Film Feed

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! 

 


Linkspam: Barnes & Noble's 'Red Wedding,' the latest sexist rats, and BLACK PANTHER!

In what blogger Audrey II (great name) called the Red Wedding of corporate moves, Barnes & Noble appears to have committed slow-moving suicide, and I don’t think she’s exaggerating.

Bloodless business news squibs buried under a mountain of awful in this news cycle reported that B&N launched a round of layoffs that would save $40 million from the company. Exact numbers weren’t available, but its SEC filing reported the cuts as “a new labor model… that has resulted in the elimination of certain store positions.”

Yeah, if that corporate-speak didn’t strike fear in your heart, try reading Audrey II’s take on it, which seems much more comprehensive. (I tried to determine her real identity, but she’s pretty well locked down. Too bad, I wanted to give her credit for her analysis, which beats the hell out of Publisher’s Weekly’s recounting of the SEC filing.)

Basically, Barnes & Noble laid off every full-time employee. Every lead cashier, every receiving manager, every Nook problem-solver, every newsstand lead. That “new labor model” seems to be “cheap part-time minimum-wage labor for the death knell of the company.”

Worse, allegations abound that the full-timers were told their jobs were safe, that the positions would be eliminated through attrition. As leads left, they would not be replaced, but no one would be laid off. That ended Monday when they were fired anyway - lifetime employees. No notice. When, exactly, did companies decide that it’s better not to give workers a chance to start their job hunt while still employed and give them whatever notice they can so they can plan their major life decisions with all the facts?

Read more about how B&N cut staffing during the holidays, which drove annoyed customers online; and how ship from store meant stripping the shelves, which further annoyed the customers who did come in for a real-live bookstore experience. That probably affected sales somewhat.

Audrey II makes a strong argument that this is the behavior of corporate pirates looking to strip the company’s bones bare before the inevitable bankruptcy, not a company trying to rebuild and save the store. It’s hard to argue that she’s overreacting, when B&N paid $14.5 million in bonuses to two CEOs (not two categories; two guys, one of whom had been CEO less than a year) while cutting 1,800 employees for $40 million.

You won’t find astute analysis in the business pages this week. The closest you’ll come is a single line at the end of Fortune, speculating that B&N’s top investor is urging a sale of the company. Everyone else basically reprinted the SEC filing and no-comment from B&N corporate. Instead, I’d say read the anonymous Audrey for a better look at what the slow suicide of Barnes & Noble means for all of us in the book biz. Spoiler: It’s not great.

For the record: I wrote this in a Barnes & Noble, and I’ll buy something besides coffee on my way out. Corporate or indie, no one benefits from closing the doors of a bookstore. In this world of ignorance and foolishness, functional illiteracy and TV-deadened imaginations, we need every book.

• This week on (Alleged) Sexual Predators R Us: It’s Scott Baio, Jay Asher (author of Thirteen Reasons Why), Guess co-founder Paul Marciano, and Olympian Shaun White, who decided to distract everyone from his sexual harassment allegations by avoiding female reporters and accidentally stepping on the U.S. flag. Oops. Do yourself a favor: Don’t read any comments. EVER. In the meantime, SAG-AFTRA has established a code of conduct regarding sexual harassment. Let’s see how that goes…

• Speaking of stupid comments, NBC commentator Bode Miller put his foot in it with what he calls a joke, and I’d call a rotten, sexist comment that he later backtracked to call it a joke in the hopes of not looking like a rotten sexist. Basically, according to Bode, women who get married crash and burn because they have husbands to distract them. He’s very sorry.

• I love it when something really awful comes out that gives all the critics a chance to crack open the thesaurus for colorful metaphors on how bad it really, really is. Like 50 Shades Freed is an ignorant, poisonous anti-feminist hate anthem. Funniest take: Fifty Shades Freed: A Spoilereview. “They have sex on the table. Ana giggles. Look, I’m all for having fun during sex, but if I were Christian I’d be concerned about the fact that Ana giggles every time he drops trou.”

• Female and female-identifying horror screenwriters: check out an open call for a filmmaking residency in Bruges, Belgium! And speaking of #WomeninHorrorMonth, here’s nine short horror films by women you can watch online. And as a bonus: Mary Shelley’s handwritten manuscripts of Frankenstein can now be viewed online.

Bill Paxton’s family is filing a wrongful death suit against his hospital and surgeon, alleging that the surgeon concealed information from them and was unqualified for Paxton’s heart surgery. He died days later of complications from the surgery, at age 61.

• Tyquan Vonricco Washington, nephew of singer Fantasia Barrino, was shot and killed Tuesday in North Carolina. A suspect is in custody, charged with first-degree murder. Barrino is the Season 3 winner of American Idol.

• If you were wondering why they canceled Sex and the City 3, here you go.

 

RIP

• Science fiction author - and my friend - Victor Milan, dammit. Vic died Tuesday of pneumonia as a complication of myeloma, and fuck cancer. Sorry, folks, ye olde blogger cannot be objective as we continue to lose our mentors. Here is my personal obituary of Vic, with all his many accomplishments, and may he walk with the dinosaurs.

