Previous month:
December 2017
Next month:
February 2018

January 2018

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.