Well this is a cool video. Horror movies have changed a lot in the past 122 years (hell, I didn’t know film has been around that long). Brazilian film critic and editor Diego Carrera has created a fascinating visualization of that evolution by creating a video with a short clip of one horror movie from every year starting in 1895 and ending in 2016. I was glad to see Halloween make the cut in this video, as it’s my all-time favorite horror movie. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the film, but one thing remains the same no matter how often I see it: I still get scared shitless. I know exactly when Michael is going to strike. How he’s going to kill his victims. That he’s a sadistic asshole with a perverse sense of humor (seriously, he kills Bob and then pretends to be him in a ghost costume to fool his girlfriend Lynda whom he goes on to kill). It’s pretty amazing to think that Carpenter helped usher in the slasher genre by creating the movie on a shoestring budget. More, it’s a testament to the strength of his directorial ability that the movie largely holds up over the decades. Sure, certain aesthetics are different today (landlines with those damn cords that always get tangled up; fashion; vehicles, etc), but it wouldn’t take much tweaking of the movie to make it fit into the 21st century. Even the dialogue wouldn’t need much changing. Of course it wouldn’t fit well with today’s approach to horror movies since there was no blood, and filmmakers today love their blood spatter. I wish modern movie makers would take a few notes from the movies of yesteryear. Don’t know about anyone else, but I could do with less gore and blood and more tension and suspense in my scary movies.
This is a cute mashup of Star Wars and the Flash. It was created by a YouTube user and was heavily inspired by the trailer for The Force Awakens. I have to admit, it’s got some emotional weight to it. Impressive work, IMO.
Now, I tend to harp on the problems in Hollywood and/or the comic book industry bc I care. I care about movies. I care about comic book characters. And I care about racial and gender diversity in both. I want things to be better. I want greater representation (not just of women and PoC, but also queer and disabled people, and more still; but that’s a subject for a different post). Not just for my benefit. Not just for the benefit of others whose opinions align with mine on this subject. I also want greater representation bc it is important for future generations, as cultural anthropologist Michael D. Baran explains:
It is critical that children see all sorts of people playing both the good and the bad roles in media. Otherwise, they may take those absences as meaningful and it may affect how they understand social categories. And it is certainly important for kids to be able to identify with heroes that they feel represent who they are as people.
For very young kids, this might or might not fall out along racial lines and we must be careful not to impose our reification of race onto their knowledge. But we might as well err on the good side, by having a diversity of heroes for people to relate to – not just racially, but also in terms of gender, religion, body type, etc.
While Marvel Studios has much work to do in diversifying its interconnected universe, there are some bright spots on the horizon, and I think there is cause to have some degree of optimism that things are getting better (even if getting to better is like swimming uphill in a tar pit).
I’m optimistic because the Netflix series Jessica Jones was an intense, well acted, rollercoaster of a series that I loved from start to finish. Jessica Jones was presented as a strong, flawed, and three-dimensional character. The widespread acclaim of the show led to the quick announcement of a second season (speaking of which, I need them to announce *when*). On the big screen, I’m optimistic because 2019 sees the release of Captain Marvel, which will mark the first feature length MCU film with a woman in the starring role. Based on the Marvel Comics superhero (formerly known as Ms. Marvel/Binary/Warbird), this movie has the potential to position Captain Marvel as the premier female superhero of Marvel (in a way comparable to Wonder Woman’s position at DC). Though no actress has been cast in the title role, I am hopeful that this movie and this character will receive the respect they both deserve. Back on television, all 13 episodes of the Mike Colter starring Netflix series Luke Cage (which has been likened to the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire) drop on September 30. In the last decade, I’ve gone from ambivalence toward Cage to a fan of the character (writer Brian Michael Bendis may do a lot of things I don’t like, but his treatment of Cage has been exemplary). And then there’s the Black Panther, Marvel’s first black superhero. Seeing what Marvel has planned for the King of Wakanda between the comics and the big screen ought to please a great many Panther fans. I know I’m excited.
Earlier today, I posted about a maddening meme made by someone who believes a host of fucked up (and wrong) ideas about the needs of men and women in heterosexual relationships. The meme was rife with Western-centric, stereotypical attitudes about the role of men and women in society and seemed crafted to make viewers think that pleasing men is such an easy task but pleasing women? Impossible, because women want so many things and need so many things to make them happy that no man could ever truly measure up. Most of the list consists of bullshit ideas thrown together by someone who hasn’t actually listened to anything women have said they’re looking for in a partner (perhaps some misognystic twit on Reddit or /4/chan with too much time on their hands). I’d say the majority of them are rather unreasonable to expect of men, and in fact, I don’t know too many women who would demand that their boyfriend be an interior decorator who moonlights as an electrician while going to school to be a gynecologist. That said, of the 53 items listed that men supposedly need to be in order to make a woman happy, I saw several that were very reasonable (I just took a glance at it again, and counted at least 14). Funny thing though, if the thought of being an honest and passionate lover, friend, and companion is off-putting to the meme maker, they really ought to get a load of this short sci-fi film in which a woman makes an…interesting request of her boyfriend (Content note: the name of the video-‘He took his skin off for me‘-is a tip off about the nature of the short flick; the depiction of the boyfriend may be unsettling to viewers)
Readers may recall my recent Pub post where I discussed gay romance film the ‘Weekend’, which was slated for release in theaters across Italy. Directed by Andrew Haigh, the character based drama revolves around the brief but intense weekend relationship between an art student (Glenn) and a part-time lifeguard (Russell). Unfortunately for those wishing to see the film, the Catholic Church owns the vast majority of theaters in Italy and their film evaluation committee deemed the film indecent and did not approve of its message. As a result, it was limited to only 10 screens.
