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Linkspam wishes Captain America a happy birthday

Happy 100th birthday to Captain America! Otherwise known as Superman, until the real Superman comes back to the movies, Cap currently carries the banner for truth, justice and the American way.

How did we come up with this “birthday”? Someone zoomed in on Cap’s initial 4-F card for the Army and his birthdate is listed as July 4, 1918. Of course he was born on the Fourth of July.

Happy birthday, Captain.

And since there’s not been as perfect a match between actor and role since Christopher Reeve donned the red cape as the Man of Steel, Chris Evans had this to say on Independence Day:

 

 

• I try not to delve into politics on this blog. But I cannot let the #SecondCivilWarLetters go unmentioned… hee hee hee, sorry, I just read another one. The hashtag went wild after Alex Jones of InfoWars declared that Democrats (or liberals, I’m not sure which, he seems to think they’re interchangeable) planned a civil war launch on the Fourth of July. Thus began a cavalcade of internet snark unmatched in my experience - and, actually, very well written in most cases. It takes some skill to match the tone and language of an actual Civil War letter. And… tee hee hee… Sorry, I got distracted again. Go to Twitter and hit the hashtag, but only if you have several hours free, and try not to drink anything near your keyboard.

• A plus-size superhero? I’m casting the side-eye at all my comic-nerd pals, because not one of you has ever mentioned Faith to me. A superhero who actually looks like me (but with cuter hair)? And they’re making her into a movie. I’m braced for the Asshat Brigade that drove Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran off social media for being female in Star Wars, and I hope the actress who lands the role is as well. In the meantime, I’d best go look up some Faith comics!

• Wait, I thought movie theaters were suffering oh so much because awful MoviePass was letting people of limited means actually see movies on a budget. Those poor movie theaters with their box office up 29 percent over this time last year, a five-year high…

• My friend Kelly Chandler found the most awesome ad display for Luke Cagein Paris. No, I haven’t seen the second season yet; I’m still soldiering my way through Handmaid’s Tale, and then I’m up for Luke again.

• Ghost fans: Riverfront Times has a roundup of St. Louis ghost stories, which they call urban legends. Lemp Mansion and the Collinsville Seven Gates of Hell are prominently featured.

 • Have you wondered what Nicolas Cage was up to these days? If you guessed Spider-Man, you’d be right! And not as the villain - as Spidey! Wait, what?

Best Buy stops selling CDs. But no one is weeping, because we all buy our music on iTunes anyway and we haven’t bought them at Best Buy since Amazon showed us Best Buy was soaking us for 20 percent more.

• Hollywood Reporter has all the details of the live-action Aladdin, starring Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott and Will Smith as the Genie. Alan Menken has made up some new tunes, there’s a new character (Jasmine’s handmaiden), the Middle Eastern roles are actually played by Middle Eastern actors because Disney eventually learns, and Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie is directing. Release is set for Memorial Day 2019.

Dumbo-tim-burton-socialWhat else is coming for live-action Disney? The Tim Burton Dumbo, which sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but the trailer didn’t horrify us and that’s about all I can ask of Tim Burton getting his hands on yet more of my childhood. Of course we know Christopher Robin is pending, as well as a second Maleficent movie following the fairytales of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book (again) and Pete’s Dragon.

Live-action The Lion King is slated for July 2019, with James Earl Jones returning along with Donald Glover as Simba, John Oliver as Zazu (perfect), Alfre Woodard, Beyonce and a few other people you might’ve heard of.

Mulan drops in March 2020, and following that will be Pinocchio, Oliver Twist (starring Ice Cube?), James and the Giant Peach (again), Cruella, Tink, Peter Pan (again), Lady and the Tramp, The Sword in the Stone (oooo), Snow White, The Little Mermaid (with new songs co-written by Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is co-producing)…

And Prince Charming, stealing a concept from Fables comics that the prince is actually ONE prince who romances Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but telling it through the eyes of his brother, who never quite lived up to expectations. Directed by Stephen Chbosky of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the live-action Beauty and the Beast, it’s pending.

This Week in Sexual Harassment News: Kevin Spacey faces new allegations of sexual misconduct, which are being reviewed by London police.

 

RIP

• I said at the time that I didn’t have words for the death of Harlan Ellison, the flawed genius of speculative fiction (please don’t call it sci-fi) who passed away the same day as the Annapolis shooting. Much has been written about Ellison, both positive and negative - everyone who ever met him has a Harlan Ellison story, and I am no exception. To understand Ellison, watch a documentary titled Dreams With Sharp Teeth. It is a well-directed, entertaining look at the man and the work, while unflinching at his controversies, legal battles, and the varying reputation he held in the craft.

Dame Gillian Lynne, 92, Tony-nominated choreographer of Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Beginning as a ballerina in 1946, she worked on seven Broadway shows, including three with Andrew Lloyd Webber and the 2004 Phantom film. Lloyd Webber renamed the West End’s New London Theater as the Gillian Lynne Theatre, the first non-royal woman to receive the honor. Married for 40 years, her husband announced her passing on July 1.

 

Trailer Park

Skyscraper finally gets a new trailer, and we stopped making fun of it and arguing whether it was a ripoff of Die Hard or The Towering Inferno. Instead, it actually looks like a movie we might want to see, since we like Dwayne Johnson and I adore Neve Campbell (why the hell wasn’t she in any of the previous trailers that looked so lame?)

