I do not actually own a pair of bunny slippers.)
I would not call this movie fun but I did enjoy it, and that kind of surprised me. I didn’t think anything was going to come close to being as good as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy but this was a nice try and I liked it. I think this is a baby Batman in his first few years in Gotham and you can kind of see that in his fighting style, but this scene is the one that I found the most compelling. This is the audience’s first sight of The Batman and I loved the sound design of this scene.
The music, the ominous sound of his footsteps just before he fades out of the shadows, and the sound of rain in the background. The whole movie sounds great, which is not something I usually pay a whole lot of attention to, but I’ve started to pay attention since Villaneuve’s Dune did it so well. This was a superb introduction to this version of Batman, who has yet to learn that it’s not enough for him to just scare Gotham’s predators. He needs to protect the innocent too, something he begins to understand during the course of the movie.
11. Wednesday Season 1: Episode 4 – Woe What a Night
I think this particular scene is definitely going to go down in history as iconic. For context, this is Wednesday Addams getting down on the dance floor at the new High School she was exiled to after she released predatory fish into the swimming pool at her last one. There was blood. I have always liked this particular character, especially the movie versions since she always represented things I have either actually said to people (I know right?!!) or wanted to say to people. I even liked the 1960s baby-girl version of her, and if you look really close you can see Jenna reproduce baby Wednesday’s iconic dance moves from the earlier TV series. Wednesday dances like she’s challenging her partner to a duel.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this series. I was cautiously excited about it because it’s Tim Burton, who has made it clear that he feels about Black people the way I feel about finding a worm in my apple, and its teenagers being teenagers in a TV show. I’m not normally attracted to shows about teens but I will, on occasion, try them out and I actually liked this. It’s not a great show, but it is a lot of fun, not too deep, and worth a watch. The best thing about it is Jenna Ortega’s performance as Wednesday and her relationship with her bubbly roommate, Enid. From her demeanor, there is also the implication that Wednesday may also be queer, in which case people are already shipping her with Enid, and I’m cool with that. I did enjoy watching their friendship develop, since Wednesday is heavily, (and I do mean heavily), coded as autistic. She is touch averse, sensitive to bright colors, single-minded, and extremely focused, with a pronounced flattened affect, and I kind of liked that, since Autistic girls and women are rarely shown onscreen. There were a couple of times when something she said about how she sees the world resonated pretty sharply with me, and I had to pause and reflect.
But mostly the show was just good fun. I was initially put off that the only two Black characters in the series were assholes, but they were redeemed by the end of the season and turned out to be two of Wednesday’s strongest allies. I didn’t especially care for the drama between Wednesday and her mother (or the side plot that showed some of her parent’s history at the school) although I understand why it was added. Parental mismanagement of their children is a recurring theme in the series, although Luis Guzman was excellent as Gomez and the series does play up Wednesday’s Latino heritage a little bit. My favorite episode was the one where Uncle Fester comes for a visit. He is played by Fred Armisen and while he is never going to be in Christopher Lloyd’s league as Fester, he gives it a very good try. Christina Ricci also shows up as one of Wednesday’s teachers and her role is good, but not all that surprising.
This was a fun watch and I’m willing to check out the next season, especially if there is more weird dancing scenes!
The Eternals – There were so many great moments in this movie, although ultimately I feel it fell flat of what it was trying to do, I still enjoyed a lot of it. My favorite characters were, of course, Kingo and his personal valet, Karun. All of the characters had great chemistry with each other but I especially enjoyed watching these two. (Okay, The Eternals was, technically, released in 2021, but I didn’t watch it until 2022, so this counts in my book.)
Umbrella Academy – The opening dance number (The Footloose Dance Off) was one of its great highlights. I love a good dance battle! I love that the series continues this level of ridiculousness for the entire season. Another great scene was Victor coming out to his family as transgender and announcing his pronouns, and his brother’s quite unsurprised/semi-surprised reaction to having another brother.
Prey – The fight scenes in this movie were incredible. This movie was awesome, setting the Predator down in 1800s America among the Comanche People.
Black Adam – I’m an old-school Hawkman and Doctor Fate fan. I expected to like Hawkman and didn’t expect to like Pierce Brosnan’s version of this character, but he was most excellent (he predates Doctor Strange by twenty years y’all) and I hope to see more of him in some sort of prequel. I remember reading Doctor Fate’s books as a kid and I didn’t know I wanted to see this character onscreen so much until, of course, I got to see him!
The Woman King – The entire movie is simply gorgeous. The fight scenes are rigorously excellent.
Sandman – It was really hard to pick one scene from this series. Every episode had some truly gorgeous and meaningful scenes. Here, The Sandman (Dream) gets to find out what a day in the life of Death is like…
In 1998, Samuel R. Delaney, acclaimed Black Science Fiction writer, was asked at an awards convention about racism within the genre. Here he is referring to the writing community but I’ve observed that this can be equally applied to every industry, including movies and television:
As long as there are only one, two, or a handful of us, however, I presume in a field such as science fiction, where many of its writers come out of the liberal-Jewish tradition, prejudice will most likely remain a slight force—until, say, black writers start to number thirteen, fifteen, twenty percent of the total. At that point, where the competition might be perceived as having some economic heft, chances are we will have as much racism and prejudice here as in any other field.
We are still a long way away from such statistics.
But we are certainly moving closer.
We need to be clear that what we’ve been experiencing very strongly for the last six or seven years is a white social media backlash against women and PoC representation in popular media. As marginalized people are seen more often in media projects what we’ve also been seeing is a white, straight, backlash against their slightly more positive/nuanced depictions.
What Delaney means is that more racism will be expressed by those white people who feel most threatened by Black progress in that industry, and I can say this because this has been noted in every industry in which it has occurred.
This is not new! It hasn’t been new in over a hundred years.
What we’re seeing today in the pushback against Black actors in visual media has happened multiple times and in every industry, from music, to literature, to politics, to movies, and television. Every time PoC have made inroads into any field of endeavor there has been a white backlash against it. The only thing that changes are the industries in question, and their arguments against that progress. Now we see it happening in visual entertainment.
In the 1920s, Jazz was seen as barbaric and immoral. It was considered the kind of music that lead white women astray and put them in environments where Black musicians had access to them. All manner of immorality was attributed to Jazz including drug use, violence, and hypersexuality. The exact same criticisms were made against Rock in the 50s, Disco in the 70s, and Rap music in the 90s, when those gained ascendances in popular culture. Rock music was a genre that championed drugs and sex, Disco encouraged homosexuality, and Rap music was considered too violent for white sensibilities.
The same backlash that we’ve been seeing for the last six or seven years against Black actors in the Fantasy genre is the same backlash we experienced when N. K. Jemison won back-to-back Hugo awards in 2016, 2017, and 2018 for her Fantasy trilogy The Obsidian Gate. As Delaney predicted, a select group of white male critics complained that women and PoC were getting too many awards, and so formed a contingent of fans and authors called “The Rabid Puppies” in an attempt to game the Hugo awards rules to win awards for themselves. In other words, they preferred to cheat, rather than accept that Science Fiction fans were a diverse group of men and women who had moved on from the type of Science Fiction they wrote, which centered on white European men as the heroes. Much of the hoopla in the industry has since calmed down, but that does not mean that parity has been reached for authors of color, and we have seen the exact same dynamic play out in other arenas where women and PoC have made any kind of inroads, including politics, where white men have decided that rather than share political power, they would prefer to game the system to keep it all of it for themselves.
In 2014, Candace Patton was cast as the Black love interest of Barry Allen in The Flash television series on the CW network. That same year, Disney released The Force Awakens, the first film in its latest Star Wars trilogy, and the lead character was a Black actor named John Boyega. They both experienced immediate backlash for daring to perform the fictional roles that they had been hired for. Candace Patton has received unending racist vitriol on social media for the last 10 years for playing the Black love interest of the lead white character solely because her character was a white woman in the comic books. And don’t make the mistake of thinking the only toxic fans are white men. White women established themselves firmly in the contingent for bigotry by weaponizing fandom against Candace and harassing and bullying John Boyega on social media.
In 2016, a new version of The Ghostbusters was released with an all-female cast and received immediate pushback from gatekeeping white male fans who believed they owned that franchise and argued that women couldn’t be fictional Ghostbusters. The movie starred three white actresses, but it is very telling that the onus of their hatred landed squarely on the only Black cast member in the group, Leslie Jones, who was driven from social media by the racist backlash against her original characters’ very existence. So we can see that even arguments that PoC and women make their own original characters rather than supplant characters who used to be white are simply a smokescreen for racist abuse. Original characters do exist and receive the same level of acting out and foolery that race and gender-swapped characters do, as we saw with the release of Black Panther.
In 2018, there was a massive backlash against the release of Disney’s tentpole superhero movie, The Black Panther, in which the same gatekeeping white male fans attempted to downvote the movie’s ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, causing Disney and RT to temporarily shut down the audience portion of the site to prevent the abuse. Thinkpieces were written denigrating the making of the film, and some fans engaged in violence callouts, falsely reporting that they had been harassed and/or beaten by racist Black Panther fans in order to sully the reputation of the film. Black fans had to be vigilant in protecting the actors from harassment on social media and debunking the claims of violence.
Every time Disney releases a film that isn’t centered on the heroic activities of straight white men there is a backlash from white men against those films, against the actors, and even against the fans who talk about them. Women and fans of color aren’t even safe in their own fan spaces as those will, at some point, be invaded by trolls and bigots spewing racist vitriol at them for daring to like a movie they were the audience for. We saw this with Captain Marvel in 2019, and Shang Chi and The Eternals in 2021, with each successive film being criticized as the worst film ever made in a franchise, how the MCU is failing, and the blogs, videos, and websites of fans of color being reported as abuse, and blocked on TikTok and Youtube for daring to discuss entertainment that is aimed at them as the audience.
This also happens with television shows. Since it is Disney that is leading the charge of diversity and inclusion in its many franchises, it is Disney’s fans and employees (the actors) who have borne the brunt of the backlash, during and after series like Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Ms. Marvel, and the newest series, She-Hulk. Why? Because the stars of these series are women and PoC. It is notable that there was no backlash against series with white male leads like Loki, Hawkeye, and Moon Knight which were also released in the last year.
These shows are not alone in having a racist fan problem. Since John Boyega’s debut as one of the first Black Stormtroopers in Star Wars, there has been a racist and misogynist backlash against every single advance of a PoC, or woman, in that franchise, especially in any film in which a white male wasn’t the star, but even a few that were, as with the last TV release, Obi Wan Kenobi, which prominently starred a woman of color. The lead villain of the series, Reva Sevander, is played by Yale graduate Moses Ingram. She had to endure toxic fans who called her everything but a child of god, questioned her undeniable qualifications for playing her role, and was flatly told by some of them that she could not be a part of Star Wars.
