Welcome! Please, Let Me Show You Around!

Welcome to the big ‘Getting to Know Me’ post. I’ve noticed a lot of new folks reading my rambles, so I thought I would introduce myself and explain what kinds of things you’ll find here. Below the cut are some samples of the over 200 posts I’ve written that should help introduce you to me and my writing a little better.

Hi there!

Welcome to the big ‘Getting to Know Me’ post. I’ve noticed a lot of new folks reading my rambles, so I thought I would introduce myself and explain what kinds of things you’ll find here. Below the cut are some samples of the over 200 posts I’ve written that should help introduce you to me and my writing a little better.

Continue reading “Welcome! Please, Let Me Show You Around!”

Four Black Horror Movie Protagonists Who Didn’t Die

What did I forget? I know I forgot some! What are YOUR favorite horror movies that DON’T star white teenagers in their underwear?

This headline got me all excited today! 

Jordan Peele to Write/Direct Horror Film ‘Get Out.’

I cannot WAIT to see what he comes up with. I love Key and Peele, and I have to admit sometimes their comedy can wander into creepy territory, so I’m WAY excited to see what Mr. Peele comes up with!

I liked what he said about Night of the Living Dead, but my immediate reaction was also ‘Wait… didn’t the black protagonist die at the end?’ Granted, the film itself is important for many reasons, only one of which is that it had a black protagonist in 1968, but since ‘black person dying’  has become a terrible stereotype in horror movies, I started thinking about black protagonists in horror films who didn’t die.

THERE ARE NOT A LOT.

Rather than focus on the negative (and spend the rest of my life naming the approximately 4 billion horror movies in which black or PoC characters are killed), I decided to do the opposite. And so, here are some horror movies with black protagonists who DO NOT die at the end!

[Kind of goes without saying that there will be spoilers.]

I love this poster.
I love this poster.

4. Tales From The Hood – All right, not the best counterexample since the protagonists of the bookend story die in terrible cautionary-tale fashion… BUT! I included it for the happy ending of the ‘Boys Do Get Bruises’ story. And it was DEFINITELY exploring some amazing territory with the ‘KKK Comeuppance’ and ‘Rogue Cop Revelation stories.’ It was a spoof that still mostly worked.

MAGIC!
MAGIC!

Also, Clarence Williams III as the batshit crazy funeral director! The man was a treasure in that role.

BLOODY FINGERS WHOOO!!!
BLOODY FINGERS WHOOO!!!

3. House On Haunted Hill – A fun, ridiculous remake of William Castle’s original, with a stellar cast, respectable budget, lots of ghosts and wicked early 2000s effects. I was not expecting Taye Diggs to make it to the end of the movie… BUT HE DID! His last line of ‘I’M ADOPTED!’ actually made me laugh out loud in the theater, and I was SO. GLAD. to see him and Blonde Lady not only survive, but win all the moneys. It didn’t really break much social commentary ground, but the effects, premise and setting were great. And Geoffrey Rush channeling Vincent Price took me to My Happy Place.

Lovecraftian Horrors!
also, Lovecraftian Horrors!

And because I am a HUGE softy, I totally got a little teary when Pritchard appeared and opened the window, saving them. Adorable.

Yeahhh Buddy!
Yeahhh Buddy!

2. Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight –  Jada Pinkett delivered a fantastic performance as ex-convict Jeryline in this wonderful, weird film about demons trying to hunt down the blood of Christ.  Although Billy Zane was the face on the poster and William Sadler the ostensible hero, the movie ended brilliantly with Jeryline taking up the mantle of protector and escaping to live and fight another day. BADASS. I hoped the sequel would be about her, but alas… vampires in a whorehouse, or something. I love the final battle where Jeryline and the Demon Knight are dancing, she with a broken arm and her mouth clamped shut but DETERMINED to win, he gratuitously Billy Zaning at her for all he’s worth. LOVE IT!

I'd have caved. I mean that's BILLY. ZANE.
I’d have caved. I mean that’s BILLY. ZANE.

It is one of the few horror movies I can think of with a black female protagonist. Doesn’t explore too many race-related social issues, though, unless I’m just forgetting it. I need to watch this one again, it’s been too long!

Dat Box Art
Dat Box Art
  1. The People Under The Stairs – I’ve already talked at length about this one in another post. Issues of racism, sexism, economic disenfranchisement, and the protagonist is a young black boy with all the classic hero qualities. Fool, as he’s called, doesn’t just survive, he actually GOES BACK to rescue everyone else! AND HE SAVES THE DAY! I love it!