Summer of ’84, yet another bounce on Stranger Things but with more satire for both the 80s and silly slashers. Though honestly, I think they get the 80s better than Stranger Things, but I haven’t seen Season 2 yet.

 

Coming This Weekend  

Ant-Man and the Wasp, because it’s summer and superheroes are required. 

The First Purge, whose trailers actually give this absurd premise for a franchise enough of a hint at social commentary that I’m actually interested in it.

Whitney, a documentary about the late Whitney Houston and her transcendent voice.

  

Continuing:

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Incredibles 2; Sicario 2; Uncle Drew; Ocean’s Eight; Deadpool 2; Tag; Hereditary; Superfly; Gotti; Avengers: Infinity War; Solo; Adrift; Book Club; Won’t You Be My Neighbor.


Linkspam doesn't want to float, thanks

I’m struggling to maintain enthusiasm for the new IT, which is depressing since it’s my favorite book of all time.

Look, the kids did all right, and while I thought it was goofy to put them in the 1980s, it had an okay Stranger Things vibe that I appreciated somewhat. And some of the changes were all right: I liked adding the painting to Stanley’s backstory and his struggles with the Torah; making Bev’s father’s creeper vibe stronger was risky but it worked (unlike adding the same vibe to Eddie’s mom, which didn’t).

Sadly, Pennywise himself just doesn’t scare me. It’s the teeth. Granted, no one could really live up to Tim Curry’s darkly gleeful Pennywise of 1990, but the new Pennywise could have been creepy… if they hadn’t given him Bugs Bunny teeth. Each time he waves at the kids, I expect to hear, “Wascally wabbit.”

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But what they did to Mike Hanlon’s character was unforgivable. He has no role in the Losers Club now, since the historian job shifted to Ben. Taking away the wonderful characters of his parents and replacing them with a horrible stereotype of the abusive black grandparent was simply wrong.

Now they’re doubling down and making Mike the adult a drug addict? Is there a Big Book of Hollywood Stereotypes they want to check off? Mike Hanlon grew up to be head librarian, a respected friendly bachelor uncle type with a passion for local history. Why oh why must they remove everything positive about his character? To be “edgy”? He was the one Loser who actually made it through without screwing his life all to hell. No, by all means, let’s make the black guy a drug addict! Clue bat requested for the writer’s room.

Never mind all that; we have a cast now. I have no real objections in casting, and am actually looking forward to James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough. Hopefully the actors can overcome whatever madness they’re doing with the script.

• It’s been a fortnight of bad news before I even get to finish Handmaid’s Tale season two, so I’m actually happy to see that Roseanne will be returning without Roseanne.

Resurrected as The Connors, the show will follow John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara GIlbert among others, hopefully focusing on the real lives of blue-collar Americans in this weird wild world we built since the original show of the 1980s-90s. Given Roseanne Barr’s cataclysmic explosion and subsequent firing, I am pleased to be given a reason to see these issues actually explored (and hopefully in a humorous way).

For my money: they’re gonna kill her off. And that actually could be interesting, watching these characters we know so well redefining themselves without the woman around whom their world centered, for better or worse. If nothing else, it should give John Goodman some great acting moments, and I personally believe him to be one of the greater unsung actors of our era.

• Scribblers! The St. Louis Writer’s Guild has launched 1764, a literary journal named after the year the city was founded. Submissions are open May 1 to July 31 for annual inclusion; micropay for poetry, flash fiction, essays, short stories and illustrations. Find out more here.

• I lost an entire dinner break to Cover Snark, a feature on Smart Bitches Trashy Books. No cheesy, poorly-designed romance cover is safe from their vicious pens.

Octavia Butler’s Dawn will be adapted for the small screen by director Ava DuVernay of Selma fame. Dawn was published in 1987 and kicked off the Xenogenesis trilogy, later collected in Lilith’s Brood. DuVernay is creating the series but has not signed it yet with a streaming service. Given her skillful work on A Wrinkle in Time, I think she’ll do just fine. Sadly, it was announced last summer (I missed it) and we haven’t heard much more since then. Here’s hoping it hasn’t fallen into developmental hell. If you haven’t read Butler (as sadly I haven’t, but plan to), here’s a good analysis and overview of her work. Butler died in 2006.

This Week in Sexual Harassment News: Terry Crews testifies before the U.S. Senate that he was harassed at a party by a male agent, and once he started speaking out, he was yanked off Expendables 4 after co-starring in the first three. Apparently he was told to drop his lawsuit against the agent, Adam Venit, or he would not be in the film. He stuck to his guns, so to speak. Venit, by the way, is Sylvester Stallone’s agent. Click the link and scan down to the part where he explains why he, a fairly large and muscular man, didn’t fight back. And then remember how many women get that question, and how no one believes them when they give the same answer: you can’t.

And if you thought Pixar was exempt (at least until you heard about John Lasseter)… I have bad news for you. It wasn't just Lasseter.

• A moment of silence for the Jerry Springer Show, inexplicably still running after 27 years and finally canceled, putting it out of our misery. Thus ends its long-running fiction - no, it was never real!