In the past year, we have seen a racist backlash against casting PoC in any SciFi and Fantasy film or television series. The casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians TV series, the casting of Black Hobbits, Dwarves, and Elves in Amazon’s Rings of Power series, the casting of Halle Bailey in Disney’s live-action version of The Little Mermaid, and the casting of Black legacy characters in the Game of Thrones spinoff series, House of the Dragon, has racist/toxic fans pulling out all the stops to troll, harass, and make sure that Black fans, actors, and creators are aware that they don’t belong in genre films and series.
You also have those bad faith actors who try to hide their bigotries behind legitimate concerns, like questioning the credentials of the actors who were chosen, not understanding that when the only time you care about whether or not a character is qualified to perform the role they’ve been hired for is when they are a woman, or gay, or a person of color, that that too is performing a racism.
The Whiteness ofthe Past, the Present, and the Future
White people for the last hundred years of film and TV have crafted entire fictional universes with pasts, presents, and futures that were entirely centered around themselves, with not a single face of color to be seen. When I was a little girl, I was sitting in our kitchen watching some futuristic movie and turned to ask my mother why there were no Black people in the future. Really quick she said, “Maybe we left.” She’d noticed it too and seemed to have that answer ready for me, just in case.
White people who are making the arguments that we don’t belong are speaking from a long history of whitewashing, of never having seen Black and Brown faces in historical epics, present-day dramas, or futuristic landscapes unless we were playing happy slaves, silent victims, or menacing drug dealers. The industry was so whitewashed that when it eventually developed the use of color, Black and Brown people weren’t even a consideration, and color was only attuned to white skin tones. Movies and TV were so white that Black women didn’t have hair and makeup people of their own until a scant few years ago.
According to white people making the loudest noise, we don’t belong anywhere in their all-white fantasylands of the past or the future. Their entire understanding of historical events comes not from study, or reading, or actual knowledge, but from Hollywood movies in which our presence had been, downplayed, erased, or ignored, even in our own stories. Based on these deeply ignorant people’s understanding of history, the only stories in which Black people should be allowed to appear are the ones based on slavery, as if enslavement was our only contribution to the world. We’re not allowed to appear in movies set in the present unless we’re being killed or killing, and apparently, we don’t exist at all in the future, not just physically, but in any cultural or social contributions we made to the making of this country thast sre simply never referenced.
Candace Patton talked about how she didn’t have anyone to do her hair, and Black actresses called out Hollywood in 2020, for its lack of hairstylers for them. Many of them confessed to having to do their own makeup because white makeup professionals never bothered to learn how to do Black skin or hair. White hairstylists didn’t need to know that to have successful careers! There was such a complete lack of Black female stuntwomen that white stuntwomen wore blackface on the rare occasions that Black actresses needed stuntwork done! This was pretty rare indeed because up until about ten years ago we never got to be in Action movies often enough to need stunt doubles!
All of the white backlash against Black women (in particular) participation in genre media we are seeing today is just one part of the side effects of Hollywood’s insistence that there is only one demographic that needs to be pandered to, (therefore all the other demographics can be ignored), and the idea that movies with diverse and inclusive casts don’t make any money, (which results in the erasure of PoC in order for anything to be greenlit). Many films cannot receive funding to get made without a big enough named actor in the cast. Unfortunately, Hollywood not casting PoC in certain films and for certain roles results in actors of color (in particular Asian American actors) finding it nearly impossible to become big enough named actors to ever get projects funded. They can’t get to A-list status if they are never given the opportunity to do so.
Not being considered for roles in certain genres of film limits an actor’s career prospects, and when those roles are obtained (as with Candace Patton’s casting as Iris West in The Flash, Moses Ingram’s casting in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, and Leslie Jones casting in Ghostbusters) they receive no protection from their employers from the harassment and pervasive racist vitriol on social media, which is one of the nastier side effects of Hollywood never having hired actors who look like them for these roles in the past. Part of their employment means they are subject to public emotional abuse while working in a role they were paid money to perform. These actors often receive little to no support from their white industry colleagues or white female fans either (something which has only begun to change just this year!) It has continually fallen on the fans, especially Black women, to be their support systems under trying and stressful circumstances.
Until this moment passes, and seeing PoC in these types of roles becomes normalized, and white fans fully begin to understand that this is not a situation that is going to change (because diversity and inclusion is proving to be a very lucrative deal for the corporations engaging in it), we will continue to see this kind of toxic behavior, and we all need to be ready for that. Much of this behavior can be laid at the feet, not just of the kinds of fans who are used to being the only demographic that was pandered to for over a hundred years, but Hollywood’s idea that PoC, neither the actors nor the audiences, were worthy of consideration.
It is long past time Hollywood realized we too are worthy of being pandered to and that representation always mattered, not just to us but to white people who are unused to seeing PoC as anything other than the stereotypes which Hollywood has always given them.
As I stated when I first started this blog:
Black women like to have adventures too.
It is a shame I’ve had to wait nearly my entire life for Hollywood to realize women like me exist.
After hearing about and watching the video footage of Will Smith’s slap-down of Chris Rock, I felt the need to stop what I am doing and write. I see a fair number of occultist and ministerial friends and associates, many of whom are white, talking about it, and decided I should weigh in as an African American man.
I am a Black man, and I come from a place, in upstate New York. I was from one of the projects there, and went to public school through part of middle school. I was and am not a natural fighter. It is an instinct I had to cultivate when I got into high school and became heavily invested in martial arts. Doing so toughened me right up!
But before all of that, I got regular ass-beatings at school. Usually by big gangs of other Black kids. Most times I was on the ground, getting the shit kicked out of me. I have a specific memory of a large group of about twelve kids chasing this white kid I didn’t know and myself. When we both realized we were running from the same people, we stopped running and stood back to back, fending off all those kids until teachers came over to stop the fight. I made a new friend that day. These endless cycles of violence came to a head when a young man many times my size slammed me on the gym floor. I ended up with blood in my urine. When the doc told my mom, I had to admit to her that I was being bullied. Not one of my finest days.
There was this one time, in grade school, however, where I did stand up to my bully. It was a boy around my age who kept hitting, slapping and poking me every chance he got. Teachers were around, but he always did it just out of their eyesight. If I protested too much, I got in trouble and he stood there with cheese grins looking blameless. He belonged to the same gang of kids as the guy who body slammed me.
As fate would have it, one day we were both waiting for our parents to pick us up after school. He kept slapping me in my head. When I was a kid, lunch boxes were still made of solid metal. The kind of metal that has cool cartoon characters on them. The kind of metal that did not easily bend. I balled my fist around the handle of it, and with a loud cry swung for his head as hard as my little body could muster. That kid levitated in the air, spun around and collapsed to the ground, holding his head.
The vice principal came outside and saw the whole thing. I thought I was fucked! But he looked at the kid, then me, and said “Good job, kid!” and walked back inside.
I was stunned. But I began to understand something. I began to see that people around us usually know what’s going on, but choose not to say or do anything. Sometimes they want to see what we will do. If we will come into our personal power. I had to learn about my own power my own way.
Now, some people are going to trip off the fact that I used violence to end repeated violence toward me. But let me be clear: I am not a pacifist. I do indeed believe there are times to catch hands. To put up your fists and fight. Especially if a home is invaded, a person is assaulted, or a bully is left unchecked. It has been my experience that a bully rarely stops from conversation and reasoning with them. They bully because no one stands up to them. They run on fear.
But when someone does stand up, they don’t know what to do. I continued to experience this. Even after I transferred to a local private school, where I was the only Black male most of my years there, the white kids continued to bully, intimidate and humiliate me.
Do you know when that all stopped? When I started taking karate. Not because I became violent (which I never did), but because the martial arts changed how I walked in the world. It changed how I dealt with problem people. A so-called white friend tried to sneak up on me when I was on one knee getting stuff out of my locker. He wanted to test me and try to hit me when he thought I wasn’t paying attention, to prove my karate training wasn’t shit. Imagine the look on his face when I spun around and threw a punch within less than an inch from his genitals. Then a good friend (who was also being bullied) and I started training together and did a karate demonstration at a show-and-tell night. We threw each other around and did other choreographed moves that made it very clear we knew what we were doing. Neither of us had a problem the rest of our high school tenure.
The nonsense even continued into my first year of college. A white kid, who was very drunk, threatened to beat me up. He made it known that he was a second-degree black belt. I told him I had a black belt too. He kept talking smack as he walked away from me. The next week, I was leading the karate class at school, as the head instructor. Who walks into the gym dojo but this guy. I bowed at him and invited him to join us, to show us his second-degree expertise. He went white as a sheet, did an about-face and walked out as fast as his legs could carry him. He never came back. I had to explain to the class what happened and why, because they saw the whole thing. That day many in the class came to understand the power of the martial arts.
I am not saying all of this to toot my own horn. I am showing a snippet of my early-life struggles with bullying and aggression/violence that swirled around me for a solid 18 years, and how I was able to cope with it and to a degree, rise above it. It took the threat of violence, and my posture toward bullies to make it clear that I could follow through against their aggression, for them to finally stop. Where I am from, most of the people I grew up with are dead, addicted beyond repair, or six feet in the grave. Almost all of them. Where I am from, threats, humiliation and violence are serious subjects and nothing to play with.
When I heard about Will Smith and Chris Rock’s debacle, it brought me back to these moments and the choices I made. I do not regret any of them. Most times I was able to stop the violence toward me before I had to raise my fists to end it. But a few times I did have to let someone catch hands (or, as the case were, a lunchbox!). I have understood from those young years that sometimes all people understand is a beat-down, a punch in the face, a kick in the groin.
What little I know of what occurred is that Rock has made it a pattern of shit-talking Jada. Some people are shocked at Will’s response from just Chris Rock’s words. But this is really a moment of cultural education. You see, Black people are big on respect. REALLY big. We grow up being constantly reminded to respect elders, and each other. That the predominantly-white, racist world is hostile enough to us as it is that we don’t need to be adding to it by turning on each other and cutting each other down. Of course, we still do turn on each other, as my own story shows. But we are supposed to strive for otherwise because it is for the good of the collective, the already-embattled African American community.
This is even more so when speaking of Black men’s relationships to Black women. Not only are we taught to respect women, but to also protect them. And no, it is not some sexist, toxic masculinity thing like I hear so many people knee-jerking about Will. It’s not about that. It’s about knowing that our women, our sisters, our mothers, our wives are also in this hostile world that continually denigrates their humanity in ways even worse than our own, ala American Slavery. It goes back at least that far. There are so many places to point to that, that I don’t know where to start. So I encourage everyone reading this who doesn’t know to do the research and learn.
I remember when I was in college, there were several months where white male students on campus thought it would be fun to harass Black women students. The school I went to had a strong party/drinking culture that was equally matched with a strong rape culture. The administration and campus safety’s response and concern was lackluster. We were determined as the Black and Brown community that the assault on Black women would not happen on our watch. The Black men immediately went into action on campus and formed a daily/nightly escort. We met the sisters wherever they were on campus and walked them home, for months.
