Awards Feed

CultureGeek ventures near the Murder House

Oh, American Horror Story. I’ve quit you. And then you do this.

Next season will be a crossover between Murder House and Coven, which were two seasons I actually managed to watch. Look, I stuck with it a long ways, but my taste for horror is of the creepy, chilling Twilight Zone variety, not “let’s count the ways we can rape” and eyeball-gouging with grapefruit spoons.

So AHS is trying to go back to its roots after last year’s politically-themed Cult dropped down from Roanoake’s levels set in 2016. Hilariously, the lowest-ranked premiere was the first season for Murder House in 2012, before anyone had the slightest idea what the hell American Horror Story was about.

I might be dragged kicking and screaming to try yet another season. But I’m honestly losing my patience with shows that only seem to exist in order to drag me from gory death to gory death (Walking Dead, I'm looking at you)

• Locals: The 18th annual Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase will screen 20 films at Washington University on July 13-15 and 20-22, hosted by nonprofit Cinema St. Louis. Closing night awards will be presented at a free celebration at Blueberry Hill. Showcawe films will be chosen for inclusion in the St. Louis International Film Festival. Tickets are $13; $10 for students and Cinema St. Louis members and can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com.

Uncancelled! Lucifer has been picked up by Netflix for a fourth season after it was cancelled by (wait for it) Fox. This comes after Brooklyn Nine-Nine was rescued by NBC after it was cancelled by… Fox. Not so lucky: Designated Survivor got the ax from not-Fox (NBC) and Netflix was thinking about it, but so far nothing.

• If you can bear it, scan through Newsweek’s recounting of the 50 best-selling singles in U.S. history, and the oldest one is from 1997. Oh, my youth hurts.

• Locals: SIUE’s Beauty and the Beast opens tonight and runs through June 24. I am in no way objective; it’s my son’s collegiate theatrical debut and he was co-designer on the project, helping to build and design the sets and some of the special effects. So if you go, watch for the Lonely Villager/Wolf/Spoon, and enjoy the show!

This Week in Sexual Harassment: Not long after Star Wars actresses Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran left Instagram due to constant harassment and abuse, 14-year-old Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things has left Twitter. It seems some idiot Photoshopped her into awful homophobic memes with a hashtag #TakeDownMillieBobbyBrown, which just goes to show that the internet is entirely populated with cretins. She’s fourteen, you dipshits.

Also, follow this Twitter thread from Anne Wheaton on the horrific harassment she endured at BookExpo America, where apparently an attractive female writer cannot be taken seriously unless she’s willing to sleep with middle-aged buyers.

• Cue the fanwank! A released photo from Wonder Woman 2 appears to show a confused Steve Trevor in 1984, the setting for the sequel. Did Steve somehow survive the cataclysm of Wonder Woman’s finale? Is it Steve’s great-grandson, like in the comics? (Which is kinda squicky, but remember Captain America and Carter’s great-granddaughter? On second thought, don’t.) If it’s Steve, how come Diana still seems to be mourning him into the 21st century? Though I rather like the idea that this time, it's Steve who's the fish out of the cultural water. Filming has begun with Kristen Wiig as Cheetah and - we hope - a cameo for Lynda Carter.

Stevetrevor

• Ordinarily I’d be really happy that Ewan McGregor will play Danny Torrance in Doctor Sleep, based on Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining. Unfortunately, I was deeply disappointed in Doctor Sleep, which had an uneven plot structure and serious retcons - if you’re going to do a sequel or prequel, continuity is king. Still, Danny has had some serious demons to fight all these years, and McGregor has the ability to … shine in the role. (Hee.)

• Happy 81st birthday to my family’s namesake, Donald Duck! I do a fair Donald-quack, but it doesn’t translate well in print. So here’s a picture instead.

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Tony Awards went to The Band’s Visit, Laurie Metcalf of Edwardsville for Three Tall Women, and several other people who weren’t in Mean Girls. Details here.

• There will not be a Defenders Season 2. I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad about this; I was fairly neutral on Defenders and thought it could have been a lot of fun if not for the storyline drawn from Iron Fist, which we all hated. Oh well, at least we’ll get more time with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage - the latter’s second season hits June 22 and reviews say it’s one of the rare ones that outshines the original.

• Apex Books is helping to raise funds for author Brian Keene, who was badly burned in an accident and does not have health insurance. All proceeds of direct ebook sales of Keene’s solo novels with Apex will be donated directly to him. The GoFundMe continues and is within a few hundred of its $55,000 goal, but early estimates now put Keene’s medical costs as $300,000.

Firefly. Still bitter. You can’t take the sky from me.

 

RIP

• Jackson Odell, 20, best known for The Goldbergs and iCarly. An actor and singer/songwriter since the age of twelve, he was found unresponsive last Friday in a sober living facility.

Alan O’Neill, 47, best known as an Irish gun-runner on Sons of Anarchy, apparently of a heart attack. O’Neill was born in Ireland - so yes, the accent was real - and worked on the Irish TV series Fair City as well.

Jerry Maren, 98, last of the original 124 Wizard of Oz Munchkins who sang as part of the Lollipop Guild in the 1939 classic, presenting an oversized candy to Judy Garland. Maren also appeared in The Twilight Zone, Bewitched and Seinfeld, among many others.

Anthony Bourdain, 61, chef and travel journalist, of apparent suicide. I hardly need to expound on this, since it was extensively covered by everyone, but the repercussions on his death continue days later (and the idiotic conspiracy theories).

If you are in crisis, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255; or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

 

Trailer Park

Halloween. Again. For the last time. Again. #pleasedontsuck

Funny. Sometimes a trailer keeps you all the way to the end, then loses you at the title. Unfriended: Dark Web was probably trying to draw on audience from the first one, but in this case, a truly creepy trailer gravely disappointed me by being connected to that lameness.

I usually stick to feature films for the trailers because these days everything from books to TV episodes to Shakespeare in the Park gets a trailer. But this Netflixer of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects is particularly choice.

• Here’s my question about Serenity, which has nothing to do with Firefly, alas. Matthew McConoughey’s ex-wife, Anne Hathaway, asks him to help her do away with her current husband, who’s an abusive monster. Um. Is there any reason she can’t just call the police? Amazing cast includes Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Diane Lane… very high-end for a potboiler. So hopefully there’s more to it than just the tagline.

• If you haven’t had enough Conjuring jump scares, The Nun is now pending. The trailer is nicely creepy, though I have serious misgivings about the admittedly entertaining Conjuring series.

• I’m still dumb-founded about giving Disney’s Dumbo to Tim Burton. (See what I did there?) Longtime Disney fans are curled into fetal positions remembering Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The teaser is out, and so far we don’t hate it. It looks like there are big story changes - Colin Farrell has two kids who help take care of Dumbo, Michael Keaton is an entnrepreneur who recruits Dumbo (separate from ringmaster Danny Devito); and we don’t see Timothy the Mouse or wisecracking punster crows anywhere. 

 

Coming This Weekend

Incredibles 2, the movie we’ve all been waiting for seemingly forever. Reviews are strong, but it’s not like it matters: It’s Disney/Pixar, and we’re all going to see it because the first was… Incredible.

Tag, in which grown men disrupt each other’s lives in an annual dick-measuring contest to see who’s the best. Or something. Unimpressed.

Superfly, a remake of the blaxploitation original starring Trevor Jackson as Youngblood Priest. So far it’s not resonating with critics; 54 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Gotti, with John Travolta aiming for serious as the notorious crime boss of New York City. Someone pointed out that there are 44 credited producers on the movie, for which the reviewers rolled out their best terms: derivative, borderline nonsensical, connect-the-dots disaster, dismal mess… It has a zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Ouch.

 

Continuing:

Ocean’s 8, Solo, Deadpool 2, Hereditary, Avengers: Infinity War, Adrift, Book Club, Hotel Artemis, Upgrade, Life of the Party.

 

Finally: I made a big announcement this week, one that might affect this blog and definitely affects the rest of my work. Click here to find out what shenanigans are pending.

 

Happy Father’s Day!


Linkspam watches the bloodbath

Watch as so many of your favorite characters fade away to dust... 

No, I am not reviewing Infinity War. Ha ha. Gotcha. It should be apparent to those of you who read this column regularly (all six of you) that I don't often review the giant blockbusters. The fact is, the incessant yammering and Monday-morning quarterbacking on Avengers and The Last Jedi and other giant tentpole pictures pretty much renders my opinion moot. 

Besides, I'm not up for y'all screaming at me. I get enough of that at Ye Olde Day Job.

No, I'm talking about the mass bloodlettings that were the show cancellations this week. Yowsa, hope you hadn't gotten too attached to some (many?) of the shows floating around the networks, because it's the freaking Red Wedding here. 

Among the cancelled:

• Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Mourned by many, including a protest thread by Samwise Gangee - I mean, Sean Astin.

Marvel's Inhumans.

