Category Archives: Movies & TV

Get Out

getout

(Slightly spoilerish…but you’ve seen this already, right?)

After I saw the first trailer for Get Out, I had no intention of seeing it in the theater. I thought, “I’m not going to spend two hours watching a black guy being terrorized.” Then, it came out and the reviews made it clear that I had the wrong impression of the flick. It’s a horror satire with a few laughs here and there.

So, I finally made it out to the movies and it’s as great as all of the reviews made it out to be. For me, it was great to identify with the main character; that’s rare for me with horror movies. Having someone to root for is awesome.

Anywho, some thoughts:
1) I bet Chris didn’t bring Rose around any of his friends. She wouldn’t want that anyway–so no one could point a finger at her when she went missing. I wondered if he tried though.
2) Perhaps because Georgina-Grandma keeps admiring her new body, the real Georgina inside still catches glimpses of herself (even though she is in the sunken place). Maybe this is why real Georgina struggles to come to the surface even without the benefit of a camera flash. Real Georgina first tries to emerge when she spills the iced tea. She next struggles to come out when the tears stream down her face.
3) A think piece on class in Get Out could be interesting. (Working Class Rod and Creative Class Chris.)
4) The Armitages are the type of people who would be offended if you called them racist while they are violating you. (I imagine Rose all over twitter, alternating between anger and crying over the insult.)

And some lessons:
1) Don’t mistake desperation for love, forgive yourself/see about healing childhood trauma and always have your own ride. Always.
2) All of your skin folk definitely ain’t your kin folk.
3) Listen to your ancestors. (If you can’t hear them, that’s a whole different problem.)

Lessons From: Blair Witch 2016

blair-witch-poster-new

I need to treat new horror movies like iOS updates – wait a week and see how it all shakes out. But, alas, I have wasted my money. Don’t waste yours.

Anyway, the lessons:

  • Don’t go camping with strangers.
    • Don’t go camping with people who make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Don’t go into haunted woods were people have been murdered, have disappeared etc without some kind of plan for survival. Don’t treat it like you are spending the night at Jellystone.  True, the plan probably won’t work, but at least have one.
  • If you get hurt at the beginning of the trip, go back to town immediately. Don’t let people convince you to keep going. They aren’t your friends.
  • LOUD NOISES ALONE DON’T MAKE A MOVIE SCARY!
  • Don’t write sequels to movies and have new characters act as clueless/naive as previous characters.
  • Don’t go camping. Play the Blair Witch Games instead.

Other notes:

  • This is the 2nd movie I’ve seen this year with a sibling going into the woods to find a sister. I enjoyed The Forest more.
  • In addition to Blair Witch, yesterday I also saw Iced (1988) and Island Claws (1980). The other two movies were more entertaining/fun.
  • One character mentions the house at one time was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Blair Witch was “active” during the pre-civil war-maybe she was an accidental abolitionist? Whatevs.

WILTW: The Hitch In The Witch

(Disclaimer: Not a review of the new movie.)

I was excited to learn a few weeks ago that a horror movie called The Woods was actually a new Blair Witch movie in disguise.  The first lucky folks to see it walked into a film festival expecting to check out The Woods. They didn’t realize it was a new Blair Witch the movie until it started playing. When the movie was over, all of posters in the theater had been changed to Blair Witch. This kicked off the marketing machine and a franchise that people thought had died in 2000 was back.

In prepping for the revival, everyone is talking about the first 2 movies. What I learned this week is how  the success of the first Blair Witch did not trickle down to the original trio lost in the woods: Heather, Josh and Mike. A movie with a $75K budget, made $250M. They got to go on a few talk shows to promote the movie and fruit baskets.

Because the actors used their real names in the movies and those characters belong to the studio, any/all kinds of merchandising could be done without the actors getting a cut…

Heather Donahue recently wrote about the experience in The Guardian. Beyond not getting a share of the wealth, the trio got little credit for their part in making it a success:

It’s a strange thing to get no credit where credit is deeply due. By strange I mean shitty. We were supposed to be really scared, so we weren’t actors (all of us are formally trained). We improvised all dialogue from an outline, but we weren’t writers. We shot it and independently provided the impetus for many of the scenes you see in the film, but we were not directors. While this work became record-breakingly profitable, what we were was dead.