• The latest edition to the upcoming Watchmen show: Jeremy Irons. They aren’t doing a reproduction or reboot of the original graphic novel (they could only do a better job than Zach Snyder) but exploring the universe further.

• Eeek. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, because when you think about a fictionalization of the Manson Family and Tate murders, you naturally think Quentin Tarantino. But because he’s Tarantino, he’s got an amazing cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Al pacino, Margot Robbie, Burt Reynolds, Dakota Fanning, Damian Lewis… and it opens on the 50th anniversary of the Manson-LaBianca murders.

• Locals: Shakespeare in the Park has wrapped. I wish I could say you missed a lot, but for the first time in many years, I was disappointed. The direction just felt off to me - maybe it was Romeo, who simply didn’t sell his character’s passion, or maybe it was in the attempts to make Romeo and Juliet more accessible to a younger audience. The initial contact during the dance played like lightweight flirting with no feeling behind it just didn’t fly for me. It was visually lovely, and Juliet was fairly strong with extra credit to Lord Capulet. But for my money, you’ll get a more emotionally resonant experience from the Baz Luhrmann film, with all its frenetic late-90s weirdness. Let me put it this way: I felt more emotional impact from Paris’ mourning of Juliet than Romeo’s, and that simply should not happen.

 

RIP

• Joe Jackson, 89, best known as the patriarch of the Jackson Five family, father to Michael and Janet (and nine others). He negotiated the kids’ first deals, and he also had a heavy hand with them, according to the kids. He died of pancreatic cancer Wednesday.

 

Trailer Park

Predator, not to be confused with Predator or Predators, has a new trailer out with plenty of dark shadows and violence.

Miami Love Affair, starring Burt Reynolds as an extravagant art dealer.

 

Coming This Weekend

Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Maybe it’s just me, but I have zero desire to see this movie about a killer who suddenly develops a soft spot for a little girl.

Uncle Drew, the basketball movie about the old-timer squad including Kyrie Irving, Shaquille O’Neal, etc.

Sanju, a subtitled Hindi film about actor Sanjay Dutt miraculously in wide release in the U.S.

 

Continuing:

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Incredibles 2; Ocean’s 8; Deadpool 2; Tag; Superfly; Solo: A Star Wars Story.

 

Happy Independence Day!


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 stands with artists in need

Mother Nature was one cranky lady two weeks ago, when a micro-cell storm hit the Art Outside festival at Schlafly Bottleworks. More than 60 local artists sustained terrible losses, both to their artwork and to their infrastructure - festival tents and display cases are not cheap, folks.

And speaking as a traveling artist myself, I am pretty sure my meager renter’s insurance doesn’t cover acts of God outside my home. I was not there, but if I had been, the loss of my stock and my  new tent would have been devastating. Some artists suffered a total loss; some tents were found hundreds of feet away on the other side of the brewery. Storm

A GoFundMe has been set up to support the artists, and EZ-UP has offered a discounted rate for artists who need to replace their tents. As of this writing they’ve raised $15,000 of a $25,000 goal, but remember that’s only $378 per artist divided equally. That barely covers the tent, much less fixtures and the lost art. Raising more would probably be greatly appreciated.

Not a fan of crowdfunding? The site also has a list and links to all the artists, so you can peruse their work - buying their stuff helps them too! Good luck to all the artists, and may Mother Nature stick to quiet browsing next time.

• Speaking of GoFundMe: horror author Brian Keene was badly burned in an accident Tuesday. He has first- and second-degree burns on his face and body, and is in a lot of pain. Like many freelancers, he does not have health insurance, so a GoFundMe has been started to help with his medical bills and lost wages. Best wishes to Brian, who has been a strong philanthropist and mentor to many beginning writers, and to his partner Mary San Giovanni.

• Locals: The St. Louis Symphony goes psychedelic on Friday with “Music of Pink Floyd,” including a full rock band, lights and lasers.

Pride. Mickey. Ears. They’re already selling out, even though they’re only available in the parks, not online. Naturally, there’s backlash, because being one of the first companies to offer benefits to same-sex partners, standing up to a national boycott in defense of Pride Days, and paying a salary 1.5 times that of the industry standard isn’t enough. (Am I the only one who remembers the ‘90s?) Hell with it. PRIDE MICKEY EARS, people.

(Not going to a park anytime soon? Neither am I, more’s the pity. You can get a Mickey rainbow pin online.)

• A really smart and thoughtful roundtable about women authors choosing to use pseudonyms and why. And then I spoke, and ruined the curve. Okay, okay, so I’m in the roundtable. It’s still an interesting piece from Sean Taylor’s blog. Did you catch the first roundtable, about challenges women authors face that aren’t usually faced by male authors? Here it is.

Beauty-Beast• Full disclosure: I am in no way objective about the upcoming performance of Beauty and the Beast at SIUE’s Summer Showbiz Theater. Why? It’s my son’s collegiate theatrical debut. Look for a sadly unmarried villager; the head of the wolfpack; and a really tall spoon. (Hint: He’s all three.) And you can watch the rest of it, too.

