RIP Feed

Farewell to kings: Neil Peart 1952-2020

Pardon my language, but fuck cancer.

I’ve lost several family and friends to the disease, and now I’ve lost one of my heroes. Neil Peart, the drummer of the band Rush and considered one of the best drummers to have ever lived, has passed away due to brain cancer.

Peart joined Rush to replace the original drummer, and bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson called him ‘the new guy’ even decades later. Peart's skills on the drums was legendary, and he also served as the band’s main lyricist. These skills served the band well and several big hit songs and albums followed.

The main song that you think of when you say the word Rush is "Tom Sawyer," a song that I hold dear to my heart.

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Photo from Modern Drummer

From the obituary in Rolling Stone: "Peart was one of rock’s greatest drummers, with a flamboyant yet utterly precise style that paid homage to his hero, the Who’s Keith Moon, while expanding the technical and imaginative possibilities of his instrument. He joined singer-bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in Rush in 1974, and his musicianship and literate, wildly creative lyrics  – which drew on Ayn Rand and science fiction, among other influences – helped make the trio one of the classic-rock era’s essential bands. His drum fills on songs like 'Tom Sawyer' were pop hooks in their own right, each one an indelible mini-composition; his lengthy drum solos, carefully constructed and full of drama, were highlights of every Rush concert."

To watch Peart perform on the drums was to see a man possessed with the music, the rhythm, and the sheer joy of being one with what you were born to do. I was honored to see Rush play live in concert in 2015. It was a night that I will always remember, and seeing him perform his drum solo was a sight to behold.

Today, for me, the music died. I saw the news and I was literally crying as though I knew this man personally and that we had shared beers at a bar for years. Other singers and musicians that I loved have passed in recent years, but none of those deaths hit me like this.

I think it’s because the finality that this means to the band and the music. You can’t just go out and get another drummer to replace Peart. I believe the reason for this is because he still practiced, took drumming lessons all the time from other drummers, and refused to be anything but the best he could be. When he retired after their last tour in 2015, he noted that he was in constant physical pain during the tour and that he had bad tendons and carpal tunnel in both arms. So as much as it hurt to see him go, I understood as a fan that it was necessary.

He was diagnosed with glioblastoma three years ago and kept it hidden from the fans. It is a sad day for music, for Rush fans, and for me. His lyrics and drumming reached my soul and heart, and I will always love the enjoyment the band Rush gave me over the years. You were a master drummer, Mr. Peart. I will miss your skills and they will never be replaced.

 

Jim D. Gillentine is an author and self-professed comics geek, having immersed himself in four-color prose since the 1970s, and is the biggest Godzilla fan in the western hemisphere. He is currently completing his bachelor's degree at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Website.


RIP: Those we lost in 2019

List and commentary compiled by Jason R. Tippitt. Rest in peace, shining stars.

 

Jan. 2: Darwin Bromley, 68, was founder of Mayfair Games, which produced the DC Heroes role-playing game, an RPG based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and board games.

Jan. 4: Louisa Moritz, 82, a Cuban-American actress who played Rose in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starred in the comedy anthology Love, American Style, and was the first woman to formally accuse Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct.

Jan. 12: Batton Lash, 65, an American cartoonist who was co-creator of the long-running independent comic series Supernatural Law and author of the 1994 one-shot Archie Meets The Punisher. More recently, he was a libertarian blogger.

Jan. 15: Carol Channing, 97, a singing and dancing star of stage and film whose credits included Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Jan. 16: Lorna Doom, 61, bassist for the punk band The Germs both in its 1970s heyday and during its 2005-09 reunion.

Jan. 18: Boo, 12, a Pomeranian renowned as “The World’s Cutest Dog.” He had more than 17 million followers on Facebook and starred in four photo-books as well as appearing on the red carpet with Kristen Bell one time.

Jan. 19: Ted McKenna, 68, a Scottish rock ’n’ roll drummer with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, the greatest ‘70s band you’ve likely never heard about if you’re a fellow American; and Tony Mendez, 78, a former CIA agent whose exploits were recounted in part in the film Argo.

Jan. 25: Dušan Makavejev, 86, a Serbian film director whose works included W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971, a look at communism and sexual politics) and The Coca-Cola Kid (1985, a romantic comedy starring Eric Roberts).

Feb. 3: Kristoff St. John, 52, an actor best known for his long stint on the soap opera The Young & the Restless.

Feb. 7: Albert Finney, 82, an English actor who made it all seem effortless and played everyone from Winston Churchill (The Gathering Storm, 2002) to Kilgore Trout (Breakfast of Champions, 1999) to the foundling Tom Jones (1963) and Hercule Poirot (Murder on the Orient Express, 1973).

Feb. 9: Tomi Ungerer, 87, an Alsatian artist and writer who did children’s books (Flat Stanley) and adult works, autobiography and fantasy, and whose illustration extended to theatre and film (Dr. Strangelove, 1964; Monterey Pop, 1968).

Feb. 12: W.E.B. Griffin, 89, a prolific author of mystery and military novels — 38 books in six series under that name alone, with 11 other pen names and three other variants on his real name used to write even more.

Feb. 16: Bruno Ganz, 77, a Swiss-born star of German television and film whose works included the last-days-of-Hitler film Downfall and Wim Wenders’ classic Wings of Desire.

Feb. 18: Toni Myers, 77, an award-winning documentarian. She took full advantage of the IMAX format in films such as Blue Planet (1990), Hubble (2010), and A Beautiful Planet (2016).

Feb. 21: Beverley Owen, 81, who originated the role of Marilyn on the 1960s horror sitcom The Munsters before leaving Hollywood to become a wife, mother, and scholar (earning a master’s degree in early American history in 1989); and Peter Tork, 77, an actor and musician best known as the keyboardist and bass player for The Monkees.

Feb. 26: Jeraldine Saunders, 95, who channeled her experiences as the first known female cruise ship directors into a memoir that spawned the TV series The Love Boat. She was also a nationally syndicated horoscope writer.

Feb. 27: Nathaniel Taylor, 80, an American comic best remembered for his long recurring role as “Rollo” on Sanford & Son and its spinoffs Grady and Sanford.

March 4: Keith Flint, 49, a dancer and sometime motorcycle racer turned frontman of the English alternative-dance group The Prodigy; and actor Luke Perry, 52, the former teen idol (Beverly Hills 90210 and the film Buffy the Vampire Slayer) who at the time of his death was the only tether attaching The CW’s Archie Comics-based Riverdale to anything resembling sanity.

