Fearful Friday: Candyman (2021)

Candyman (2021)

It’s Friday, but let’s pretend it’s Terror Tuesday. I went to see Candyman yesterday and I want to talk about it. (No Spoilers)

The Movie Going Experience Itself:

Before Candyman (2001), the last movie I saw in a theater was Spies In Disguise on December 25, 2019 at 4:45pm. I have been sorely missing the movies.

Sitting in a comfortable seat, the huge screen, large bucket of popcorn with extra butter, Dolby surround sound, Peanut M&Ms, movie trivia, trailers. It all felt wonderful.

For a good 15 minutes, we were the only ones in the theater. Others, of course, did arrive and we masked up. By coming attractions, I forgot the mask was on.

Thoughts On The Movie Itself:

I had a good ole time (see above). I enjoyed the original Candyman (1992). Helen Lyle, a white graduate student researching the urban legend, visits the Cabrini Green housing project to study her subjects up close. Hilarity ensues. Not really. She finds what she was looking for. The movie touched on a lot of themes but its main goal was to create a new monster ala Jason or Michael Myers.

“Want to hear a scary story?”

The new Candyman takes place in the present. Thanks to gentrification, the housing projects have been torn down, fancy buildings have gone up, there’s probably a few Starbucks in the mix and a Whole Foods on the way. This time the seeker is Anthony, a black painter who is looking for new inspiration for his work. You see, the black trauma from two years ago – the last time Anthony sold a piece – is so boring now. His audience, symbolized by a white gallery owner, is looking for something new, fresh (pain). Interestingly, Anthony comes to Candyman through his initial interest in Helen Lyle’s story.

There are a lot of themes and theme nuggets here: gentrification (it’s your fault, no it’s your fault!), personal trauma, racial trauma, the art world/art criticism and black trauma, there’s some interesting gender stuff happening… t’is a lot. It’s the kind of movie where, after every scene, you can pause (if you were streaming) and it could start a great conversation.

I can easily imagine the conversation between the gallery owner and Anthony mirroring conversations between the writers/producers/director in creating this movie. “It’s been 29 years, we need to give people something new, something fresh. It needs to be the essence of Candyman for a 2021 audience.”

Like most horror movies, the story itself has some lapses in logic. Or, at lest, another 20 minutes or so could have been added to help smooth out some motivations. I would have changed up the ending completely … Anywho, no spoilers!

There is death – boy do people die! – but it’s not an excessive amount of gore (to me). You don’t see a lot of slashing up close but there is blood. I don’t know her mind, but the director – Nia DaCosta – probably felt she had to blunt potentially gruesome scenes. If you are trying to make a point about violence/trauma being a boon to the art world – in your horror movie – I think it’s hard to turn around and put “excessive” violence in the same film.

And there is something that happens in the movie that’s supposed to be a big reveal that I guessed months ago (thanks trailer!).

Still, I had a ball and want to see it again. This time, from the safety of my sofa.

A few other scattered thoughts I had during the movie – not in any particular order:
*The Candy Man can? Starting right off with foolishness.
*Oh, this looks really good.
*Hey, gay people!
*How does he even know that story?
*Going to bed with the curtains open? Are they even going to turn off the light?
*Murder is an excellent career boost.
*She deserved that.
*People only discuss gentrification this much online.
*He saved her life.
*I knew that.
*The doctor must not see what we see – he needs a full exam.
*Art world, publishing world, all entertainment and “culture producing” industries are probably this way.
*Didn’t see that coming.
*Engage in the work? Absolutely not.
*All these people need therapy. Hell, I probably need therapy. Damn.
*I want to write about this, let me dust off my blog.

McDonald & Dodds

McDonald & Dodds

McDonald & Dodds is a new British mystery series available in the US via BritBox. Detective Chief Inspector Lauren McDonald (Tala Gouveia) is paired with Detective Sergeant Dodds (Jason Watkins) to solve murders among the wealthy, deadly denizens of Bath.

It’s an obvious odd couple. McDonald is a young, ambitious black woman who is eager to advance up the career ladder. Her aim is to get a confession from the killer. It will save the courts time and money; plus, it would look good on her record. DS Dodds is an older white man whose career has stalled. He is just happy to have a place to go everyday (work) and has no plans to retire. He’s your quiet, observant puzzle solver who uses the library – he actually opens books! – to track down clues. If McDonald is the hare, Dodds is the tortoise.

Dodds always looks a bit confused when he’s not tackling a puzzle.

McDonald and Dodds do have one thing in common; they are both fish out of water. She’s a transplant from London – where she was known as a go-getter. However, Bath is not London and her new boss appears to take every opportunity to try and knock her down a peg. For all of his years on the force, Dodds does not have a lot of field experience. The department has shuffled him around for years – from desk to desk – in hopes that he will take the hint and leave. Dodds is an outsider in that he is “at” the work but not “in” with the higher ups. As they begin working together, McDonald even wonders if Dodds was assigned to her to deliberately hamper her. Both of them are earnest and want to do well – they only need the chance.