In other BW news, I didn’t realize that Blair Witch 2 – Book of Shadows started out as a decent (or at least better) film. The 1st Blair Witch was done independently and then picked up for distribution. The studio was involved with Book of Shadows from the beginning–and made a mess of it:

The whole Exploring Series done by GoodBadFlicks is pretty good.

Well, I’m off to the movies.

WILTW: Werewolves In Cabot Cove

murdershewrote5

What I Learned This Week: Many of the guest stars in the Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble episode of Murder, She Wrote (1989) were also featured in 80s horror films.

I used to watch this show with my grandmother on, I think, Sunday nights. She recognized many of the stars and I was proud of myself when I started figuring out who did it before Jessica did.

Watching the series now as an adult (via Netflix), I’m picking up on lots of themes that were over my head. For example, there are quite a few episodes that feature a younger man/older woman romance. Also, what’s interesting to me is how Cabot Cove changes through the series. It goes from being a quiet coastal town to a place where rich/affluent outsiders will call you out of the blue willing to pay a small fortune to buy your home.

Anywho, the series itself was just good, murderous fun. In Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble, the ghost of a witch who had been burned at the stake has returned to Cabot Cove. Also, the author of a book about that witch is in town to drum up publicity. Hmmm, I wonder if these two events are connected…

Guest stars include:
Brad Dourif (Child’s Play)
Roddy McDowell (Fright Night / Fright Night 2)
Christopher Stone & Dee Wallace Stone (The Howling)
Russell Nype (The Stuff)
John York (Night of The Creeps)
There are probably more that I didn’t catch.

Here’s a clip showcasing Brad Dourif:

 

Through The Looking Glass and What Helen Found There

Candyman Candyman Candyman Can-

cm-sugardaddy
Don’t worry, you have to say it 5 times for the ultimate Sugar Daddy to show up. 🙂

I’ve been thinking about Candyman lately. Quick recap: Candyman was the son of a slave who fell in love with a white woman–who’s father showed his disapproval by gathering a posse to kill him. The lynch mob cut off his hand, covered him with honey and chanted “Candyman” as the bees stung him to death. Residents of Cabrini Green housing project believe that if you call his name 5 times, he shows up and kills you.

Actually, I haven’t been thinking about Candyman so much as I’ve been thinking about Helen–the one who calls him. She’s a white grad student studying urban legends who hears about the Cabrini Green version of Candyman from older, black janitorial staff at the college. Unlike the other “call the killer in the mirror and he will kill you”  stories, it’s tied to a current, unsolved murder and Helen is intrigued. Immediately, she goes into urban archeologist/explorer mode. Helen is going into Cabrini Green (interact with the actual residents) and introduce the story of Candyman to academia.

goingin

Well, Helen is naive on two fronts.
1) Turns out that someone else in academia had already done Candyman research. Lucky for the movie, this doesn’t deter her.
2) As a young, educated white woman, she thinks her status/place in society is secure–and she is untouchable.

The real horror of Candyman isn’t the murders – it’s Helen learning how easy and quickly one can lose perceived place/status/privilege.

The first reveal of this comes early on when Helen learns that the very condo/apartment building she is living in was originally built to be a Cabrini Green like housing project. Because of the location of the building, the powers that be decided to put wallpaper over the cinder block, upgrade the lighting, and charge unsuspecting yuppies and arm and a leg.

bernLike peeling back wallpaper, Candyman just pulls back the fancy exterior of Helen’s world/life. Over the course of the movie, she gets sucked into the criminal justice system, institutionalized and, in one way or another, loses everyone she loves. (Alas, poor Bernadette.)

Helen doesn’t feel the full brunt of these systems – their money does have some influence – but it’s still devastating.  She goes from arrogantly walking into Cabrini Green feeling no one would dare touch her because they think she’s a cop* to being pursued by the cops.

What’s interesting about the movie is that her redemption comes in not giving in to despair. Though her life has been devastated (good bye marriage, potential career, freedom, etc), she’s still willing to save someone else. If this movie were made today, Helen would somehow magically get back everything she’d lost. But it wasn’t, so she doesn’t.