Director Kate Slovinski said when she first saw the animated film, she was delighted to see a heroine who was an active participant in resisting the forces opposing her. ““In addition to a relatable and admirable heroine, I found great comfort in the tale of the Beast as well,” continued Slovinski. “As a young lady contemplating a new life ahead of her, I was terrified of the consequences that could come from making a bad decision. The Beast suffers a curse for a terrible choice he made, with seemingly irrevocable consequences. Still, somehow, he finds redemption and a life better than he dared imagine.”

Opening night is nearing sold-out, so catch your tickets in advance! Beauty runs June 15-24 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. For more info, email theater-tickets@siue.edu.

• Many thanks to the Authors Guild and RWA for fighting back against #CockyGate. I hate the trend of tagging -gate on every controversy, but anything that keeps us aware of this kind of nonsense helps - especially since someone already tried to follow suit with “Forever.” Authors Guild and RWA joined forces to fight the “cocky” trademark in court and won. It’s not immediately apparent what will happen to authors whose books were pulled down or otherwise damaged during this utter nonsense, but other cocky books will go forward.

• In other crazy publishing news, Jim C. Hines has the smartest take yet on the agent-crook debacle. In short: a highly respected and prestigious literary agency is flailing after finding out its one and only money-man was embezzling, from the agency and from the authors. The fallout is still descending, but it doesn’t look good for the future of the company or for the authors who are now broke and owed more than $3 million. In the ensuing crazy, there’s been a call for better controls and/or eliminating agents entirely, which struck me as a bridge too far, especially considering how many publishers won’t deal with unagented authors.

SOLO is now at $148 million domestic, $264 million worldwide. Somehow this is still being termed as a terrible failure, a flop…. I really hate that, because I enjoyed it much more than I expected, and it left off with wide possibilities of a sequel or three and I was really looking forward to that. It’s still the highest-grossing Memorial Day release in four years, and not far below the all-time highest release for that time.

The TLJ-haters are insisting that it’s “payback” for having Star Wars movies about icky girls, but I’m betting the “soft” numbers are because it’s only five months since the last movie, and they really should avoid flooding the market. There are two other Geek Films still in the theaters and Black Panther just came out of Blu-ray. We only have so much money, guys - and this production got a lot of bad press when they originally put it in the hands of dudebros looking for a cheap laugh.

Alternative analysis pointed out, wisely, that “if the franchise was able to survive Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, we have a hard time believing Last Jedi could do that much damage.” Instead, they note “uncharacteristically (for Disney) poor marketing." The teaser had only 10 seconds of the lead actor’s face, which didn’t do enough to sell him as Han or as hero, he said.

After the first weekend, I was protesting tagging it as a flop altogether, because it really was strong for Memorial Day. However, it’s lost 65 percent in its second weekend, which doesn’t look good. Folks, see the movie. It was fun, worthy of inclusion in the franchise, and beats the hell out of a lot of the other stuff out there.

• A smart analysis of the next phases of the MCU by ScreenRant’s awesome Lauren Wethers. I’ve already argued against killing a Black Widow solo film, but otherwise she’s very much on target, especially advocacy for a Ms. Marvel film and mixing in the X-Men. (Also, I will fight anyone who says we don’t need more Captain America. Cap is my Superman while Superman is hibernating.)

• Muahahahaha. The Heathers reboot TV show is canceled without even airing. I think someone might actually have watched it. It was already delayed since it “didn’t feel right” to premiere a “hilarious” series about bullying and murder in a school after the Parkland shooting (and all the other shootings). I already made my opinion clear.

• Sequel alert: Maleficent is up next, with Angelina Jolie returning as Maleficent, Ellie Fanning as Aurora, Michelle Pfeiffer as a new Queen Ingrith, and Chiwetel Ejiofor showing up as an as-yet unknown character.

• In today’s Asshole Damage Report, Kelly Marie Tran had to delete her Instagram after months of horrifying sexist, racist harassment and threats against her life. She’s been abused on Twitter, and some asshat edited her Wookieepedia entry to fill it with racial slurs.

You have to wonder what actually passes for thought in the mind of a man who thinks an actress’s portrayal in a science fiction movie deserves threats of rape and murder. How does that seem rational to him? Daisy Ridley, by the way, also jumped off Instagram after she posted about gun control while attending a tribute to the victims of the Orlando Pulse shooting. Gasp! She had an opinion, and they were off to the races.

Yahoo U.K. points out that people were horrible to Jake Lloyd after Phantom Menace too, but that was before the internet became what it is now - and, frankly, the viciousness shown to women has always been especially ugly. As Chuck Wendig pointed out on Twitter, “Their names change - MRA, incel, gamer-gate, comics-gate, sad puppies, Real Star Wars Fans — but at the heart of it is the same fragile rage born of the poisonous chemical combination of white supremacy and toxic masculinity.” Naturally, Wendig is now facing nasty harassment online.

Brian De Palma is joining with two other producers for a movie allegedly inspired by Harvey Weinstein, using the Toronto Film Festival as backdrop, starring Rachel McAdams and titled Predator. All I’ve heard about it so far is complaints that the producers are all men - you know, like 95 percent of the movies made in Hollywood. I will reserve further judgment until I hear more.

You know, I should really just create a separate category for #MeToo and "Today in Sexual Harassment News," because sadly, I never run out of material.

