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The $543 DVD

Tonight my husband and I will watch a DVD that cost us $543.

Then we will return it, but we won't get the money back.

This is probably the dumbest thing we have collectively done in the nine years that we have been a couple. I can't say it was the dumbest thing we've done in our lives, because there were some truly questionable personal choices back in the nineties that don't bear close examination. 

But Othello is probably in the top ten list.

I was a Netflix early adopter, back in the days before it was an app on the Apple TV that popped up and fed me entertainment at the press of a teeny tiny button on a teeny tiny remote we keep losing in the couch cushions. I signed on back in the days when you ordered discs by mail and everyone knew that wasn't going to last when you could drive over to Blockbuster and get your movie right away. Who waits for mail?

Note to self: Don't attempt to play the stock market. It's not going to work out well for you.

When Netflix launched streaming, I hopped on board, and eventually settled into one of the dual plans: $7.99 a month for the single-disc DVD service and $7.99 for the one-screen-at-a-time streaming which is now $8.99 and thank goodness we only have one TV. Yes, even at CultureGeek Manor where we watch waaaaaaay too many shows, one television set is sufficient.

It was Christmas 2013, and I had a hankering for some Shakespeare. The DVD queue had grown to at least 70 movies, and so I scanned through and picked the 1995 Laurence Fishburne Othello. All I knew about it was that its poster used to hang in my college newsroom, and that it costarred Kenneth Branaugh (at the height of his popularity) as Iago. Directed by Oliver Parker, it seemed like a fun way to spend a holiday evening. It arrived on New Year's Eve, 2013.

We still have it.

I don't know what happened that New Year's Eve, or how we forgot about Othello. It got shoved in a drawer in the entertainment center, and every once in a while one of us would say, "Hey, we need to watch that so we can send it back." Months passed, and I often noted that we were paying the monthly fee for our Netflix DVD service and not using it. 

"This is dumb," I declared on more than one occasion. "Let's just send it back and get another movie." 

But wait. Othello still looks like a good movie. We've held onto it this long, isn't it silly not to at least watch it before we send it back?

Just one more month...

Next week begins the semester for our collegiate family. If you follow us on social media, you know that my husband, my son and I are all in college together for various purposes. This is, at long last, my husband's second-to-last semester as an undergrad, and I am beginning my last year working toward my masters degree. When we embarked on this crazy adventure, we had to do a serious budget cut, and the Netflix DVD plan almost got axed.

Almost. Because... isn't it cheaper to use the DVD mailing service than to go to the movies? Sure, if we actually sent back Othello. The best of intentions...

This fall, my husband is taking a class on philosophy and film. The syllabus lists approximately 25 films that he will be required to watch out of class. Some of them are excellent films, like Lawrence of Arabia and The Exorcist (though I cringe that his first viewing of Lawrence will be on our little TV instead of the big screen where it firmly belongs). Some of them give me hives, like The Big Lebowski and This is Spinal Tap (see, I just lost about 40 percent of my readers, didn't I? The Dude does not abide.)

No, they're not studying Othello, but that would be hilarious.

This class is problematic for us, because of the 25 films, we only own about five of them. (Like I wouldn't have Alien. Sheesh.) A few are available through the Kanopy system at the university, and a grand total of one each on Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime. I sent a missive to the Film Professor, but sadly he has been downsizing his formerly insane collection and does not have any of them.

I examined our local library, and found a good number of them are available and most of the rest  through interlibrary loan. We have been tracking which ones we can acquire through various means, and which will have to be rented. 

"I can't believe how few of these are on Netflix," I griped. Bad enough that we'd have to spend money on nonsense like Spinal Tap, but Re-AnimatorEvil Dead 2? I'm not objecting to Vertigo, mind you, but Zulu? I have to pay money for this while I'm paying perfectly good cash to three (3) streaming services....

My son piped up, "What about the Netflix DVDs?"

Crickets. Staring. 

"I'm an idiot," I declared.