Contrary to the claims made by the Catholic Church in their attempt to justify censoring the movie, the ‘Weekend’ was not about gay sex and drugs. Yes, there were scenes of drug use. Yes, there were scenes of sex. But if the Bishops thought sex and drugs were the themes of the movie, I really have to question their skills at evaluating what a film is about. An honest appraisal of the film would lead to the recognition that it involves two complex, multi-faceted gay characters (who happen to have sex and do drugs) struggling with their identities. Instead, the committee viewed the movie as a film about gay men having sex and doing drugs, and I suspect they treated those actions as defining traits of the characters. That does a disservice to all those involved in making this film because there was more to the film and the characters than sex and drugs.
To be sure, yes, many gay people enjoy sex and many gay people partake of drugs. But that’s not unique to members of the gay community. Heterosexual people like both as well, but they don’t find themselves defined by either. No, heterosexual people still get to be loving family members, productive members of society, people with intellect and skills, and more. They are viewed as people with a range of emotions and desires. In short, they are viewed with complexity. Meanwhile, gay people have our humanity stripped away by reducing us down to a collection of stereotypes. We’ve been told that we’re sexual deviants who are concerned only with the pleasures of the flesh. We’re not viewed as loving family members (indeed, we’re often viewed as if we aren’t part of families) or contributors to society. That contributes to the demonization and marginalization we face across the world. Characterizing us as deviant, abnormal or “the other” makes it all the easier to deny us the basic rights all humans are entitled to. Such efforts have been occurring for some time now, and the Catholic Church has been responsible for much of it, fighting a culture war against acceptance of gay people. You know, because god hates fags (oops, I’m mixing up my hate-filled religious organizations). Thankfully, in various parts of the world-the best efforts of the Catholic Church and other religious institutions aside-the perception of gay people has seen a progressive (if uneven) evolution. Many who previously saw us in a negative light, have come around to view us more favorably. While far stronger than I and many others would like, the cultural influence of the Church seems to be diminishing. And though the power of the Church in Italy was strong enough to almost completely censor ‘Weekend‘, it wasn’t enough to stifle interest in the movie. In fact, despite being banned in most of Italy’s theaters, the Nottingham-set film proved to be a surprise hit on the 10 screens it was shown on.
Those were three words used to describe director Andrew Haigh’s romantic movie Weekend. Released in the UK in 2011, the film was slated for release in Italian theaters to coincide with Haigh’s new film 45 Years. Unfortunately for pretty much anyone in Italy, the moral police put their foot down and told the 1,100 cinemas they own that the movie was not to be shown. By ‘moral police’, I mean the “lovely” organization we know as the Roman Catholic Church. As they own the vast majority of the theaters in Italy, the church uses the Italian Conference of Bishops’ Film Evaluation Committee to rate and/or censor films and they said the oppose they themes of the movie and its message. What could be so bad about the film?
Did I forget to mention that it’s a gay romantic movie?
Horror/monster movie mashups between two properties has been a well Hollywood has occasionally dipped in over the years. Films such as King Kong vs Godzilla, Aliens vs Predator, and Freddy vs Jason featured battles between fan-favorite characters, though none of them were particularly good movies. I enjoyed King Kong vs Godzilla as a kid, but aside from the original Godzilla, most of the Big G’s films haven’t held up well over the years; the other two weren’t all that great either. Here’s hoping the upcoming film, Sadako vs. Kayako, will provide quality entertainment and serious frights. What began as an April Fools Joke last year quickly graduated to an actual, planned film.
My love of superheroes extends beyond comic books and trade paperbacks. I like playing superhero video games (my favorite is Spider-Man: Web of Shadows), watching superhero television shows (CW’s The Flash is arguably my favorite), and of course, watching superhero movies. I love me some superhero movies. For the longest time, my favorite was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 (yes, I’m a fan of Tobey-as-Spider-Man although Andrew Garfield did a good job too), but it was supplanted by the first Avengers movie, which hit *all* the notes I was looking for in a superhero movie (it didn’t hurt that my favorite comic book has been the Avengers for the last several decades). IMO, it was damn near perfect (it could have used another woman or two on the team, and at least one PoC). Aside from Avengers, there have been multiple superhero movies I consider among my all-time favorites, such as The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Amazing Spider-Man, and X-Men: First Class. I really wanted to add Man of Steel to that list but I can’t. And I’m worried that I won’t be able to add Batman vs Superman to that list either bc based on Zack Snyder’s work on Man of Steel, my excitement level is lukewarm.