March 8: George Morfogen, 85, an American character actor best remembered for the original V miniseries and as a long-term cast member on the prison drama Oz, where he portrayed one of the two oldest men in the cell block.

March 16: Dick Dale, 81, the undisputed king of surf rock guitar; and actor Richard Erdman, 93, whose career went back to Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Stalag 17 (1953) but also included his dry turn as the insult-slinging student Leonard on the sitcom Community.

March 22: Scott Walker, 76, an American-born singer-songwriter (born Noel Scott Engel) who joined the “family” band The Walker Brothers (not siblings, none of them named Walker) to record “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More,” “Take It Easy on Yourself,” and other pop, folk, and even country songs that did a lot better in Britain and Europe than in the U.S. As a solo artist, his increasingly avant-garde works featured lush arrangements, more than a few covers of the Belgian chanson artist Jacques Brel, a baritone voice that begs the listener to stop and pay attention, and exploration of unusual sounds and departures from traditional ideas of what a song even is. Admirers included David Bowie, Marc Almond, Brian Eno, Pulp, and Radiohead.

March 29: Mark Alessi, 65, a venture capitalist who from 1998-2004 was the publisher of the comics company CrossGen, which he founded. The company was an innovator in digital coloring and notable for starting out with a well-planned shared universe that had room for fantasy, mystery, and science fiction elements. It ended the way many startups do, with some creators unpaid and some stories unfinished, but works like Ruse later found a brief second life after Marvel Comics bought the rights to the company’s catalog.

April 3: Shawn Smith, 53, was a fixture in the Seattle alternative rock scene, working as a solo artist and singing in the bands Brad, Satchel, and Pigeonhed. But I best heard his aching, high vocals through his work as a background singer for the Afghan Whigs and as a vocalist in Whigs frontman Greg Dulli’s project the Twilight Singers.

April 9: James D. Hudnall, 61, was a comic book writer whose included the creator-owned Espers and long runs on Alpha Flight and Strikeforce Morituri for Marvel Comics. In more recent years, he spent time as a libertarian blogger.

April 12: Georgia Engel, 70, a comedic actress best remembered for her recurring roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Everybody Loves Raymond.

April 14: Bibi Andersson, 83, a Swedish actress and collaborator with director Ingmar Bergman (Wild Strawberries, 1957; The Seventh Seal, 1957; Persona, 1966).

April 16: Fay McKenzie, 101, an American actress who performed in silent films as a child and continued into the talking films.

April 17: Kazuo Koike, 82, the Japanese manga writer whose works included the influential Lady Snowblood and Lone Wolf & Cub.

April 23: Terry Rawlings, 85, a British film editor whose works included Alien, Blade Runner, and Chariots of Fire.

 April 26:  Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, 76, an actor perhaps best remembered as a self-hating police officer in John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood.

April 28: John Singleton, 51, the film director and TV producer whose other works included the cars-and-crime drama 2 Fast 2 Furious and the cable crime drama Snowfall.

April 30: Peter Mayhew, 74, was the British giant and gentleman who inhabited the Chewbacca costume for every Star Wars film up to The Force Awakens.

May 4: Rachel Held Evans, 37, was a top-selling Christian author and blogger, a leading voice of the evangelical center and left.

May 11: Nan Winton, 93, British broadcaster who became the first female newsreader for the BBC; and Peggy Lipton, 72, a co-star of the crime drama The Mod Squad who later became beloved to another generation as cafe owner Norma Jennings in Twin Peaks, a role she reprised in the 2017 cable TV revival. She was also the mother of actress Rashida Jones.

May 12: Machiko Kyō, 95, a Japanese actress whose main work was done in the 1950s, including her co-starring role as the samurai’s wife in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950).

May 13: Doris Day, 97, an American actress and singer who spent her later years as an animal rights activist.

May 14: American actor and comedian Tim Conway, 85; and internet celebrity Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat, 7. And while it may seem to be giving Mr. Conway short shrift to mention them in the same paragraph, he seemed like a humble and affable man and I bet he’d be amused by the juxtaposition.

May 17: Herman Wouk, 103, American author, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1951 novel The Caine Mutiny and later saw his novels The Winds of War and War and Remembrance adapted into epic television miniseries at the height of that genre.

May 30: Leon Redbone, 69, was a Cypriot-American singer-songwriter and actor whom I’d wrongly assumed might be Cajun because of his style of comic jazz. Along with his musical hits, he appeared in the film Elf and sang “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Zooey Deschanel before performing that song would put a man on the informal sex offenders registry of the collective subconscious.

May 31: Roky Erickson, 71, was a singer-songwriter who fronted the Austin, Texas-based 13th Floor Elevators, one of the best ‘60s psychedelic rock bands you’ve probably never heard of.

June 6: Dr. John, 77, the Louisiana-born piano player and singer-songwriter whose mix of rock, pop, R&B, soul, and Cajun stylings earned him a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

June 12: Bridgette Jordan, 30, who for almost two months in 2011 held the Guinness World Record as the world’s shortest living woman (2’3”); and actress Sylvia Miles, 94, an Academy Award nominee for her performances in Midnight Cowboy and Farewell, My Lovely.

June 15: Italian theater and film director Franco Zeffirelli, 96, whose work included the cinematic Shakespeare adaptations Romeo & Juliet (1968) and The Taming of the Shrew (1967) and the biblical epic Jesus of Nazareth (1977) as a television miniseries.

June 17: Heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, 95, who worked as an artist and fashion designer, also the mother of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

June 22: Novelist Judith Krantz, 91, who worked as a reporter and fashion magazine editor until she started writing novels around the age of 50.

June 23: Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Dave Bartholomew, 100, a trumpeter turned songwriter who penned such hits as “I’m Walkin’” and “Ain’t That a Shame” (with Fats Domino) and “I Hear You Knockin’”); and Stephanie Niznik, 52, an actress best known for her role on the TV drama Everwood.

June 26: French actress Édith Scob, 81 (Eyes Without a Face, 1960); and American actor Max Wright, 75 (ALF on TV, All That Jazz at daring theaters).

July 1: Sid Ramin, 100, an American composer and arranger who provided the score for West Side Story, among other films.

July 6: American actor Cameron Boyce, 20 (Disney’s made-for-TV Descendants series); Brazilian singer-songwriter, guitarist and bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto, 88; and American actor Eddie Jones, 84, who played Jonathan Kent on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

July 9: American comedic actor Rip Torn, 88, whose career spanned more than 60 years.