So, the problem with Rock’s tasteless and baseless joke is that it is not just a joke. It is tapping into some deeper, historical shit that he should have known better than to do. And for anyone who wants to defend what he said as just a joke, I want to point out the fact that Rock actually did a docu-comedy called “Good Hair.” In that movie, Rock explored the phenomena and importance of Black women’s’ hair! He does indeed know better, from his own work. But he made a choice, and made it more than once. So that slap was a long time coming.
Now, I am not Pollyanna. I know that our society seems to have lost its sense of proportionality with violence and responding to violence. Stories abound of bullied kids finally snapping and bringing an assault rifle to school and offing everyone in sight. So something has definitely changed from my day when kids largely used their hands and feet to fight, put someone on the ground and the fight was over. There is a thing, now, about violence having to go to the extremes of ending life that speaks to something deeply broken in America.
I think what I am hoping for is a deeper conversation about being Black in a country that still responds violently to us every day, and then looks at us like there’s something wrong with us when we have enough and take matters into our own hands. I think I am hoping for more honest talk in and outside of the Black community about how we treat each other, and how sometimes, when we become upwardly mobile, we start to take on norms and strange freedoms alien to our culture, like humiliating and disrespecting a Black woman with a health condition for a “good” joke. Let me also be clear, in the Black culture I grew up in, it is not the least bit abnormal to get slapped or punched in the face for disrespecting a man’s woman/daughter/sister/wife/mother. Especially a person’s mother! It is understood that, if you say and do certain things against a sister, you will just catch hands.
I am aware that is not the norm in other cultures, especially Euro-American/European ones. I do not think nor do I believe everyone else in the world needs to adopt our ways. But I do think people need to gain better understanding of how we do what we do, before they judge it, no matter how famous or unknown the African-American who does the deed is. My two cents.
I just read this on Facebook and this resonated. What happened at the Oscars has larger repercussions in the Black community, amid discussions we’ve been having for decades, that white people do not know about, and this story sums it up very nicely. He touches on a lot of issues that a lot of people are missing in their enthusiasm to jump on the “let’s bash a black man” bandwagon, or their zeal to give advice on how Black men should conduct themselves in public.
There are things happening in our culture, things that white people see us do and don’t understand, but think they do, coming from their deep well of apathy, ignorance, delusion, and propaganda about Black culture. A lot of the things come out of a response to generational trauma, and what happened on that stage is the culmination of many decades of frustration for Will. I feel bad for him, but I’m not angry at him, because I understood it. I understood where that slap came from. And I think Chris did too.
If you’re white none of this concerns you, and none of us are looking to you for your opinion on how we behave with each other. Especially if you don’t know anything about how things work in certain Black communities, then anything you say about this is going to seem like self serving respectability politics, performative, and/or anti-black.
I know white people got opinions and feel some kind of way, but I’m asking y’all to be quiet and listen to what we are saying about this. The arguments about what happened are also going to play out publicly. You can watch it, and read it, but your contribution to our discussion has not been asked for, and is not needed.
I’ve been watching horror movies since I was a little girl ,who was supposed to be asleep at 11 o’clock at night. I went through a period, with my mother, where I think we tried to watch every horror movie that got made between 1980 and 1988, before I went off to college, so I have seen a helluva lot of movies, many of which have been forgotten, unless your’e a serious horror movie fan. I admit, not everything I watched was any good, but I found something interesting in these five movies, which have stayed in my memory even though I haven’t watched some of them in decades.
Don’t Look in the Basement(1973)
This move was made back in 1973 so I wouldnt go in expecting it t be enlightened about mental illness. I saw this movie when I was a teenager, and there was just something about it that I found deeply disturbing. Yes, the characters are disturbed, certainly, becasue this is an asylum, but that’s not the reason why this movie has haunted me for years. I suspect its some quality of mood, or lighting, or acting that I found mesmerizing back then.
A young nurse gets a job in a remote asylum for the mentally ill, and has a great deal of difficulty doing her work, as the director of the facility seems as deeply disturbed as her patients. You can probably guess what the twist is long before the plot spirals down into a hot mess of murder and mutilation.
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things
A troupe of method actors and their despotic director head out to Coconut Grove, Florida where, as a prank, they exhume a corpse called Orville and are subsequently horrified when his similarly deceased friends emerge from their graves to play some deadly games of their own. Filmed as America experienced its post-60s comedown, director Bob Clark’s first horror feature began a truly terrifying trilogy that continued with the powerful anti-Vietnam war statement Dead Of Night and climaxed with the classic seasonal (and subsequently re-made) scarefest Black Christmas.
You can definitely tell this movie was filmed on the cheap, but this is also one of the first zombie movies I ever saw, long before ever watched Night of the Living Dead, and of course this is nearly forgotten, except by zombie movie enthusiasts like me. The acting isn’t great, and the special effects aren’t either, but the movie has such a distinctive feel, that I’ve never forgotten it, despite having not watched it in decades.
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
I haven’t seen this movie in decades but for some reason I still remember the haunted feeling I had watching this. The plot is a little fuzzy, but I think its about a woman who moves out into the country, with her boyfriend, to recover from a nervous breakdown, and encounters strange events, and possibly ghosts and vampires.
The movie is surprisingly well acted for a horror movie from the 70’s, and the cinematography looks gorgeous. The only drawback seems to be that the plot is a bit murky, but I do remember enjoying watching this on late night TV.
This is another movie I remember watching as a kid, late one night, when I was supposed to be asleep. I haven’t seen it in decades, but I still remember it pretty well, although it took me some time to find the title. I remember that I started off excited about the movie because, Hey! Zombie Bikers!, but by the end I recall a distinct feeling of melancholy for the bikers, and their inability to die, and at least part of that was due to this song.
I remember thinking something along the lines of how all these characters eventually became pretty jaded by the1974 lifestyle they thought was a form of true freedom, only to be trapped in a kind of hellish living afterlife.
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane(1976)
This is another movie I watched late one night, without my mother’s permission, even though she was the one who told me about it! Its more of a mystery than a horror movie, but I’m going to put this here because it does have some onscreen kills. It stars a very young Jodi Foster, who was still riding on her fame from Taxi Driver, I think, which came out the same year.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this, but I think one of my mother’s objections to this movie, is the character is a serial killer ,who genuinely regrets killing people. My guess is that my Mom was opposed to kids killing adults in movies, which is understandable, but it might also have been the pedophilia from one of the characters, which she thought I was too young to be watching.
I wanted to see it because I was under the impression, at about nine years old, that Jodi seemed to be about my age, when she was, in fact, thirteen, at the time. I have observed that little girls often gravitate to movies about other little girls, and I was no different, except I gravitated to horror movies that starred little girls.
I cannot recall if she was alone because she killed her parents, but I do remember her making up various stories for the adults who investigated her situation, as to why she was alone, and killing the ones who got too nosy, as well as a man who was trying to get too cozy with her, if y’all know what I mean.
A couple of weeks ago saw the debut of the new HBO series, Lovecraft Country, based on the book of the same name by Matt Ruff. In the book, a young black man named Atticus goes on a road trip through the Jim Crow South, with his uncle, and childhood friend, to find his father, who has mysteriously gone missing up North. They stumble across racist cops, sundown towns, Lovecraftian monsters, and occultism, in their travels.
I watched the first two episodes of this series. Normally I would not have watched any show that’s based in the Jim Crow South because that’s just a particularly triggering time period, but the writers and producers are black, so I was willing to give it a chance. Its still a very nerve-wracking show, but in a kind of good way, because its also surprisingly cathartic, entertaining, and not wholly based on Black pain and suffering. The characters are very likable, and there are other, more personal issues they deal with besides racism.
I can honestly say I enjoyed this episode. I know that sounds weird, considering how I’ve complained about no longer being interested in shows that are based on black pain and suffering, in different eras, but this show, along with the Watchman series, was very entertaining. For one thing, the plot isn’t necessarily based in suffering. the Jim Crow era in which the story takes place is simply the backdrop, and the way the story is written, the racism of the white characters is just one of the primary obstacles that the protagonists have to navigate, occasionally in the form of harrowing car chases.
It doesn’t hurt that the three main characters, Atticus, the very fine looking lead character, his uncle George, played by the incredible Courtney B. Vance, and the gorgeous Leticia, Atticus childhood friend, played by Journee Smollet, who you may remember as Black Canary, from the Harley Quinn/Birds of Prey movie, released earlier this year, are all immensely likable, and reasonably smart.
Outside of the mystery itself, the series presents a lot of ideas about black people that don’t often get seen in popular culture, which are merely glimpses into the lives of regular black people, in the midst of horrific circumstances, because that too is as important to our representation, as seeing ourselves be heroic, hearing our own stories, or seeing ourselves existing as a culture in the future. We get loving black couples, black people who love books, clothes, and superheroes, ordinary disputes between family members and black people snatching little moments of joy, even in the darkest times.
The episode begins with Atticus on his way home from the Korean War. Its 1954, and that particular war (the one depicted in the MASH series) ended around 1953. He’s dreaming of a mashup of all the scifi he’s ever read, Cthulhu, John Carter of Mars, and an ass kicking cameo from #42 himself, Jackie Robinson.
When the bus he’s riding breaks down, he and the only other black passenger, rather than being allowed to hitch a ride with a local farmer, have to walk several miles to the next town. During their walk is when we get Atticus broad opinions on fantasy stories with racist characters, or written by racist writers, like Robert E. Howard, or Lovecraft himself. Genre fiction, whether movies, books, or TV, has always been problematic for black people. Most of it was not written with us in mind, and what was, often had negative connotations.
When Atticus gets home, he finds the neighborhood is preparing to have a block party. This is something that really resonated with me, because I remember attending quite a few of these, during my childhood. My family is/was huge, so most of the block party consisted of me, my little brothers, and a seemingly vast number of cousins, uncles, and aunties! Anyway Atticus finds out from his uncle George that his father has gone missing but left a note saying he could be found in a place called Ardham. That’s right, not Arkham, but Ardham House. He, and George are joined by Leticia, a young woman that Atticus knew when they were children, because Letty was the only girl in his Science fiction book club, but who is now a traveling photographer.
Uncle George offers to come along because he is the publisher of the Chicago based green book. His wife, Hippolyta, offers to come, but George says no, out of a sense of protection. He knows how dangerous it would be for her to do such a thing., considering that he once had both his knees broken, by some racists, while on a previous trip for his travel books.
The travel books, that George writes, (based on the real life Negro Motorist’s Green Book), aided black people in navigating through the Jim Crow South, listing problem areas, like eating and sleeping places that were safe, but most especially, listed all the Sundown Towns, in both the North and South. At that time, these were all white towns, in which black people would be either run out, or murdered, if they were found within the town limits, after sundown.
Welcome to the world’s only registry of sundown towns. A sundown town is not just a place where something racist happened. It is an entire community (or even county) that for decades was “all white” on purpose. “All white” is in quotes because some towns allowed one black family to remain when they drove out the rest. Also, institutionalized persons (in prisons, hospitals, colleges, etc.), live-in servants (in white households), and black or interracial children (in white households) do not violate the taboo.