Hollywood, aka Tinsel Town, is home to the entertainment industry of the United States. Viewed as the land of the rich and famous, Hollywood has long been the destination for many people seeking to make a name for themselves, whether on the small-screen, the big-screen, or in the music industry. Unfortunately, with so many people looking for fame and fortune, Hollywood is a difficult industry to break into, let alone succeed in. Some groups of people have an advantage in the industry, due to a bias in their favor. This bias-which favors white, heterosexual, cisgender men-has resulted in a Hollywood that is not reflective of our culture at large. Because of this bias, members of marginalized communities-LGBT people, women, and People of Color-have greater difficulty making it in the entertainment industry. Whether in front of the cameras or behind them, on the big screens or the small ones, these groups have long been plagued by unequal treatment in Hollywood. The second annual Hollywood Diversity Report (available for download here) examined more than 1,000 broadcast, cable, and digital tv programs from the 2012-2013 season and its results were not encouraging.
Continue reading “The progressive march of pop culture”
One of the many upcoming projects from Marvel Studios is the long-simmering Doctor Strange movie. In the comics, Doctor Stephen Strange was a talented yet arrogant neurosurgeon who sought to regain the use of his hands after a tragic accident. He traveled around the world seeking the best doctors to repair his hands, but all to no avail. Despondent, distraught, broke, and homeless, Strange continued his search and eventually learned of the Ancient One, a hermit in the Himalayas who might be able to assist him. While he is initially rebuffed by the hermit, Strange eventually proves his worth and the Ancient One agrees to help the doctor, though not by repairing his hands. Instead, he trains him in the use of the mystic arts and eventually grants him the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme.
Why all this background about Dr. Strange and the Ancient One? Weeeeell, Marvel is currently in the casting stage for the upcoming Dr. Strange film. They already have Benedict Cumberbatch lined up to play the arrogant, former neurosurgeon, and they might be close to picking someone to play the Ancient One. And they’re thinking outside the box on this one. In a move that many (myself included) see as a positive step, actress is in talks to play the Ancient One:
The Ancient One is a hundreds year old mystic who has mastered magic and travels the Earth, battling demons, later settling in the Himalayas with an order of monks. In the comics, The Ancient One was an older, Tibetan man, — and earlier in the film’s production, they had talked with Ken Watanabe, Morgan Freeman and Bill Nighy for the role — but the character’s identity is being altered slightly for the film. In the film, the character will train the villainous Baron Mordo before sensing evil in his heart and turning to mentor Dr. Stephen Strange, eventually bestowing on him the powerful Eye of Agamotto.
Swinton’s casting is exciting for a variety of reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and superhero movies as a whole) don’t need another all-powerful male character; there are plenty of those. It’s honorable that Marvel was looking at a group of actors that were ethnically diverse, but even better than they were thinking further outside of the box to cast a woman.
For all that Stan Lee’s work at Marvel was groundbreaking and noteworthy, he was still writing comics at a time when women were not well represented in pop culture because the socially approved role of women was homemaker or housewife. Yes, Stan created the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, and the Invisible Girl, but they were frequently relegated to the role of damsels-in-distress or the girlfriend (and dear Odin, Stan wrote many a cringe-worthy scene involving female superheroes). Meanwhile, their male counterparts rarely (if ever) received such treatment. No, male characters in the various titles written by Stan got to be more than the boyfriend. They didn’t have to worry about being hogtied, captured, and held hostage waiting for a savior to swoop in and free them. The men got to steer the plot. The women were treated as window dressing. So it probably never crossed Stan’s mind that a woman could serve as mentor to Doctor Strange.
It’s sad in a way. Like so many people back then (and plenty today), Stan Lee’s creativity was constrained by an adherence to rigid gender roles imposed by society-he was thinking inside the box. As a result of such limited thinking, Stan Lee’s comics did not-contrary to a long-running narrative about Marvel Comics-“reflect the world outside your window“. How could it, when the Marvel Universe as created by Stan was populated by a sea of white, male faces (with a few women and a smattering of black folk included for token attempts at diversity)? That’s not what the real world has ever looked like.
That’s one of the reasons I like the idea of casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. Women exist in the world outside my window (and everyone else’s). Yes, some women are housewives and homemakers, but they’re also sanitation workers and teachers, doctors and dental hygienists, lawyers and judges, astronauts and chemists, sociologists and electricians, librarians and painters, writers and activists, and so much, much more. That’s why it makes sense to me for Hollywood executives to widen the pool of potential candidates for movie roles. Instead of treating men as the default, they’re slowly beginning to realize that women can do the same things as men (hello Charlize Theron in Fury Road), and that includes playing the role of wise and aged mentor to the master of the mystic arts.