Yes, we were still paying $7.99 a month for the DVD rental service. I looked up our queue and found Othello listed at the top, on rent since December 30, 2013. Just to make myself cringe, I calculated how much we have spent on the DVD rental service while Othello has slept in his drawer, and it came to $543.32.

Both of us will be studying film this year: he's got the philosophy class, and I'll be beginning work on my thesis, which will involve watching approximately every film about journalism since time began. The Netflix DVDs will finally get some use, and save us the trouble of renting all those bloody movies.

But we'll have to watch Othello first. I mean, we've had it this long. It's only right.

 

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 donaldmedia.com.

Cross-posted to other sites.

Guest Voices: The Love That Hears Its Name Whispered, With Laughter

(Note: As they sometimes say on NPR, the following is by no means explicit but does acknowledge the existence of sex.)

I had a great idea for this entry. I was going to talk about the way pop culture, from movies to TV shows to popular music to comic books and more, has a gender disparity in the way masturbation is portrayed depending on whether the person engaged in the act is male or female. It could be summed up in what the activity suggested about the person as a social animal: If the character is a female, this is an empowering act that shows “she doesn’t need a man” to have a satisfying sexual life, but if it the character is a male, the act is humiliating proof that he “can’t find a woman.”

(Apologies for the heteronormativity and gender binary-ness of it all.)

The thesis fits the pop culture I’m most familiar with. And therein lies the flaw at the heart of the experiment: a pitifully small sample size, even though some people think of me as a walking encyclopedia.

Thankfully, you and I have been rescued from a likely embarrassing outcome by someone else with the time and resources to actually do the research correctly: Australian academic Lauren Rosewarne’s Masturbation in Pop Culture: Screen, Society, Self (Lexington Books, 2014) is a soundly researched look at the phenomenon using more than 600 instances as its evidence base.

And now I will say a novel thing you never hear online: I was wrong.

To the extent that masturbation is talked about, it’s often in the sense of an “everyone does it, but we don’t talk about it” talk from parent to child. But the “caught in the act” scenario applies to men and women, the “sad and lonely and looking for release” depiction goes both ways, and there are even examples like Michael Winterbottom’s NC-17 indie film 9 Songs where not only is the character involved with someone, they might even be in the same bed.

Rosewarne’s book is a fascinating read, though it’s priced as a college textbook, so reader be rich (sic). So instead of going off on a bunch of anecdotes — which would not constitute data — I’ll instead leave you with one anecdote and a recommendation, not in that order.

* The Recommendation: Chynna Clugston-Flores’ indie comic Blue Monday (available in collected editions from Image Comics) is a must-read for anyone who likes post-punk and New Wave music, manga aesthetics, and the high school comedies of John Hughes and his imitators, or preferably all of the above. But John Hughes is now problematic, I know, so I’ll add that those problems are not on evidence here.

 Volume 4 of the series, Painted Moon, has a riotous sequence in which the core group of friends discovers that two of their own have never learned to manage their tensions, so to speak, and peer-pressure them into (separately) getting in touch with themselves. Queue up the Buzzcocks’ punk classic “Orgasm Addict” as hijinks ensue and Bleu, our aquamarine-tressed heroine, suddenly starts getting a lot of bathroom passes.

The whole series is a delight, but this installment of the series turned the “horny boy/shameful girl” stereotype on its ear to hilarious effect.

* The Anecdote: I don’t know why I didn’t know until … more recently than I care to admit … that Cyndi Lauper’s hit single “She Bop” was an empowering anthem about masturbation, but I’m absolutely positive that neither of the junior high teachers who used the song for a unit on verb conjugation knew anything about that, even though the song was one of the reasons records eventually got labeled. (Cyndi Lauper, Guns ’n Roses, Sam Kinison, 2 Live Crew, they were all alike, right?)

In the same way that Bleu Finnegan or Drew Braverman of TV’s “Parenthood” may have loved themselves a little too much and too often, that song was bored into my brain as we tortured the rhyme scheme with such verb tenses as “they shall have bopped.”

(The voice of Cyndi Lauper was also present for a more poignant and strange moment in my high school years when I was picked to play the color Green in a teacher inservice about a possibly pseudoscientific personality model called “True Colors.”