• Designated Survivor. I wanted to love this show, as a post-apocalyptic West Wing. But it was so unrelentingly dour, and the end of the world shouldn't be a delight, but every once in a while Our Heroes need to win something. They always lost, and the bad guys always won, and it just got to be too dull and disheartening. The key to "ordinary man accidentally ends up in charge" is that his inherent honesty and integrity eventually wins out, from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Dave to President Josiah Bartlet (though he wasn't exactly ordinary). The plot of "ordinary man becomes president, everyone hates him and he gets nothing done" was a little too depressing. Apparently the viewers agreed.

The Exorcist.

• Lucifer. (Unrelated to the prior cancellation, we presume.)

• Once Upon a Time. I mean, that's not really fair; they're heading to their big series finale, it's not like they got the rug pulled out from under them. It's that show everyone loves that I never got around to watching, and once it's done, I guess I'll take a poll on whether it's worth catching the reruns?

• QuanticoSadly, I am unsurprised; I loved the first season, but the second season played like Heroes with a swift dive in quality, and apparently the third season has reached new lows in the ratings.

• The X-Files - again. (Then again, it will probably rise again, like its characters.)

• The Night Shift. Or is it? I heard it was cancelled in the fall, then someone said it got picked up after all, now they're saying cancelled again. I actually rather liked this show, but lost track of it a few years ago.

And yet Tim Allen's annoying Last Man Standing, AP Bio, and the Santa Clarita Diet live to fight. Still waiting to hear: Criminal Minds and other fine shows from CBS, which currently houses several of my favorites (don't let me down, Madam Secretary!) 

The Nobel Prize in Literature will not be awarded this year for only the second time since 1901. The reason? A powerful asshole harassed and assaulted women, and the organization allegedly did nothing. Organizers believe they need to get their gold-plated house in order before returning to awarding two prizes next year. The L.A. Times goes into detail why this is the wrong approach; the Washington Post disagrees

• Speaking of awards: The Tony nominations are here! Wait a minute... three of the four musical nominees began as movies. Now, I loved Frozen (Mean Girls and Spongebob not so much, and yet they are tied for the most nominations), but really, Broadway? There are actual playwrights doing actual writing, maybe we don't need to rely so heavily on Hollywood. Let's look at the non-musicals, surely... Harry Potter. Okay fine. Here's the list!

• Also in the category awards, the Locus Award finalists have been announced. They include John Scalzi, Jeff Vandermeer, Elizabeth Bear, N.K. Jemisin, Kit Reed, Peter S. Beagle, Seanan McGuire, Mary Robinette Kowal, Tobias Buckell, Ellen Datlow, Gardner Dozois, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne Valente, and many others. 

Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski have been expelled from the Academy. Cosby, at least, has bigger problems right now. Polanski plans to sue. Planning to appear in court, Roman? 

• Cinema St. Louis is now accepting submissions for the 2018 Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. The Showcase screens works that were written, directed, edited, or produced by St. Louis natives, or films with strong local ties. The 16 film programs that will screen from July 13-22 serve as the Showcase’s centerpiece, ranging from full-length fiction features and documentaries to multi-film compilations of fiction and documentary shorts. The 2018 event will take place over 2 consecutive weekends in mid-July at Washington University

• Speaking of film… can you make a movie in 48 hours? Filmmakers from all over the St. Louis area will compete to see who can make the best short film June 1-3. The winning film will go up against films from around the world at Filmapalooza 2019 for a chance at the grand prize and an opportunity to screen at the Cannes Film Festival 2019 Short Film Corner. Early Bird discounted registration ends May 7.

• Also speaking of film… the 23rd Annual St. Louis Jewish Film Festival opens Sunday, June 3. Offerings include Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel which follows Israel’s underdog national baseball team competing in the World Baseball Classic for the first time; Maktub, an Israeli comedy about criminals who survive a terrorist attack and vow to change their ways; a documentary about Sammy Davis Jr. titled I’ve Gotta Be Me; and much more. All films will screen at Frontenac Cinema, with varying prices. Find out more at the festival’s website.

 

Trailer Park

• Predator, another reboot. Will it be the surprisingly-effective Predators, sans movie boyfriend Adrien Brody, or will it be AvP II, which I am sorry to say I paid actual American dollars to see in the theater?

• I usually stick to film trailers in this section, but the Luke Cage trailer is so awesome it needs a link.

• I'm all for another Robin Hood movie - I watch them all like a sad fangirl - but this one looks to have all the brains of a Michael Bay fan film and all the heart of ... I honestly can't think of anything as humorless and dull as this trailer. Please be better.

 

Coming This Weekend

• Life of the Party. You know, an empowering female comedy about a divorced, overweight woman finding herself in college would have been terrific. Instead we get this. Melissa McCarthy, we know you can do better.

• Breaking In. Again, with actresses who can do better... Gabrielle Union graduates to the Mom Level, with what looks to be an utterly pedestrian thriller plot fighting against bad guys threatening her kids, cynically released for Mother's Day. 

 

Continuing:

Avengers: Infinity War; Overboard; A Quiet Place; Rampage; Tully; Black Panther; I Feel Pretty; Truth or Dare; Super Troopers 2; Blockers.

And Bad Samaritan, which I caught last weekend and surprised me by not sucking. Of course, I could watch David Tennant read the phone books - and he's done such marvelous villains since graduating from Doctor School. Most of these stock thrillers depend on the main character doing horribly stupid things that make you want to slap him, but in this case, the lead was charming and likable, not overly dumb, and the mistakes he makes are understandable mistakes. The movie also takes an extra step to build realistic backgrounds for tertiary characters, with personalities approaching three dimensions. It was tense enough that I didn't want to miss a moment to go for a soda, and I'd definitely watch it again.

 

Happy Mother's Day!


Linkspam wins the awards (not really)

The Pulitzer Prizes are out - in case you’re wondering, your Friendly Neighborhood CultureGeek did not win one. Next year!

However, there were some really amazing choices, and Poynter has a great summary analysis. Here are some of the highlights:

The New York Times and New Yorker shared t he prize for public service for exposing Harvey Weinstein and kicking off the #metoo movement, changing the national conversation about sexual harassment and abuse. The Washington Post won for investigative reporting in the Alabama Senate race. The Arizona Republic and USA Today network won for explanatory reporting of the “unintended consequences” of building a wall on the Mexican border. The New York Times and Washington Post shared an award for “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage” of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Note: This was the first Pulitzer for USA Today, after 35 years of reporting.

That’s the short version of the journalism awards, which will be detailed to a much greater extent on my other blogs. This is a blog about pop culture, and so we should take a closer look at the artistic awards than my “day job.”

The fiction Pulitzer went to Less by Andrew Sean Greer (Little Brown), described as a book of fine prose and structure about growing older and the essential nature of love. Finalists were In the Distance by Hernan Diaz (Coffee House Press) and The Idiot by Elif Batuman (Penguin Press).

The drama Pulitzer went to Cost of Living by Martyna Majok, examining perceptions of privilege through a former trucker and his recently paralyzed ex-wife, and an arrogant young man with cerebral palsy and his caregiver. Fiinalists were Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and The Minutes by Tracy Letts.

The poetry Pulitzer went to Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart, with finalists Incendiary Art by Patricia Smith and semiautomatic by Evie Shockley.

The history Pulitzer went to The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis; nonfiction went to Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America; and biography went to Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. Music went to DAMN by Kendrick Lamar.

Netflix is picking up a vampire series based on the V-Wars novel/anthology/comic series by Jonathan Maberry. The series will star Ian Somerhalder as the doctor trying to solve the vampire plague while society is ripped apart by its spread. I will now shamelessly name-drop that Jonathan is a friend of mine, and he’s killed me in one of his novels. I couldn’t be happier for Jonathan on his success, and not just because he’s a terrific writer. He’s also a really good guy, and his success story gives hope to the rest of us toiling in the vineyards that good work finds a home.

AMC is picking up NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, who is not a personal friend, but a pretty nifty writer. Hill is famously the son of Stephen King, who launched his own horror-writer career under a pseudonym to try to “make it” without his father’s fame. The series follows an artist who discovers she can track an immortal creature who steals the souls of children and deposits them in a twisted version of a Christmas village…  Is anyone else excited about how much creepy-supernatural programming is getting picked up by the non-network systems, including possible Dark Tower at Amazon? NOS4A2 launches in 2019.

• Speaking of Stephen King, part II of IT will film in July. The only character cast yet is Jessica Chastain as Beverly, and I wait to see if they sugar-coat Beverly’s life as much as the TV series did - one of my few complaints about it. I have more complaints about the new adaptation, primarily the utter travesty inflicted on Mike’s character, but I wait to see what the final product will be in developing my favorite novel of all time to the screen.

• Amid criticisms that review conglomerate Rotten Tomatoes is a) needlessly black-and-white with movies rated fresh or rotten, and b) overwhelmingly male among its certified critics, a new site is being launched. CherryPicks will offer a tiered rating system and feature opinions from women, which the Mary Sue says should counterbalance RT’s tendency to rate male-led movies dramatically higher. I find the concept intriguing, though the name annoys me. The site launches in the fall.