July 18: At least 36 people died in an arson fire at Kyoto Animation in Japan.

July 19: Rutger Hauer, 75, a Dutch actor who often played the heavy in films such as Blade Runner, Nighthawks, and The Hitcher but also played a romantic lead in the fantasy film Ladyhawke and founded an AIDS awareness organization.

July 22: Art Neville, 81, the eldest of the musical Neville Brothers and a founder of the legendary New Orleans band The Meters.

July 23: Chaser, 15, an American Border Collie who had the largest non-human memory ever tested; and Danika McGuigan, 33, Irish actress who starred in the sitcom Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope and the film dramas Philomena and The Secret Scripture.

July 24: Trudy, 63, an American gorilla who was the world’s oldest in captivity.

Aug. 1: D. A. Pennebaker, 94, a documentarian with a love of music whose camera captured a young Bob Dylan (Don’t Look Back, 1967), the Summer of Love (Monterey Pop, filmed in 1967 and released in 1968), and the majesty of David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars, a 1979 film based on his 1973 tour).

Aug. 5: Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, 88.

Aug. 8: Puerto Rican comics artist Ernie Colón, 88, whose work included the Native American fantasy saga Arak, Son of Thunder, and the fantasy series Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, for DC Comics, Marvel Comics’ superhero cleanup comedy Damage Control, and work for Harvey Comics on kids’ characters such as Richie Rich and Casper, the Friendly Ghost.

Aug. 16: Peter Fonda, 79, a second-generation actor and screenwriter (Easy Rider, 3:10 to Yuma) who spent his last few years throwing out political firebombs.

Aug. 25: Clora Bryant, 92, an American jazz trumpeter who had been a member of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the first racially integrated all-female band in the United States, during the 1940s. A League of their Own made a great movie and revived the memory of women’s baseball — why hasn’t this story been turned into a movie musical yet?

Aug. 30: Valerie Harper, 80, a longtime television comedy actress (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda) who made a late-in-life resurgence as a Dancing with the Stars contender while also battling cancer.

Sept. 3: Child model turned actress Carol Lynley, 77 (Harlow, 1965; Bunny Lake Is Missing, 1965; The Poseidon Adventure, 1972).

Sept. 9: Robert Frank, 94, a Swiss-American photographer whose book The Americans (published in France in 1968, in the U.S. in 1969) provided an outsider’s look at American life across the socioeconomic spectrum. He also directed an unreleased documentary of the 1972 Rolling Stones tour whose title I can’t use here because this is a family blog.

Sept. 10: Jeff Fenholt, 68, the original star of the stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar, who was the lead singer for a couple of bands before becoming a televangelist.

Sept. 11: Outsider artist and lo-fi musician Daniel Johnston, 58, whose struggles with mental illness were highlighted in the documentary film The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005); and Mardik Martin, 84, an American screenwriter of Armenian descent, born in Iran to Iraqi parents, which made him the perfect person to write three quintessentially American films for Martin Scorsese in the 1970s: Mean Streets (1973), New York, New York (1977) and Raging Bull (1980).

Sept. 13: American singer and songwriter Eddie Money, 70, though regrettably not before he had to see William Shatner sing a few bars of “Two Tickets to Paradise” in a Priceline ad.

Sept. 15: Rock & Roll Hall of fame inductee Ric Ocasek, 75, of The Cars.

Sept. 17: Journalist and commentator Cokie Roberts, 75, of ABC News and NPR; and actress and TV host Suzanne Whang, 56 (House Hunters for HGTV, From Here on OUT for here! TV, the first LGBTQ-centered sitcom created for an LGBTQ-focused TV network in the U.S.).

Sept. 21: Actor Aron Eisenberg, 50, who played Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Sept. 23: Robert Hunter, 78, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee whose lyrics found a home in the repertoire of the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby, and others. He was inducted with the Dead as the only non-musician so to enter the Hall of Fame. And rightly so: “Ripple” may be the most beautiful tune ever recorded in American popular music.

Sept. 25: Linda Porter, 86, an actress who started her career in earnest when others might be looking forward to retirement and found a series regular role on the sitcom Superstore and made appearances in the 2017 Twin Peaks revival (as a casino regular who has her lucky day) and the science fiction buddy epic Dude, Where’s My Car?

Oct. 1: Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, 80, a blues guitarist whose approach to playing was described by one viewer as “ballistic.”

Oct. 2: Kim Shattuck, 56, an American punk and alternative guitarist and singer who headed the band The Muffs and was part of the reformed Pixies until complications of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) ended her ability to perform.

Oct. 3: Dana Fradon, 97, a prolific cartoonist for The New Yorker and former husband of longtime DC Comics artist Ramona Fradon (who worked on the Doom Patrol and Metamorpho’s odd adventures, among other things); and Philip Gips, 88, a graphic designer and film poster artist whose work helped promote Alien and Rosemary’s Baby.

Oct. 4: Diahann Carroll, 84, broke ground as the star of the TV show Julia, the first show centered around a black character who was not a domestic worker, co-starred in the primetime soap Dynasty, and in later years recurred on the USA Network crime drama White Collar.

Oct. 6: Jazz-trained English drummer Ginger Baker, 80, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame who performed with supergroups Cream and Blind Faith; and American actor and comedian Rip Taylor, 88.

Oct. 11: Actor Robert Forster, 78, the star of Medium Cool and Disney’s The Black Hole who went away for a while but enjoyed a career resurgence after appearing in Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown; and Alexei Leonov, 85, the Russian cosmonaut who exited Voskhod 2 to perform the first spacewalk.

Oct. 29: John Witherspoon, 77, an American actor who appeared in the comedy Friday, on the TV sitcom The Wayans Bros., and provided the voice of Grandpa on The Boondocks.

Oct. 30: Canadian playwright Bernard Slade, 89 (Same Time Next Year) who also worked in television, contributing scripts for The Flying Nun and The Partridge Family.

Nov. 2: Brian Tarantina, 60, an actor whose credits included the dramedies Gilmore Girls and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Nov. 5: Laurel Griggs, 13, a child actress who appeared in the musical Once and on Saturday Night Live as well as Woody Allen’s film Café Society.

Nov. 7: Robert Freeman, 82, an English photographer and graphic designer who worked extensively with the Beatles.

Nov. 13: Journalist and comics critic Tom Spurgeon, 50, was an award-winning editor of the magazine The Comics Journal and the online The Comics Reporter.

