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February 2020

Oscars: Parasite wins big!

So, full confession: We haven't gotten through the Oscars telecast yet. The show was blacked out for the St. Louis market on ABC's streaming app FOR REASONS and the antenna was misbehaving on ABC only, possibly in stark protest to the insanity of blocking out St. Louis during the Oscars. You really didn't want us cheering St. Louis Superman, did you?

So now it's on streaming, but there simply haven't been enough consecutive hours where the CultureGeeks could get together to watch it. We've seen the bonkers opening number and the first hour of awards, and cheers to Idina Menzel and the International Elsas for a kickass performance from a movie that should have been nominated.

(Ian Smith wishes to register his disagreement, as he is a Toy Story baby and was all in for Woody and Buzz's final adventure, while Elizabeth Donald is solidly of the belief that Frozen 2 was an absolute masterpiece in art and beauty as well as some truly nifty character moments and I've gotten off track.)

Instead, then, we will offer thoughts on best picture from our resident filmmaker, Rahul Menon, who has been caping for Parasite since he first saw it - and was the first to recognize it could make history as the first foreign film to win best picture. -- ekd


Ever since I watched Parasite for the first time back in October, I have been in love with it and raving about it to pretty much every single person I meet. My friends, my colleagues, my teachers... I even had a 30-minute conversation with a random stranger I met in Los Angeles, while waiting for my food in front of a food truck!

It feels like I've personally been on a campaign for 기생충 for the last few months! From watching the movie for the first time, to meeting writer-director Bong Joon Ho for a brief, minute long conversation at the Golden Globes Symposium in LA, to randomly stumbling upon a rep at a party, that started a 2 month long conversation with its American distributors - Neon, the South Korean producers - CJ Entertainment, and representatives of Mr. Bong Joon Ho.

This eventually led to the Film Society of SIUE bringing the movie to our campus for a screening, making it the first-ever free university screening that happened outside of a film school, the first such screening outside of New York and Los Angeles, and something that I'm personally proud of: a screening personally approved by Bong Joon Ho.

To see him get on that stage and win those four deserving Oscars was so satisfying. He tied with Walt Disney for most number of Oscars won on a single night!

His reaction and speech after he won best director is what being a film lover is all about. When he noticed Martin Scorsese giving him a standing ovation, he couldn't contain his joy at being nominated with him, and mentioned that Scorsese was someone he studied while in film school. He asked everyone to give Martin Scorsese a standing ovation; now that's pure fanboy love right there!

He then shouted out "When no one knew me and my movies, Quentin Tarantino put my movies on his list, Quentin, I love you!"

Bong Joon Ho, you deserve all four of those Oscars you won today, you deserve the standing ovation those 3,400 people gave you. They say you should never meet your heroes, but meeting you for those 60 secs is something I'll cherish forever. Till we meet again, "Respect!"

Other notes:

Why the [bleep] was Eminem performing a song that won the Oscar 17 years ago?

• Joaquin Phoenix's vegan rant didn't go over well with the dairy industry.

"Too predictable, too white and too boring": Oscars rating at an all-time low

The Oscars has a diversity problem. (Which... duh, but it's a good analysis nonetheless.)


Rahul Menon was born and raised in New Delhi, India, and currently lives in Illinois. He is an assistant director, screenwriter and occasional actor, as well as a computer science engineer who worked as a software analyst and in advertising and marketing prior to entering the film industry. His screen debut was as screenwriter and assistant director of Saayanna Varthakal (Evening News) in 2018. He is currently pursuing a masters degree at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. FacebookInstagramIMDB.

Elizabeth Donald is a freelance journalist, editor, author, photographer, grad student and instructor, as well as the editor of CultureGeek. In her spare time, she has no spare time. Find out more at


According to author Jeff Strand: “Congratulations to the vile, appalling, morally bereft nominees for this year's Splatterpunk Awards!”

There really isn’t anything we could add to that. Jeff nails it perfectly!


For Immediate Release
February 9, 2020

Best-selling authors and Splatterpunk Award founders Wrath James White and Brian Keene are proud to announce the nominees for the 2020 Splatterpunk Awards, honoring superior achievement for works published in 2019 in the sub-genres of Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror. The nominees are recommended by readers, fans and peers. The nominees are as follows.