• For your little burst of nostalgia today: watch Angela Lansbury and the late great Jerry Orbach record “Be Our Guest” for the original Beauty and the Beast. Trivia note: Orbach is probably best known as the world-weary detective Lenny Briscoe on Law & Order, and for a long time his partner was played by Jesse L. Williams. Both Orbach and Williams were song-and-dance Broadway stars before they donned the trenchcoats, and rumor has it that when they were out and about filming in New York City, they would entertain the passers-by and extras with song and dance routines. It is criminal that in the age of the selfie and street video, no YouTube clips have survived of this (at least none that I have found.)

Huey Lewis has canceled all his 2018 performances, including the one in Alton. Seems Huey lost most of his hearing a couple of months ago, possibly due to Meniere’s disease, and cannot hear music well enough to sing. Huey later posted that the response from fans and colleagues is “truly overwhelming,” and he he is focusing on improving and finding a way to sing again.

Blockers is a nuanced and sex-positive teen comedy - wait, what? And it’s the Mary Sue saying this, but wow, was that NOT what I expected to hear about this movie. Three girls plan to lose their virginity on prom night, their parents do their best to derail this plan, wackiness ensues… but the girls are allowed their own agency and owning their (not entirely hetero) sexuality? Am I in Bizarro World? (Don’t worry, there’s still stupidity and vomit.)

Strange Horizons has a verrrrrrry long and extensive exploration of why everything we know about James T. Kirk is wrong. They’re not the first to point out that Kirk was a) not a womanizer and b) not a lightweight charmer who never took anything seriously, despite how the idiot AbramsTrek movies have portrayed him. I recall Keith DeCandido expounding on this to a great extent, your humble CultureGeek has said much the same. I don’t expect the writers of the current Trek to actually notice, mind you. It’s too much fun to remember him as a blithe horndog.

• Locals: international violin superstar Rachel Barton Pine will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 23 in Dunham Hall at SIUE, with the combined orchestras of SIUE and SIUC. Pine first performed with the Chicago Symphony at age 10, and has been a virtuoso performer around the world, including winning a gold medal at the J.S. Bach International Violin Competition in Germany. Order tickets at artandissues.com.

• Also local: Gift of Voice needs to sell 41 more tickets to Suicide: The Ripple Effect in order to screen the film in Edwardsville on May 1. The documentary follows a man who tried to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge at age 19, and the “ripple effect” his attempt had on his family, friends and first responders who saved him, as well as his advocacy of a suicide prevention net on the bridge. Order your tickets here. The screening accompanies a suicide prevention program at SIUE on April 27, targeted at high school and college students.

• Also also local: SIUE will host the world premiere of a thought-provoking new play titled The Great Divide by E.M. Lewis. It's a political play, according to the playwright. "This is the story of the longest, angriest, strangest presidential election this country has ever seen,” said Lewis. “This is a story about America, in this divided moment.” The play runs Thursday-Sunday; click here for full details.

 

RIP

• Harry Anderson, 65, best known to you as Judge Harry Stone of Night Court and to me as the grownup Richie Tozier in the original IT miniseries, a role he was born to play. A longtime standup and stage magician, Anderson left Hollywood in 2000 to live in New Orleans and run a nightclub. They managed to make it through Katrina, and according to this piece in the New York Times, Anderson reopened his club as the French Quarter Town Hall to evolve a de facto government in the storm-paralyzed city. But in 2006, unable to make the bills in the post-Katrina mess, Anderson and his wife shut down and left for Asheville. His cause of death was not immediately known.

R. Lee Ermey, 74, best known as the shouting drill sergeant of Full Metal Jacket. He was actually a drill instructor and staff sergeant in the Marines and served 14 months in Vietnam, retiring after 11 years in the military before he became an actor. He also appeared in movies such as Mississippi Burning, Se7en, Prefontaine, and was the voice of the Army Men in the Toy Story series. Semper Fi.

Milos Forman, 86, inexplicably remembered as the director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest instead of the intense, epic masterpiece that was Amadeus. Forman was born in Czechoslovakia, orphaned when his parents died in Nazi concentration camps and was raised in foster homes. He was in Paris in 1968 when Russia took over Czechoslovakia, placing the artistic world under Soviet control, and he fled to New York to continue working there. Other films included Hair, The People Vs. Larry Flynt and Ragtime.

Art Bell, 72, host of Coast to Coast AM on more than 400 radio stations. He took calls unscreened, with a separate line just for the Area 51 folk, according to the Washington Post. No matter how crazy, he put them on the air, beginning in 1984 as a political talk show.

Jean Marzollo, 75, author of the I Spy books - a total of 150 children’s books, from I’m a Seed to Ten Little Christmas Presents. A teacher first, she wrote books for adults on learning through play and baby-care for dads, before branching into children’s books on a variety of topics from learning to count to the life of Martin Luther King Jr. to the eight I Spy puzzle books.

 

Trailer Park

• The only thing I don’t love about The Incredibles 2 trailer is that they kept the off-screen Nagging Wife of Frozone. I know a lot of people find her funny; I find her an annoying, borderline-stereotype trope that is actually subverted IN The Incredibles, as Elastigirl gets whapped upside the head by Edna Mode and reminded of her own identity, which is not dependent on her husband’s behavior and doesn’t have to be limited to the wet-blanket wife who doesn’t understand. Everything else about this trailer is pure gold, mind you.

• The Verge says almost everything I would say about The Meg, which apparently added “the” so that people wouldn’t think it was a Meg Ryan comedy? No one can figure out of they’re trying to be serious. And I’m usually all about the sharks - Jaws is a personal favorite - but given author Steve Alten’s horrific author-scam attempt a few years ago, I’m reticent about giving him more money.

Hotel Artemis has a ridiculously stellar cast with Jodie Foster, Jeff Goldblum, Dave Bautista, Sterling K. brown, Zachary Quinto and others, on an underground hospital for criminals in a dystopian future with lots of dark lighting.

 

Coming This Weekend

I Feel Pretty, Amy Schumer’s latest comedy about an insecure woman who gets hit on the head and suddenly lives confidently and fearlessly. Um, I’m hoping it’s not nearly as bad as its promos.

• Traffik. Vacationing couples vs. vicious bikers. Looks to be a bright spot in a lousy batch this weekend. How long until the summer blockbusters? (But seriously, I'd watch Omar Epps read the phone book, so I might give this a try.)

• Ghost Stories. In limited release, British take on "skeptic debunker meets real ghosts." Promo is vaguely creepy, also co-stars our favorite hobbit, Martin Freeman. 

• Super Troopers 2. No

 

Continuing:

Rampage (unfortunately), Truth or Dare, A Quiet Place, Blockers, Ready Player One, Acrimony, BLACK PANTHER, I Can Only Imagine, Chappaquiddick, The Miracle Season, Love Simon, Midnight Sun, and Sherlock Gnomes.


Linkspam

There will be a separate review pending for BLACK PANTHER, which I don’t seem to be able to discuss without all-caps, once I see it for a second time.

For now, the shorthand is: a) amazing movie, even if you don’t follow the MCU; b) while having seen Avengers: Age of Ultron would be helpful, it is not vitally necessary to understand the plot; and c) it might be the most feminist movie of the last ten years, and I only say “might” because Wonder Woman’s protagonist is actually a woman. Go see this movie - hey, catch a flight to Wakanda.

Lucianovecchio
This amazing piece of art is from Luciano Vecchio. https://www.facebook.com/artoflucianovecchio/

In spoilerland…. Here’s an interesting take on what didn’t work in BLACK PANTHER (hint: it wasn’t much) from The Verge. Smart analysis is abounding as long as you stay out of the Idiot Corners of the Internet.

Meanwhile…. before you get all het up about the headline, understand what Variety is talking about with “After ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Wonder Woman,’ It’s Time for the Myth of the Fanboy to Fade.” It’s about Hollywood still pretending that young white males are the only ones with money who go to the movies. And before you insist, “Money talks!” read the article. Or, y’know, check out BLACK PANTHER’s current box office.

Likewise, you might know Danai Gurira as Michonne of The Walking Dead or now as the fearsome and amazing Okoye. But she’s also a Broadway playwright. She wrote Eclipsed, an intense drama set during the Liberian civil war starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o; and Familiar, the story of a family of Zimbabwean immigrants preparing for a wedding, which was performed at Yale Repertory and Off-Broadway.

When you see it? Stay all the way through the credits. I mean, you know that, because you’re geeks. But I saw people getting up to leave after the first post-credits scene. Rookie mistake.

• Speaking of the Panther crew, Avengers: Infinity War is premiering a week earlier than planned, on April 27. Check out io9’s report for the hilarious, cheeky Twitter exchange between Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel in announcing the move. (Likely this is to give more space to Solo.)

• Writers of color: the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation is hosting workshops for travel writers, particularly black women. Check out VONA’s applications here.