Nov. 19: Tom Lyle, 66, was an American comics artist whose clean lines helped bring Spider-Man, the late 1980s version of the DC character Starman, and others to life. Remembrances on Facebook (full disclosure: he was a contact there) painted a picture of a friendly convention figure, always eager to chat with fans and fellow pros.

Nov. 20: Former Minnesota Vikings player Fred Cox, 80, who was also a co-inventor of the ubiquitous Nerf football; and Doug Lubahn, 71, who contributed bass guitar to three of The Doors’ studio albums but turned down the opportunity to tour with the band, citing other commitments.

Nov. 21: American cartoonist Gahan Wilson, 89, was the morbidly funny heir to Charles Addams’ legacy and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Collier’s and Playboy.

Nov. 26: Howard Cruse, 75, an underground comix legend who broke ground for LGBTQ creators and content in the 1970s-80s. His debut graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby (1995) is one of those rare books that made me a better person for having read it, helping instill an empathy in me that my raising as a heterosexual Southerner had not; the book wasn’t an autobiography, but Cruse’s own Southern childhood helped inform the story.

Nov. 29: American Songwriters Hall of Famer Irving Burgie, 95, wrote the national anthem of Barbados (“In Plenty and in Time of Need”) but is probably better known to Americans for the songs he wrote for calypso legend and activist Harry Belafonte, including “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”

Dec. 1: Lil Bub, 8, an American cat who became an internet celebrity; and actress Shelley Morrison, 83, who most recently appeared on Will & Grace but whose career went back to The Flying Nun and a turn on General Hospital.

Dec. 2: Television writer D. C. Fontana, 80, a pioneer for women in the writers’ room of science fiction series with her time on the original Star Trek series; and Kenneth Allen Taylor, 65, a philosopher and radio broadcaster (co-host of “Philosophy Talk,” available as a free podcast).

Dec. 5: George Laurer, 94, invented the Universal Product Code (aka “the bar code”) that is now found on almost any mass-produced item you can think of and was debated in the church of my childhood as possibly being the Mark of the Beast mentioned in Revelation.

Dec. 6: Actor Ron Leibman, 82, won the Tony Award in 1993 for his performance as Roy Cohn in the play Angels in America.

Dec. 8: René Auberjonois, 79, a 1970 Tony Award winner who appeared that same year in the film M*A*S*H and later won over more fans with his starring TV roles on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Boston Legal; and Caroll Spinney, 85, a longtime Sesame Street puppeteer (Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch) who was also an author and cartoonist.

Dec. 9: Pete Frates, 34, a former Boston College baseball player whose diagnosis with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) inspired him to create the Ice Bucket Challenge, which became a viral fundraiser and awareness booster for research into the disease.

Dec. 12: Danny Aiello, 86, an Italian-American actor whose far-ranging career included The Godfather, Part II, the Spike Lee joint Do the Right Thing, and wooing Cher in Moonstruck.

Dec. 13: PHASE 2, 64, was a spray-paint graffiti artist most active in New York during the 1970s, and the next time you see big balloon-like letters painted on a wall or a railroad car, you’re seeing the innovation he brought to the form; they’re called “softies,” by the way.

Dec. 14: John Briley, 94, was an American screenwriter whose works included Gandhi (which won him an Academy Award), Cry Freedom (about martyred South African anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko), and Marie (about a Tennessee parole official who lost her job after refusing to free inmates who had bribed the governor). Does there seem to be a theme there, of heroic individuals facing down corrupt systems?

Dec. 22: Born Richard Alpert, the spiritual teacher Ram Dass, 88, had been a psychologist pioneering in the research of LSD before he became a yogi; his Be Here Now is a classic on meditation and mindfulness.

Dec. 25: TV producer Lee Mendelson, 86, helped bring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang to our television screens; and William Greider, 83, wasn’t just any economic reporter — he was the economic reporter for Rolling Stone at one point.

Dec. 26: Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman, 88, was behind such shows as Hello Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles; actress Sue Lyon, 73, entered show business as a model at the age of 13 and later played the title role in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Lolita. She was older than the character was in the book — a change made to accommodate the Hayes Code — but still too young when it came out to legally watch the movie.

Dec. 27: Radio personality Don Imus, 79, saw his career end after one too many occasions of not taking my dad’s advice — just because you can do something (or in his case, say something), that doesn’t mean you should; and trumpeter Jack Sheldon, 88, played on The Merv Griffin Show but is better known to my generation as a voice actor in the animated Schoolhouse Rock! series and singing “I’m Just a Bill,” which was meant to teach children about how laws are written and passed, though it’s a bit light on the bribes and childish fits.

Dec. 29: British comic actor and musician Neil Innes, 75, worked with Monty Python, including writing songs with Eric Idle for their Beatles parody The Rutles in the 1970s.


Linkspam grabs the Emmys and Comic-Con Trailers

It’s Emmy time, and the list leads with the usual contenders. Game of Thrones got 22 noms, but Netflix beat HBO with 112 noms vs. HBO’s 108.

Nominees for best drama are The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones, This is Us, The Crown, The Americans, Stranger Things and Westworld.

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Nominees for best comedy are Atlanta, Barry, Black-ish, Curb Your Enthusiasm (still??), GLOW, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Silicon Valley and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

The rest are the usual suspects, with a bit of a surprise in The Alienist for miniseries and Tatiana Maslany for lead actress in Orphan Black.

Since I’m completely in the camp for Handmaids, supporting actress is going to be tough. Three noms (which means it’ll end up going to someone else, with Alexis Bledel (who I did not know was married to Vincent Kartheiser of Angel fame), Ann Dowd and Yvonne Strahovski, who should get every award for the incredible and difficult performance she has turned out this season.

Where is Samira Wiley? Guest actress nom, along with Kelly Jenrette and Cherry Jones; and Joseph Fiennes as supporting actor.

It says something when a show is so intense, so visceral, and still so chillingly relevant that many people simply cannot watch it. I’m developing a theory, here: we watch the gore and misery of Game of Thrones as escapism, and yet the misery of Handmaids is too much for us. Because it’s too close to reality, to real fears and horrors we find on the front page.

And yet that is the very definition of important, relevant art. Art isn’t supposed to be a simple escape from reality. It should challenge us, challenge our preconceptions and comfortable thought processes.