1. Carnivorous Lunar Activities by Max Booth III (Cinestate/Fangoria)
2. Killer Lake by W.D. Gagliani and David Benton (Deadite Press)
3. Reception by Kenzie Jennings (Death's Head Press)
4. Lakehouse Infernal by Christine Morgan (Deadite Press)
5. Merciless by Bryan Smith (Grindhouse Press)
6. Toxic Love by Kristopher Triana (Blood Bound Books)
7. They Kill by Tim Waggoner (Flame Tree Press)

1. White Trash Gothic Part 2 by Edward Lee (Section 31 Productions)
2. Saint Sadist by Lucas Mangum (Grindhouse Press)
3. Weeping Season by Sean O’Connor (Uafas Press)
4. How Much To..? by Matt Shaw (Self-Published)
5. One For the Road by Wesley Southard (Deadite Press)
6. Paradise, Maine by Jackson R. Thomas (Alien Agenda Publishing)

1. “Breaking the Waters” by Donyae Coles (from Pseudopod)
2. “Angelbait” by Ryan Harding (from The Big Book of Blasphemy, Necro Publications)
3. "Censered" by Christine Morgan (from And Hell Followed, Death’s Head Press)
4. “Shoulder Pain” by Chandler Morrison (from Macabre Museum Magazine)
5. “Param” by Susan Snyder (from Trigger Warning: Body Horror, Madness Heart Press)
6. “Norwegian Woods” by Jeremy Wagner (from The Big Book of Blasphemy, Necro Publications)

1. Dead Sea Chronicles by Tim Curran (Bloodshot Books)
2. Various States of Decay by Matt Hayward (Poltergeist Press)
3. Dawn of the Living Impaired, and Other Messed-Up Zombie Stories by Christine Morgan (Death’s Head Press)
4. This Is A Horror Book by Charles Austin Muir (Clash Books)
5. Dirty Rotten Hippies and Other Stories by Bryan Smith (Grindhouse Press)
6. Resisting Madness by Wesley Southard (Death’s Head Press)

1. And Hell Followed, edited by Jarod Barbee and Patrick C. Harrison III (Death’s Head Press)
2. The Big Book of Blasphemy, edited by Regina Mitchell and David G. Barnett (Necro Publications)
3. Dig Two Graves, edited by Jarod Barbee and Patrick C. Harrison III (Death’s Head Press)
4. Midnight In The Graveyard, edited by Kenneth W. Cain (Silver Shamrock Publishing)
5. The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg, edited by Sam Richard and Brendan Vidito (Weirdpunk Books)
6. Polish Extreme, edited by Edward Lee & Karolina Kaczkowska (Necro Publications)

A panel of judges composed of professionals, critics and scholars in the field will now begin the process of reading each nominated work, and selecting a winner for each category. Winners will be announced at KillerCon, taking place in Austin, Texas this August 7th through the 9th.

In addition to the winners, author and editor Edward Lee will receive the annual J.F. Gonzalez Lifetime Achievement Award honoring his significant contributions to the sub-genres of Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror. Previous recipients are David J. Schow and David G. Barnett.

Four notes of interest regarding this year’s awards:

1. While each category normally has six nominees, press will note that the Best Novel category for this year contains seven. That is due to a tie in the recommendation process.

2. While scholar and editor Regina Mitchell has served as a judge in previous years, she will not be a part of this year’s judging panel, as that would violate the award’s rules regarding eligible works (for The Big Book of Blasphemy). Her replacement, along with the identities of the other judges, will be announced in a separate forthcoming press release.

3. This year saw a significant increase in the number of women and authors who identify as female writing Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror. The recommendation process evidenced readers and fans mentioning a number of new female voices.

4. This year also saw a significant increase in the number of consumers reading Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror, as evidenced by the number of new readers participating in the recommendation process.

Press inquiries can be sent to Wrath James White or Brian Keene.

Superb Owl 2020: Wave that mustache!

What halftime show? 

(Yes, I have Thoughts on that, but others are expressing it much more eloquently elsewhere on the net. Suffice to say I'm very much torn between appreciation of amazing performances with overtly political statements and cultural value, and wanting to smack the cameraman and director for the ridiculous male-gaze crotch shots. Those terrific women deserved better treatment for their work.)

Instead, we go for the commercials here at CultureGeek, because we are all about pop culture here and Super Bowl ads are a reflection of pop culture, of the economy, of the nation's mindset. "Nervous" is a word that comes to mind - not many risks taken, not much in the way of a standout, but some ads definitely resonated more than others.

As you know if you follow my Twitter account, each year I observe the Superb Owl at a party my dear friends throw in part to provide me a focus group for the commercials. This is in no way a scientific experiment, nor is it a representative sample, given that the entire room is full of middle-aged midwesterners and a couple of twentysomethings. My research methods professor would wring her hands in despair if I presented it to her.

But when you have a blowout winner like Sam Elliott's mustache, it deserves recording. 



Nothing else came anywhere close when I tallied the votes. 