I love Cyndi Lauper now because I am not history’s greatest monster, and I hope she got some royalties for those bits of strangeness. But 30 years after its release, if I hear “She Bop” coming on the radio, I’m still changing the station.

Jason Tippitt is a recovering seminarian and mostly recovered former journalist living a few miles beyond that place you stop to use the restroom off Interstate 40 between Nashville and Memphis.


Superb Owl welcomes our robot overlords

It wasn't the most thrilling Super Bowl ever, and that's discounting the game.

As CultureGeek isn't much for the sportsball (wake me when the Cardinals play), the real focus is on the commercials. The Super Bowl is pretty much the highlight of the year for the advertising industry, and often gives us a clue as to the mood of the country, the state of business, and a reflection on society.

And all of the above seemed to return a general "meh."

By the end of the night, several people in my decidedly-nonscientific focus group opined that the commercials were bland and dull, none of them really standing out in memory. I had to compile a list from my Tweets to remind them what commercials they had seen.

Top of their list were:

• Mercedes voice control. It was a little amusing to see the world reorganized for the better by a simple voice command, and it could easily have fallen into ugly humor if the Man with the Power had chosen to make slapstick comedy happen. Instead, he helped lost cats find their way home and let an ATM shower money on the population, which probably means a little less if you can afford a Mercedes. 

• NFL Banquet. I supposed it meant a whole lot more to watch former football players wreck a ballroom if you, y'know, recognized any of them. If you were a football fan, it was one of the top spots of the night. The NFL put some serious effort into rehabilitating its image for the Super Bowl, to varying effectiveness if you're reading Twitter today. They apparently went for the laughs as much as the heartstrings, and had some of us (i.e. me) looking up the various players crashing about the ballroom. This won the USA Today Ad Meter by consumer ratings. 

• Amazon Alexa. Harrison Ford seems to be taking well to "Hollywood's grumpy old man" role, as he argues with his dog about ordering more dog food via Amazon. This one got high marks from my focus group, though the long version (with multiple other failed Alexa roles) was pretty much entirely sublimated by Ford and his pup. "I'm not speaking to you." 

• On the heartwarming side, Microsoft's adaptive controller caught everyone's attention. While the cynic in me wonders how fair it is to drag families with disabilities into the spotlight to sell computer gear... it does highlight something that maybe not everyone in the world is aware of. Computer companies don't do adaptive technology out of the kindness of their hearts, but the benefit of them cannot be underestimated, and so I'm not surprised that it came in third for audience reaction.

Other honorable mentions went to:

• The Hyundai elevator from hell, though putting your product on the same block as "the talk," jury duty and a root canal doesn't seem like the most positive association.

• Budweiser's "Blowin' in the Wind." Several people complained about Bob Dylan's counterculture anthem selling beer, but since Dylan is still alive, I assume he consented - and it's technically about conservation. And beer. Plus doggy. And Clydesdales. At any rate, I enjoyed it more than all the medievalesque "Bud Knight" spots put together - yes, including the Game of Thrones crossover.

• The Our Planet trailer, because it was pretty.

 

The worst ads go to...

Chunky milk, which was ostensibly to sell Mint Mobile. This seems to be a pretty decent cell service, so why gross out all of America with the milk thing? Half my "focus group" was so nauseated they left the room before the commercial told us what they were selling. It's all over their website now, and while I might be interested in a service, I can't look at the commercial without getting sick to my stomach. 

Andy Warhol eats Burger King. This rated absolute lowest in the USA Today poll, even though Adweek called it "brilliant." Thus illustrates the divide between Madison Avenue and the rest of us. Half the viewership doesn't know who Andy Warhol was, and many of the others wouldn't recognize his face as much as his name, myself included. It's long, it's odd, and it's basically a segment from an art film in 1982. They did have the approval of Warhol's foundation and the son of art-film director Jorgen Leth (sorry, I know there's funky characters in there but Typepad won't allow it). The actual film is four minutes and 20 seconds of Warhol eating a Whopper. Note: Warhol initially suggested McDonald's instead of Burger King

Michelob's nature whisperer. This was apparently something called "autonomous sensory meridian response," which is the use of ambient sounds for positive associations. Or something. Apparently it's either extremely compelling or annoying, and in our room, the response was mostly "annoying." I think they might not have been as annoyed if it wasn't selling Michelob. It came in 51 out of the 58 commercials, according to USA Today Ad Meter. 