Helen sacrifices herself and becomes a saint of sorts. Just don’t say her name 5 times.

afterh

Lesson: In the wave of a hook, you can go from being one of “us” to being one of “them”.
or
What you summon in the mirror is really what you are calling forth from yourself.

*She’s actually wrong about this, too.

Freaks & Outlaws

Had a relaxing week in Toronto and spent a lot of time looking at the skyline, water and sunsets.

IMG_1204 IMG_1210

One day, we wandered around the entertainment district and discovered Queer Outlaw Cinema – a free exhibition running until August 17th at TIFF.

Featuring Derek Jarman, Isaac Julien, Scott Treleaven, Ulrike Ottinger and Bruce LaBruce.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Derek Jarman, a British filmmaker, artist and activist who was outspoken in his fight against the (anti-gay, etc) policies of Margaret Thatcher. The exhibition features one of his super 8/experimental films, Imagining Octobera dreamlike meditation on art and politics in the final years of the Cold War.

Imaging October is a mixture of images and film clips interspersed with politically tinged slogans. For example:

English bobbies in the street
protect the rights of them they beat.

Dungeness by Isaac Julien and Picture Yourself In A Burning Building by Scott Treleaven were inspired by Jarman’s technique (tributes to him, really) but, for me, lacked the “rebel” edge of the other exhibits. Both Julien and Treleaven have done work which would have better fit an outlaw narrative.

Superbia Still

Still from Superbia

The best part of QOC was being introduced to the work of Ulrike Ottinger. First we saw a short film, Superbia – The Pride (1986) – a political procession that is part parade, part military exercise and all corruption. One of my favorite (translated, of course) lines: “Only the banks can survive hari-kari.”

20140709-203620-74180929.jpgInspired by Virginia Wolff’s Orlando, Freak Orlando traces the journey of the main character’s reincarnation and transformation through 5 points in history. There are lots o’ themes present:

  1. Outsider as side show attraction, for the amusement of others
  2. Outsiders relegated to a certain place in society or face destruction if they refuse to play the role.
  3. The attempt to annihilate outsiders through assimilation
  4. Outsiders living together in community–you’d think it would be a paradise but the effect of repression/suppression is there (with a tip of the hat to Todd Browning’s Freaks).
  5. What does it mean to be accepted/integrated into society if it’s the same establishment (who is still making the rules). Even in “freak positive” world the deck is still rigged…
  6. And lot’s more- sacred shopping! the bearded woman nailed to the cross! the self-flagellating army of leather clad Tom of Finland types! Outlaw beard stroking!
  7. This movie is just ripe for film analysis/social commentary essays.

We didn’t really spend any time at the Bruce LaBruce exhibit (a door warns you that it’s x-rated!) featuring two films Offing Jack and Pierrot Lunaire.

We had no problem with the content, but we had spent so much time with the Ottinger rooms we were ready for dinner. 🙂

The Poet, The Essayist & The Golem

The Poet
Conversations with Nikki GiovanniConversations with Nikki Giovanni
Edited by Virginia C. Fowler
ISBN: 9780878055876
(c) 1992

The is a collection of interviews with and articles about Nikki Giovanni from 1969 to 1992. The pieces are in chronological order and it’s interesting to see how her views on a host of subjects (writing, poetry, racism, sexism, revolutions, movements etc) shifted over the years. At the same time, the “Nikki” that we “see” is also influenced by the point of view of the interviewer–through the questions they ask and their additional commentary.

It’s hard to pick out highlights, but you absolutely have to read the pieces where Ms. Giovanni is in conversation with older civil rights/black lit icons:
*an excerpt from A Dialogue (1973), where a “young” NG talks with James Baldwin about “the black male” and responsibility
*an excerpt from A Poetic Equation: Conversations Between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker (1974), a “hot” conversation about generational differences in response to violence, individuality vs community responsibility, etc.

I am tempted to pull out quotes–there are some great zingers here (especially in regards to her early 70’s views about the feminist and unisex movements)–but I really think they should be read in context.

Okay, maybe a couple of quotes. This is from a 1983 interview with Claudia Tate where Nikki Giovanni explaining why she doesn’t read her older prose pieces (p 145):

“But I’m very much afraid to be trapped by what I’ve said. I don’t think life is inherently coherent. I thing what Emerson said about consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds is true. The more you reread your prose the more likely your’re going to try to justify what you’ve said.”