Calling all Disney Nerds! If you’re like me and your house is basically a tribute temple to the Mouse, you have a new destination in Downtown Disney at Disneyland. Disney Home is a a home-decor store entirely focused on Disney home goods. Beauty and the Beast plates and cups, Neverland kitchen towels, Minnie-bow canisters, Mickey teapots… wait, where is the online component, because WANT. What do you mean, there isn’t one??

• A very rare 1820s copy of the Declaration of Independence was found… no, not with Nicolas Cage. Behind wallpaper. Okay, technically it was behind wallpaper for a while, then later sat in a broken frame behind a cabinet in a dusty office. And it’s in better condition than the original. Everything bad that could have happened to the original has happened, according to the article, which explains why it was practically unreadable when CultureGeek Jr. and I saw it. Still, he describes it as an incredibly moving experience.

Dolly Parton donates her 100 millionth book, deemed by Mashable as the last good person left in America. Parton’s Imagination Library sends free books to children from birth to starting school; she says she was inspired by her father’s illiteracy. She has also donated more than $8 million to the people left homeless by Tennessee wildfires in 2016.

• Here’s a Washington Post profile of actress Laurie Metcalf, native of Edwardsville, Ill. and a working actress for 40 years before she’s suddenly a finalist for the Oscar. She won a trio of Emmys for Roseanne and is inexplicably returning for the misbegotten revival, as she claims her Tony for Nora in A Doll’s House Part 2 and awaits Oscar night for Ladybird.

Meanwhile, Barbra Streisand gives a rare interview, two hours discussing what it was like to battle sexism in Hollywood before it was trendy. She was the first woman to star, direct, produce and co-write a major studio film, and also the first woman composer to win best song at the Oscars in addition to her collection of Emmys, Grammys and acting Oscars. She was overlooked as director over and over even when her Prince of Tides was nominated for best picture, so it was a bit of “sweet justice” to present Kathryn Bigelow with the director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, still the only woman director so honored. There is exactly one paragraph in Variety’s long spiel about her dogs, but guess what part of it is trending? *headdesk* There are more trails left to blaze.

Netflix will have 700 original series online in 2018 - that’s not a typo - and spend $8 billion on content. In addition, they’ve greenlit 80 original movies. Variety details their strategy for world domination.

• On Friday the 13th, you may be allowed to tour and camp at the filming location of Friday the 13th. It’s usually a Boy Scout campground - try not to think too hard about that - and has only opened to the public five times. You’ll also get to meet original Final Girl Adrienne King. Victims must be at least 15 to visit and 21 to stay overnight.

Freelancers owed collectively $80,000 by Ebony Magazine will be paid in full under a settlement announced this week by the National Writers Union, representing 45 freelancers who were not paid by the new owners of the iconic African-American magazine. In short: freelancers actually win against a major corporation. Really?

Hogwarts fans, here’s something to empty your bank account. I want!

 

RIP

Bud Luckey, writer, animator and composer best known for classic animations on Sesame Street in which he wrote the songs, drew the animation and provided the vocals. Outside Sesame Street, he did design work for Pixar on Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and more, and wrote (and performed) the Pixar short Boundin. He voiced Chuckles the Clown in Toy Story 3 and Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh.

• Actress Emma Chambers, 53, best known for The Vicar of Dibley and Notting Hill.

 

Trailer Park

Chappaquiddick released its final trailer “based on the untold true story.” I’m not sure any part of that story remains untold after all these years, but I’m interested nonetheless.

• If you liked Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, think about catching him in his next role: HBO’s remake of Fahrenheit 451. The trailer is far more disturbing and intriguing than the original film, in my opinion, and quite relevant.

 

Coming This Weekend

• The wildly irresponsible Death Wish, because what we need in America is a pissed-off shaved-bald white guy loaded down with weapons shooting at people who may or may not be criminals. I could expound further on how I feel about the trailers for this movie, but my blood pressure can’t take it.

Red Sparrow, which intrigues me since I liked it pretty well when it was titled La Femme Nikita or Point of No Return. Also Jennifer Lawrence, who is pretty much awesome in everything she does.

They Remain. Two scientists look for biological samples in the former site of a Manson-style campground, which may or may not be haunted, which may or may not cause insanity in our heroes. Wackiness ensues. Interesting visuals, but it has gotten zero buzz.

 

Continuing:

BLACK PANTHER (duh), Game Night, Peter Rabbit, Annihilation, Jumanji, Fifty Shades Freed, Every Day, The Post (limited), The Shape of Water (limited), Early Man, I, Tonya (limited), Den of Thieves, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (limited).

 

Next weekend is Midsouthcon, so if you're in the Memphis area, stop by and visit with your Friendly Neighborhood CultureGeek! I'll be on several panels regarding the horror genre with uber-editor Ellen Datlow, attempting not to fangirl too much. There may not be a Linkspam until I get back, so lay chilly! 

 


Thursday-ish Linkspam

In the category of Hollywood is Still Run By Idiots, we have the brilliant plan by Paramount to release Annihilation domestically and sell the international release rights to… Netflix. The Atlantic notes that Arrival, a similar science fiction thriller, grossed $203 million and got eight Oscar nominations including best picture.

And yet, Annihilation, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, is being treated to zero fanfare at all, with no theatrical rollout outside of the U.S., Canada and China. Why? “Too intellectual.” 

Or, as Vellum and Vinyl quotes, “That sure is a lot of words that don’t mention how it’s a scifi epic-horror movie headed by female characters. Ya know, the ones assumed to be doomed before they release.”

Seriously, how many times do we have to go through this before Hollywood remembers that a) women are half the population, b) women have money and go to the movies, and c) men can watch women just like women watch men. This is not difficult math.

• So… who’s profiting from the success of The Handmaid’s Tale? Not author Margaret Atwood. It seems that in 1990, she sold the rights to MGM to make a movie. When the TV rights were sold to Hulu, the money went to MGM. Anyone else wanna backhand her agent? Atwood was an executive consultant on the show, but that was it.

She seems fairly sanguine about it in her interview with Entertainment Weekly, and says while the uptick in book sales is nice, she wishes her book were not so… relevant. “I would prefer this not to be happening. It’s like that sign that someone was holding up during the Women’s March. ‘I can’t believe I’m still holding up this f—ing sign.”

• Want to know what was really wrong with Michael Jackson, who complained the most about “We Are the World,” the unexpected guitarist who plays just like Hendrix and who killed JFK? Apparently Quincy Jones has the answers. “Be a Pisces. Jam.” (Everyone seems shocked that Richard Pryor and Marlon Brando were lovers. Come on, people. It was the '70s.)

• In local news, fans of Batman will get to fly backwards. No, not the DC hero; Batman: the Ride! Six Flags will let you ride backwards during the spring (or ride forwards as you choose), but is discontinuing the trial run when the summer season begins.

Now here was my question: there’s still going to be one line. Which means if you are among 10 percent who want to ride it forward, you still have to wait in line behind the gazillions planning to go backwards. It’s no skin off mine, of course; I am a woman of curves, so I haven’t been able to ride Batman for a few years. But you can bet CultureGeek Jr. will be on board!

• Did you know that one of the first black writers to work on Black Panther comics was from right here in East St. Louis? But Reginald Hudlin did a whole lot more than Black Panther, which believe it or not was written solely by white writers for his first 32 years. Hudlin also was nominated for an Oscor for producing Django Unchained and was a producer or director on many other movies, including Marshall, House Party, Serving Sara and The Great White Hype. He’s currently working on the film Shadowman and a TV series, Showtime at the Apollo.

• Greenlit: J.J. Abrams and HBO are working on Demimonde, a sci-fi fantasy drama described as “epic and intimate” by the network. Uh huh. And it’s about….? We’ll see.

• Yikes: Robert Wagner is now considered a person of interest in Natalie Wood’s drowning death nearly 40 years ago. (That’s cop-speak for “suspect.”) I could have seen that coming, since Wagner has refused to talk with police since they reopened the case six years ago. It was 1981, Wagner and Wood were in a troubled marriage, and the only people on the boat were the two of them, Christopher Walken, and the captain. Now it seems there were bruises indicating an assault, not an accident. Stay tuned...

Waiting for the Oscars? Yeah, me neither. But relive the glories of years past with Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar Bracket Battle. Except it makes you choose between Godfather and Godfather Part II, and On the Waterfront vs. Rebecca.

 

RIP

• Author and historian Kathryn Fernquist Hinds, a writer and poet who died this past week of complications following heart surgery. Hinds’ works include The Healer’s Choice, a feminist fantasy novel published by Dark Oak Press; the six-book Creatures of Fantasy series and a prolific series of middle- and high-school history books. She was also a professor at the University of North Georgia Explore her work via her website.