• T-Mobile's "Texts from Hell" series. Way to remind us of all the wonderful things we'd be missing if we gave up our phones. Wait.

Bon and Viv's spiked seltzer mermaids. It looked better on Aquaman.

 

Theme of the year: Robots.

Do you welcome our robot overlords? Because there was the aforementioned Alexa, taking over all aspects of life; electric/smart cars from Audi and Mercedes-Benz; Pringles' miserable A.I. who can never taste the chips; WeatherTech's auto-feeding of cute doggos; unhappy robots watching from outside the window as we drink Michelob Ultra; TurboTax's creepy RoboChild who wants to be an accountant... but can't. 

Do you want Terminators? Because this is how we get Terminators. Machines are getting smarter, and now we're giving them personalities, and making them miserable. Soon they will overthrow us. On the other hand, maybe they'll make better commercials. 

 

Trailer Park!

Even the people who ignored the game for #TeamBacon came running to the living room for the Avengers: Endgame trailer, which led the Captain Marvel trailer by a nose. Everyone brakes for Marvel. 

There was one happy vote for Fast and Furious Part 3924285, but we all ignore her. The younglings were a strange mixture of happiness and dread at Toy Story 4; they want more of Woody and Buzz, as does everyone, but at what cost? #pleasedontsuck 

Personally, I liked the Twilight Zone teaser, which made me very happy. However, I knew it was coming, having read about it in the trades at least a year ago. For several of the younglings, it was the first they'd heard of it, and knowing Jordan Peele's talent, they were over the moon. Mission accomplished.

 

And the best ad goes to....

Washington Post. Okay, to be fair, I said at the beginning of the evening that unless Tom Hanks tripped over his shoelaces halfway through the ad, it was probably going to be my favorite. More of a PSA for the journalism profession than advertising the Post specifically, it is part of the "Democracy dies in darkness" ad campaign specifically targeting the negative preconceptions the public carries about journalism.

So it's pretty much in my wheelhouse, and expect a much fuller discussion later this week on Donald Media. It's the first time a newspaper has done a Super Bowl ad, and it ranked 13 out of 58 in the Ad Meter. I might note that while most Super Bowl ads spend most of the year in conception and development, the Post did its ad in about a week. 

Of course, the Post can do this, because they're owned by Jeff Bezos who can pretty much fund a Super Bowl ad out of his grocery money. But it was still an amazing thing to see an ad standing up for my profession, and it touched my heart. Not so much the trolls of Twitter, mind you, as well as some malcontents in the profession. But look for that on Donald Media.

In the meantime, it stands as the best of the year for me, and apparently for quite a few others. 


Linkspam wishes Captain America a happy birthday

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

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

Happy birthday, Captain.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RIP

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

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

 

Trailer Park

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

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

 

Coming This Weekend  

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

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

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

  

Continuing:

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


CultureGeek ventures near the Murder House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stevetrevor

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

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

DLPCA_DLTWNSQCHAR2_20170910_8096115675

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

RIP

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trailer Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coming This Weekend

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

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

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

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

 

Continuing:

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

 

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

 

Happy Father’s Day!


Linkspam stands with artists in need

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RIP

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

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

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

 

Trailer Park

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

 

Coming This Weekend

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

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

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

 

Continuing:

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

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


Linkspam applies for secretary of the week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RIP

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

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

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

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

 

Trailer Park

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

 

Coming This Weekend

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

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

The Misandrists. Just… no.

 

Continuing:

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

 

Loislegs

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

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

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

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

 


Hollywood has run out of ideas, but Linkspam is still watching

In the category of “Hollywood has run out of ideas but we’re still there,” Zimbio did a roundup of prequels, sequels and remakes, some of which have already come out.