• James Cameron will shoot the Avatar sequels using Sony Venice cameras with 3-D stereoscopic rigs with high dynamic range and incorporating high frame rates. If you know what all that means, you’re smarter than me. Fortunately, Hollywood Reporter translated that it’s a fancy 3-D native method of shooting, allowing the film to be basically the next step forward in 3-D.

Here’s my problem: if you can’t watch 3-D without a horrific headache, will you be able to watch the film? Cameron says the movie will be 3-D without the need for glasses — oookay — and I don’t know if that makes a difference to the small percentage who, like me, become terribly ill watching 3-D.

Also, might he remember to have a story this time? One that he didn’t crib from Dances With Wolves? The four sequels start hitting theaters in 2020, which explains why Disney created a whole new land in its Florida Animal Kingdom park around Avatar. (It’s pretty.)

• Locals: The St. Louis Public Library will serve free lunches to children Monday-Friday all summer. Partnered with Operation Food Search, six SLPL locations are participating: Carpenter, Carondolet, Divoli, Kingshighway, Julia Davis and the Central Library. According to Operation Food Search, one in four kids in the St. Louis bi-state area goes to bed hungry each night, and many only received a full daily meal at school. Details are here.

 

RIP

Gardner Dozois, 70, longtime science fiction editor and co-founder of Asimov’s Science Fiction. He was editor-in-chief from 1985 until retiring in 2004, won 15 Hugos and arguably helped shape the science fiction genre in the latter half of the 20th century. He was also an author in his own right, columnist, journalist, editor of more than 150 anthologies, critic… His wife, Susan Casper, predeceased him in February 2017. In his final year, he published five books, two of them works completed but not yet published by his wife before her death.

Kate Spade, 55, fashion designer and corporate leader, died by apparent suicide in her New York City apartment. The designer started her company in 1993 and has more than 140 retail shops domestic and 175 internationally, but she stepped away in 2007 a year after it was acquired by Neiman Marcus Group for $125 million. Coach Inc. announced plans last year to buy the brand for $2.4 billion. Spade had started a new handbag company, and changed her name to Katherine Noel Frances Valentine Brosnahan Spade.

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

It’s Star Trek 11: The Real One! Wait, no it’s not. It stars Doug Jones, Tim Russ, Marina Sirtis and Armin Shimerman. Fake-out. 5th Passenger is a sci-fi thriller with a pregnant officer trying to survive with her surviving crew in an escape pod when a mysterious life form attacks. Alien? I don’t care, it’s good enough to steal. Crowdfunded to life, this film caught attention at the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival, and sadly will be released on demand instead of in theaters, because we can’t have nice things.

 

Coming This Weekend

Ocean’s 8, where we’re remaking the remaking of a caper film but with all women. I’m kind of iffy on the trailers, and Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t have a score yet.

Hotel Artemis. This is that weird near-future thriller with Jodie Foster as the cranky doctor who runs a private hospital for criminals that depends on strict rules, and then someone breaks the rules. Wackiness ensues, if by wackiness you mean grim-faced criminals and a chain-smoking Foster. This might be too nihilistic even for me. Cast includes Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto and Sterling K. Brown.

Hereditary. Grandma was bonkers, Mom is barely holding it together after Grandma’s death and Daughter is… possessed? Are we talking ghosts? Demons? Madness passed down from generation to generation? Rotten Tomatoes gives it 93 percent.

 

Continuing:

I’m not going to give it a full review, but I was dragged kicking and screaming to Upgrade and it was not nearly as bad as I was anticipating. I expected a bloody, awful, wish-fulfillment revenge-fantasy mess, and I only got part of that. The lead actor was surprisingly nuanced in his portrayal, and while I saw the twist coming a mile and a half away and there were few surprises, it was significantly more entertaining than I expected. Honestly, if it had tamed down some of the gore-for-gore’s-sake and delved a little further into the issues around bioengineering that it briefly raises, it might have been a truly good sci-fi thriller.

Also continuing: Deadpool 2, Adrift, Avengers: Infinity War, Book Club, SOLO, Life of the Party, Breaking In, Overboard.


Linkspam applies for secretary of the week

Once again I am forced to recant my opposition to remakes and reboots. Some have gone horribly wrong (Roseanne) while others have failed to annoy us (Will & Grace, by all reports).

But they’re bringing back Murphy Brown. Line up the secretaries!

The trailer is hilarious, though sadly missing Charles Kimbrough as the stolid Jim Dial, leading to speculation whether the 81-year-old actor is up to a recurring appearance. Everyone else is on board, even ditzy Corky (who now looks like a goddamn genius compared to some of the yahoos in the real world). Missing in action, of course, will be Eldin the eternal handyman, as Robert Pastorelli died of an overdose many years ago.

I adored Murphy Brown, both for Candice Bergen’s sharp wit and its unerring ability to take aim at the times without downgrading our intelligence or disrespecting the profession even as it parodies it. Everyone brings up the Dan Quayle business, but in reality, the fun was in watching Murphy tilt at the windmill of political stupidity over and over, never failing in her dedication.

Oh, do we need Murphy now. Anyone want to take bets on how long it takes for Murphy to get banned from the current White House? She’s got a tradition to uphold, after all.

• Today in Sexual Harassment News: Morgan Freeman may be a perv (dammit), George Takei isn’t, and Harvey Weinstein is finally arrested.