“If I never contradict myself then I’m either not not thinking or I’m conciliating positions and, therefore, not growing. There has to be a contradiction.”

~
The Essayist

devilfindsworkThe Devil Finds Work
James Baldwin
ISBN: 978-0-307-27595-0
(c) 1976

This is a book length essay in which James Baldwin talks about his relationship with movies/film. It’s personal reflections and autobiographical bits filtered in with observations about movies and, to a smaller degree, theater.

Seeing “classic” movies through the eyes of Baldwin was really eye opening for me. For example, I’d never thought about how a black person who lived through the 40s, 50s and 60s would view the (race fantasies?) In The Heat Of The Night (1967) or Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967). I felt a powerful “yeah!” is the scene where Endicot and Mr. Virgil Tibbs exchange slaps:

But in 1967 would a black audience have rolled their eyes at this? Would the reality of life hinder a suspension of disbelief. Heat and Dinner were written for mainstream audiences, feel good movies about progress. Well meaning, but for Baldwin, missing the mark in so many places…

He talks about Lady Sings The Blues in contrast and comparison to Billy Holiday’s real life–as well as his own adventure as the writer a biographical screenplay in Holiday. Basically, never forget that every biography you see on screen has been crafted for entertainment and not truth.

Another great thing about this book is that it introduced me to several movies that I’d never never heard of. Before the 70’s horror movie with a similar title, there was I Spit On Your Graves (1959). According to Mr. Baldwin, the film version (like most adaptations) veers away from Boris Vian’s 1946 novel–which I’ve put on my reading list.

Let’s have a quote from this one, too. In discussing the the superiority of theater (not the sanitized, Broadway version) over movies (p 35):

“Here [the theater], nothing corroborated any of my fantasies: flesh and blood was being challenged by flesh and blood. It is said that the camera cannot lie, but rarely do we allow it to do anything else, since the camera sees what you point it at: the camera sees what you want it to see. The language of the camera is the language of our dreams.”

~
The Golem
The Golem of HollywoodThe Golem of Hollywood
Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman
ISBN 9780399162367
Pub Date: 9/16/2014

Picture it: you are a Jewish police detective suddenly assigned to a special, secret division that handles particularly unusual murders. You get to a crime scene and find clues that suggest that this strange, new killer appears to have ties to the Jewish community. The more you delve into the investigation, it becomes clear that this murder is not a singular event. In the midst of the human carnage, could there be a supernatural force for Justice muddying the waters?

This book is over 500 pages but it’s a fast paced and action packed. There’s a likeable but flawed detective, a mysterious woman and an intriguing case that incorporates Jewish culture and mythology.

Don’t know what a Golem is – it’s a man-made creature made of clay created to serve a master. Think of it like Frankenstein but powerful Rabbi and clay–not mad scientist and stitched up body parts. Actually, the concept pre-dates Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and it’s thought that she was inspired by Golem mythology.

Oculus: Now you see it, now you don’t

OculusPoster

What happens: Young adults Kaylie and Tim return home (to the scene of violent, childhood trauma) to prove that an antique mirror was the root of the evil–and destroy it. The mirror has other ideas.

Should You Watch: if you are okay with slow building suspense and psychological horror without lot’s o blood and gore – see it in the theater. If your preference runs to high body count and gore, you might want to wait for Netflix or tv.

Oculus is like a fun, haunted house ride. At a certain point, I had a strong suspicion how it was going to end but it was such an enjoyable movie that I didn’t care. Not to say that it was predictable–there were lots of surprises–but at least one thing was inevitable. (For a non-spoiler example, if you were watching a movie where someone ate a banana and left the peel on the floor, you know eventually someone is going to slip on it.)

This movie is kind of quiet at the beginning-with the mirror giving little hints that it’s not going to go quietly. While they are dealing with the mirror in the present, Kaylie and Tim are also grappling with the past. (Tim has “forgotten” and Kaylie is trying to get him to remember.) Alternating timelines become overlapping timelines. It builds suspense and underscores the idea that, even though 11 years have passed, Kaylie and Tim are not too far removed from the terrified pre-teens who watched their family self-destruct.