Chief Superintendent Houseman, their boss, is the type who always takes the side of rich or politically connected suspects. I get the feeling that hiring McDonald may not have been his idea. Houseman hasn’t been able to get Dodds to retire and wants McDonald to help push him out of the door. Thankfully, McDonald wants to advance by solving cases, not doing dirty work for superiors. We never see him interact with other officers, so we don’t know if he’s hard on everyone or especially tough on McDonald.

Season 1 only has two episodes and the mysteries are twisty and fun. When you think you know who the killer is – a new clue tosses the theory out of the window. A light sprinkle* of racism and sexism pops up from time to time. McDonald tends to ignore it; Dodds doesn’t play into it.

From time to time, our heroes are tripped by their inexperience. McDonald asks suspects uncomfortable questions (how dare she not consider their delicate feelings!) – which often lead to a finger wag from Houseman. The usually quiet Dodds has a habit of “talking to much” to the wrong person. Still, they make a great team and come through when everyone else has written them off.

I hope next season we get a look into their private lives. McDonald is under a lot of pressure and it would be nice to see her decompress after a hard day. At one point in the first episode, she wondered if the whole situation at the Bath precinct was set up for her to fail. Obviously, she’s pushing through the obstacles placed in her path by Houseman and suspects as well as her own fears/doubts. It would be nice to see her getting a bit of happiness or joy outside of solving the case. It doesn’t have to be a lot – maybe a physical hug from her boyfriend (only mentioned in passing in season 1 or tossing darts at a picture of Houseman.

Dodds is also a mystery. We know he was married for a moment, he’s lived in the same house nearly all of his life and he carries a rosary. Also, McDonald may be the only person to ever tell him that’s he’s done a good job.

I enjoyed the season, the characters, the mysteries** and am looking forward to more.

*It has to be only a touch of the isms because this is a fun, mystery – not a drama. Plus, some sensitive viewer can’t even stomach this little pinch and think the show should focus on Dodds only. Of course, if there were no McDonald, Dodds would be stuck at a desk and wearing a coat. Yes, Houseman is literally trying to freeze him out.
** I did side-eye the resolution of the first mystery. To say why…would spoil it.

The Pastor Said What?

I witnessed an extraordinary event at church once. I think it was Bible study. I do remember that I was with my grandmother, most likely because I was too young to be home alone.

The pastor stood in front of the small crowd of adults and dropped a bombshell: the opening chapters of Genesis, the story of Creation, was a myth. Adam and Eve was an allegory. I don’t recall any of the adults getting upset in the moment, but my mind started racing. I knew what myth were – I had books about Greek and Roman mythology.

The Bible as a book of myths made sense to me. I didn’t get how I was supposed to believe that a snake literally spoke to Eve but a woman couldn’t have a head full of them. What kid wants to think that God will let all of your loved ones die and impoverish you . . . to win a bet with Lucifer?

Closeup: Medusa’s head on the shield of Athena Governor’s Palace, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

People didn’t appear upset then, but they gave the pastor an earful after it was all over. Folks would not accept any teachings that in their minds undermined the authority of the Bible and, by extension, God. I know this because I asked him about Adam & Eve being a myth. He said that he wasn’t going to continue with that lesson because the congregation wasn’t ready for it.

That was my 2nd moment of shock. I had no idea that a congregation could overrule a pastor. I knew that ministers were not infallible but, if he was anointed by God to lead, how can you get upset by his teachings? Reminder, I was a child. The world was very binary to me. He’s either anointed by God or he isn’t. No room for nuance or shades of gray.

Raised in church, the pastor was presented as the wise teacher, the lead authority in charge. As I grew up, I realized that deacons did more than sit down front. A minister served at the pleasure of his people. That’s what stuck with me; if a pastor strayed too far from the congregation’s comfort zone the authority bestowed upon them could vanish in an instant. What other beliefs did he have that he needed to keep hidden because the flock wasn’t ready?

I’ve thought about this off and on over the years; my thoughts moving from my old pastor to ministers in general. How do you cope when you have religious/political/personal beliefs that would cause your congregation to revolt? Do you stay far away from the subject? If you don’t talk about it, you can’t lie about it. When, if ever, do you decide to stop pretending?

These thoughts let to the creation of Rev. Walter Robinson and Barbara Robinson, the couple who turn to Shanice for help in The Closet Case. They struggle with being true to themselves and tending to the church that they’ve build from the ground up.

What might it feel like to have lived a life of service – and to feel like all the good you’ve done could be washed away if people knew the truth about who you are and what you believe? Is this a noble act of self-sacrifice, a plain old lie or both?

And what if you get a letter threatening to reveal all?

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