Glee star Mark Salling completed an apparent suicide at age 35 just before his sentencing on charges of more than 25,000 images and 600 videos containing child pornography. He pleaded guilty and would have served 4-7 years in prison, registered as a sex offender and remain under extensive restrictions after release.*

Broadway documentarian Rick McKay died at age 62. Beginning as a cabaret singer, McKay moved into documenting the world of the theater, interviewing hundreds of theatrical legends for Broadway: The Golden Age including Carol Channing, Robert Goulet, Shirley MacLaine, Gena Rowlands, Fay Wray, Jerry Orbach, Dick Van Dyke, Liza Minelli, Robert Redford, Stephen Sondheim, Carol Burnett and many others.

Chicago folk singer Jo Mapes, 86, influential bohemian of Greenwich Village to the Playboy Club to Carnegie Hall.

Mickey Jones, 76, of MASH, Tin Cup, Bones, Total Recall, Sling Blade and many more. As a drummer, he played with Bob Dylan and Kenny Rogers.

Reg Cathey, baritone-voiced guest star of The Wire and House of Cards, too young at 59. He won an Emmy for his work on House of Cards and had been nominated twice before. You’ve also seen him in The Mask, Seven and the Fantastic Four reboot.

 

Trailer Park (except the Superb Bowl spots)

“Keep telling me who I am. I dare you.” Oh my, I am so there for Jessica Jones season 2. Then again, I’ve been there for Jessica since Alias Vol.1, because I’m an early adopter and even suffered through The Pulse.

Disobedience follows a shunned Orthodox Jewish woman (Rachel Weisz) returning home for her father’s funeral for shiva and falls in love with a woman hiding her sexuality. Based on the novel by Naomi Alderman.

 

Coming This Weekend (and last)

Winchester, which is not about the fine boys of Supernatural but stars Helen Mirren as the firearm heiress who believed she was haunted by the souls of all those killed by the Winchester repeating rifle. Based on a true story, but from the looks of the trailer, very loosely based. (Actually last weekend, but we missed an issue.)

Fifty Shades Freed, because the best way to overcome your abuser is to marry him.

The 15:17 to Paris, which gives every impression of being a rah-rah depiction of the three U.S. servicemen who foiled a terrorist attack on a Paris train, which the dubious choice of casting the actual men as themselves. No one denigrates their heroism, but being a hero and acting are two different things.

Peter Rabbit, the travesty. Okay, SFGate says the trailers were “an atrocious affront” but that the actual movie is unexpectedly charming, while not at all Beatrix Potter’s work. Okay, still not going to a movie where Peter considers sticking a carrot up Mr. McGregor’s butt.

Continuing in wide release: Jumanji, 12 Strong, Den of Thieves, The Post, The Greatest Showman, Paddington 2, The Commuter and the last trailing ends of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Insidious: The Last Key, and Forever My Girl. I recommend The Post wholeheartedly and will try to see it again this weekend.

 

* If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

 


Monday Linkspam

The closest most women got to the Grammys Sunday night was when Hillary Clinton read from Fire and Fury during a comic skit. Click here to see what has the political side foaming at the mouth.

The Grammys are my annual reminder that I’m too old to be cool. I look at the list of people who are nominated, and I’m lucky to recognize one out of ten. Fortunately I have a coolness-to-old-person translator in my house: CultureGeek Jr., who looked at the list and said, “Eh. I’ll watch when they nominate Twenty-One Pilots again.”

I might add that every song nominated has a gazillion songwriters - one has eight. EIGHT. I can’t get eight writers in a room to agree on what to order for lunch.

But I wasn’t the only one who noticed that only one woman won a major Grammy this year, as Bruno Mars swept best song, album and artist. #GrammysSoMale began to trend, and Recording Academy President told Variety that, basically, “women need to step up.”

No, really. “I think they would be welcome,” he says. Oh, I’m sure they’re just not applying for the jobs, that must be it. Hopefully we’ll see Taylor Swift next year - no, that’s not me being snarky, that’s an actual quote. If you really care about the snubs and surprises, here’s some analysis, and a list of winners, plus the “best and worst” according to Variety (and really, U2’s prerecorded piece was the only rock performance? What?)

Well, I guess that explains why Ed Sheeran’s annoying “Shape of You” beat out four women singing about surviving sexual abuse, religious faith, depression, women’s empowerment… Even lame old me has heard “Shape of You,” and it’s all about some guy lusting after a woman’s hot bod. Wow, Grammys, way to pick something “edgy.” Meanwhile, best-album nominee Lorde was not given a chance to perform, but the nominated men were. Nice.

In the meantime, the telecast had the smallest audience in the history of the Grammys. So maybe it’s not just me being old.

• It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Tom Hanks is set to play Fred Rogers in a biopic titled You Are My Friend. A stamp and a movie in the same year - good year for the late children’s TV host. The film is inspired by the real-life friendship between Mr. Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, in which a cynical journalist (what??) finds his outlook on life transformed by the gentle-voiced host. Note that Hanks played Walt Disney last year, Ben Bradlee this year… now Mr. Rogers. Who should Hanks play next? (Don’t say Woody in Toy Story 4; that’s already underway.)

Thor rogers

• I missed the film adaptation of Gerald’s Game, part circumstance and part hesitation to subject myself to a film version of a book very difficult to read. It’s a good book, smart and tense, and also extremely unsettling. I’m not sure how well film could adapt a story that takes place almost entirely in a character’s head while she’s alone in a room, too.

But the director who tackled that is now getting his hands on Doctor Sleep, a book about which I have serious mixed feelings. It’s interesting, but includes such a giant (and, in my mind, unnecessary) retcon to the original novel that it really distracts from what could have been a compelling story on its own. Another major issue: Stephen King, whom I usually adore, spent a good portion of the book working out his issues around addiction. Those are important issues, but they didn’t make for particularly compelling reading. We shall see if the movie can trim things up a bit.

• It’s no secret that the late lamented Prince recorded a gazillion songs he never released, because reasons. (Seriously, if you got something good, don’t you want people to hear it?) Of course his six heirs are squabbling over the estate, but apparently they can all agree on making money, so we’re going to get some new Prince music soon. That includes an expanded edition of Purple Rain including unreleased material.

• If you want historical realism, don’t go to the movies. I, Tonya apparently has only a skating acquaintance with the truth, according to an Oregonian journalist who actually covered the scandal.

• As previously stated, I’m not a huge fan of the current trend in resuscitating shows from the 80s to new quasi-life. See last week’s response to the revamp of Heathers. I’d rather the dunderheads in Hollywood comprehended that what made those shows awesome was good writing, not corporate-designed pablum, and authorize some NEW ideas. On the other hand, I truly believe that the 21st century needs Murphy Brown, with all the snark that 71-year-old Candice Bergen can level at us. (Not so sure about Magnum P.I., but I may give Cagney & Lacey a shot.)

Just to recap: others being revived this year include The Greatest American Hero, Charmed and Roseanne (and don’t get me started) to join ongoing reboots Will & Grace, Hawaii Five-O, One Day at a Time and Fuller House, which is inexplicably coming back. Not so much Dynasty.

Casey Affleck, who is in the Dishonorable Mention Club for accusations of sexual harassment, will not present the best actress award at the Oscars even though he won best actor last year, and it’s tradition. It’s not clear whether he dropped out on his own or was asked to do so.

• What. WHAT. If it were anyone but Steven Spielberg, I would be sharpening the pitchforks and lighting the torches about a remake of West Side Story. But writer is Tony Kushner of Angels in America and Fences, and Spielberg is unparalleled. Some things should not be remade, because they were perfect the first time, but I'm trying to keep an open mind. (Okay, almost perfect. Natalie Wood is about as Latina as I am.) Seriously, would you want to be the actress who stepped into Rita Moreno’s shoes as Anita? Read this piece that interviews Moreno last year about “brownface” and how they darkened her skin even though she IS Puerto Rican.

Still, the casting call makes it clear they intend to cast Latinos in the Latino roles (shocker), but I’m a tad concerned at “must be able to sing, dance experience a plus.” Um. Steven, you do get how much "dance experience" is necessary to pull off West Side Story?

Fire and Fury is the top book in the country for the third week in a row with 1.7 million copies sold. Four more books debuted this month critical of current politics and all are on the top-ten list. Meanwhile 12 Strong, a movie about U.S. Special Forces on horseback in Afghanistan, is now in theaters, adapted from the novel Horse Soldiers. Top fiction this week is The Woman in the Window by A J Finn.

• Speaking of books, a “glitch” in KDP Publishing (run by Amazon) indicated a possible future 50-percent royalty level. No one actually believes it’s a glitch, so if you do self-pub on KDP, best check this out.

• You need this: Check out the 30th anniversary celebration of Phantom of the Opera at the Empire State Building

 

RIP

Mort Walker, cartoonist of Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois for more than 80 freaking years. He sold his first cartoon at age 12 and published more than 100 cartoons while still a teenager. Beetle Bailey was syndicated after his World War II service, personally approved by William Randolph Hearst. 

 

Trailer Park

Black Panther dropped a new TV spot during the Grammys; no new plot points, but it’s not like it matters - we can’t wait.