More notes from Oculus:
*Do not make large purchase–especially antique mirrors–without consulting your spouse.
*Mirrors know you better than you know yourself.
*Living is winning.
*These 2 need to get together:
oculusmirror Maleficen

Theme party suggestions:
See No Evil: Oculus
Hear No Evil: Lords Of Salem
Speak No Evil: Dead Silent

Paranormal Activity: The Madea Files

amadeaxmasPATMO

(Very light spoilage ahead. However, if you’ve seen a Madea movie or a previous Paranormal Activity–you probably have a strong idea how these movies end.)

So, I saw two bad movies. Thankfully, not in the same day. In both movies, characters are not friends with logic and the plot is not there to make sense–just to set-up scenes that the audience will (hopefully) enjoy.

A Madea Christmas, a comedy, is pretty good at setting up scenes that pay off in laughter. “Smart” characters do stupid things and viewers can see the consequences of bad decisions coming a mile away. However, the dramatic conflicts set up lots of opportunities for Tyler Perry, Larry (The Cable Guy) and Kathy Najimy to trade jokes. It’s not always knee slapping funny (and stereotypes for everyone!), but they are good for a chuckle.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is a movie that I walked out on after about an hour. I understand from other folks that the ending was this super awesome thing but I just didn’t care. It would have been a lot easier to like if there were some decent scares along the way to the finale. When you are sitting in a horror movie bored, faults that you would usually gloss over become too big to ignore. And beg to be mocked.

For example, this is Jesse, our main character and marked one, when he meets a girl at a party:

Hey, girl.  Let’s go back to my house. Oh, wait, my grandma’s not in bed. Let’s go downstairs to the apartment where a woman rumored to be a witch was murdered a few days ago. A condom?* Oh, snap! Let me run off and get one and leave you here in this dead witch’s place–by the way, her killer is still at large. What could go wrong? Be right back!

 And they communicate with the evil force through this:

simon

Yeah. I’m sure I’ll watch the rest of The Marked Ones one day. Whenever it comes on tv and I can dvr it – and fast forward.

Conclusion: The people behind the Paranormal Activity franchise should tap Tyler Perry to write the screenplay for an upcoming chapter in the series. In fact, I think I’d like to see Madea and Jesse’s grandma (she knows Simon is evil!) team up in a movie to tackle a haunted house or a demon possessed mom-to-be.

*If nothing else, I was happy to see the young lady insist on a condom. Somebody in this movie had some sense.

Notes from Sleepy Hollow


Saw the trailer for Sleepy Hollow in the theater during Conjure Rim. It looked good (“have you been emancipated?”) but I’ve been burnt by beautiful black female lead in a mystery/supernatural type show* before. Now, my friends have started talking about how much they enjoy it. So, this morning, we took the plunge…

If you haven’t seen the 1st episode, beware spoilers.

  • I like how the headless horseman stopped and posed so that the emancipated black lady police officer could take a good long look.
  • Wait, did the Asian officer just arrest the first scraggly looking white man he saw? Oh, this is going to be interesting.
  • “First I shot him and he rose back up, beheading him seemed the next logical step.” <–yes, best horror movie logic ever!!
  • Smart Officer Abby–knew better than to admit that she saw a headless dude, yes!
  • Ichy will have you know that he was on #teamabolishslavery! If Abbie had offered him a cookie right then…
  • M: Wait, shouldn’t his muscles have been atrophied?
    Me: his sense of entitlement didn’t atrophy either.
  • Did she uncuff Ichy when they went to the grave? Officer Abbie, that’s a mistake–putting them on equal footing before you know what the deal is. Hope it doesn’t come back to haunt her.
  • The minister is a wizard? Are we having a Harry Potter moment?
  • Officer Andy,. say it ain’t so! Well, that does explain things.
  • Headless Horseman has a modern firepower? You’d think he have a musket or something.
  • “Put Your Hands ON Your Hea–” LOL
  • Ah, so Abbie and Ichy were meant to fight the evil together. Yet, he has a wife and she has an ex-boyfriend. Hmm.
  • Witches, four horsemen, apocalypse, evil creature of the week?

Okay, I’m in. Let me go set the dvr.

*I’m referring to Night Stalker starring Gabrielle Union and Stuart Townsend. Pretty people can’t save a bad show.

Night Stalker

Night Stalker

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