Harlan Ellison argued that people are dumb because of television, because it feeds stimuli into our brains without requiring us to wake them up. Usually that's true. But Handmaids defies that, as few shows do. It isn’t an easy watch; I can’t binge it, as we might lighter shows. I have to parcel it out, which I would strongly recommend especially for viewers who may find its subject material triggering.

But let me tell you something, friends and neighbors: I finally caught up through the final episode last night. I’m not going to spoil it, but… for the last series of scenes, I literally had no idea what was going to happen next. It was physically exhausting, the tension and uncertainty, knowing that a happy ending was absolutely not assured and anything, including the worst, could happen.

I cannot remember the last time a show felt like that. It alternately makes me want to hide in a corner and make a protest sign and go march somewhere. That’s a form of art that transforms us, not just placates our boredom.

James Gunn is out as director of Guardians of the Galaxy, fired for horrific tweets posted a decade ago. Gunn apparently posted jokes about rape and this gem: “Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS.” He’s very sorry. All right, I know there's been a lot of yelling about this on both sides. Here's my take, for whatever miniscule amount it's worth: Rape jokes aren't funny. They aren't funny now, and they weren't funny when Gunn wrote those tweets, and they weren't funny when the first comic laughed about how hilarious it would be for that woman in the front row to get raped right now, and I really can't bring myself to throw down for Gunn's fall from grace. The accuser may be a reprehensible human, but he didn't fake the tweets; Gunn copped to it. Gunn will work again, unlike Kevin Spacey, and if one director losing one movie gig means five comics stop making rape jokes, I'm good with that.

Andrew Lincoln has confirmed he is leaving The Walking Dead, but maintains he still loves the show. “A large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, stetson-wearing, zombie-slaying sheriff deputy from London, England.” Ha! I might resurrect my long-dormant relationship with this show to bid farewell to Rick, with or without hands.

• Really, Hollywood? There are already six movies in the works about the rescue of the Thai boys from the cave. Six.

• Locals: Tickets are on sale for 21 Pilots, which is a band the younglings seem to like, if the chatter around my house is any indication.

• In the category of some people never learn, Marvel has announced Iron Fist Season 2. Really? There’s a new showrunner, the villain is Typhoid Mary, and can they manage some actual writing this time? Because that was one dull series, and the fact that they greenlit this while declining any more Defenders bothers me immensely.

• Also, Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, as Bruce Willis declared in defiance of everyone on the internet. Here’s a rundown of other snarks from the Willis Roast.

This Week in Sexual Harassment News: I thought we might actually have a week with no news, for the first time since I started this subsection. However, Papa John's founder John Schnatty kept the streak going.

 

RIP

Roger Perry, 85, best known as an Air Force captain who runs afoul of the Star Trek crew in “Tomorrow is Yesterday” - and was actually a veteran of the U.S. Air Force in real life, serving as an intelligence officer. He appeared on TV shows ranging from The Andy Griffith Show to The Munsters to The Facts of Life, retiring in 2011.

Tab Hunter, 86, best known for films like The Burning, The Girl He Left Behind and Damn Yankees, as well as TV appearances on The Love Boat, Six Million Dollar Man and Hawaii Five-O. He was a Hollywood heartthrob in his day, and came out in his 2005 autobiography, discussing an affair with Anthony Perkins. He is survived by Allan Glaser, his partner of 35 years.

Steve Ditko, 90, creator of Doctor Strange and Spider-Man with Stan Lee. The primary form of Spider-Man - including costume, web-shooters, red and blue design - were all Ditko. He left Marvel in the late ’60s and went to work for DC and small independents. He was an ardent believer in Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy, and created the characters of Mr. A, The Question, and others in its vein. He was reclusive, denied interview requests and avoided the publicity booms surrounding movies based on his work. He was found dead in his apartment, where he lived alone, never having married.

• Bill Watrous, 79, trombone player and bandleader best known for studio recordings ranging from Frank Sinatra to Prince to Quincy Jones, including the soundtrack to Roots. For us on the geeky side of life, he was the trombone dubbed in for Riker on Star Trek: Next Generation. Now, I seem to recall ads saying that was really Jonathan Frakes playing, but Frakes tweeted an RIP declaring that Bill “made Riker strong.”

 

Trailer Park

It was Comic-Con. So there are more trailers than I could possibly include. I could probably do a whole post just on the Comic-Con trailers. But I have to actually do work this week, so here’s the highlights collected by Vulture:

• Sarah Paulson anchors the Glass trailer, the long-delayed sequel to Unbreakable that incorporates the lead from Split. Pending January 2019, and now I have to rewatch Unbreakable and finally snag Split, because it’s pretty compelling. I have a feeling poor Sarah is going to have a rearrangement of her preconceptions when this movie hits, and please let it be better than the last few Shyamalan outings I’ve seen.

• Hi there, Aquaman. We knew his hello in Justice League was just to set up his own movie. Look, he’s a physically lovely human, but it’s a good thing the production design and cinematography is equally lovely, because the plot looks like the boring parts of Thor crossed with the worldbuilding of Black Panther without the charm.

• Much sillier: Shazam! is accelerating the inevitable slide of superhero films from mythology to parody, I’m afraid. It could be fun, because Zachary Levi can’t help but be fun in anything he does. But I fear we’re only a few steps away from Abbott and Costello Meet the Avengers, folks.

• Anyone who knows my household knows that there was yelling and squeeing as soon as Godzilla: King of the Monsters dropped. Apparently they tried to snag some real actors (and hopefully won’t kill them off in the first reel this time), with Kyle MacLachlan, Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown as the kaiju whisperer. Or something. It’s not like I have a choice, folks. I married the biggest Godzilla nerd in the midwest. I’m going, kicking and screaming.

• CultureGeek Jr. was sold on Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald as soon as he realized it’s actually Hogwarts, Dumbledore and a return to the wizarding world. Now we have to go find the first one, because eight movies just isn’t enough for Hogwarts fans.

• I usually stick to film trailers in this column. However, we got series trailers for The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, Supergirl, The Purge (yes, a TV show), Good Omens, Star Trek: Discovery, Fear the Walking Dead, and many, many more.

 

Coming This Weekend and Next

Mamma Mia 2, which I somehow want to see even though I had zero interest in the first one, so we will probably hunt down the original and catch this one on Netflix.

The Equalizer 2, which likewise we did not see because we had not seen the original. However, CultureGeek 2 reports it was fun.