• Did you enjoy Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s royal wedding sermon? Or the SNL skit ribbing him? So did he.

• The internet was abuzz that Bohemian Rhapsody, the upcoming biopic of Queen and specifically Freddie Mercury, was planning to straightwash Mercury’s bisexuality and his death from AIDS. Personally I don’t see it from the initial trailer, and the accusations of such from writer-producer Bryan Fuller seemed clearly aimed at the trailer, not at the film. Here, judge for yourself. Hopefully they’re not that stupid, and as many have opined, two surviving Queen members are on the production team, and it seems unlikely they would so disrespect their friend’s memory.

• Are you considering taking the kids to see Show Dogs? According to some, you should rethink this. A running gag about the lead dog having to put up with having his private parts fondled hits some very uncomfortable notes regarding grooming, bodily autonomy and reinforcing dangerous messages for kids. I thought at first it was hysteria, but when I read the recap… yeah, that does not sound cool.

• I could have a total geekout about all the awesome things coming to Disney World apart from Star Wars Land, or I could just share this rundown and go back to running price checks on how much it would cost to go back. #happiestplaceonearth #waitthat’sanaheim

• Enjoying summer? Already trying to figure out how to keep the kids from wrecking the house? Here’s a rundown (for locals) of all the nifty free things to do with kids this summer.

An intelligent discussion on the internet - stay with me here - about issues women face in writing and publishing that are not typically experienced by men. Disclosure: I’m one of the women. Another interesting discussion: Antiheroes, heroes and heroic fiction in modern times.

• Dork out! The annual tradition of crossing over one mega-story from Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl will move to Gotham City for Batwoman to show up! Usually I am at best neutral about the crossovers, since I only watch Supergirl and am hopelessly lost in the soap-opera worlds of the other shows (and I always want to slap Oliver silly). Also, this crossover crap is why I stopped buying issue comics. I don’t want to have to follow 27 books just to figure out what the hell is going on in the book I’m reading. But… Batwoman!

(Speaking of comics, Seanan McGuire is writing an issue of X-MEN. In case your day wasn’t cool enough yet.)

• Hey, remember that idiot who trademarked the word “cocky” and earned the ire of ever romance author in the United States? Someone looked at that and thought, “Hey, nifty idea!” Only they’re trying to trademark “forever.” RWA is fighting it, but they shouldn’t be alone: this crap affects every genre. It’s since been withdrawn, but the issue continues.

 

RIP

Clint Walker, 90, best known for roles in Cheyenne, The Dirty Dozen and The Ten Commandments. Raised in Belleville, he was working as a sheriff’s deputy and bouncer in Las Vegas when he met with Cecil B. DeMille and got himself an acting career.

Tom Wolfe, iconic “new journalist” and author, at age 88.  Titles such as The Right Stuff, Bonfire of thee Vanities and A Man in Full made him famous (and a target for notorious crankypants Norman Mailer).

Philip Roth, 85, comic novelist famous for The Human Stain, Everyman and Goodbye Columbus, among many others. The New York Times called him the last of the “great white males,” along with Bellow and Updike.

Jose Lavat, narrator of Dragon Ball Z as well as many other titles.

 

Trailer Park

• Oh bother. Christopher Robin needs help from his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. Just cue up the hankies. (Warning: this trailer is one of those that tells the whole goddamn story in 2.5 minutes, but it’s worth it to hear Pooh’s voice.)

 

Coming This Weekend

Solo. You might have heard about this one. I think it’s about a pilot or something.

Mary Shelley, a biopic of the Frankenstein author who spent much of the rest of her life a) trying to recapture the stark brilliance of her first novel and b) convincing asshats that her husband didn’t write it. Please, people. Did you ever READ Percy Shelley?

The Misandrists. Just… no.

 

Continuing:

Deadpool 2, Avengers: Infinity War, Book Club, Life of the Party, Breaking In, Show Dogs, Overboard, A Quiet Place, Rampage, Super Troopers 2.

 

Loislegs

And finally…. She deserved her own entry. Margot Kidder, who embodied Lois Lane for me in the Christopher Reeve movies, died on May 14 at age 69.

She's best known as Lois, of course, and brought a strength and smarts to a role that often was written as "must be rescued by Superman." Was her famous "interview" scene with Superman actually a shining example of a professional journalist? Oh, hell no. But she still sold it to us, made us care about Lois and her abrasive, gung-ho charm despite her required swoons. That was Kidder, and she brought a vulnerability and simultaneous steel to Lois that has not been matched before or since.

I was honored enough to meet her several years ago at a convention, and I was wearing my hip skirt with the jingly ornaments on it. She asked me to stop and show her the skirt, and I wiggled my hips to make them dance, and she laughed uproariously. I made Lois Lane laugh, and it goes on my life list of accomplishments. To this day I regret that I didn't get a picture with her.

Others have detailed her life, her struggles and work far better than I could, far beyond the confines of Lois’ pencil skirts into horror, comedy, television, any genre she chose - and her famous battles with bipolar disorder. She cracked me up, she made me cry. Now she soars among the skies, and we are the poorer for her loss.

 


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.

 


Superb Owl 2018

At first I thought this was going to be the easiest Superb Owl column I’d ever write, because the consensus in the room this year was nearly unanimous: NFL players dancing to ‘80s pop is totally awesome.