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

13 Ghosts – Rah Digga does survive the movie, but this achievement is lessened by her portraying the Sassy Black Nanny stereotype. Still, she was one of the many little delights of this weirdo film.

Bones – It’s been 15 years since I saw this so my memory is fuzzy about who was the protagonist and who was the bad guy. I remember being SO EXCITED about it coming out and then being less than blown away… and also something about incest. I may need to check my facts on this one and give it a rewatch.

Candyman – Although the protagonist is white, THIS one explored all kinds of fascinating territory! You know I wouldn’t mind a remake, but hear me out – CANDYMAN is the protagonist. Eh? No? I’ll work on it and get back to you. I feel like that happened in the sequel but I haven’t seen it in years, might be confusing it with a weird dream I had once.

What did I forget? I know I forgot some!

What are YOUR favorite horror movies that DON’T star white teenagers in their underwear? 

Some Highlights!

I’ve noticed an uptick in the activity on this blog. Welcome, everyone! I hope we can find you something you like!

I’m posting a list of some of my favorite entries, ones that I enjoyed writing and that help people get a sense of what this blog is really about.

It’s not a fanblog (although I’ve been swooning over Richard Armitage a lot lately – that’s really just a way to distract myself from other things going on in my life).

So here are some posts to help orient you!

1. Candyman: Clive Barker’s Urban Horror Masterpiece

2. The Secret Heroes of A Song of Ice And Fire: Fat Guys

3. ‘There’s No Such Thing as An Honorary Black Person’

4. The Stately Homos of Old England Entry: The Naked Civil Servant

5. New Cult Classics: Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

6. Flying, Fiery, Feets of Fury: Ong-Bak and Ong-Bak 2

7. Flavoring Your Brainmeats: The Mr. Condom TED Talks

8. The Wayback Machine: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Entry: Bad Santa

10. (A very old review) : Ink

Thanks for dropping in!

The “White Fang” Interpersonal Dynamics Trope

Approximately 900 years ago, when I was in 7th grade, I noticed a book on my parents’ copious bookshelves: White Fang. I really liked the picture of the wolf on the cover, and was kind of going through a ‘everything wolves is AWESOME’ phase, so I read it.

White Fang!
White Fang!

*BREAKDOWN*

White Fang is the story of a half-wolf sled dog, told in 3rd person, during the Klondike gold rush. He is domesticated by Native Americans, then sold to sledders. The process of breaking him as a sled dog is problematic until his owners realize he’s much better at something else – dogfighting. For a time he’s reigning champion, making his owner money hand over fist and becoming a hateful slaughter-machine. He meets his match one day when he is pitted against a bulldog, that clamps onto his throat and wears him down, nearly killing him in the process. A kind man takes him in and heals him, and brings White Fang home to his family, where he very slowly begins the process of re-habituating him to human company, and he learns to trust again. While he is able to adjust to the slower pace of life at the estate, he never becomes a housepet, not really, but his loyalty and affection for his family are unquestioningly proven when he nearly loses his life defending his family against a dangerous escaped criminal.

His story is the kind of overwrought melodrama that 12-year-old me had been waiting to read my whole life. I realize that it is sad to say now, but this book got me through middle school – I was isolated and weird because I had very little in common with my classmates, and became so used to rejection and teasing that I just sort of accepted it and stopped attempting social interaction. I saw the world as combative, and myself as too weak and feeble to have a place in it. But White Fang didn’t give up, so neither did I.

As Abraham Maslow said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Taking on a confrontational worldview can certainly help you survive certain situations, but after you’ve escaped them, you must unlearn that ferocity, and readjust to another kind of life. It’s not easy. 

There is a whole story trope that I love, and that I have come to think of as the White Fang trope (it probably already has a name, and if so someone let me know!)  If a samurai or a cowboy is taken in by a village and nursed back to health, if a monster makes friends with a child, I well up like a broken fire hydrant.

And so here is a list of characters who, through various ways and means, were able to hang on to themselves in the midst of the maelstrom and make it through the other side, perhaps to gentler shores. This list is in no particular order, and includes books, films, and graphic novels. It does not include spoilers.

The Hound

 1. Sandor Clegane from the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin.

Patricksponaugle already wrote an incredibly detailed and moving breakdown of why the Hound is so compelling, so go here to read it.