• Unfriended: Dark Web, which would be a fascinating framing device for a found-footage twist if only it didn’t seem to be torture porn.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout, in which Tom Cruise leaps out of helicopters again with an even more stellar sub-cast than usual. And we will line up like lemmings again, because the MI movies are Bond films while Bond is apparently hibernating. Fun fact on the internet this week: Tom Cruise is now five years older than Wilford Brimley was when he filmed Cocoon. This further supports the theory that Cruise has a framed poster of himself from Top Gun aging in his attic. Opens July 27.

Teen Titans Go! or something. Animated silliness with the second-tier sidekicks, with the voices of Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Stan Lee and others. Opens July 27.

 

Continuing:

Hotel Transylvania 3, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Incredibles 2, Skyscraper, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The First Purge, Sorry to Bother You, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Uncle Drew, Ocean’s 8, Tag, Won’t You Be My Neighbor.


Linkspam wishes Captain America a happy birthday

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

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

Happy birthday, Captain.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RIP

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

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

 

Trailer Park

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

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

 

Coming This Weekend  

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

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

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

  

Continuing:

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


Linkspam doesn't want to float, thanks

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

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

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

Pennywise-It-Movie-Featured-Image-970x545

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RIP

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

 

Trailer Park

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

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

 

Coming This Weekend

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

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

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

 

Continuing:

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

 

Happy Independence Day!


CultureGeek ventures near the Murder House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stevetrevor

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

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

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.

 


Linkspam hears the verdict

Unless you were living under a rock this week, you know that Bill Cosby was convicted on three counts of sexual assault Thursday.

Ever since this began, it seems my entire generation has struggled to reconcile our memory of the friendly, sweater-wearing Cliff Huxtable and the funnyman who voiced Fat Albert and sold pudding pops with the predator described in court. The impact seems to be twice as harsh for African-Americans who grew up watching The Cosby Show and A Different World, who saw positive reflections of middle- and upper-class black America presented on a national stage for the first time.

Some lamented that this seminal work is now tainted forever with Cosby's sins. And I am never going to be That Person and tell the black community what to think or how to feel. It’s not my place.

But I do think this is going to be one of the great struggles for us as a society, as social media now puts us in closer contact with the people we have previously idolized: how to separate art from artist. One nasty tweet can reveal that an artist we loved is actually a racist, or misogynist, or simply clueless and rude. We’ve gone through it many times, with allegations against Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey and so, so many others, going back to Orson Scott Card and before. How can we separate the person from the work? And is it fair to do so?

I know the choice I make: to try to separate art from artist up to the point that the artist’s malfeasance or problematic beliefs infects the art. But I also try to pay attention to the financial impact of my consumption of art, to ensure that little to none of my money goes to support causes I would stand against. That means, for example, if I simply must read a book from an author who espouses hateful homophobia, I can always get it from the library without giving him my money.

Can we really say that we should throw out The Cosby Show and A Different World because Cosby was a criminal? (Good luck finding either on streaming services, by the way.) There were so many artists who worked on those shows, writers and actors who did good work that deserves to be remembered. It wasn’t just cheap laughs that entertained us; it made us think, in ways that the modern sitcom often avoids, and busted stereotypes that go back decades.

It would be a sad thing for our collective culture if the fine work of so many people disappeared or was disparaged and dismissed because the lead actor was a criminal. The legacy of those shows does not belong to Cosby alone.

EDIT: A little birdie has informed me that you can find A Different World streaming on Amazon Prime.

• Speaking of artists doing very bad things… Smallville actress Allison Mack has been charged in the ongoing NXIVM sex cult weirdness. Mack is accused of assisting group leader Keith Raniere with coercing and enslaving unwilling women into the cult and forcing them to have sex with Raniere. As many as 50 women are alleged to be victims of the cult.

• Winter is not coming…. George R.R. Martin says The Winds of Winter will not be published in 2018. There hasn’t been a new Ice and Fire novel since 2011. Instead, there will be a 1,000-page history of the kings of Westeros, coming out in November. The fictional history has been compared by some as Martin’s Simarillion. Meanwhile, HBO is considering three to five possible spinoffs. Yikes.

• The first St. Louis Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival will take place at First Friday in May at the St. Louis Science Center. Attendees will be able to learn about cinematography, special effects, editing, directing, lighting, costuming and set design as well as screening the various short films. As it will be May the Fourth (be with you), the Planetarium will celebrate Star Wars Day. Finishing up with a screening of Ed Wood in the Planetarium, I’m really wishing I were off work.

• Ever since I saw this sillyMarvel Bunch” video, this song has been stuck in my head, so I gift it to you and you can have it stuck in your head. (Chris Evans, we gotta talk about the 'stache.) I think those guys have a movie coming out, have you heard anything?

Hamilton may be gone (don’t worry, it’ll be back) but there’s still theater in St. Louis! Highlights this week include The Dresser by Gaslight Theater, Falling by Bankside Reperatory Theater Company, The Fantasticks by the Hawthorne Players, and Jesus Christ Superstar by Stray Dog Theater.

• In case you were worried that you weren’t giving enough money to Amazon, they’re now raising the price of Amazon Prime from $99 to $119. The change goes into effect May 11 and will apply to renewals beginning June 16. Amazon has had cost increases, they say. Sign on the dotted line if you feel sorry for them.

• Locals: Afterwords Books in Edwardsville celebrates its ninth anniversary on Saturday, May 12! Drop by for baked goodies, a 20-percentn discount, storytime and a drawing for a $50 gift card. Congrats to one of the hidden jewels of Edwardsville!

• Is Thursday really Alien Day? Is that a real thing? Twitter thinks so.

• A recent study in the journal PLOS One found that authors with female names were paid 9 percent less than authors with male names; female-dominated genres such as romand are thought of with less value; and there are gender differences in the prices of books within the same genre. Who’s surprised?

• You could fill a whole column with the latest in WTF is Next for Star Trek, but this latest one is interesting. S.J Clarkson has been tapped for the next movie, which makes her the first female director in the franchise. Side-eye that it took that long, but if you’re hoping to find out what movie they’re doing… is it the flashback movie with Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk? Is it that weird-ass idea of letting Quentin Tarantino direct a Star Trek movie? Is it Prime Universe or Abramsverse? Stay tuned.

• You know what Hollywood thinks needs a sequel? If you answered A Quiet Place, you’re right. Not sure if Paramount is right, since the movie was one of those experiences that really works and would be hard to recapture. But that isn’t stopping them

 

RIP

• Bob Dorough, creator of Schoolhouse Rock, age 94. Sing along with “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill,” songs by Dorough the jazz pianist and vocalist. He was first hired by an ad exec to write a song to help his kids learn their times tables. The rest is television history.

