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Movie Review: The Conjuring 2

Overview:  We start in Amytiville where are intrepid heroes, those ghost hunters sanctioned by the church, meet pure evil and, as Lorainne Warren says, it was the closest to hell she wanted to be.

Then we jump to England where a single mother has moved into a new home.  I think it’s government subsidized housing, and her daughter quickly becomes possessed. The children are screaming and being flung around and there’s a stuttering child who sees someone in his play tent and a hell of a lot of screaming.  Cue the Warrens, who come to help out despite Lorainne having a premonition that a demon greater than the one haunting this family wants Ed dead.  The rhyme is intentional.

They fight the demon, they doubt, they leave and then dramatically return.  It rains.  I wonder when Sam and Dean will come to end this quicker.

The Good:  Scares for sure.  The actors, too.  I love Vera Farmiga.  She’s just gorgeousness and has a presence on screen.  Very understated acting, gorgeous eyes which the director picks up on because there is a shot of just her eyes at one point.  Patrick Wilson is equally sweet and nice as her husband, Ed Warren, and sings an Elvis song making us all love him, and in case we don’t get that that’s the point of the scene we see Vera standing in a door way adoring him with those eyes of hers, and the camera flips back and forth enough so we feel it, too.

Now, back to scares.  There are special effects scares, a nun that’s evil scares, crosses that turn over scares, kids falling through rooms, levitating, speaking in growly voices scares as well.  I feel I could go all Dr. Seuss with the types of scares – but I’ll restrain myself.

There’s a bit of a story in here too about how the media sets up these events as real and can distort reality, also how people play for a camera.  There’s a slight bit about people thinking the mother of these kids is faking it to get a better house/apartment.  The main theme is that the Warren’s are awesome and stuff, though.

The Bad:  There’s a lot of screaming.  Like- a lot.  It got to the point where I felt it was music and screaming and I wasn’t sure what was going on.  This came to a head at the end when a son ,Johnny, had something happen to him, and I was wondering where a second son came from.  There was the stuttering son, the girl Janet who was the possessed one and her sister.  I swear, I don’t recall a fourth kid until the end when *bam* he appeared.

Which goes into a pacing issue I had.  I gauge movies now by how apt I am to do other things while they’re on and if I want to pause the film or just walk away.  I walked away a bit.  I brushed my teeth, got laundry together, played with the cat, came back and it was ‘yup, still haunted, yup, still screaming’ and didn’t feel I missed much amping of tension, intensifying beats, anything like that.  It’s a movie where there’s a ghost which turns out to be a demon and people come to get rid of it and there are issues and flooding and worry or what not and it’s over.  And have I mentioned the screaming?  Because there was a lot of that.  And a lot of not just leaving the damn house.  At least no animals died that I recall.

The Female:  There are women in this film!  Maybe more females than males, actually.  We have the mother and her two daughters, Lorainne Warren, a female cop, female neighbors.  It’s like, like, like this film recognizes that females ACTUALLY make up approximately 49.6% of the world’s population.  Oh, and the women talk to each other about things other than men.  And they have names!  It’s like, omg, novel and new and stuff only not because it’s what happens in that thing called life.  Oh yeah, and a demon nun.

Now, to talk about a few of the women in this here film:

Lorainne Warren:  The most prominent of the women, here played by Vera Farmiga.  She’s the psychic of the Warren duo who go out to hunt down ghosts, the one with ‘the gift.’  Yes, she loves her husband and that’s a focal point of some of her actions, but I loved a scene where her husband and another man were talking. . .about her!  omg, and positively, with Ed Warren saying if there’s a demon she can’t handle, it’s a first and reason to be scared.  He shows her as an authority!  As a human worth mentioning.  I mean, men talking about woman.  What do I do with the Bechdel on that one?  She’s the one who ultimately figures out how to get rid of the big baddie.

Peggy Hodgson:  She’s the mom.  She screams a lot.  She gets bit.  She stands up for her kids and is the single mother of three (and possibly four, still fuzzy on where that last boy came from) kids.  She has feelings and stuff, protects her kids but is frustrated while doing it, and is overall kinda human.

Janet Hodgson:  There’s definitely a thing in the film about little girls getting possessed, isn’t there?  The Exorcist is the prime example, but there’s also The Last Exorcism (I and II, hahaha with that name), Exorcism of Emily Rose, Poltergeist, etc.  There’s something cultural too it, I think, almost sexual – especially when the possessers are male ghosts. Like, the stripping of innocence and thrill of making prepubescent girls do ‘bad’ things and say ‘bad things’ and the like.  I think as a societal look on things it’s creepier than the actual movie portrayal.  They have her laugh, wreck a kitchen, talk about killing people, threaten others.  Thinking about it now, it is a weird fetishization linked to virginity and ‘purity’ of sexuality in little girls, it seems.  huh.

As I mentioned before, there are other females as well – neighbors and a cop and the like.  So that was cool.

Overall, not a bad ‘I’m too tired to move’ movie or, if you like the sound of screaming, background movie to catch snippets of.  Nothing earth shattering, but entertaining.

 

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Movie Review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Overview:  There is a narration that tells us a bit about the first movie, and how Snow White killed Ravenna with the help of the Huntsman, then we go into backstory for the new film.  So, double backstory!