I do want to add a thought though – I started rereading the series over the weekend and was struck by two things I had forgotten:

  • Nobody knows the story of how the Hound’s face was burned until he tells Sansa Stark. She is literally the first person he has ever opened up to about what happened to him as a child. Granted, the way he opened up to her was, like everything else about him, brutal and rough. But hammer, nails, etc. I can’t imagine his communication vocabulary would be very large after the way he grew up. Not excusing him, just trying to understand.
  • The Hound winning the tourney was the first time a crowd had cheered for him. He threw down on his brother and saved Loras Tyrell, and for the first time in his life, he got to be the hero. It seems to have made an impact.

It seems the Hound is trying to learn something new. Dog, tricks, etc.

Experiment 626!
Experiment 626!

2. Stitch/Toothless

Lilo and Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon  I’m including as a double entry, since they were the brainchildren of the same man and explore very similar themes: of societal expectations and pressures, of nontraditional families, of the bond that forms between a lonely person and their pet [and it is deliciously ironic that JUST AS I TYPED THAT SENTENCE, my 16-lb cat tried to jump into my lap, missed, hooked his claws into the flesh of my upper thigh and hung there, mewing pitifully].

In both films, two isolated individuals become friends after taking a risk: Lilo and Stitch, and Hiccup and Toothless. There is a moment in How to Train Your Dragon that I WISH I could find in gif form: it’s when Hiccup puts his hand out to touch Toothless on the head, and the dragon leans forward to be petted–but there’s a hesitation first. The animators REALLY outdid themselves with that performance; so much characterization was put into that little gesture and it was perfect.

See that mustache? That was ALL Kilmer. No weaves or glue there!
See that mustache? That was ALL Kilmer. No weaves or glue there!

3. Doc Holliday 

Doc Holliday’s portrayal in Tombstone is one of my favorite characters. EVER. The real Doc Holliday was a wonderfully complex man, a professional dentist, gambler, and gunfighter who moved to the west in the hopes the dry climate would be good for his tuberculosis.

When he first appeared onscreen, everything about him screams ‘I AM TROUBLE. EXIT THE VICINITY AND SAVE  YOURSELF.’ He’s effete, and while he’s funny and charming as hell, his predilection for starting fights around himself was a major drawback to being his friend. Or even being his tablemate in a poker game. He’s condescending, he’s arrogant, and yet Wyatt Earp always considered him a friend.

Holliday is a strange, strange man, but he was always unquestioningly Wyatt’s friend as well. Which is why the most powerful moment in a film FULL of powerful moments is when Wyatt invites Doc to sit out a fight that could get him killed, basically telling him ‘I don’t expect you to follow me into this mess I’ve made for myself.‘ And Doc just looks at him and responds with, “Well, that is a hell of a thing for you to say to me.”

Beautiful. 

Doc Holliday’s only companion, a whore, is with him because of the money he nets her at the poker table. He has no other people who care for him, who would give a toss whether he lives or dies than Wyatt Earp. So of course he would follow Wyatt into the fire if he had to.

Not listening! Not listening!
Not listening! Not listening!

4. Smeagol

Personally I always take care to differentiate over who I am talking about: Smeagol or Gollum. It just depends on who’s in the driving seat. Granted, to focus on the positive side of the character is to downplay the terrible power of the other, and ultimately that other side won out. But I’ve always thought that Frodo really got through to Smeagol, and reached something inside him that hadn’t been alive in a very, very long time. Smeagol is widely interpreted by many, as an addict, as a sufferer of various mental illnesses, but all agree that he is trapped by his obsession with The One Ring. Ultimately his selfish and false “love” for this object destroys him, but saves Middle Earth.

Smeagol doesn’t quite fit on the list since this list is about characters who take that leap of trust to another person, but in a strange way he does, since it’s just as important to see what happens when the leap falters.

There are so many other characters I could talk about, but I will end things here. Have you noticed a pattern like this one in films? What kind of films are YOUR favorites?

 

What This Blog Be, and Be Not

Woo, quite a little ratings bump the last few days! Hi Y’all, welcome to the blog.

I thought with all these new visitors, I might post a little clarification about what this blog is, and isn’t. I’m not out to draw a line in the sand, unless it’s to help people see where the quicksand is.

What’s Going On?

1. I avoid spoilers on movies less than 10 years old, but anything more than 10 years old is more than likely going to be spoiled. It’s nothing vicious, it’s just because I want to be able to discuss some things without worrying about ruining the endings. I love films, I want other people to experience the thrills of twists and turns, but let’s face it–the chances of some folks checking out the movies I review are kind of slim, especially the older films. The older reviews are in the hopes that someone, somewhere is Googling a movie title in search of interesting commentary and comes across this blog.