“On purpose” does not require a formal ordinance. If, for example, if a black family tried to move in, encountered considerable hostility, and left, that would qualify the town as “sundown.” Note that some sundown towns kept out Chinese Americans, Jews, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, even Mormons.
One of the most hair raising, but exhilarating, chase sequences occurs when George mistakenly takes them to a cafe that does not serve black people, and the local firefighters chase them out of town. They are saved by Letty’s well honed survival instincts, her ability to drive like a maniac, and a little bit of hoodoo, from a mysterious benefactor.
This same benefactor comes to their aid at the end of the episode, after they get stopped in a sundown county by the local sheriff, who challenges them to get out of the county 8 minutes before sundown, but without speeding. This is very probably the slowest, most nerve wracking car chase in television history, and does a spectacular job of showing how frustrating, and enraging it was to live during the Jim Crow era, in which those who held authority, (yes, the police, but regular citizens were encouraged to get in on the fun), could terrorize black people on a whim, or simply for their own pleasure.
They do follow the cops rules and manage to barely make it out of town, only to be stopped by the police in the neighboring county, who were lying in wait for them. This is an especially relevant point, because it speaks to the arbitrary nature of the rules. It ultimately doesn’t mean anything that Atticus and the others followed the rules. They’ll be killed anyway, because a group of people determined that they should, and no amount of rule following would’ve saved them. However, the three of them are inadvertently saved by monsters.
*I want to point out some of the images used in the show, which is rich with detail. This particular image here was based off some famous photographs by Gordon Parks.
And here is another, which can also seen in the episode:
*There’s also a famous interview from James Baldwin, which is used in voiceover, before the trio’s second encounter with the police.
*Hippolyta (George’s wife) is also the name of Wonder Woman’s mother, and George has a daughter named Diana.
The cops take the three of them into the woods to execute them. This is an especially chilling scene when you think about how many black people might have been murdered in this fashion, who were never missed, or whose bodies were never discovered. In fact there are a host of activities that black people don’t do today, not just because we were discouraged from participating in everyday American life, but because, even today, we are still recovering from the trauma of the constant terrorizing and policing of our actions, which lasted some sixty to seventy years. Activities like road trips, camping, swimming, walking on the sidewalks, or just out enjoying nature, could (and did) get us murdered.
Until the seventies, many state parks were off limits to black people and earlier this Summer a young black man posted videos where he was threatened with lynching, by a white mob that assaulted him in a park. The bottom line is that many of the nature activities that white people took for granted, were enduring traumas for PoC, but especially black people. So when you hear us joking about not going into the woods, or never going hiking, keep this in mind, as one of the factors.
“When I’m walking to work with park rangers or with other campers and hikers who treat me in some sort of way that make me feel unwelcome, that make me feel unsafe, that is startling,” Tariq said. “And that goes unchecked because there’s, there’s just no channel for us to be able to challenge that in such remote places.”
As much as white people claim to be afraid of black people because…..crime, or something, I don’t think many of them have ever thought about what it must be like to live one’s life in constant fear of stepping on white people’s toes, at work, or the store, in a park, or just out of doors. Always having to watch what you say, how you look, dress, act, and carefully structure one’s facial expressions, lest you set one of them off, as if they were unexploded ordinance.
The police take them into the woods to execute them, but before that can happen, they are all attacked by what viewers are calling Shuggoths, but what the characters in the show are calling vampires. They are covered with eyes, shun the light, and can move extremely fast, so they manage to take out the five or six cops rather easily. Letty and Atticus escape to an abandoned cabin, along with two of the cops, one of whom had their arm bitten off. After George joins them in the cabin, they make a plan to get more light from the cars parked at the edge of the woods. Atticus wants to go, but is prevented from doing so by the cops who 1) don’t trust him, and on top of that 2) aren’t very bright, because why would he leave his friends behind just to spite the police? The cops nominate Letty to run to the vehicles.
Okay, I’m going to have to stop here for another aside. These are the same type of white men who will happily kill a black man for breathing too hard in a white woman’s direction but are perfectly happy to sacrificing a black woman to save their skins. In their minds, black women are not worth protecting. So even though they are armed and can take care of themselves, they insist that this black woman attempt to outrun the monsters, to save their skins. To calm everyone down, Letty does make a case that she is faster than Atticus, having run track as a girl, and off she goes.
And this is the way that people should be running in a Horror movie. Letty is seriously hauling ass! I wonder how many times Journee had to do that scene, because this is not a stunt double, and she is seriously working out! There’s none of that glancing behind, or tripping and falling shit in your typical generic horror movie. This is also probably the reason black people don’t get to star in too many of them, because they would be boringly short films.
Letty makes it to the car, and heads back to the cabin, where the two cops are so busy concentrating on holding those two scary black men in check, that they don’t notice that one of them is turning into a one of the creatures that attacked them, but that’s not what’s interesting . What’s fascinating is even though the cop next to him is turning into a nightmare that’s going to eat him, he is hesitant to shoot him, despite Attticus’ and George’s warnings, instead choosing to keep his weapon aimed at the two unarmed black men in front of him. See ,this is one of the reasons I don’t trust white people, (no, not even my white friends), with my safety. After decades of fear-mongering propaganda, the majority of them simply do not have good judgment when it comes to what’s actually dangerous, and what isn’t.
The cop turns into a monster and eats the other cop, which is a nice conflation of the idea that there are other types of monsters in the world, but the human ones are the scariest. Letty arrives with the car just as the monster turns its attention to Atticus and George, but they still need to hold the monsters off until daylight, or fight them, and that’s when the mysterious benefactor arrives and calls them off using, what else…a dog whistle!
We next see the three travelers arriving at Ardham house, exhausted, and covered in blood, where they are welcomed and expected by their happy blond host, and yes, I’m immediately suspicious.
So that’s my first impression of the show. I have, since the posting of this review, watched a couple more episodes, and the show manages to keep that same energy for each episode, which is more like a connected anthology than a serialistic show. The second episode finishes out the first story arc at Ardham House, and the third focuses on Leticia buying a haunted house. Both episodes continue with the same wealth of detail, racist white men, and historical asides, including references to the Garden of Eden, and a chilling cameo from Emmet Till!
There are so many layers to this show, but its also just entertaining, even if you don’t get, or see, all the socio-historical references. The show is fun to watch, with a lot of exciting moments, because its well written, and the characters and plot are compelling.
I was just looking over a list of of horror movies I made early on this blog, of some of my favorite monsters, and took note of how damn weird all the monsters on that list were. I remember deliberately leaving certain types of traditional monsters off the list, like vampires and werewolves.
I also noticed a trend, from decade to decade, too. Whatever social or economic concerns Americans were voicing in the media at that time, got appropriated by Hollywood to make these movies, although its not quite that simple, as Hollywood didn’t just reflect our fears, but reinforced them, as a lot of these films had a sort of dialogue with one another.
In the fifties, the big theme was nuclear generated monsters because people were still reeling from the use of atomic weaponry during the war. In the sixties, the theme was zombies, and other human related horrors, as people began to question American lifestyles, and there was a great deal of social and racial upheaval. In the seventies, it was environmental concerns, and in the eighties, Hollywood focused on human and supernatural related horrors, like zombies, and slashers.
Here is my top ten list of the weirdest horror movie monsters ever screened. There’s a lot more, these just happen to be my personal favorites.
Little Shop Of Horrors – Giant Venus Flytrap
This is certainly one of the strangest monsters ever seen in a movie, (especially considering the sheer numbers of strange monsters in movies), a giant flytrap that is actually from Venus, that talks and sings. It took me years to figure that that’s what Audrey II was, probably because I wasn’t paying attention to the dialogue as closely as I should have, and well…Audrey is certainly distracting. The 1986 movie stars the music of Alan Mencken, was directed by Frank Oz, of Muppet fame, while Audrey was voiced by Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops.
Food of the Gods – Giant Mice, Chickens, and Hornets
This 1978 movie was loosely based on the H.G.Wells novel of the same name about a strange substance that bubbles out of the ground near a farm, which gets fed to various animals. This causes the farm animals, and all the nearby woodland wildlife to grow to tremendous sizes. The audience gets treated to giant chickens, giant hornets, and of course, giant mice. Yes, the acting is terrible, and the special effects are laughable, but there are at least a couple of truly effective scenes, which makes this movie worth taking a look at.
Part of the reason for all these giant and killer animal movies, during the 70s, was America’s new awareness of ecological issues, which prompted Hollywood to try to cash in on these new environmentalist fears. Movies like Squirm, Slugs, Day of the Animals, Frogs, and the many Grizzly films gave vent to American’s fears of humans destroying the environment, which prompted the environment to take revenge on us.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes – GiantTomatoes
In keeping with the theme of ecologically based monsters, this is an utterly ridiculous, 1978 satirical film, whose style is loosely based on the giant nuclear animal movies of the fifties, and The Blob. The tomatoes even have their own theme song, written by John Dibello. The acting is atrocious, which only contributes to the films very, very, broad humor.
Night of the Lepus – Giant Rabbits
This is a 1972 horror scifi movie about a town being overrun by giant rabbits. The special effects are incredibly laughable because the rabbits don’t look especially evil or angry. They just look like rabbits, which is entirely in keeping with the “nature is trying to kill us all” phase of horror that happened during the 70s.
Rubber – Killer Car Tire
This 2010 movie is about a rubber tire, named Robert, that somehow becomes sentient enough to psychically kill the people it encounters. It rolls around the desert, exploding the bodies of hapless animals and unsuspecting people. Directed by Quentin Depieux, and starring a cast of nobodies, this film is much more surreal, as it also has a chorus of bystanders, who view the events, while making commentary, and who eventually all contract food poisoning by eating some bad poultry they brought with them for a picnic. Quentin needs help!
Attack of the Killer Shrews – Giant Shrews
This 1959, black and white, giant animal movie revolves around a boat captain and his crew, who get stranded on a research island, with a mad scientist, his daughter, and the staff. The mad scientist believes shrinking human beings to the size of party snacks is a way to solve world hunger. He should have stuck with enlarging plants, because naturally, he gets to be one of the first people eaten by the shrews. Its also a monumentally stupid idea.
This movie has the distinction of being one of the few movies, on this list, that scared the living beejeezus out of me…when I ten years old, and watched it on some idle Saturday afternoon. its always those childhood fears that stick with you, because I saw this a couple years ago, and yeah, I laughed at it, but it was, lowkey, still effective.
From Hell It Came – A Tree Stump/Zombie?
In keeping with the theme of murderous, sentient, wildlife, this is a 1957 scifi horror movie, about what appears to be an angry, nuclear generated, tree stump, on yet another desert island. This movie has the rather unique plot of having a witch doctor and human sacrifice involved, as well. As usual, there is the demonization of some sort of African pagan religion, which I’ll be speaking on later.
Black Sheep – Sheep
Black Sheep is a 2006 movie from New Zealand, about a brother who accidentally zombifies a flock of sheep, by performing genetic experiments on his father’s sheep farm. Just one bite from one of these fat, and perfectly normal looking sheep, is enough to transform a man into a horrific man-sheep monstrosity. The humor is that all of this is played completely straight and the actors really sell it.