Arthur Rubenstein, 80, movie composer who worked on more than 300 films and television programs. His music direction could be heard on Broadway in A Chorus Line, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and more. You’ve heard his scores in Wargames, Lost in America, Blue Thunder, Nick of Time and many other movies, frequently working with John Badham. He founded a symphony that presented more than 60 free classical concerts to 80,000 families and children. His composition “Observations” was performed at the Griffith Observatory in honor of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s achievements.

 

Trailer Park

Jurassic World, which doesn’t look any less sexist or annoying, but I applaud Chris Pratt for his multi-tasking this year (although his Star-Lord and Owen the Raptor Whisperer appear to be roughly the same guy).

Kin, with Dennis Quaid and a young kid in a dystopian future, whose older brother just got back out of prison and is already getting back in trouble. Enter an alien body, funky ray guns, and wackiness ensues. It’s an interesting setup, but could someone turn on the lights? You can be grimdark and still light the set.

Deadpool 2, and I couldn’t get the silly thing to run, but given how I usually feel about Deadpool humor, it’s probably best. (In all fairness, I didn’t see the first one. But the menfolk did, and assured me that they found it hilarious and I would absolutely hate it. I trust their judgement.)

• In a completely different vein…. The Tale, pending from HBO and starring Laura Dern as a documentarian whose mother finds a short story she had written as a child that exposes long-buried secrets. Also starring Ellen Burstyn, John Heard (RIP), Jason Ritter and Isabelle Nelisse.

• Curious about the new Venom movie? Have a trailer that actually shows some plot! Tom Hardy plays a reporter who gets infected with the Venom symbiote, and who may or may not be an unethical turd. Can Marvel manage to produce one journalist who is competent, dedicated and ethical? We’ll see, but I’m not holding out hope.

 

Coming This Weekend

Avengers: Infinity War. You might heard a little something about it.

• Foolish enough to actually premiere the same weekend: Kings, about a foster family in South Central Los Angeles right before the Rodney King riots; and Disobedience, a starcrossed love story between two women in a conservative Jewish society. (Technically it premiered last year, starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams; this is its wide U.S. release.)

 

Continuing:

I Feel Pretty, Super Troopers 2, Traffik, Rampage, Truth or Dare, Isle of Dogs, Blockers, A Quiet Place, Ready Player One, A Wrinkle in Time, Pacific Rim Uprising, Acrimony, I Can Only Imagine, Love Simon, Sherlock Gnomes, Chappaquiddick, and The Miracle Season. And probably BLACK PANTHER.

 

Avengers assemble! 


Linkspam wins the awards (not really)

The Pulitzer Prizes are out - in case you’re wondering, your Friendly Neighborhood CultureGeek did not win one. Next year!

However, there were some really amazing choices, and Poynter has a great summary analysis. Here are some of the highlights:

The New York Times and New Yorker shared t he prize for public service for exposing Harvey Weinstein and kicking off the #metoo movement, changing the national conversation about sexual harassment and abuse. The Washington Post won for investigative reporting in the Alabama Senate race. The Arizona Republic and USA Today network won for explanatory reporting of the “unintended consequences” of building a wall on the Mexican border. The New York Times and Washington Post shared an award for “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage” of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Note: This was the first Pulitzer for USA Today, after 35 years of reporting.

That’s the short version of the journalism awards, which will be detailed to a much greater extent on my other blogs. This is a blog about pop culture, and so we should take a closer look at the artistic awards than my “day job.”

The fiction Pulitzer went to Less by Andrew Sean Greer (Little Brown), described as a book of fine prose and structure about growing older and the essential nature of love. Finalists were In the Distance by Hernan Diaz (Coffee House Press) and The Idiot by Elif Batuman (Penguin Press).

The drama Pulitzer went to Cost of Living by Martyna Majok, examining perceptions of privilege through a former trucker and his recently paralyzed ex-wife, and an arrogant young man with cerebral palsy and his caregiver. Fiinalists were Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and The Minutes by Tracy Letts.

The poetry Pulitzer went to Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart, with finalists Incendiary Art by Patricia Smith and semiautomatic by Evie Shockley.

The history Pulitzer went to The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis; nonfiction went to Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America; and biography went to Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. Music went to DAMN by Kendrick Lamar.

Netflix is picking up a vampire series based on the V-Wars novel/anthology/comic series by Jonathan Maberry. The series will star Ian Somerhalder as the doctor trying to solve the vampire plague while society is ripped apart by its spread. I will now shamelessly name-drop that Jonathan is a friend of mine, and he’s killed me in one of his novels. I couldn’t be happier for Jonathan on his success, and not just because he’s a terrific writer. He’s also a really good guy, and his success story gives hope to the rest of us toiling in the vineyards that good work finds a home.

AMC is picking up NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, who is not a personal friend, but a pretty nifty writer. Hill is famously the son of Stephen King, who launched his own horror-writer career under a pseudonym to try to “make it” without his father’s fame. The series follows an artist who discovers she can track an immortal creature who steals the souls of children and deposits them in a twisted version of a Christmas village…  Is anyone else excited about how much creepy-supernatural programming is getting picked up by the non-network systems, including possible Dark Tower at Amazon? NOS4A2 launches in 2019.

• Speaking of Stephen King, part II of IT will film in July. The only character cast yet is Jessica Chastain as Beverly, and I wait to see if they sugar-coat Beverly’s life as much as the TV series did - one of my few complaints about it. I have more complaints about the new adaptation, primarily the utter travesty inflicted on Mike’s character, but I wait to see what the final product will be in developing my favorite novel of all time to the screen.

• Amid criticisms that review conglomerate Rotten Tomatoes is a) needlessly black-and-white with movies rated fresh or rotten, and b) overwhelmingly male among its certified critics, a new site is being launched. CherryPicks will offer a tiered rating system and feature opinions from women, which the Mary Sue says should counterbalance RT’s tendency to rate male-led movies dramatically higher. I find the concept intriguing, though the name annoys me. The site launches in the fall.

• For your little burst of nostalgia today: watch Angela Lansbury and the late great Jerry Orbach record “Be Our Guest” for the original Beauty and the Beast. Trivia note: Orbach is probably best known as the world-weary detective Lenny Briscoe on Law & Order, and for a long time his partner was played by Jesse L. Williams. Both Orbach and Williams were song-and-dance Broadway stars before they donned the trenchcoats, and rumor has it that when they were out and about filming in New York City, they would entertain the passers-by and extras with song and dance routines. It is criminal that in the age of the selfie and street video, no YouTube clips have survived of this (at least none that I have found.)