This should catch you up on the last 50 years or so.

2. I am a dirty socialist liberal scumbag. I tend to look at movies through the lens of my socioeconomic background, and my politics. I have a liberal worldview but a very working class background–my mom cleaned houses and my dad worked as a lineman for a power company for 37 years, and was a Union man through and through. I take pains to expand my worldview as I can, but there are limits. I think our President is awesome, the war was for the wrong reasons but can’t be abandoned, green initiatives are great, organized religion is okay when it isn’t telling people how to vote or telling people to tell other people how to run their lives, and socialism isn’t that bad. Film is not an objective medium, so my film criticism is not objective, either.

Hot men? Yes. Entertaining? Yes. A movie to base your history paper on? Only if you already gave up on passing the class.

3. My understanding of film theory is kind of superficial– I’ve studied some film theory, but nothing MA-level. I want to be entertained, but I don’t want my intelligence insulted, either. I don’t think an entertaining movie should require me to ‘turn off my mind.’ I enjoyed the first Transformers movie, but I doubt I’ll see the sequels. I apply more literary criticism to film than film criticism — I don’t believe that films are made just for other filmmakers, in short.

4. I don’t read a lot of other film blogs–I read The Onion and Roger Ebert, and that’s about it. I don’t even check Rotten Tomatoes before I see a film, most of the time. After I’ve seen a movie, I read Wikipedia and IMDB, and check on the background of the film. The reason is because I don’t want my opinions colored by too many other peoples’. I may read more blogs as time goes on, I just don’t come across that many.

5. I’m pretty weird and contrary. I liked Transformers but loath Michael Bay. I hate fluff but don’t subject myself to a lot of ‘hard’ movies–I bitch about how much I hate the Sex and the City franchise but I’ll never see ‘Irreversible.’ I try to explore and understand these contradictions as I encounter them.  Even if I hate something, I try to understand why, and tend not to use unhelpful hyperbole like ‘This sucked so bad’ or ‘This movie can go to hell.’

Except this movie. This movie can go to hell.

6. I don’t like movies with lots of rape or an inordinate amount of domestic violence in them. I don’t like seeing animals or people tortured. I can take a lot of weird, even horrible stuff, but it depends on how it’s handled. A lot of horror has let me down recently in this regard.

7. Beauty Standards: I has them, and they are strange. I think the current trend towards tiny waifs and diamond-cut pretty boys is deplorable. It’s all style over substance, and it means there are amazing actors and actresses being passed over for roles because there’s something unique about them–meaning our world of escape is being populated by bland, flawless automatons. I would trade 10 Sam Worthingtons for 1 vintage Nicholas Cage, or 100 Jennifer Garners for 1 Bette Davis. It’s less because I have something against Sam Worthington (although I do-I will never forgive him for Clash of the Titans–EVER) or Jennifer Garner than I wish they would just be famous underwear models or something. They’re pretty people who can say lines–and that’s about it.

Jane Russell and her two costars.

8. Please don’t insult my intelligence. I like to think of myself and the majority of humanity of smart (although many people don’t think of themselves or others as intelligent, I have eternal hope for mankind) so I hate seeing movies where my intelligence is treated as an impediment rather than an asset. In short, it shouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility for some director/writer to have a production assistant make a pit stop on the old Information Superhighway to figure out whether something is plausible or not. I use the internet to figure out whether or not my cat’s behavior is normal, and millions of dollars are not riding on the outcome, no matter what he’s up to.

9. I don’t like mean-spirited comedy. Seriously. South Park makes me laugh, and Zoolander, and other things, but I hate Jackass, I hate comedies where everyone is a smarmy asshole out to use or degrade other smarmy assholes, and I am not a huge fan of Norbit-type humor. I like witty, I like slapstick, I like humor where everyone is in on the joke. I might just do a write up of my favorite ‘adult’ comedies–think ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Monty Python’ and the like. I’m not above dick jokes or dumb comedies –I love the Harold and Kumar movies, but again, I’m weird and contrary and some things rub me the wrong way.

So I hope that helps clarify for folks what this blog is, and isn’t about, and more importantly, the kind of things you can expect to find here in the future. I’ve been a little lax the last few weeks with posts, got a lot going on, but I’ll do my best to get back on the ball.

And to the new folks coming over from Twitter or being linked from other people’s blogs, welcome!