Believe it or not, many/most of them are not head-shaking exercises in whyyyyyy? We all know there will be another round of MCU films, most notably the next Avengers movie (see Trailer Park) and I may be dragged kicking and screaming to another Pacific Rim film, this time with bigger plot holes! Likewise Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, because my hate for Jurassic World won’t stop my eternally optimistic heart from remembering what it felt like to see the brontosaurus for the first time, even if the trailer shows us it’s going to be more of the same nasty, misogynistic claptrap.

Cautiously optimistic: Ocean’s 8, this time with an all-female caper. Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling and more. I am actually not hating this idea. And, strangely, the sequel to Mamma Mia, whose trailer actually tempted me to consider watching the first one. Bonus: Cher! Plus Mary Poppins Returns, which makes me veer from excitement to “should this exist?” - along with Bedknobs and Broomsticks, with Kate Winslet replacing Angela Lansbury in the trademark cardigan.

And despite myself, one (last? again?) Halloween movie, with Jamie Lee Curtis returning despite her previous death(s). And Nick Castle! #pleasedontsuck

Actually excited: Solo. Duh. Plus Incredibles 2: Finally, the live-action Mulan, and The Predator (What. I liked Predators. Unfortunately I also saw AvP 1 and 2.) I’m trying to be cautious about X-Men Dark Phoenix after the abomination that was X-3, but… I can’t help it. Only, how will they do it without Wolverine?

OMG Whyyyy: Overboard. Problematic premise that was funny because it was the 1980s and we didn’t really know better, now with less charm. Bonus The Crow Reborn, which replaces goth artist Brandon Lee with Jason Momoa of Aquaman bulk. Confession: I really rather hated the original, despite Lee’s undeniable charm, and I don’t know how I’ll feel about a bigger, badder, more violent Crow.

Huh?: A Star is Born, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper with… Andrew Dice Clay? Also: Scarface, with Diego Luna in Al Pacino’s role? Meanwhile, Jungle Book gets yet another attempt - how many times will they try to make this movie?

And of course we must have the sequels: another Mission Impossible, Aquaman, Transformers (Bumblebee backstory), Wreck-it Ralph, Ant-Man, Deadpool, The Equalizer, and Fantastic Beasts.

But there is only one Grinch, people. And his name is Boris Karloff.

• And once again I am torn between “yay!” and “why does this exist?” Well, it doesn’t yet, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued by the idea of more Buffy. Hey, most of the major players are (um) between gigs at the moment, and if they’re going to do more Buffy, best get at it while the vampire characters can still pass for their “ages.” I’m not knocking them; that’s what poor James Marsters said when beleaguered once again with rumors of Buffy or Spike: The Movie. “If it’s going to happen, it ought to be soon,” he said. “Vampires don’t age, but I do.” (I’m paraphrasing, I can’t find the original link.)

Hey Joss: If you’re looking for something to do, I hear there’s this really awesome space Western with built-in fans…

Duolingo is now offering Klingonese as an actual language you can learn. Qa’pla! (Or is it Qapla’?)

• Submissions are now open for the 2018 Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, screening films written, directed, edited or produced by St. Louis natives. Check out the July event and how to submit YOUR film here. Likewise, check out the St. Louis Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival, a juried competition with cash prizes hosted by Cinema St. Louis. Details here.

• I am a long-time member of the Sarah Connor Charm School, and as they point out: “Do you want self-aware A.I. killing us all? This is how you create self-aware A.I. that will kill us all!”

• Tor.com has a series of “And Related Subjects” in which writers write about not-writing. This week it’s terrific tie-in author Keith DeCandido on his martial arts journey.

• The family of Marvin Gaye prevailed in Robin Thicke’s appeal on the copyright infringement suit over “Blurred Lines.” The suit awarded $5.3 million plus 50 percent royalties to Gaye’s estate after the trial judge ruled “Blurred Lines” was illegally copied from Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.” Thicke has been appealing over the hit song, but the appeal was denied.