John Gavin, actor in Psycho and Spartacus, age 86. He was this close to playing Bond until Sean Connery decided to come back, and served as SAG president. You know him best as Julius Caesar in Spartacus and Sam Loomis, boyfriend of Janet Leigh’s doomed Marion, in Psycho. Later in life, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

 

Trailer Park

Sneak peek footage of Incredibles 2 aired during the Olympics!

Yet another preview of Ready Player Onewith even more Easter eggs and the theme from Willy Wonka. 

 

Coming This Weekend

Panther

BLACK PANTHER. What, you think I can talk about this one in anything but all caps? Warning: review contains spoilers. CNN gets it: “More than a movie, ‘Black Panther’ is a movement.” Meanwhile, Octavia Spencer will buy out a theater in Mississippi to help low-income people see the movie. Needless to say, your friendly neighborhood CultureGeek will be in attendance.

Then I Knew, a news-vid documentary produced by the News-Democrat’s Cara Anthony on the moment people of color realized the impact their race would have on their lives. Soft release a couple of weeks ago; go check it out.

Early Man. The Chicken Run crew aims for prehistoric shenanigans. Currently running 84 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which frankly surprised me.

Samson, starring the werewolf from Twilight as a variation on Conan. Any resemblance to the actual Biblical story is entirely coincidental. (At least from the trailers; no critics have reviewed it yet, which generally is not a good sign.)

Continuing: Winchester (which I’ve reviewed here), The Greatest Showman, Fifty Shades Freed, Peter Rabbit, The 15:17 to Paris, Jumanji, Maze Runner #47, Hostiles, The Post and The Shape of Water.

 

Happy Wakanda-Weekend! 


MovieGeek: Winchester

Winchester is better than its reviews, but only half of what it could have been.

I made a bet going in that we’d be hit with 20 jump scares, and there were only 15. The fact that I could keep count might tell you something. I picked up on the Big Plot Twist about half an hour early, and I hate when I can see it coming.

While Jason Clarke is a decent actor, there wasn’t as much of it on display as I’d like as the bereaved doctor with a laudanum problem. Helen Mirren as the famous Sarah Winchester is grounded and engaging as always, but you get the feeling this movie was something different when she signed on. Her character is fascinating and focused for the first half, then degenerates in getting wire-yanked around the set and gasping out protestations at the ghosts.

It’s hard to say whether Winchester failed as a sociopolitical metaphor or as a simple haunted house. It’s just not scary enough to stand on its own as the latter, even in a setting as nifty as the Winchester House, and it fails to obey its own rules or stick to a spectral framework with its own logic, which basically required for a ghost story. Whether you’re talking Ghostbusters or Amityville Horror, Poltergeist or American Horror Story, there are rules set by the ghosts that both entrap them and the living, and you can’t just switch them around to be convenient to the plot. 

As to the former, it’s possible Winchester could have been saying some serious things about America’s love affair with guns, as both the real and fictional Sarah Winchester believes she is literally haunted (and her family cursed) by the spirits of all those killed by the Winchester repeating rifle. As she snittily points out to visiting Dr. Price who is there to evaluate her sanity, one can hardly say an item is misused when it is being used in the manner it was intended: to kill.

Winchester

 

 

SPOILERS - Winchester could also be talking about the driving hatreds of the Civil War coming back to literally haunt the present day, as the main ghost is a Confederate soldier whose fury against the better-equipped North drove him to murder and horror in life and in death. Both allegories would have made for a serious and interesting horror film, fulfilling the primary purpose of genre fiction: to hold up the mirror before our eyes.

It’s hard to say whether the creators intended any of this, or whether it just came about as a side note to yet another jump scare of a creepy death mask around a corner. It says something that the scariest moment of the movie comes from a hallway of silently open doors.

Still, Winchester deserves much more than its 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Look for the allegories if you wish to keep your brain moving, or shut it off and enjoy creepiness without gore. It moves fast, it’s not boring, and Helen Mirren is in it. That’s generally enough to make it worth your ticket price.


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.

 


Linkspam

Confession: I hate Heathers. Its popularity baffles me.

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

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

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

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

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

Because that’s… funny?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also… The Boss Baby? Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RIP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trailer Park

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

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

 

Opening this weekend:

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

• Hostiles - 72 percent on Rotten Tomatoes


Linkspam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RIP

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trailer Park

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

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

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

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


Thursday-ish Linkspam

Grab the popcorn, folks: the next step in the Sexual Harassment Merry-Go-Round is the sale of the artist formerly known as the Weinstein Company. Okay, it’s still called Weinstein Co., but it is selling itself and the bulk of its film and television assets to avoid bankruptcy, according to Variety. Possible bidders include Killer Content with the backing of a collection of investors gearing to steer Weinstein profits to nonprofits helping women.

In general, the other companies aren’t really interested in absorbing Weinstein whole; just sort of peeling off its assets. That includes Project RunwayThe King’s Speech, Django Unchained and others. First round of bids came today. (Meanwhile, Bill O’Reilly faces two more lawsuits from accusers alleging he violated the confidentiality agreements of their settlements.)