A distant second among my crew was Jason Momoa's sly poke at the unrealistic male-physique expectations of a superhero actor while pitching Rocket Mortgage, with help from Lisa Bonet.



Funny usually works. Funny are the commercials that people seem to remember the most, whether or not they actually communicate about the product. But remember that dying is easy; comedy is hard. The running gag of "later" for Tide Pods fell utterly flat with my focus group, and for me. A running gag really hasn't worked since the Energizer Bunny, and the Tide Pod guy just didn't measure up.

Then there are the heartwarming ads, like third-place "Loretta" by Google. Of course, some folks pointed out that it could also be seen as a creepy reminder of how much of our personal information is stored on the net, but for most people, this one was Kleenex-worthy.



Utter failures included the avocado ad, the Hard Rock Cafe throwdown, that weird hummus ad, Pepsi's attempt to co-opt the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" (which is about a partner's death, not the color of her soda, guys), pretty much all of the 5G ads that had our programmer friend moaning in despair, and the Pringles riff on They Live with Rick and Morty (with the exception of one tween who voted for it). 

Others got a single vote, or no votes, but they caught my eye. Among them were WeatherTech's dog-survives-cancer, the Baaaaaaston accents for a self-parking Hyundai, New York Life's touching "Agape" spot, and Secret's "knock down walls" piece.

I also need to give a tip of the hat to the Bryan Cranston Shining parody for Mountain Dew, not because it was a brilliant ad, but because according to his Twitter, he is donating the funds to Film Aid, an organization dedicated to helping aspiring filmmakers. 

Speaking of films.... the race for best trailer ended up a three-way tie! Votes were evenly split between Black Widow, Mulan and the Marvel lineup on Disney+. By adding my own vote, I tip it to Mulan, which looks to be amazing.



Traditionally I don't review house ads, but the "take it to the house, kid" NFL ad meant a great deal to all the sports fans who actually recognized the people in the ad.

Also, extra credit should go to Walmart (did I really type that?) which might be evil but designed a terrific ad to shamelessly manipulate our nostalgia for good science fiction.



I also have to give props to the "world is out of sorts" bit about giving the world a Snickers to save us all - and got the first out-loud laugh of the night from the focus group. Here's the extended version.



And while it was forecasted waaaaay in advance with the alleged death of Mr. Peanut, I absolutely lost it when I saw Mr. Clean and the Kool-aid Man at the funeral. The debate raged on Twitter whether he was a ripoff of Groot or Baby Yoda. I'll let y'all fight it out in the comments. Bonus: Wesley Snipes rips up his eulogy in disgust. 



Some flubs here:

• I don't believe for a second that Dwayne Johnson has ever been on WW, the artist formerly known as Weight Watchers. It would have been better to show someone who actually has had to wrestle with being overweight. Still, the "running mates" gag was mildly amusing in an election year.

• Three Bloomberg political ads and one Trump ad. No other campaign could afford a $5.6 million spot?

• Trailers for Top Gun: Maverick and Fast and Furious No.31395 were unimpressive. There was allegedly one for a new Minions movie as well, and I must have missed it.

• Dear Pop-Tarts: Nobody asked for a pretzel version. Just stop.

• Michelob: Buying beer makes farms go organic. I'm not sure that's how economics works.

• The Reese's Take 5 workplace ad was more off-putting than appetizing for my whole crew. 

• The Fargo parody for SquareSpace made about as much sense as the real movie. Maybe it would be more effective with someone who, y'know, liked the movie... 

• The less said about the Alexa ad, the better. At least in this space. My full thoughts on using "fake news" as a goddamn gag to sell Amazon toys - when Jeff Bezos owns the frigging Washington Post - will be saved for a different space, when I can write about it without profanity. 

But in a flaw of timing, we took the votes on the ads before they finally aired Jeep's "Groundhog Day" rehash with Bill Murray and Stephen Tobolowsky. I've always been impressed by Tobolowsky, who has been in 200 movies and is also an accomplished musician and writer - far more than "Ned the Head." I was dying through the whole thing. Extra points to the groundhog's doubletake during whack-a-mole and the groundhog bike helmet.

Here's the expanded:



In all, none of the ads really stood out the way some previous ads have, in what is essentially a slice of American consumerism and the state of the economy piled up in a few dozen expensive spots. Mostly the companies played it safe, and while that might be disappointing for some, I find it a welcome relief from the Years of Rampant Sexism or the gross-out GoDaddy ads of a decade ago. 

Did we miss one? Do you disagree with the focus group? Share in the comments! About anything but the halftime show!


Elizabeth Donald is a freelance journalist, editor, author, photographer, grad student and instructor, as well as the editor of CultureGeek. In her spare time, she has no spare time. Find out more at