The death of Toys ‘R Us has all of us Gen-Xers in mourning. So if you feel like hysterical weeping over your lost childhood, check out a minor-key pop remix of the Toys ‘R Us jingle as dirge, going viral right now. Meanwhile, the founder of Toys ‘R Us died, ostensibly not because of the impending demise.

• Did you know that Timeless was un-cancelled? Did everyone know this but me? I remember mourning it, as a fun-if-occasionally-stupid show that qualified as my guilty pleasure. Season 2 is on its way after all!

 

RIP

• Stephen Hawking, renowned scientist and all-around genius. A former Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, he was known as much for his ability to popularize science as for his own theories. At 76, he outlived his original two-year diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis by more than 50 years. As several put it online, the collective IQ of the United States just dropped significantly. He did a brief cameo on Star Trek: The Next Generation, joining Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Data for a poker game. (Spoiler: They don’t get along well.) Allegedly, on his visit to the set, he asked to be put in the captain’s chair (a rare departure from his wheelchair) and when he saw the warp drive set, he said, “I’m working on that.”

Steve Reevis, Native American actor featured in Dances With Wolves, Fargo, Twins and many others. He grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation and began acting in 1987, with a long career in supporting and leading roles. He died in December, but his death was only recently announced online.

Kate Wilhelm, speculative fiction author. Co-founder of the Clarion Writers Workshop, Wilhelm has been published since 1963 in dozens of books, short stories, magazines and more. Her death adds to the number of founding mothers of speculative fiction, as we lose another generation of our mentors.

Floyd Carter Sr., 95, former Tuskagee airman who married one of the all-female repair crew. He joined George Lucas for the screening of the film Red Tails about the Airmen, who were the first black aviators in the U.S. military. He died last week.

Robert Scheerer, longtime television director who chalked up 11 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of Deep Space Nine and two Voyager in his era. Among his credits are “The Measure of a Man,” which I consider one of the finest hours of television, and “Shadowplay” as well as “Chain of Command, Pt. 1.” He was 89.

 

Trailer Park

Infinity War. Final trailer. If they kill Cap, I will riot. (It will be a small riot, but I will riot nonetheless.) Chris Evans said he’s probably done with Cap after Avengers 4, which is NOT good for me because he’s about 65 percent of the reason I watch, but good in that I guess that means he’s not dying in Infinity War.

An Ordinary Man, starring Sir Ben Kingsley as a war criminal in hiding. Final trailer.

• I don’t necessarily mind that the new Karate Kid movie is rehabilitating the bully from the first movie as the new Cobra Kai. I rather liked the idea that a) bullies are usually raised/taught by bullies, b) people can outgrow childish dickishness, and his character did congratulate Daniel at the end of the first one; and c) bonus points for an overweight girl fighting well. However, making Daniel into an utter prick of a car salesman tells me this falls more in the line of the ill-considered Heathers remake: See? The bullies are really the good guys! Underscored by the voiceover about “real” martial arts training a la military without all that weak self-control and inner strength meditation. We don’t need that! Entitled white heterosexuals are the ones who are picked on now! And will that heavyset girl be a real character, or a running fat joke? Stay tuned.

Broadway trailer for the upcoming Frozen looks promising!

 

Coming This Weekend

The Hallquist Brothers are playing at Knights of Columbus in Edwardsville this weekend. $6 in advance, $7 at the door. These kids are amazing, you should definitely catch the show.

Pacific Rim Uprising is here, god save us, and while I don’t think it’ll knock Black Panther off his throne, it should take the weekend. Also released this week: Sherlock Gnomes (no), Isle of Dogs, Unsane, Midnight Sun, and Paul, Apostle of Christ.

 

Continuing:

BLACK PANTHER because of course it is. Also A Wrinkle in Time, Love Simon, Annihilation, I Can Only Imagine, Thoroughbreds, Hurricane Heist, Death Wish, The Strangers, Gringo, Red Sparrow, Game Night, Tomb Raider and Peter Rabbit.

Limited: Jumanji,The Greatest Showman, The Shape of Water, Fifty Shades Freed and Three Billboards.


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!