• Speaking of sexism and misogyny! E! News co-anchor Catt Sadler quit today when she discovered that her male co-host earned almost double her salary, even though they did the same job and had started at the network in the same year. She stated that she asked to close the pay gap and was repeatedly denied. “How can I operate with integrity and stay on at E if they’re not willing to pay me the same as him? Or at least come close?” she wrote in her personal blog. “How can I not echo the actions of my heroes and stand for what is right no matter what the cost? How can I remain silent when my rights under the law have been violated?”

Sadler, a single mother of two, said it is “scary” to quit, but that it is important to stand up for equal pay. “The unknown can be terrifying, but it can also be the most beautiful gift,” she wrote. “How can we make it better for the next generation of girls if we do not stand for what is fair and just today?”

Washington Post dug in deeper, pointing out that women currently make 81 cents for each dollar made by a man, and the gap is wider among college grads, business, finance and legal careers. The White House gender pay gap has tripled in the last year, as the administration halted an Obama policy that would require large companies to report pay broken down by race and gender, according to the Post.

• I thought the NFL was in trouble? Football is still the top-watched show on broadcast networks this fall, including NBC and CSB and Sunday and Thursday… so not that much trouble. The top scripted show is still The Big Bang Theory, in defiance of logic. Rounding out the top ten are The Good Doctor (really?), This is Us, NCIS, Young Sheldon (dammit) and Bull.

In looking at the full 75-show list, no one is ever allowed to complain to me again that there are too many police procedural shows on TV. Of the top shows, at least 17 are police procedurals. This is just like when people say they’re tired of all the violence in the news, but let me tell you what people click first and most often, folks…

Apple is being sued on allegations that it intentionally slows down older iPhones with new iOS releases in order to goad people into buying a new phone. Apple admits that older phones might slow down with later software, but only to keep them from crashing when the processor can't handle it. The suit was filed in Chicago.

Note to Ridley Scott: Shhh. When discussing your need to reshoot All the Money in the World with Christopher Plummer instead of accused rapist Kevin Spacey, maybe this comment is not the best choice: “Any form of publicity is useful.”

Oh, Ridley. You were doing so much better when you originally said that one person’s actions should not affect the good work of all these other people, telling this dramatic story. That made it seem like you were trying to preserve art and storytelling, not to mention fine acting, not just scrambling to make a buck and uncaring about the implications of the allegations against Spacey.

Out of context? Not really. Full quote: “If you forget as the director your one priority is to put bums on seats and you better entertain. So any form of publicity is useful. Need I go further?”Please don’t.

• That awful, terrible, illogical, franchise-ruining Last Jedi* is up to $536 million international take - oops, $600 million! Coming up this weekend: Jumanji and The Greatest Showman, with a couple meaningless comedies a few days later. Good luck besting the Jedi, guys.

• I really thought it was a joke, but not-the-Onion reports that they’re seriously going forward with a Quentin Tarantino Star Trek movie. Because his nihilistic ultraviolent style of reveling in blood because pain is funny is just what an optimistic, humanist view of the future needed. (Note: Not a fan.) Mark L. Smith, who wrote that utopian flick The Revenant, will be writing it. Meanwhile, Tarantino is working on a Charles Manson film, which seems much more his style of “let’s watch them squish the eyeballs.”

  

RIP

Heather North, the voice of Daphne for Scooby Doo fans, died Tuesday at age 71 of a heart attack caused by respiratory disease. North began on Days of Our Lives and started her run as Daphne in 1970 in the show’s second season and would play Daphne for 30 years in various formats. She did a lot of TV work and a few movies; her husband, Wesley Kenney directed the most famous season of All in the Family. He died in January 2015; one of her stepdaughters died a week ago.

 

Daphne

 

Trailer Park

 • I can't really tell if the upcoming Chappaquiddick is going to be worth a watch or not. It's an interesting story that is ancient history for many of us too young (or not yet born) to follow the scandal that ended any chance of Ted Kennedy following his brothers in pursuit of the presidency. The acting in the trailer is surprisingly flat; you expect to see their best work. It is not clear what side the movie takes: accident or murder, or something in between?   

• They gender-swapped Overboard, which is one of my guilty pleasures: it’s horribly problematic and yet funny as hell with a good bit of charm. There are a number of comedies like that for me: I can’t help liking them even though every good sense says “This is horrible!” (Note: You’ve Got Mail is pretty much gold-plated in this category.) I was neutral on the gender-swap, leaning positive on the “revenge of blue collar over the 1 percent” theme, but this trailer pretty much tells me this will be the most unfunny flop of the spring.

• There's a real Alice in Wonderland/Narnia vibe to Disney's teaser for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Not even I knew that the Tchaikovsky ballet was based on an 1816 short story by E.T.A. Hoffman, later adapted by The Three Musketeers' Alexandre Dumas. There's some pretty dark stuff in the original source material, and I'm interested to see what the movie does with it, as a fantasy fan and as a former ballet sugarplum. Shh, don't tell anyone. 

* Read: sarcasm.


Monday-ish Linkspam

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

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

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

Joeheller1
Cartoon by Joe Heller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trailer Park

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

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

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

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