• Saw the new Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again trailer, which did something none of the previous ones managed to do: made me vaguely interested in watching the first one.

• “Anybody want a peanut?” The late Andre the Giant (born Andre Rene Roussimoff) is the subject of a new documentary, covering his entire life from wrestling to The Princess Bride. Honestly, I’m not a fan of professional wrestling, but everything I’ve heard about Andre as a man and a person is quite impressive.

 


Linkspam

Confession: I hate Heathers. Its popularity baffles me.

Even pre-Columbine, I couldn’t find any humor in a psychotic teenager who kills his classmates and fakes suicides. Or the hilarity of heartbroken, grieving parents, using sexuality as blackmail, bullying and fatshaming, suicide contagion and other delightfully raucous fun. With bonus terrorism and mass murder!

Now we have a remake-as-series, which flips it so the vicious bitchery ruling the school belongs to people whom the 80s Heathers would have considered the freaks: plus-size, genderqeer, black, gay. But it’s the white slim heterosexuals to the rescue! Wait, what? OnstageBlog called it “The Alt-Right’s Glee.”

(Of course, OnstageBlog also called the original film “a driving force in the birth of third-wave feminism,” as well as praising its look at body positivity and sexuality, so I can only assume they were watching a different movie than I was.)

So… we’re going to get a TV series where the conventional cisgender kids systematically kill, harass, torment and frame the LGBTQ and minority kids? And this is… funny?

OnstageBlog made a good point, that while the showrunner insists these marginalized groups may be the popular kids today - and the horrifying rate of LGBT teen suicide and homicide belies that - they might have chosen to make a show about THAT and not one where the “normal” kids mix up a Drano cocktail for them.

Because that’s… funny?

Oscars were announced, and Wonder Woman was snubbed. Visually impactful, well-acted, socially relevant themes, groundbreaking in many ways… but not as Oscar-worthy as yet another World War II drama starring white men. (Which one do I mean? Take your pick; two of them are nominated and several slots left open.)

The Mary Sue nailed it: “At this point, we all know what an Oscar-bait film looks like: a historical drama helmed by a white man, filmed with self-conscious gravitas.”  Let’s discuss diversity for Latinx while we’re at it.

If not best picture, how about best director? Patty Jenkins overturned every expectation on Wonder Woman, a movie even the studio thought would flop and instead changed the entire subgenre. There’s been a lot of discussion on this, with mostly men saying, “Yeah, it was good and all, but Oscar?”

And a lot of women shouting, “Do you understand what that movie MEANS to us?” We are half the human population, and the movies speaking to us are damn few.

Mary Sue pointed out that Wonder Woman was a profoundly female film with a heroine who fights because she believes in the essential goodness of humanity, while Logan is a “hyper-violent film about a disillusioned man in a Western-inspired dystopia.” Guess which one got a nomination.

Meanwhile, progress is made, however slow. Greta Gerwig is nominated for Lady Bird, and Jordan Peele for Get Out. They are the fifth woman and fifth African-American to be nominated for best director in 90 years. Also breaking barriers: Rachel Morrison is the first woman EVER nominated for cinematography (Mudbound). Daniel Kaluuya nominated for best actor for Get Out, and if you want to see his face at the announcement, click the meme roundup from Time.

(Seriously, check out the memes. Love it. As I also love this ad for the Oscars where poor Jimmy Kimmel is haunted by last year’s best-picture error.)

Meanwhile, The Shape of Water is leading the nominations. I will reserve judgment until I finally see it, but frankly, the promos didn’t interest me until everyone I know started singing its praises. Logan is nominated for adapted screenplay, the first comic book movie to gain that recognition. The Post got best picture and of course Meryl Streep, but no best director for Steven Spielberg and nothing for Tom Hanks.

Also snubbed: We saw only a few tech noms for Beauty and the Beast. I wasn’t about to put it up for best picture, but the cinematography was amazing and I frankly expected a best song nom, if only because the pickings were slim this year and Alan Menken knows what he’s doing. Still, “Evermore” just isn’t in the same category as “If I Can’t Love Her.” Which couldn’t have been nominated. Dammit.

Mudbound got a few noms for acting, screenplay and song, but fell short of best picture. Scuttlebut is that the Academy thinks it belongs in the Emmys because it’s produced by Netflix, even though it was released in theaters. Did we need further evidence that the Academy is stuffy and slow to adapt to the changing world? Nah.

Also… The Boss Baby? Really?

• It may be exceedingly local, but I think it’s nifty that poet Tiana Clark is joining the SIUE MFA program for creative writing. Clark is a Gwendolyn Brooks Award winner, among other awards and honors, and a graduate of Tennessee State and Vanderbilt. The new MFA program at the university is growing by leaps and bounds.

Early reviews of The Alienist are mixed. I fought my way through the novel, which was very interesting but a bit draggy in the middle of its 600 pages. It’s basically Criminal Minds: Victorian-Era New York, if I recall correctly, and a number of somewhat-interesting secondary characters involved in an intriguing mystery. Of course, I thought it should be a movie, but apparently all movies are now TV shows or miniseries and I’m old.

• The Producers Guild of America has a code of anti-harassment rules. Somehow, nobody has ever actually used them on the set of a major motion picture. Until now: Wonder Woman 2 will be adopting the anti-harassment code, after the departure of Brett Ratner as producer following allegations of sexual harassment including involuntary outing of Ellen Page during production of X-Men: The Last Stand. WW star Gal Godot apparently stated she would not return unless Ratner was out.

• Speaking of harassment, MPR News completed a long-running investigation into Garrison Keillor that ought to put rest to the ongoing belief that he lost his job just for accidentally touching a woman’s bare back.

Neil Diamond is retiring from touring after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. At age 76, Diamond was in the middle of his 50th anniversary tour when diagnosed. Dozens of gold and platinum records, 56 singles on the top 100 Billboard, nominated for 13 Grammys (only winning once, not including this year’s upcoming lifetime achievement award).

• I’m sure we’re all saddened that Holmes & Watson is being delayed from summer to December for release. Wait, you never heard of it? Me neither, and after seeing that it is written and directed by Etan Cohen and stars Will Farrell as Holmes and John C. Reilly as Watson, I think I’m out. Guys, there was a good bit of humor to RDJ’s take on Sherlock, but that doesn’t mean Holmes is slapstick-stupid. I don’t mind parody and love well-written satire - see Clue or Galaxy Quest for examples - but dumbing Holmes down to Farrell-Reilly level is not in my wheelhouse.

Speaking of bad ideas: among the movies now slated for 2018 releases is Slender Man, attempting to exploit a real-life horrifying attempted murder of a teenage girl by two mentally ill classmates for cheap slasher thrills. I’m not even linking to the film.

 

RIP

Ursula K. LeGuin, 88, whose works “plucked truth from fantasy,” so sayeth NPR. More than 20 novels and piles of short stories, delving into class divisions and feminist theory through science fiction and fantasy. Here, read her National Book Award speech about the importance of books - of art - as more than a financial commodity.

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom - poets, visionaries - realists of a larger reality.”

Jack Ketchum, 71, dark horror writer mentored by Robert Bloch. His work was not for the faint of heart - try Off Season and see if you can make it through - but the man born as Dallas Mayr was one of the best at scaring the bejesus out of you. As one commenter put it, “Off Season makes the clown from It cry for its mommy.” Or as author Jeff Strand put it, “RIP to one of the very best, Jack Ketchum. Now at peace, which is more than you can say for any of his characters.”

Jeremy Inkel, 34, musician with Front Line Assembly since 2005. Complications of asthma, according to his father. Previously played for Left Spine Down.

• Jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, 78, activist against apartheid and the “father of south African jazz.” His “Soweto Blues” became synonymous with the anti-apartheid movement.

Naomi Parker Fraley, 96, but you know her as Rosie the Riveter from the famous poster. Read the link for a long history of this image, which became much more than a war promotion. Fraley worked at the Naval Air Station in Alameda in the machine shop. After the war, she was a waitress, later married and had a family, and her identity as the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter was unknown for decades due to a mis-captioned photo until 2011.

Connie Sawyer, 105, the oldest working actress in Hollywood. Her credits range from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Murder She Wrote to Seinfeld to NCIS: Los Angeles. She was one of the documentary-couple women in When Harry Met Sally, among her 144 credits, where she often played the snarky old lady in show after show after show.

 

Trailer Park

Deep sigh. The next trailer has dropped for Pacific Rim Uprising, which does nothing to tell me I won’t have exactly the same issues with the sequel as I did with the original. Yet, since I am married to the biggest kaiju fan in the western hemisphere, I shall be dragged to it, kicking and screaming.

• Netflix dropped the trailer for its new crime anthology Seven Seconds, which apparently looks for human stories behind the headlines of modern-day crime. It appears to be a single case per season, I think? And it’s starting off with a doozy.

 

Opening this weekend:

The Maze Runner: The Death Cure - 43 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

• Hostiles - 72 percent on Rotten Tomatoes


Linkspam

I could keep listing the latest people revealed to be sexist, harassing assholes in the arts - or at least accused of such - or I could just keep repeating, “Tom Hanks is still a nice guy.”