The Crawling Eye – Giant Loose Eyeball
Originally called the Trollenberg Terror, this is a 1958 British, black and whit,e film. This one of the few films where the monster’s origins are not a result of nuclear something or other. The location is isolated, scientists are involved, and the monsters seemingly have a form of mind controlled.
Squirm – Worms
This is another movie I remember watching as a kid where I wasn’t so much terrified, as disgusted. This movie, released in 1976, was one of the worst of the ecologically based horror movies, if only for the acting, but I still found it intriguing, because…worms. During a thunderstorm, a farm full of worms get struck with electricity from downed power lines, and decide they like the taste of people. There’s some greatly ridiculous scenes of screaming worms, and houses being swarmed by regular sized, bloodthirsty, worms.
The Swarm – Killer Bees
This was apart of the great Swarm! of killer bee movies that we all got inundated with in the 70s, thanks to the media horror stories about the Africanized honey bee, the most hostile and aggressive bees on the planet because…Africa! taking over America.
Frogs – Frogs
This movie released in 1972, is a rather slow moving thing that doesn’t contain monsters so much as deeply stupid people. A wealthy family has a reunion on their private island, so they can fight among themselves in private, but are inundated by swarms of frogs, and other wildlife, that apparently hate them. The frogs and other animals, aren’t grown to large sizes, or are even especially malevolent. They pretty much just act like snakes, birds, and lizards, while the family members act like accident prone ninnies.
So hey everybody, have a happy weekend, and watch out for the trees!
[These last reviews of the Red Dragon arc were originally published after the end of the series in 2015. I’ve edited these reviews to reflect new thoughts and information.]
The last episode I reviewed was about the different character’s perceptions, as has been the theme for most of the series., but this episode is about Agency, how each of the characters have it, take it, and/or employ it. Agency is the ability to affect change over the environment by one’s actions. One can affect change oneself or use proxies to do so.
We pick up the narrative where we left off in the last episode.
Graham is outlining the situation for Crawford. Crawford is incredulous that Dollarhyde ate a painting. Graham surmises that Hannibal knows who Dollarhyde is, and that he was once a patient. He’s only half wrong. Dollarhyde is Hannibal’s current patient through secret phone calls, after Dollarhyde masquerades as Hannibal’s lawyer. We flashback (not really) to Hannibal telling Dollarhyde to save himself by attacking Will and his family. This is about Dollarhyde taking and using agency, regarding his relationship with Hannibal, the Red Dragon, and Reba, but he is also Hannibal’s proxy.
Hannibal is using Dollarhyde to get back at Will for rejecting him. Lecter does, as Bedelia states later, have agency in the world, even though he is locked away. The difference is that she attributes this agency to the wrong person. She thinks the person executing Hannibal’s agency is Will Graham, when its really Dollarhyde. This is Hannibal, once again, playing his old game of I love you/I want to hurt you! Will may be tired of it, but Hannibal always finds this game amusing (except when Will enacts this particular game against him.)
Oh yeah, the flashbacks aren’t actually flashbacks. They’re conversations that Lecter had/is having, with Dollarhyde, over the phone, but are imagined from Lecter’s point of view, and usually from inside what he calls his mind vault. Being given Lecter’s POV is often done without any warning for the audience, an effect with which I’m not entirely comfortable, as nobody really wants to be in Lecter’s head, and is probably equally disconcerting for people who are “first watchers” of this series.
As the next full moon approaches, Reba and Dee (as she calls him), spend some quality time together. I don’t see a whole lot of chemistry in their relationship, (that’s just my inability to see romance between characters, in general), but these are both very good actors, who convince me that they’re in the beginning stages of a relationship. Dollarhyde wants to, but can’t let the Red Dragon go, not even for Reba’s sake, not even as he fears for her. While she cuddles with him on the sofa, he watches home movies of his next possible target, Molly and Wally.
Will’s wife is at the vet because the dogs are sick. She doesn’t understand that the Red Dragon always kills the pets first. I know this from reading the books, but she believes she poisoned the dogs with some food from China, because that was a thing going around in the news at the time this show was written, and Fuller, who absolutely loves dogs, was so incensed by that, that he put it in the script.
Graham goes to Lecter to beg for the identity of the Red Dragon, but Lecter would rather tease him. This is one of the quietest, and most sinister arguments, I’ve ever heard, conducted almost entirely in sharp whispers. This may also be the reason I can’t understand what the hell is going on. I managed to get around this by remembering to turn on the captions.
Dollarhyde tries to murder Will’s family, hunting them through their house, and injuring Molly. Both she and Wally survive, but Will, naturally, feels incredibly guilty about what happened. He has a conversation with Wally, about the killer’s mental illness, which forces him to divulge the time he spent in a psychiatric hospital. The conversation does not go well. Incidentally, we don’t see or hear from either of these characters again, and no end is written for Molly, as Will seemingly forgets all about her. Make of that what you will because the fans certainly did.
Will, incensed, confronts Lecter, who readily admits to giving Dollarhyde Will’s home address. Crawford, and Alana threaten Lecter into cooperating with Crawford’s scheme to capture Dollarhyde using drop boxes.
Because he failed to kill Will’s family, Dollarhyde imagines himself getting beaten by the Red Dragon. Reba walks in on him just after this event, and there’s a very tense moment where he is probably contemplating killing her, as he has not quite come back to himself, and the Red Dragon, having been deprived of the other kill, wants to be satisfied.
This scares Francis because he genuinely cares about Reba, and in an effort to be proactive, to save her from himself, shows up at Reba’s job and breaks up with her, saying that he’s afraid he might hurt her. Reba, not knowing or even suspecting any of this, (she is a true innocent), is understandably angry, and tells him to get out. It looks bad no matter what he does. From her point of view, they slept together a few times, and now he suddenly doesn’t want to be with her, having given no indication that he’s no longer interested.
These are both fine actors, who really sell this scene. I am touched by their conversation, (even though I hate romance movies). I suddenly realize that Francis isn’t as much afraid of hurting her, as he is also afraid of being in love, and being loved. In the flashback sequence with Lecter, he talks about how she makes him feel, and believes himself to be completely unworthy of the level of happiness he feels with her, or her desire for him. Love can be terrifying, especially for someone unused to giving or receiving it, and who has some deep self esteem issues due to child abuse.
I would also like to commend the show for showing an inter-racial relationship as if its no big deal. I like it that the show treats the characters, especially the women, like people, and doesn’t feel the need to change the dialogue to reflect the character’s race or gender. The same dialogue spoken by a White man in the movie, is the exact same dialogue that’s spoken by a Black man or a White woman on the show. In fact the only major recurring characters to remain unchanged are Graham, Lecter and Dollarhyde.
Dollarhyde calls Lecter, not knowing that their conversation is being overheard. Lecter gives him a quick warning, because that’s the kind of shit he does, and afterwards is duly punished. Alana keeps her word to him, by having all of his amenities taken away, including his toilet seat. He also gets restraints and the famous Lecter mask, first seen in Silence of the Lambs, (but was also seen on Will Graham in the second season).
Will talks to Molly at the hospital and she nominally forgives him for what happened to her. She’s not really blaming him, but yeah, she’s still pretty pissed that the man Will was hunting, tried to kill her, and her son. Will then goes to see Lecter in his new accommodationless accommodations. The story is not over. Normally, after the attack on Will’s family, the films end with the restoration of the status quo, and Dollarhyde dead, but Fuller has a lot more story to tell.
This is one of television’s strengths. It has the ability to tell complicated, interwoven, long form stories that cannot be done in a two hour movie. It has the ability to flesh out characters and plot in a way that’s more difficult on the big screen, (unless the movie is totally dedicated to a specific person or subject.)
On TV, the writers can create a tapestry of a story, using multiple threads, and deeper characterization, and I think this is where TV has really gained momentum as a storytelling medium, especially in the last ten years. TV didn’t always take full advantage of its serial nature. In fact it always tried to do what movies did, but in less time, as it would try to wrap up it’s mini- stories in the space of 45 or 50 minutes. Fortunately, its starting to break away from this model somewhat, and watching a series requires a certain level of dedication, if a viewer wants to understand the entire story.
None of that however, is going to help the casual viewer to understand whats going on in this show. I love this show, but this level of complexity, always just slightly out of grasp, may be the reason this is the show’s last season. You know there’s more depth to the show then you understand, but its ten o’clock in the evening, your mind is gone, and there’s a lot of urgent whispering that requires you to turn on the captions, so you can find out just what the Hell is being said.
“ And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. ” Revelations 12:3-4
I was a teenager the first time I read the Book of Revelations, so naturally, I found it pretty terrifying. Mostly because of some incredibly lurid imagery, I just wasn’t expecting the Bible to have. Reading it when I got older, I was less afraid, and struck instead, by the incredible beauty and poetry of those chapters.
Most people don’t know this, (Hell, I didn’t know it and I went to art school), but the painting featured in the movie version, but which I’ve not seen in the show, is one of a series of paintings by Willliam Blake, about the Book of Revelations, and his interpretation of the Rise of the Antichrist. The one featured in the Red Dragon movie is the painting titled The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed IN the Sun.
The second painting in the series, and that of the first episode of The Red Dragon arc of this series, is titled …And the Woman Clothed WITH the Sun. There are two other paintings in the series, which are also the titles of the next two episodes.
Hannibal and The Tooth Fairy are clandestinely discussing Francis’ transformation into the Red Dragon. This episode is sort ofabout how characters perceive themselves, vs, how others perceive them, and each character discusses who they are, which is contrasted to the reality. For the first time, we hear Francis declare himself to be the Dragon. This is how he perceives himself, but what we see in Hannibal’s imagination is the two of them sitting in a room together, while Hannibal looks at an ordinary man, but Hannibal responds with a line from Blake’s poem, The Tyger, in expression of the awe that Francis craves.
Bedelia, Lecter’s psychiatrist, is giving a public speech about the nature of her relationship with Hannibal the Cannibal, and how she managed to escape him. She is trying to create the public perception that she was one of Hannibal’s victims. Will Graham is there, and calls her out on her bullshit. Will’s perception of her is very different.
The two of them have a long meeting, and I have come to the conclusion that not only is Bedelia batshit-insane, she is also pretty terrifying. Not violent, so much as completely disassociated from what makes a person human, and while I want to think Lecter is responsible for that, this is most likely all her, and may be the reason he liked her so much.
Now contrast Will’s scene with Bedelia, with my favorite scene, which is when Francis takes Reba to meet the tiger. This entire scene is about perception. Francis views himself as the beast. It’s not quite obvious, but Reba has kind of caught on to that, and seems to know what he’s thinking. Apparently Reba can frame “thy fearful symmetry” just fine, of both the tiger, and Francis. I think this perception of what Francis may be thinking is what informs her actions towards him, later. Even Fuller states that this is a deeply sensuous moment between the two of them.