Huey Lewis has canceled all his 2018 performances, including the one in Alton. Seems Huey lost most of his hearing a couple of months ago, possibly due to Meniere’s disease, and cannot hear music well enough to sing. Huey later posted that the response from fans and colleagues is “truly overwhelming,” and he he is focusing on improving and finding a way to sing again.

Blockers is a nuanced and sex-positive teen comedy - wait, what? And it’s the Mary Sue saying this, but wow, was that NOT what I expected to hear about this movie. Three girls plan to lose their virginity on prom night, their parents do their best to derail this plan, wackiness ensues… but the girls are allowed their own agency and owning their (not entirely hetero) sexuality? Am I in Bizarro World? (Don’t worry, there’s still stupidity and vomit.)

Strange Horizons has a verrrrrrry long and extensive exploration of why everything we know about James T. Kirk is wrong. They’re not the first to point out that Kirk was a) not a womanizer and b) not a lightweight charmer who never took anything seriously, despite how the idiot AbramsTrek movies have portrayed him. I recall Keith DeCandido expounding on this to a great extent, your humble CultureGeek has said much the same. I don’t expect the writers of the current Trek to actually notice, mind you. It’s too much fun to remember him as a blithe horndog.

• Locals: international violin superstar Rachel Barton Pine will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 23 in Dunham Hall at SIUE, with the combined orchestras of SIUE and SIUC. Pine first performed with the Chicago Symphony at age 10, and has been a virtuoso performer around the world, including winning a gold medal at the J.S. Bach International Violin Competition in Germany. Order tickets at artandissues.com.

• Also local: Gift of Voice needs to sell 41 more tickets to Suicide: The Ripple Effect in order to screen the film in Edwardsville on May 1. The documentary follows a man who tried to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge at age 19, and the “ripple effect” his attempt had on his family, friends and first responders who saved him, as well as his advocacy of a suicide prevention net on the bridge. Order your tickets here. The screening accompanies a suicide prevention program at SIUE on April 27, targeted at high school and college students.

• Also also local: SIUE will host the world premiere of a thought-provoking new play titled The Great Divide by E.M. Lewis. It's a political play, according to the playwright. "This is the story of the longest, angriest, strangest presidential election this country has ever seen,” said Lewis. “This is a story about America, in this divided moment.” The play runs Thursday-Sunday; click here for full details.

 

RIP

• Harry Anderson, 65, best known to you as Judge Harry Stone of Night Court and to me as the grownup Richie Tozier in the original IT miniseries, a role he was born to play. A longtime standup and stage magician, Anderson left Hollywood in 2000 to live in New Orleans and run a nightclub. They managed to make it through Katrina, and according to this piece in the New York Times, Anderson reopened his club as the French Quarter Town Hall to evolve a de facto government in the storm-paralyzed city. But in 2006, unable to make the bills in the post-Katrina mess, Anderson and his wife shut down and left for Asheville. His cause of death was not immediately known.

R. Lee Ermey, 74, best known as the shouting drill sergeant of Full Metal Jacket. He was actually a drill instructor and staff sergeant in the Marines and served 14 months in Vietnam, retiring after 11 years in the military before he became an actor. He also appeared in movies such as Mississippi Burning, Se7en, Prefontaine, and was the voice of the Army Men in the Toy Story series. Semper Fi.

Milos Forman, 86, inexplicably remembered as the director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest instead of the intense, epic masterpiece that was Amadeus. Forman was born in Czechoslovakia, orphaned when his parents died in Nazi concentration camps and was raised in foster homes. He was in Paris in 1968 when Russia took over Czechoslovakia, placing the artistic world under Soviet control, and he fled to New York to continue working there. Other films included Hair, The People Vs. Larry Flynt and Ragtime.

Art Bell, 72, host of Coast to Coast AM on more than 400 radio stations. He took calls unscreened, with a separate line just for the Area 51 folk, according to the Washington Post. No matter how crazy, he put them on the air, beginning in 1984 as a political talk show.

Jean Marzollo, 75, author of the I Spy books - a total of 150 children’s books, from I’m a Seed to Ten Little Christmas Presents. A teacher first, she wrote books for adults on learning through play and baby-care for dads, before branching into children’s books on a variety of topics from learning to count to the life of Martin Luther King Jr. to the eight I Spy puzzle books.

 

Trailer Park

• The only thing I don’t love about The Incredibles 2 trailer is that they kept the off-screen Nagging Wife of Frozone. I know a lot of people find her funny; I find her an annoying, borderline-stereotype trope that is actually subverted IN The Incredibles, as Elastigirl gets whapped upside the head by Edna Mode and reminded of her own identity, which is not dependent on her husband’s behavior and doesn’t have to be limited to the wet-blanket wife who doesn’t understand. Everything else about this trailer is pure gold, mind you.

• The Verge says almost everything I would say about The Meg, which apparently added “the” so that people wouldn’t think it was a Meg Ryan comedy? No one can figure out of they’re trying to be serious. And I’m usually all about the sharks - Jaws is a personal favorite - but given author Steve Alten’s horrific author-scam attempt a few years ago, I’m reticent about giving him more money.

Hotel Artemis has a ridiculously stellar cast with Jodie Foster, Jeff Goldblum, Dave Bautista, Sterling K. brown, Zachary Quinto and others, on an underground hospital for criminals in a dystopian future with lots of dark lighting.

 

Coming This Weekend

I Feel Pretty, Amy Schumer’s latest comedy about an insecure woman who gets hit on the head and suddenly lives confidently and fearlessly. Um, I’m hoping it’s not nearly as bad as its promos.

• Traffik. Vacationing couples vs. vicious bikers. Looks to be a bright spot in a lousy batch this weekend. How long until the summer blockbusters? (But seriously, I'd watch Omar Epps read the phone book, so I might give this a try.)

• Ghost Stories. In limited release, British take on "skeptic debunker meets real ghosts." Promo is vaguely creepy, also co-stars our favorite hobbit, Martin Freeman. 

• Super Troopers 2. No

 

Continuing:

Rampage (unfortunately), Truth or Dare, A Quiet Place, Blockers, Ready Player One, Acrimony, BLACK PANTHER, I Can Only Imagine, Chappaquiddick, The Miracle Season, Love Simon, Midnight Sun, and Sherlock Gnomes.