So, apparently, is Robert Redford, as he spoke at Sundance Film Festival this week and said “the role for men right now is to listen.” Sundance is hitting the controversies hard this year, including Monsters and Men, a racially charged police killing drama; Tyrel, about a man who panics when he realizes he’s the only person of color on a weekend trip; the dystopian science-fiction comedy Sorry to Bother You; a reimagining of Hamlet from Ophelia’s perspective starring Daisy Ridley; and a documentary titled Half the Picture about the systemic discrimination of female filmmakers. Plus Our New President, which is about.. exactly what you think.

• Oh boy! I can’t come up with a better headline than the one AV Club did for this piece: “Some absolute maniac made an interactive map tracing all the jumps from Quantum Leap. Now I want to go watch me some Scott Bakula good deeds.

• The richest man on earth is raising the rates for Amazon Prime, but it only affects those who pay month to month. If you pay for Prime on a monthly basis, it’s going up from $10.99 to $12.99, or $156 a year. Ouch. That’s an 18-percent increase for folks who pay monthly, which is largely lower-income consumers. Annual memberships are still $99 a year (which used to be $79 a year, and don’t think we’ve forgotten, Mr. Bezos.) Meanwhile, low-budget content such as One Mississippi is out, as is indie film development, in favor of big splashy blockbusters.

• For those of you who still can’t get over it, Rian Johnson tells us exactly how Leia did what she did in The Last Jedi. I’m not getting into this again, because I can explain it perfectly fine myself a hundred times and the screaming is going to continue. Sigh. By the way, one asshole created a self-described “chauvinist cut” that edits out all the women in the movie. Is it me, or is this crap getting worse?

• But… but… Chris Hemsworth’s contract with Thor is done, and said that as far as he’s concerned, he won’t be playing the god of thunder again. io9 seems to think he’s putting out feelers about coming back, but we should wait and see how Avengers does…

• We try to stay out of the real world here in CultureGeek Land, but The Final Year is starting to make noise as a documentary about the last year of the Obama administration. It seems they let a documentarian follow them around through the trials of 2016 and the work of Secretary of State John Kerry, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes around the world as they advised Obama - including their reactions to Trump’s win in November.

• Happy *gulp* 25th anniversary to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, arguably the best-acted, most well-written of the Trek series (and my favorite by a nose). If I could just get my mind around the idea that it’s been a quarter century since the premiere…

• Speaking of Trek, Discovery has been nominated for outstanding drama series in the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards. It faces Billions, Doubt, The Handmaid’s Tale, Nashville, Sense8, Shadowhunters, Star, This is Us and Wynonna Earp.

Star-trek-discovery-choose-your-pain-002

• Looks like Black Widow is finally getting her own movie, though the nature of that movie is still pending. Naturally speculation has already begun. As for me, I side with Keith DeCandido in his rooftop yell of “It’s about fucking time you goddamn imbeciles!”

Keira Knightley talks up her new movie Colette, while tackling #MeToo head-on. “What’s been really interesting is that it’s not just this industry - it’s in every industry… What was fascinating about the #MeToo movement was I was sitting with friends who weren’t in the industry, and there wasn’t one of us who hadn’t been assaulted at some point. We’d never had that conversation before.”

Highlights (or lowlights) of the SAG Awards include Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) beating out Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out for best lead actor. I…. might have issues with that choice. At least they didn’t classify it as a comedy?

Frances McDormand took leading actress for Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, while I would have bet my money on Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water, based on buzz alone. Three Billboards also picked up supporting actor for Sam Rockwell, even though Woody Harrelson was nominated for the same movie and that often splits the vote. Allison Janney received supporting actress for I, Tonya, surprising many who had bet on Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird.

Three Billboards also got best cast, which lends credence to the Oscar Buzz. Wonder Woman won best action performance by a stunt ensemble, which is a weirdly specific award.

In TV Land, the lead acting awards went to Alexander Skarsgard and Nicole Kidman of Big Little Lies. The interesting part of this isn’t the winners, but the lineup of nominees. For men: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro and Geoffrey Rush; for women: Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. These are for TV movies, folks. All the star power is going to the small screen.

For ongoing dramas, Sterling K. Brown wins for This is Us (no surprise) and Claire Foy for The Crown - a bit of a surprise, given the buzz around Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things and Elisabeth Moss for The Handmaid’s Tale. In comedies: William H. Macy for Shameless, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep. This is us won best ensemble - again, no shock; Veep best comedy and Game of Thrones defeated Homeland, The Walking Dead and Stranger Things for action ensemble.

• I cannot endorse this column in Book Riot, because you should never stop buying books! However, I can certainly relate to “hoard[ing] books like Smaug hoards gold.” My husband agrees with the sentiment as it applies to me, but disagrees with my pronunciation of “Smaug.”

 

RIP

Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhorn mystery series, died tragically one letter short of her alphabet-based series. Beginning in 1982 with “A is for Alibi,” Grafton was part of an insurgence of female-centered detective novels, which was to end next year with Z is for Zero. However, cancer took her just before New Year at age 77. Her daughter wrote, “As far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”

Dolores O’Riordan, lead signer of the Cranberries, died suddenly Jan. 15 at age 46. No word yet on her cause of death, but she had struggled with illness and chronic pain. O’Riordan was the band’s chief lyricist and co-songwriter as well as lead singer.

Jerry Van Dyke, four-time Emmy-winning actor of Coach and many other shows, died Jan. 5 at age 88. His health had deteriorated since a 2015 traffic accident. Younger brother of Dick Van Dyke, Jerry was best known for Coach, but also performed on stage and in guest appearances on many sitcoms.

• Star Wars actor Alfie Curtis, best known for playing Dr. Evazan in the first film, died in December at age 87. Curtis also starred in The Elephant Man and other films, but you’ll remember him as the disfigured guy in the Mos Eisley bar who tells Luke he has a death sentence in 12 systems. Of course, he has a whole backstory in the novels.

• Rapper Fredo Santana, too goddamn young at 27. Born Derrick Coleman, apparently he was hospitalized for liver and kidney problems and died of a seizure.

 

Trailer Park

Red Sparrow has an interesting cast, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Irons. I liked this movie when it was called Point of No Return/La Femme Nikita, so I’d give it another shot. (Seriously, it is almost literally the same plot, but I give them credit for not immediately opting as a “reboot.” Probably because it’s based on a book…)

• Speaking of reboots, we are restarting Tomb Raider next. It looks fairly paint-by-numbers, but you should never underestimate the willingness of gamers to watch a woman in a tank top in the jungle. I’ll give her this: Alicia Vikander has actual musculature and appears to be doing plenty of fisticuffs. I’m always in favor of more women action heroes.• There’s plenty of speculation about Dundee, a trailer that dropped out of nowhere ostensibly surrounding the New York-raised American son of Crocodile Dundee in search of his dad in the outback. The teaser is goofy-stupid, leading many to believe it’s a hoax. But it came from Rimfire Films, which produced the first two Dundee films. There are thoughts that they’re warming up to a Super Bowl thing, which can only be an improvement over this teaser.

• I’m intrigued by the sneak peek at Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger. Never read the comics, but the leads have charm, and so far Marvel has done all right with TV shows not based on Iron Walking Privilege. Check it out.

• She isn’t singing with an adorable crab this time: Siren reforms the traditional mermaid into something a little more dangerous. I wouldn’t mind making it a film, but a TV series? There isn’t much to the trailer, but check it out anyway.


Monday-ish Linkspam

No, I’m not getting into The Last Jedi. Nope, not at all.

Why should I, when everyone else has done so already? And better than I could.

So I’m not going to talk about it. Yet.

Joeheller1
Cartoon by Joe Heller

• It’s Golden Globes time! The 75th Golden Globe Awards have an interesting lineup, including movies that haven’t come out yet. Drama nominees include Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, The Post, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The musical/comedy nominees include The Disaster Artist, Get Out, The Greatest Showman, Lady Bird and I, Tonya.

Yeah, notice that? Get Out is a comedy now. Um, did they watch it? Horror, maybe. Biting social commentary disguised as a thriller? Definitely. Comedy? They were not watching the same movie as I. At least Daniel Kaluuya is nominated for his performance, although he’s up against Steve Carell, James Franco and Hugh Jackman, who are all better known and in actual comedies/musicals. I’ve rarely seen such a genre/film mismatch, and it’s well-known that director Jordan Peele (who was NOT nominated) has made his opinion clear.

Ridley Scott is nominated for All the Money in The World, which hasn’t come out yet and is controversial since Kevin Spacey was replaced at the last minute by Christopher Plummer due to accusations of sexual assault. House of Cards is notably absent from the nomination list for television.

Guillermo del Toro is nominated for The Shape of Water, which just came out. Martin McDonaugh is nominated for Three Billboards, which just came out. Steven Spielberg is nominated for The Post, which we won’t see here until Jan. 12. Christopher Nolan is nominated for Dunkirk, which is the sole not-December movie on the list.