Francis describes the tiger’s color. Is that helpful to her? Depending on when and how she lost her sight (as we are never told), does she remember colors? In the book, Reba lost her sight as a child, and jokes to him about what animals she remembers. I can’t imagine this Reba knows what he’s talking about, if she’s been blind since birth. This scene is shot to perfection, as we see Reba’s skin tone against that of the glowing yellow fur of the tiger. She listens to its heart, while Francis stands there, barely able to contain his depth of feeling.
Francis takes Reba to his home. She is impressed by his home, and his thoughtfulness in arranging the thing with the tiger. They drink wine, listen to music, and Reba makes the first move. This is a woman who doesn’t believe in letting an opportunity to enjoy herself slip away. (Rutina Wesley appears to have these huge man-hands, which is deeply disturbing, and distracting. Her hands are as huge as Francis’ head.)
Their love scene gets the slo-mo treatment, interspersed with shots of Frank’s dragon tattoo. Francis envisions Reba, as the Woman spoken of in Blake’s painting, floating and goddess-like, in liquid gold, the same color as the tiger. Its almost like he’s worshiping her, but without the context that in the Book of Revelations, the Woman clothed with the Sun, is the Dragon’s downfall.
Later, while Reba is sleeping, he uses her hand to touch his face, but it’s not sexy, at all. It’s deeply sad, that he’s so lonely, so removed from normal people, and so starved for affection, and all of it self imposed, as he has deep self esteem issues, because of his disability. Reba is probably the only woman to ever touch him, in a very long time, with any form of love, especially his face, as he’s very self conscious about his cleft palate.
The next morning, he is summoned to the attic by the dragon’s voice, where he and his alter ego argue about what to do with Reba. The outcome of the fight is …uncertain, but I think Dollarhyde wins this round. He then takes Reba home.
Hannibal manages to get Graham’s address and home number. This does not look good.
Will and Bedelia are still talking. Will tells her she deserves to be eaten by Lecter. I’m as disgusted with her as he is, and I see why he’s so pissy with her. She was wholly complicit in Hannibal’s crimes, but claims it was curiosity that kept her with him. She’s as much a sociopath as Lecter, but couches it in a veneer of professionalism.
Zachary Quinto is guest starring in this episode. That man is everywhere. (Fortunately, I’m in love with him, so I can watch him anywhere.) Lecter used to be his counselor, and he claimed he got worst under his care. This scene switches back and forth between Graham and Bedelia, and her session with Quinto’s outraged patient. He starts having a seizure. Something that was subliminally planted by Hannibal.
To her credit, Bedelia does try to help him, but she botches the job by reaching too far into his mouth, in an attempt to reach his tongue, which she believes he is swallowing. This was apparently before she became inured to death. Now, she could probably watch him choke, with all the compassion of an insect. This is the event that gave Hannibal leverage over her, to coerce her to travel to Italy with him.
The elephant in the room is this deeply intimate relationship between Graham and Hannibal. It’s no secret that fans are shipping the Hell out of these two, and Fuller is well aware of this, and likes to play it up. Will asks Bedelia if Hannibal is in love with him and she tells him her perception of their relationship. From the beginning of the series the primary theme has always been about perception. How Will perceives the world around him, how Hannibal looks at the world ,and how the supporting characters view the two of them.
Will approaches Lecter with the Red Dragon symbol he found at the Leeds’ home, and Lecter informs him of its meaning, mentioning that the full moon is in eleven days, so Will better get a move on, before the next family dies.
At the Brooklyn Museum, Francis goes to see the the main Blake painting, and just as in the book and film, he eats it. This is probably his attempt to stop killing by ingesting the painting’s power, or so Will guesses. When Graham shows up, they finally meet face to face, which doesn’t work out too well for Graham, and Francis tosses him through the air like a kitten. Its easy to forget how large the actor is who plays Dollarhyde, next to the rather diminutive Graham. In a prodigious show of strength, Francis picks him up and throws him across the room, before making his escape.
Since the show hews so closely to the filmed version, (which is not unlike the book), this really plays off the difference between television and film. In every respect, this particular part of the series is just like the film, only with a depth of detail that movies simply don’t have time for, in the space of two hours. It’s really like watching an alternate universe version of the same story.
This is also one of the reasons that television is in the midst of a kind of renaissance of storytelling, right now. The creators of these shows, informed by social media and digital streaming, can take full advantage of the medium, take serial storytelling to its ultimate conclusion, and respond to fandom critiques of their shows, almost in real time. As a result, movies are just a very different medium of storytelling, and simply can’t do what a series does, in providing the depth of character detail that fans crave.
This leads to one of the differences I noted between Transformative fandom vs Curatorial fandom. Curatorial fandom is most often concerned with the minutiae and plot detail provided in movies, which have characters and relationships as less of a priority. It’s not that movies don’t have either of those things, its that its more difficult to get deep into such issues, in a two hour genre movie, that has more pressing concerns, like advancing the plot. However, you can get more in depth character development, and relationships in a ten or twenty hour series. In fact, the success of a series depends on how invested the audience can get into the characters.
We have conculded with the portion of the Hannibal/Will Graham story that began in season one, when they first met over the body of Abigail Hobbs, and ending with the capture/surrender to the authorities of Hannibal Lecter. This is one of the first episodes that doesn’t have a reference to food or dining in its title.
The story has moved forward three years, to begin The Red Dragon storyline, from the book of the same name, along with two films, one from 1986, titled Manhunter, starring Brian Cox as Hannibal, and the other directed by Brett Ratner in 2002, starring Edward Norton. This last part of the season follows the book, and the two films, closely enough, with Will Graham coming out of retirement to catch a serial killer called The Tooth Fairy, or as he calls himself, The Red Dragon. But there is also a lot of new stuff added as we find out what the other characters have been doing.
Alana Bloom has become the Administrator of the asylum which houses Hannibal Lecter. As she says, she is holding all the keys, and has him exactly where where she wants him. She was the surrogate mother to her and Margot’s son, who is also the heir to the Verger fortune, and she lives with Margot, who we don’t get to see this season. Jack Crawford is still doing his thing at the Criminal Minds Bureau, and has not remarried after the death of his wife.
Crawford’s old forensic team, (Price and Zeller), have moved on, achieved promotions, and gone their separate ways, and we don’t learn anything new about him. Chilton stepped down from his position at the hospital to become a true crime author. He wrote a bestselling book that absolved Hannibal of responsibility for his murders, which Hannibal rebuts in a popular psychiatric journal, just to spite him.
We do get to see Hannibal too, and when we first meet him, he is sharing some Blood Pudding with Chilton as they discuss their past together. Hannibal has entered a state of mind where he has zero fucks to give about being a cannibal, as he cheerfully needles both Chilton and Alana about how he adulterated the foods and beverages he gave them.
Chilton then Hannibal by claiming that he is old news, and that nobody wants to hear about him anymore, because a new star has risen, The Tooth Fairy, so named because he likes to bite his victims. If you’ll remember, that is a callback to a speech, that Alana was giving to Will’s profiling class, in the first season.
The greatest change has been to Will Graham’s life. He has moved on from Lecter and married a woman named Molly, with a son, Wally. The three of them live on a farm with their stray dogs, while Will fixes boat motors, and tries to ignore any news of The Tooth Fairy. After the Tooth Fairy’s latest killing, Jack Crawford shows up to pull Will back in, desperate for his help in capturing him. Molly doesn’t like this, but realizes that Crawford will take Will anyway.
Crawford makes the same futile promise to Molly that he made to Alana several years ago, that he would keep Will safe, so he has not learned from that time period, it seems. But Molly relents, actually encouraging Will to leave his family, and go help Crawford. Crawford hands Will a letter from Lecter, who has been writing to him regularly. Wil lreads it and the press clipping of Dollarhyde’s most recent muder ,and burns both in the fireplace.
And I just want to talk about this moment, because one of my biggest pet peeves, in a lot of series and shows, is the depiction of wives and mothers. They are often depicted as clingy and disapproving of their husband’s work, especially in crime and cop stories. The movie version of Molly is exactly like that, but it is a cliche I’ve seen across a lot of media, so its very refreshing to see that Molly understands Will’s talent, knows the good he has done, and knows that he is saving lives, and encourages him to do so. Its very refreshing to see her give her approval here, rather than nag him for leaving her, or endangering himself.
We get to do a profiling walk-through with Will, as he tours the home of The Tooth Fairy’s latest victims, the Leeds. I just want to point out one more time that this is not anything like the way actual profiling gets done. Profilers rarely get to visit the actual crime scenes and touch stuff. They normally work from photographs and investigative reports.
I find it difficult to believe that Will can do any profiling since he never turns on any lights in the house. For some reason, Hollywood has decided that profiling needs to dramatized by having it be done in darkened rooms, with flashlights, since this is the exact approach that was used in the movie.
Price and Zeller return after a long hiatus from the series. Price’s character is now an agent, and Graham, Zeller, and Price pick up their dynamic right where they left off in their forensic investigation of the Leeds’ homicide. Price and Zeller had long gotten used to Graham’s interruptions of their analysis with insights into the killer’s mind.
Unlike the police procedural versions of the first and second season, we spend a not inconsiderable amount of time in the presence of The Tooth Fairy, aka The Red Dragon, aka Francis Dollarhyde. Fuller doesn’t dwell on showing Francis committing his crimes, focusing instead on Francis’ mental illness, motivations, and private life. The end result is not the sensationalism of the murders, but the mindset of the perpetrator, resulting in the profile of a man who, as Will Graham says, with his usual level of empathy, later in the season, was not a freak, so much as a man with a freak on his back.
We are introduced to Francis, and I’m assuming this scene is set sometime around, or just before, the time that Hannibal was captured, as Francis sits in the cafeteria at his job, contemplating an issue of Time magazine, in which there is an article about Blake’s painting of The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun. He is so enamored of the painting that he gets one of the paintings tattooed on his back. He also has a great deal of admiration for Hannibal Lecter, and like a lot of serial killers in movies, has a murder scrapbook filled with press clippings of his and Hannibal’s murders.
As we will discuss in a later post, the Red Dragon painting is actually a series of watercolor paintings, based on Blake’s images from the Biblical Book of Revelations. This has the effect of bringing a religious element into the discussion of this season.
The reason we know this scene happened several years ago, is that it takes about that long for someone to get the kind of full body tattoo, that’s displayed on Francis’ back, at the end of this scene. Tattoos of that size, with such photo realistic detail, are often called “Full Suit” or “Body Suit” tattoos, and can take upwards of a 100 hours to finish, especially if the recipient has never had experience with tattoos before.
Francis then has a set of specially made dentures that are copies of his grandmother’s dentures. In the book, he simply used his grandmother’s old dentures, and they were ill fitting. This is definitely giving me some Psycho/Norman Bates vibes. According to the book, (and only shown in some of the episodes), his grandmother was emotionally and physically abusive, and one could argue, she was sexually abusive as well, as she regularly threatened his manhood, for urinating in bed. We learn this during a scene where Francis hallucinates in her voice, which is also a callback to the movie Psycho, with Norman’s mother berating him in a voiceover. All of this has to be put in the perspective of serial killing, as two of the markers for it is childhood abuse, and bedwetting.