For those new to the show: I pay only the barest attention to sports, and the Superb Owl is basically an excuse to eat a lot of food with friends, laugh at the commercials and dance around with boxes on our heads during the halftime show. (Okay, that only happened once.) The sportsball is when we go get snacks. And for this blog, it's always about the commercials.

Nearly everyone voted for this hilarious spot in which NFL players reenact the classic choreography of the final dance sequence in Dirty Dancing, and who knew these guys could act? Seriously, I want the outtakes where they simply burst out laughing as they learn the dance steps (with the help of Hamilton choreographer Stephanie Klemons). Hilariously, Abigail Breslin - who survived the ill-advised remake - tweeted in favor of it: “When a football player does the angel lift in a super bowl ad better than you did in the remake.”

 

Super-bowl-nfl-dirty-dancing

Also: Wire work for the win. That guy probably weighed a touch more than Jennifer Grey.

But it’s hard, because the NFL can’t overcome its serious problems with a cute TV spot. This is not the place to debate them - this blog is about popular culture and entertainment with an eye to the geeky, and the ethics of professional athletics are pretty far afield. And if you think I’m touching the issue of the president’s Tweet, you are sadly mistaken. Y’all run through it in the comments if you must.

Still, the hallmark of a good ad is whether people remember it, whether it effectively communicates its message, with a plus or minus for entertainment value. The worst thing an ad can be is boring, which sadly applied for quite a few - Keanu Reeves standing on a motorcycle for SquareSpace was simply dull, and I can’t say much for “dancing badly with Diet Coke” or the Bud Knight.

• High points included Jeff Goldblum playing off his Jurassic Park personality in an obvious tie-in to Jurassic World, Danny DeVito as a human M&M, and Alexa losing her voice. Wendy’s Twitter account got its own Super Bowl ad, which is the best win for a social media manager ever, and of course they took the opportunity to jab at McDonald’s.

• Reactions are mixed to the Tide running gags. Obviously Tide spent a gazillion dollars on a series of ads that would have been hilarious if they hadn’t been obviously intended to try to distract us from the Tide Pod Challenge nonsense. News flash, Tide: It didn’t work. You’d have done better to address the stupidity head on, rather than camouflaging it with an ad campaign that might have done well in another year. You do get bonus points for making us all watch other ads more closely in case they were fake Tide ads. Remember the Energizer bunny? That worked for a reason.

• Laaaaaaame: Tall Diet Coke cans make you dance goofy; Jeep reminds us that roads make it easy to get from Point A to Point B (direct quote for Captain Obvious); and an unsettling Hyundai ad where people are taken aside without just cause after (not) setting off a metal detector, just so they can watch a video about how awesome Hyundai is. Tone deaf as hell.

• Best quote of the night:

ME: Tom Brady, Han Solo and Jurassic World are trending.

MARY: Now that sounds like a good movie.

Extra credit goes to:

• The legal text in the Dodge Ram commercial: “Never ride in the bed of a truck unless you are an authentic Viking.”

• Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman for Doritos and Mountain Dew. I don’t care that they were lip-synching to sell nutritionally questionable snacks; I could watch either of them do anything and enjoy it.

Dundee isn’t a real reboot, but a travel ad for Australia. Which is nifty and fun and pretty (not just Chris Hemsworth), and thank God they’re not actually making the movie. Error: airing teasers in advance got us started, and then we all knew it was a gag before the Super Bowl. Airing the teaser at the beginning of the Super Bowl and the explanation later on would have been better. However, it was completely redeemed with the brief cameo of a dubious Paul Hogan. Ha!

• The Rocket Mortgage guy explains the subtext of Tinder, the lameness of haute cuisine and “It’s just a gray dot.” Actual laughter is rare enough during these spots, and that was fun.

• Compare that truck ad using a Martin Luther King Jr. speech with the overlay of “we care about social justice,” to the T-Mobile ad of the babies that really seemed to BE about social justice. The difference? The MLK ad scattered close-ups of the truck in between a series of images that might have been terrific except for the ad intrusion. (Also, MLK sometimes referred to overly-expensive car purchases as a moral failing, so maybe read all the way to the end next time.) T-Mobile left the damn cell phones out of the ad, leaving only a logo placement at the end. That made a better impression on me.

I don’t mind companies using their Super Bowl ad time to altruistically advocate for something better and more affirming than selling stuff. In fact, I consider it good corporate citizenship to use their gazillions for the betterment of society. The ads are expensive and they need to pay off. But do it right: make the product ancillary to the ad itself. The message should be the cause, not the product. Do it well enough and it will be effective. For example? I don’t remember what truck the MLK ad was selling, but I remember T-Mobile and the babies.

Other altruism includes Budweiser bottling water for disasters and Stella Artois selling … goblets, I think? … to bring clean water to third world countries. Bravo, even if you’re looking for a pat on the back with the ad itself. Hey, could this signal a new trend? Corporations doing good works as the new fashion? The commercials might be insufferable, but I doubt that matters to the people getting the fresh water. 

• Several votes for best commercial online went to the 15 seconds of dead air. Somewhere there is a production tech cleaning out his cubicle. Rough estimates are that was $3 million worth of dead air (and it produced some of the funniest Twitter snark I’ve seen in years.)