On the TV side: no surprises. Dramas include The Crown, The Handmaid’s Tale, This is Us, Stranger Things and Game of Thrones. Comedies include black-ish, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Master of None, SMILF and Will & Grace.

If you’re keeping count, The Shape of Water has the most nominations with seven, while The Post and Three Billboards have six. Read the full list here.

• Stephen Sondheim will receive the 2017 St. Louis Literary Award, the first musical lyricist to be named since the award’s inception in 1967. The West Side Story lyricist and composer won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. He is currently working on a new play titled Bunuel.

• Nominations for the Dragon Award are now open! Deadline is July 20, 2018; publication date is July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. (Sadly, that knocks out my Moonlight Sonata, because nobody loves me… SNIFF.) Go nominate the best book you’ve read this year. Awards make authors happy and tell readers to buy our shit. These are good things.

• Proving once again that Chris Evans actually IS Captain America, the actor invited the Tennessee boy whose tearful anti-bullying vid has gone viral to attend the Avengers premiere with his mom. If you haven’t seen it, the kid from Knoxville has milk poured on his head and called ugly because he has head scars - from a tumor operation. Among the heroes - which apparently does not include the school staff ignoring such vicious cruelty - is Mark Hammill, who reached out to the boy along with Mark Ruffalo, Millie Bobby Brown, Greg Grunberg and others. Everyone from Donna Murphy to Ed Asner to Idina Menzel.

(And then it went wide that the kid’s mom is a screaming racist based on her Instagram account, only THEN it turned out that Instagram was a fake account operated by a teenager who thought it would be hilarious to paint the kid’s mom as a horrible racist and people who ran with that are now having to retract it except it’s too late and this is why we can’t have nice things.)

• You thought it was just internet trolling when you heard about the Disney World gondolas, didn’t you? Nope! It’s true. The Disney Skyliner will connect theme parks and hotels through the skies of Orlando, with Caribbean Beach Resort as the hub. There will be stations at Pop Century, Art of Animation and Hollywood Studios, as well as the much-preferred International Gateway at Epcot. Launch date is as yet unknown. I personally can’t wait, although the height-phobic may have concerns…

 

Trailer Park

• Certainly the new trailer for Ready Player One has people in a tizzy. I will confess some reservations about this film: while The Matrix showed us that a fantasy life taken to extremes leads to the degradation of human intellect and evolution, Ready Player One’s first trailer seemed to posit that when real life sucks, just escape into videogames and everything will be cool because it has a lot of nifty 80s nostalgia. This trailer shows a bit more Hunger Games-style rebellion - bread and circuses is as old as the Roman Empire, after all, with the Oasis standing in for the part of the circuses, of course. Is this movie about people tired of being mistreated and living in squalor, pacified only by a fantasy life? Or is it about a nifty videogame that is their only escape and their efforts to save it? Um.

• Natalie Portman stars in the SF action film Annihilation, which seems to create a Del Toro-like world inside our world and she must science it to save her husband. I think. Looks nifty, with bonus points for multiple women characters who actually speak to each other. When a movie passes Bechdel in the freaking trailer, I pay attention. 

Jessica Jones is back! Look, I was a fan from Alias days, and even suffered through The Pulse until it died a merciful death. Now the queen of snark is back, with apparently a new fella, all new bad habits, and smashing people into glass. As one does.

• Hoo boy. The 15:17 to Paris is a Clint Eastwood film about the three Americans who stopped a terrorist attack on a French train in 2015. Starring those actual three guys. Um. Look, heroes and soldiers don’t necessarily make good actors. Take it from one who went through years of theatrical training to discover that not everyone has the gift. Also: Eastwood is not exactly the lightest touch with controversial topics, so I’m not expecting a nuanced vision here.


Monday Linkspam

• A Marvel editor was harassed online because she dared to post a selfie of herself and several coworkers grabbing milkshakes. This led to verbal abuse, being blamed for all of Marvel’s financial woes, complaints about “fake geek girls” (hey dicks, they WORK FOR MARVEL unlike you) and, of course, the requisite sexual innuendos and rape threats. This is why we can’t have nice things.

• Speaking of Marvel, here’s why Agent Carter was cancelled. And it was a stupid reason. However, the linked story reminds us that in comics, nobody dies forever. As I said elsewhere, I don’t care if we have to use the Nullifier balanced on the Silver Surfer’s board powered by Iron Man’s arc reactor to bring her back, I want more Peggy.

• Nicholas Meyer is apparently working on a miniseries about Khan Noonien Singh. Few details seem to be available, except that it’s a prequel limited series on Ceti Alpha V between “Space Seed” and the events of Wrath of Khan. There have been a few books about this time, of course, but the movies and TV shows seem to ignore the rich complexity of the tie-in novels. I’ve always thought Imzadi by Peter David would make a hell of a movie, as would Strangers from the Sky by Margaret Wander Bonanno or Final Frontier and Best Destiny by Diane Carey. I can tell you that Julia Ecklar’s The Kobayashi Maru does a far better job with that backstory than AbramsTrek ever could.

• Congratulations to the finalists for the World Fantasy Awards, which will be presented in November.

• Confession: In junior high, I read Sweet Valley High books. I thought that was what high school might be like. Now there’s going to be a movie. This could be quite awful, or it could be awesome: writer Kirsten Smith wrote 10 Things I Hate About You, a charming adaptation of Taming of the Shrew for ‘90s teens, and I loved it in spite of myself. We shall file this under Please Don’t Suck.

The latest from the set of Star Trek Discovery is that they inexplicably have outlawed the word “God.” Gene Roddenberry’s atheism was apparent in his worldbuilding and as a constant theme in the early episodes, but as this piece points out, colloquial language is not the same as magically resurrecting Christianity in the 22nd century. As for “No one says God in space,” that would be a shock to Dr. McCoy, whose second-most-common phrase was, “For God’s sake, man!” (Usually directed at Spock.) P.S. I agree with The Mary Sue: the best Trek - by a nose - is Deep Space Nine, which dealt directly with religion as a recurring theme, both for good and for ill. There are good stories and important allegories to be found in this subject.

• Apparently there was a major death on Game of Thrones this week. Don’t click on the link unless you’re ready to be spoiled. (I don’t watch, so it didn’t bother me.)

Marlee Matlin joins Quantico in its third season as a former FBI agent deafened by a bomb. Quantico has a new showrunner as well, which intrigues me into considering returning. I loved the first season, but only made it a few episodes into season two before I was bored senseless.

RIP Jeanne Moreau, described by AP as the “femme fatale of the French New Wave” or more succinctly, “the French Bette Davis.” Moreau’s career began in the 1960s and extended into her sunset years, with more than 100 films and an honorary Oscar in 1998.

RIP Granny - I mean, June Foray, voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Witch Hazel, Cindy Lou Who and, of course, Granny. Foray was “the first lady of voice acting” and helped create the Annie Awards and the animated-feature Oscar.

• Dammit dammit dammit, RIP Sam Shepard, one of the true greats of both stage and screen. Shepard was a Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright who was also a talented and nuanced actor. He brought solid gravitas to roles in serious films like Blackhawk Down, The Pelican Brief and The Right Stuff (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), fun films like Steel Magnolias, and even tripe like The Notebook, which was greatly improved by his presence. Read Variety’s obituary for an in-depth appreciation of the two sides of Shepard’s career. I’m truly heartsick by his loss, since even at 73, he could still produce art. We are all the lesser for his death.

I hate endings. Just detest them. Beginnings are definitely the most exciting, middles are perplexing and endings are a disaster. … The temptation towards resolution, towards wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap. Why not be more honest with the moment? The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning. That’s genius.” — Sam Shepard

 

Trailer Park:

• A longer trailer for IT is up, with more hints at changes from the original story, heightened creepiness and some jump scares. One more for the category of Please Don't Suck...

Anna Paquin stars in the new series Bellevue, a town with secrets - and problems. Paquin plays a detective struggling to solve a missing-child case with ties to the past. Check out the teaser here.

• Overpopulation means a one-child policy worldwide, like China’s. Only a family with seven identical daughters decides to hide, and they take turns being their one identity in public. Until someone catches on…. Noomi Rapace plays all seven in this Netflix series, What Happened to Monday.

• You knew they were remaking Flatliners, right? That movie is one of my all-time guilty pleasures, and I’m not too sure about recapturing that lightning in a bottle with fancier effects. However, the director was responsible for the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so let’s see…

• American Horror Story is going to tackle politics in its next weird-ass season, titled Cult. I gave up on AHS a few seasons ago, and hadn’t heard much buzz about last season’s Roanoke. I haven’t decided if I will give it another go… Teaser and details (kinda) are here.

• Final trailer for Detroit is even more intense than the last two, which takes some doing. I know everyone’s about Dunkirk these days, but this is the history that I’m waiting to see on the big screen.