After Will does his walkthrough of the crime scene, he feels he’s not in the correct mindset to be able to solve the crime. He thinks he needs Lecter to help him get there, and tells Crawford he’s going to see him at the Hospital. Crawford agrees.
At the end of the episode is Hannibal’s long hoped for reunion with the man Freddy Lounds referred to as his Murder-Husband. This too is a callback to the last episode of the first season, when Hannibal approached Will’s cell, after he was falsely arrested for the murder of Abigail Hobbs, as the same melancholy music plays in the background.
The Old Guard has totally blown up on Tumblr. The movie, which aired on Netflix last month was a real treat for women who love action movies, so much so, that there has been a lot of great meta writing and fanworks on the site.The movie is based on the Graphic Novel, by Greg Rucka, about a team of four immortal warriors, Andromache of Scythia,(Charlize Theron), Nicky, Joe, and Booker, living in the modern world, fighting a pharmecutical CEO ,who wants to use them for medical experiments. In the meantime, they need to find and recruit a brand new immortal, named Nile Freeman, and deal with a betrayal within, and outside of, their group.
Its one of those big idea movies, where the rules are all laid out beforehand, and doesn’t stint on the development of its characters. It has some truly lovely scenes between Nicky and Joe, and Nile and Andy. I thought the movie was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed the characters and their interactions. I think its really worth a watch if you like action movies, with strong, ass kicking, smart women, who interact realistically with one another, along with a well illustrated, found family dynamic. There’s also a strong philosophical thread that runs through the movie, which asks questions about the purpose of living, and what its like to be alive for hundreds of years.
The Old Guard is a fairly predictable film as far as the plot. What makes it groundbreaking however is its Black female director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, the well executed action scenes, its racial diversity, its Black female co-lead, and the presence of a canon gay inter-racial couple, who both survive to the end of the movie.
I read a lot of meta on this movie and was moved by how much fans seemed to really embrace this movie, especially Nile, since fandom hasn’t always been any good about its approach to black female characters. Its true that some fans tend to infantilize her, but that’s somewhat understandable, since the character of Nile is a brand new, baby-immortal, just learning about her powers, and the actress who plays her, Kiki Layne does have a kind of sweet baby face.
The story makes an effort to set up the knowledge that the characters are immortal, but that their survival is not a guarantee, so the tension about who will survive, remains really high, no matter how many fights we see them get into in the film
One of the things I loved about this movie is that the stakes never were less than. You would think, because the characters are unable to die, that there’d be nothing for them to lose in the several firefights, but there are many intangible things they can lose. They can lose their freedom, they can lose their trust, or their friendship, for Nikki and Joe, they could lose each other, or even their sense of purpose, or self, the way Andy did.
Another love of this film was the character arcs. We find out at the beginning of the movie that Andy has been retired from fighting for over a year. She’s given up, she’s cynical, and has no hope that she has done anything useful for the world, and we watch as her character gets back her reason for fighting and Nile is the key to that. Andy doesn’t just go out and save Nile. Nile saves her too.
Even their treatment of Booker’s betrayal comes from a place of compassion. Yes, they’re very angry with him, but they don’t permanently exile him either. They think a hundred years of being separated from his family is punishment enough. They’re not out to physically harm him, or cause him emotional damage, but there have to be consequences for what he did. They know being alone however is horrible for him (it’s the reason he betrayed them in the first place) but it’s the only consequence they have available.
For male directors character development and emotions, may be a 3 or 4 on the scale of priority in a movie, and I normally don’t have a problem with that manner of filmmaking. I’ve watched enough action movies to be able to glean the emotions in them, but usually that’s not a male director’s focus. I’m mostly thinking of movies like Winter Soldier, Inception, and Fury Road, (and quite a large number of Asian action films,) where the focus is on the plot and action, with character development as more of an afterthought.
I think there are a number of male action directors who do bring emotionalism into their work, and manage to be successful at it, but I think the difference is for male directors their priorities are simply different than female directors. For women directors though, the priority on relationships, character interaction, and character development, may be at a one or a two, thereby making the plot much more character driven than in male directed films, where the plot is more situational, but that’s just an observation I’ve made with my limited sample size.
There really aren’t a wealth of action movies out there directed by female directors ,and the ones that do get made, are either always being trashed as the worst movies ever, or lauded as the second coming of Jesus. There seems to be no in between, reasonably thought out, reviews or critiques. Everything is either the best of times or the worst of times.
And yes, I am geeking out over the addition of a Black female character as an action heroine. There really are not enough female action heroes, but there are almost no Black or Asian ones. This is why I’ve become a lot more discerning about the kinds of shows and movies I watch now. I’m thoroughly spoiled for diverse content, that has depth and at least some meaning, and very dubious about sitting through any more all white, all male productions of shows and movies. I’m definitely not willing to sit through any of the lazy, sorry, excuses PoC have gotten in the past for not having diversity both in front of, and behind, the camera.
The Old Guard is a lot of fun, with just a touch of melancholy. Its just deep enough to be satisfying without getting too heavy. The plot isn’t really all that remarkable, and very predictable, but what the characters and director do with the plot is worth watching. It’s got some great action sequences, and although there are a couple of moments of cringey dialogue, and the music is sometimes overwhelmingly blase, its not too bad, and doesn’t stray very far from its comic book origins, as the script was written by Rucka. Theron carries most of the emotional heavy lifting in the story. In fact, she almost overpowers the story, but that gets nicely weighed by the other characterizations, and action scenes.
Fans are clamoring for a second season ,especially since there was a ice set up for it, in the last 30 seconds, but the word isn’t out yet on whether or not there will be one.
As for what Tumblr thinks:
This was a beautifully written examination of the movie’s characters. Please visit their Tumblr site for more insightful observations of their newest obseesion.
the old guard: loneliness, connection and immortality
APPARENTLY I am writing a thing about The Old Guard today.
(Bear in mind that I haven’t read the graphic novel, although I’m eager to now, so this is solely based on the movie and some things I’ve read about the comic in articles about the movie.)
Under the cut for spoilers, although the discussion is fairly general.
One of the things I love the most about The Old Guard, which I haven’t seen discussed much, is that there is no why to their powers. There’s no origin story, either via destiny or accident. There’s no prophecy, no curse, no ancient god, no super-serum, no lab accident, no mutant spider bite. If there is a reason why these people, in particular, are like this, we don’t know it and they don’t either. Where their immortality comes from, and why it fades when it does, is a complete unknown.
In other contexts I could see this coming off as a frustrating lack of clarity in worldbuilding. In The Old Guard I think it works as an essential piece of the philosophical landscape in which the story operates.
A parallel and interlocking component of this landscape is the fact that the immortals exist in a world where there are very few, if any, other superpowered beings. There are no pre-ordained forces of darkness, no aliens to fight, no neatly-arranged supervillains that only they can defeat. There are only humans.
This means they have to create their own framework of meaning for their actions, the way the rest of us mortals do. The mythology of their world doesn’t provide any built-in delineation of good guys and bad guys and What We’re Fighting For. There’s no easy certainty of purpose or moral clarity to be had.
Let’s talk for a minute about how The Old Guard shows Nile as a character who’s worthy of protection and caretaking without infantilizing her or minimizing her agency.
I’m thinking particularly of the scene when Nile wakes up from the nightmare about Quynh, which honestly might be one of my favorite moments in the whole movie. The three guys are all sleeping in the same room as her and they all immediately wake up and reach for their weapons, ready to throw down. Like, at least a couple of them look like they’re sleeping on cots. They could have spread out around the space, but all three of them are sleeping in the same room as her, armed. Only Andy has chosen to separate herself and is not-sleeping in the next room.
And their reaction isn’t just an ingrained response from a very long life of combat. They’re all very clearly focused on Nile and whether she’s safe, and once it’s clear that there’s no physical threat, they want to make sure she’s okay emotionally and help her understand what she saw in the nightmare.
This is one of those moments where context sensitivity matters a lot. Because we can easily imagine a scenario where the exact same scene would play as overprotective, condescending or downright creepy. But when the focus of the scene is a Black woman, a moment that says this character is worthy of both physical, bodily protection and emotional support reads very differently.
We already know Nile is a tough and self-sufficient character. She’s an elite soldier who grew up in the inner city, raised by a single mom who pushed her to succeed. She has excelled in a dangerous, physically demanding, male-dominated career. She is, in many ways, the template of the Strong Black Woman, and a lot of movies would have left it there. But with this scene, and all the other little moments of care and attention she receives, the other characters are saying, hey, we know you are tough and self-sufficient, but you don’t always have to be.
grizvser is writing some very nice meta about this show, especially the two lovers, Joe and Nicky. Please check out their Tumblr site for more astute observations about the show and characters.
Okay, so I’ve seen a lot of people say that Joe and Nicky were way too hard on Booker and that it’s out of character for them to have reacted so harshly to his betrayal, but y’all gotta remember (and I say this as someone who loves Booker): Joe and Nicky paid the heaviest price for Booker’s betrayal.
They were the ones who were kidnapped and tied up. Nicky had to watch Joe get stabbed repeatedly by Merrick. The two of them were the only ones who got experimented on, poked and prodded at and sliced into, and who knows what could have happened to them if they hadn’t been saved so soon. They had to deal with the trauma of possibly being kept there for god knows how long. When Booker and Andy were captured, they were only trapped for a little while before Nile came and rescued everyone. They never had to deal with any of that trauma.
Not only did they suffer the torture themselves, but they had to watch the person they love suffer too. If Booker hadn’t betrayed them, none of the events of the movie would’ve happened. Joe had to watch Nicky not only get tortured, but get shot in the damn head. All of this is because Booker sold them out.
Combine that with the fact that the two of them are clearly very loyal, honourable men, who are undoubtedly devestated that someone they trusted and thought of as their family would sell them out just because HE didn’t want to live anymore? Joe and Nicky are happy to be alive because they have each other, but Booker put that at risk because of his own feelings of grief. Even though I understand Booker wasn’t motivated by any malice and I’m empathetic to his struggles and feelings, it’s understandable why Joe calls him selfish. Joe is willing to live for eternity because he has Nicky (and the whole guard too, of course), and Booker’s actions could have taken that away from him.
Nile forgives him quickly because she’s new and doesn’t fully understand the weight of his actions, meanwhile Andy is more sympathetic because she, too, is a little bit tired of living, yet Joe and Nicky, the ones who want to live, bear the brunt of a lot of the suffering that came along with Booker’s choice.
Now, I do think they will get over it sooner than 100 years, but right now, the betrayal was so raw and the impact of what happened so fresh in their mind, I understand their reasoning.
One of the best things about Joe and Nicky in The Old Guard is their sexuality/relationship is a very important traits of both of their characters, but it’s not their only trait.