• The Blacture ad was compelling and effective, silencing the room for a moment. “Be celebrated. Not tolerated.” I tweeted about it. And immediately got a response from a nasty racist using an ethnic slur. Reported. At first I gave Twitter credit because shortly thereafter it disappeared from my feed, so I thought it had been removed. Then further examination showed it was still up on his feed. I guess we’ll see if they take action, or if, like Facebook, screaming racists don’t qualify as violating community standards.

Halftime Hijinks

I’m not a huge Justin Timberlake fan, and this bit didn’t do much to make me one. I give him credit for working his tail off out there, with no dancing sharks or people with boxes on their heads that have made me wonder what wacky tobacky might have been smoked in the design meetings in years past. I spent more time puzzling at the fact that he was inexplicably wearing an elk than I spent enjoying the music - though bonus points for actually using a marching band for once.

The homage to Prince was both touching and annoying. He was the hometown hero, and his music was a welcome break for my ears. Turning the neighborhood purple was awesome. I was not so fond of Timberlake singing a duet with a dead man who likely would have eschewed his holographic resurrection, especially since Timberlake famously dissed Prince years before his death.

More annoying: Timberlake actually sang the song that ended with the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, which just underscored the infuriating dichotomy that Timberlake has no repercussions from that incident while Jackson’s career has never quite recovered. Bad enough that he’s back at the Super Bowl careening about the stage while she’s a pariah, leading to the hashtag #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay. Way to underscore the tone-deafness to 2018 race relations, Super Bowl. As of this writing, Timberlake’s new album is featured on iTunes’ front page and is the iTunes top seller, while three of the top ten songs are Timberlake’s. It’s not just about the Super Bowl gig, folks.

Trailer Park

Among the trailers: Hands-down, Avengers was the winner among just about everyone I surveyed (a scientific sample to be sure). Maybe because it’s the movie people are most eager to see, but frankly, Solo fascinated me more. I’m curious to see how it emerges from its development hell.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is problematic, even as it becomes clear we will be deluged with marketing for the summer blockbuster-wannabe. I couldn’t stand Jurassic World, and keep in mind this comes from someone who really liked all the previous ones, even III. I was not the only person angry throughout Jurassic World at how a decidedly non-sexist film like Jurassic Park devolved into this mess.

This article skillfully examines all the ways in which Jurassic World hates, mocks and tortures its female characters, while Jurassic Park celebrates both Dr. Sattler and Lex as brave, smart and ultimately heroic. “Aside from the obvious advances in CGI, it’s honestly difficult to believe Jurassic World came out 22 years after Jurassic Park,” it says. I could go into all the ways that we've devolved in gender parity since the 1990s, but that's another column.

The Super Bowl trailer is a good one, in that it actually tempts me to see the sequel. Perhaps it’s my stubborn optimism, my hope that a crappy, sexist script was simply written and filmed by a bunch of clueless men and the repeated criticism of its nasty misogyny could be corrected by a second movie with smarter people behind the keyboards. Sadly, I suspect I’ll be disappointed.

Also interesting:

The Cloverfield Paradox is a surprise Netflix drop - I heard there was going to be another one, but I thought it was going to be a feature film. People are already watching and commenting, so I’d stay away from the internet if you don’t want spoilers. Here’s my spoiler-free question: Do I have to watch the second one to watch this?

More seriously, someone asked me if Netflix is the new “direct to video.” Yes and no. Yes in that obviously it has replaced the DVD-only release as a way to circumvent the extensive cost of a feature film release. No in that Netflix’s original content is turning out to be a much higher quality than a lot of the dreck we’re seeing in theaters and networks. Whereas “direct to video” was pretty much a screaming red flag that “this sucks too much to release,” a film released direct to Netflix (or other streaming service) might just be the best thing ever.

Westworld creeps us out with its season 2 ad, leading to cries of “Finally!” It’s not looking good for the humans in the Fake Wild West.

BLACK PANTHER.

Castle Rock! Still the trailer tells us nothing. That won’t stop me from endlessly examining it frame by frame (the monkey!) for clues. Scott Glenn is the latest variation of Alan Pangborn, a much older Alan than the ones we’ve seen previously. I doubt the dog scaring Sissy Spacek (of Carrie!) could possibly be Cujo, because everyone knows Cujo is a St. Bernard. Andre Holland plays “Henry,” who could be one of several characters or a new one. Clues include sewers, Shawshank Prison, creepy-looking “students,” blood swirling into a sink, snow, and more. We still have to wait for summer.

• Boo hiss to Skyscraper, the lamely-named Die Hard knockoff with Dwayne Johnson, who seems to be signing any contract they shove in front of him these days. Nothing in the trailer told me I’d enjoy it more than my Die Hard DVD. Johnson is cute and charismatic; he should be picking better scripts. (Yeah, I’ve heard Jumanji is actually good, despite its trailers. We’ll see.)

• Too boring for links: yet another Mission Impossible movie, and do I even need to address Jesus Christ Superstar Live with Alice Cooper as King Herod? Parody is dead in the 21st century.

And now it’s time to ignore sportsball again until the Cardinals home opener. Play ball!


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.