So many times when I hear people talk about gay/queer characters in media, I hear, “their sexuality isn’t an important part of their character” or “they just happen to be gay,” and I’ve always thought that was bullshit and a cop-out. Sexuality and romance plays a HUGE part in people’s lives. People spend a lot of their time looking for “the one”, looking for romance, looking for a relationship or sex or both. Think about classical male heroes and how often they bed women (think James Bond, James Kirk in Star Trek, etc.) Wouldn’t you say sexuality is a huge part of their characters? Yet with gay characters it’s said to be “not important.” It’s just a cop-out.
Joe and Nicky’s sexualities are very important because their relationship is so incredibly important to both of them. It’s portrayed to be the reason they’re both still happy to be living while Andy and Booker have grown jaded and suicidal due to loneliness. They are the most important thing in the world to each other. They aren’t “badass but just happen to be gay.” They are badass AND gay.
They’re incredibly competent fighters who can brutalize an entire army but when they go home they flirt, they wink at each other, they snuggle, they kiss, they talk about their love for one another. They’re no less masculine when they’re expressing their love for one another than they are when they’re massacring an army of soldiers.
Yet still, their characters are not reduced to just the token gay guys who are also tough. They have their own distinct personalities. Joe is impassioned, quick to anger, protective, playful, romantic, vengeful, but with a soft heart full of deep love. Nicky is quiet, reserved, compassionate, loving, and sweet, but also calculating and sarcastic and a force to be reckoned with in a fight.
They’re both such distinct, powerful personalities and it’s portrayed through their individual actions as well as through their love for each other. It fills me with so much joy that these characters were allowed to be so unapologetically, textually gay without it being an afterthought and also without it becoming the centerpiece of the story.
And these aren’t all. Visit Tumblr and type in The Old Guard to find whole blogs devoted to the topic, fanart, and various headcanon, and fictions.
Okay, I was initially just going to post only those shows I was invested in watching, but decided to add at least a couple of shows that, while I might not be especially enthused about them, I’m sure someone reading this, is.
So, here’s a thoroughly incomplete list of new Fall shows that someone, who is not necessarily me, might be interested in watching in October.
Walking Dead: World Beyond
This is one of the shows I’m not terribly enthused about, because I’m not really in much of a mood for apocalyptic fiction, right now, it’s based off The Walking Dead series, which is now in its 1,000th season, and I refuse to get attached to any of the characters I see here, just in case they die horribly in the first two episodes.
Pretty much the only thing I got out of The Walking Dead, was not to care about any of the characters, because they’re all just gonna be horribly killed at some point, and since characters are how I get invested in a show, well…
On the other hand, it does look intriguing, because it answers some questions about those helicopter people who approached Rick that one time, and what happened to Rick after his supposed death.
One theme in zombie fiction, that I am seriously tired of, is the travelogue narrative ,where, as soon as the world goes into lockdown mode, someone decides to take a road trip to find some lost loved ones, sometimes with neighbors, or a dog in tow, and they have harrowing adventures, and this seems like more of that. *Sigh*
I want to like this but I’m just not feeling it. I will look at the pilot though, and maybe I will want to see more of it. yeah, I have no idea what it’s actually about ,and I don’t even care, which is how I know I probably won’t be jumping on this.
I have mixed feelings about this show. On the one hand it is directed by a Black woman, and I’m just now coming off The Old Guard, which was also directed by a Black woman, and I’m feeling confident. Its also produced by Jordan Peele, and the original story was written by Matt Ruff, and I read and liked the book okay. It also has monsters in it, and I like to think the racistly racist Lovecraft is rolling over in his grave at having his universe adapted to serve Black characters. Its about a Black family that take a road trip and encounter a mystery and some Lovecraft style monsters.
But…I’m not at all in the mood to watch any more oppression narratives that are rooted in Black pain and trauma. I don’t want to watch any more shows, or movies, set in the Slave era, or Jim Crow South, where we get to watch the characters suffer, and I’m strongly inclined to pretend this doesn’t exist, and will not exist any time in the future.
Unlike a lot of other whiners on Youtube (and other media), I’m not yet tired of the superhero genre, especially if they keep putting interesting versions of it onscreen, but then, I’m a person who much more carefully chooses these movies and shows, rather than rushing to watch every single thing with a superhero in it, and I also tend to like non-superhero, superhero movies like Unbreakable, The Old Guard, and this vehicle here.
I really like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jamie Foxx ,and I’ve never seen the two of them in a movie together, and it looks like fun, I guess. I think I read a book that had something of the same premise waaay back in the 90s, and I think there’s been a least a couple of comic book stories, where gaining superpowers through drugs, was an idea.
I really like Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Ive seen most of their movies together, and I loathe the paranormal investigation reality show genre, so I’m actually looking forward to this parody.
The Good Lord Bird
That thing I said about Slave era narratives is still true, but I find myself greatly intrigued by this movie, because its a comedy that stars Orlando Jones, an actor I love, and Ethan Hawke, who, as John Brown, looks unrecognizable in this movie, and who was great in The Magnificent Seven remake, and Daveed Diggs, who plays Frederick Douglas. I also like it because it is a comedy where the plot isn’t rooted in the consumption of Black trauma.
It actually looks really, really, funny ,and the young girl we see in the trailer is actually a young boy who has disguised himself as a young girl because he found his life easier that way, and he sort of accidentally falls under Brown’s care.
You guys have got to read the book on which this movie is based, because Brown is a real hoot. Brown himself is a trigger happy abolitionist, who guns down any slave owners, and slave patrols he happens to encounter, making no effort to protect himself from harm, because he believes he is doing God’s will and that he is already protected.
Star Trek: Lower Decks
I’m not sure this is the best use of the money we gave these people for those last couple of Star Trek movies, so I’m just gonna leave this here.
I mean, I’m not opposed to an animated version of Star Trek, but I am opposed to an animated version of Star Trek. Heck, I didn’t even watch the original animated Trek, from the 70s. But you know what, I’m not gonna act like one of those fanboy purists who refuse to watch something just because its radically different from whatever came before, and I loved that Spiderverse movie. Not that this is, in any way, Spiderverse level entertainment, but I might be surprised.
An American Pickle
At first glance, this doesn’t seem much like something I’d watch, but I Seth Rogan okay, I like time travel movies, it looks funny, and I like the initial setting of Victorian New York.
Okay, maybe its not all sweetness and light, but I find Youtube amusing and interesting, as I carefully curate the things on my dashboard, to minimize bullshit. Here’s a list of ridiculousness that I stumbled across, and a short list of Youtubers I subscribe to. This is maybe half of them, but its a pretty good snapshot of the subjects that most interest me.
Tony Baker Voiceovers
From now on, I’m going to use the word “The Skibbity Pap”, every time I love smack one of my nieces or nephews on the back of the head. These Tony Baker videos have been around for years, but they’re new to me, and I just love them. Whenever I need a quick pick me up, I just put on one of these, and I’m soon crying for a completely different reason!
Also “skibbity pap” just sounds like the kind of thing that cats would call those love smacks they enjoy giving to anyone, or anything, that wanders into their orbit.
Two things that are deeply funny to me, are how the animals love to sing R&B songs to themselves, when they’re alone, and continuing adventures of Rudy, and his dogs.
The Patriot Act
ASMR: signifies the subjective experience of “low-grade euphoria” characterized by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin”. It is most commonly triggered by specific auditory or visual stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attention control.
This is one of the weirdest/funniest videos on Youtube, as Hasan Minhaj, from Patriot Act, gets in on that whole ASMR experience, by helping you relax while you’re doing your taxes. Watch the whole thing!
Beau of the Fifth Column
The first time I stumbled across one of Beau’s videos, I did what maybe a lot of people did, and skipped past it, because I really didn’t want to be bothered by yet another opinion video, from a straight white guy, about social issues that didn’t affect him. I’ve had my absolute fill of white men, “objectively” playing devil’s advocate on social issues.
But his videos kept being recommended to me, so I gave one a try, and was pleasantly surprised by how open and level headed he is. I don’t always agree with the things he says, but he always clearly, and honestly explains what, and why, he believes it, in a way that doesn’t talk down to the viewer, or occlude the issues with erasure and lies.
The titles of the videos are often misleading, but once you start watching, you realize that he is someone who thinks very differently from most people (even me) about a thing.
I am more than a little tired of this idea, that more than a few people deeply believe, that criticism must be negative. I keep trying to tell people that any opinion, whether its positive or negative, is actually a critique of whatever you just consumed, because that’s what “criticize” means. Yes, loving something, and stating why, is a perfectly valid critique.
This critic says he originally started this channel as a rebuke to the Cinema Sins Channel, (which I hate). I chose this particular video because I love this movie as much as he does, and for all the same reasons.
I knew what I was getting into when I stumbled across Dollamore’s videos, because I started watching him back in the days when he was taking down the low hanging fruit that is Tomimo Laurencias stupid ass. At least part of the reason I like his videos are the incredible insults he levels at trump and his cronies, because they’re almost poetic. Feckless moron, and googly-eyed nitiwt, are what come to mind. I love a good, and well delivered, insult.
La Guardia Cross
Papa La Guardia says:
New Father Chronicles began in November of 2014 when my daughter Amalah was 1-week-old. I had no idea what I was doing, so I decided to chronicle my journey on YouTube and make fun of myself along the way. Our 2nd daughter, Nayely, was born in April of 2017.
My channel is filled with the silly adventures I have with my girls, infant and toddler interviews, my interpretations of their babble, silly skits, and the things I’ve learned or unlearned as a parent. Sometimes Leah and I mix it up a bit and share some pretty personal moments as well. Why? Well, we’re far from perfect and we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes.
This was one of the first videos I ever saw, and its at least a couple of years old as his baby girls are about three and five now, and I’m not sure where I heard of it, or what I’d watched, that this was recommended to me.
Okay, these are just really good reviews, and the critic makes an effort to make his critiques relevant to real world events, like this one about how Black peopel have always been talking about police brutality, which has permeated almost all of our tele-visual arts.
Sir Stevo Timothy
I’m not sure how this video got recommended to me. I thought it was funny, but still wasn’t quite sure what to think, when I saw the first one, so I did a little research to figure out who the hell this guy was. it turns out that this character is a parody of a certain type of racist, loud, old, ignorant, Irish uncle. He manages to make the things he says so stupidly ridiculous that you cannot possible take his opinions seriously, and even manages to slip in some progressive thoughts, if you pay attention.
This video is one of my favorites because no matter how hard he tries, he is simply incapable of ignoring that his passenger is a Black man (from Dublin).
I’m probably not supposed to laugh this damn hard at these videos.
The Fish Locker
This video doesn’t seem like it fits anything else on this list, but its surprisingly soothing to watch this guy combing the rocky beaches of Scotland for seafood, with his wife and son.
This is like ASMR beach combing.
And here are the real ASMR videos of Tkviper just walking the many different streets of Japan, while its raining different types of rain.
Does anybody remember these cartons from MTV’s Liquid Television, in the 9os? I remember watching hte hell out of these at the time. I think I still have the full DVD set.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.