Ravenna and her sister, Freya, live in a castle together but Freya hasn’t come into her powers.  Ravenna thinks it’s because love is in the way, you can be powerful or you can be loved in this world.  She kills Freya’s child, blames it on someone else, and BAM, Freya is suddenly Elsa from Frozen.  She freezes everything and runs off to build her ice castle.  Once there, she starts stealing children to become her army (the awful narration says, “If she can’t have a child she’ll give birth to an army,” or something equally trite.)  They are called her Huntsman and taught ‘the greatest gift, to not love.’  There is one black child among the throngs of others because – diversity.  He is important, part of the triangle between loyalties.  Are you loyal to the queen or the lovers Eric (Hemsworth “The Huntsman” this movie is really about) and Sara (Merida from Brave, basically).

Stuff happens and the lovers are separated, then reunited years later while on a quest to find the magic mirror and destroy it so the Ice Queen doesn’t get it’s power.  They, of course, are mad at each other so there can be angry banter melting into sex.

There’s other stuff, too.  Ravenna comes back, Freya learns of her trickery, blah blah The Huntsman show’s how good he is, destroys the mirror, he gets everything a hero wins in these things.

The Good:  The reason why I watched this wasn’t the story.  I saw the first one and it was pretty damn bad, but it was pretty.  I like pretty, sometimes.  Some movies are made for plot or story and some for special effects, some to show things blowing up, etc.  This one had lush scenery and even more lush outfits for the two queens.  The special effects, in the beginning, were also beautiful.  A lot of ice stuff and the sound of crystallization that goes with it, a sound I find oddly soothing.  There was a lot of oozing cloth like stuff that was beautiful and first, then just became a vision of Nickelodeon Slime getting its own movie.  Seriously, they could have pulled back on that.

The music was also top notch.  I listened all the way through the credits.  In fact, half the time I was away from the screen (Getting bored) but loving the music as I cleaned or read or made my bed or many other things.

Oh, and Hemsworth (Chris) was his charismatic self here, winking and half grinning his way into all our hearts.

The Bad:  Pretty much everything else.  The story is . . .all over.  It starts by rehashing the first movie, then goes into the two queen’s fighting and the ice queen building her army, then to the Huntsman hunting the mirror, then the love story.  It reminded me of when I first taught my fiction students modular stories.  They loved it, and tried it, but there was no specific weight given to a story line to let us follow through – not in the early drafts.  This was a story in its early drafts.

The dialects- like, really?  I had no idea what was going with those.  If you’re going to have an international cast and a fairy tale setting, at this point just let them all speak naturally and blame it on ferries.  There wasn’t a rhyme or reason.

The oozing became so overdone.  I get it, women ooze.  How many times does that fetish/horror need to be played out on screen?  Poor Charlize Theron/Ravenna, her main power was to have her dress ooze some oily stuff that then became phallic.

The other bad thing is in the next section – everything female.

The Female:  There are a few women in here, who either get killed or paired off because in THIS world you either love a man or become a power crazed b– and die.  Simple mechanics.

And the film is a tease.  I remember the ads and stuff saying it’s about the sisters and it starts with them, but they’re just a frame for Hemsworth’s Huntsman and they’re pretty much not important except to set the quest in motion.  Tease tease tease.  Then they try to bring it back at the end with Freya finding out what her sister did but too late, man.  Way too late.  It’s not a story about sister’s, it’s a love story with Hemsworth at the Helm.

Freya:  She is the sister of Ravenna and longs for love.  She has love but then her baby is killed so she does what all women do when their children die- kidnaps everyone else’s and kills them if they so dare as love.  She’s pensive at parts, when she sees dwarves and realizes they are like children.  Poor Emily Blunt is trying to make this character more than an Elsa prototype, or Elsa fan fiction with no sex (if there’s such a thing).  Of course, since she still loves and yearns for a child she can help and redeem herself.  Go you, woman.

Ravenna:  She has some line about wanting to find love too, have a child, but- eh.  She’s in it to be the bad guy who gets the ball rolling but that’s about it.

Sara:  “Look women, we gave you a tough chick!  She goes toe to toe in combat with the others” – uh-huh, right.  Her role is to fall for Hemsworth, pretend to not love him until he grabs her and kisses her because women have wills only until they’re kissed then they’re owned, if not before.  So, there’s Sara.

The Dwarf Women:  There are two, they also pair up.  One also plays the ‘I don’t like you game’ with the guy, then goes for him.  The other’s are the simpleton’s, so they don’t have to pretend to hate each other and can just tell each other they like them and kiss and have babies.

The other thing here, every woman except for the dwarves has their waists cinched to within an inch of their lives.  Even the ‘strong warrior woman’ has to go around looking like she she has a waist that can snap in two with a strong breeze.  Breathing is for men, anyway.  No one wants to marry a woman with full lung capacity.

Overall – beautiful if not engaging and becoming tedious by the end and ultimately formulaic in story.  At least the chemistry between Chastain and Hemsworth was way better than when The Huntsman was supposed to fall for Snow White.

Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Overview:  I did not see Cloverfield.  I cannot medically see Cloverfield as shaky cam makes me nauseous beyond belief.  I found out that movie theaters refund your money thanks to Blair Witch Project and things have been limited since then, with even Where the Wild Things Are making me run into the hallway to hyperventilate in an effort to not vomit.

So I was happy that this movie was not the ‘found footage to create immediacy and detract from production values’ style like so many recent ones.  I was also happy that John Goodman was in it.  I love him.  He’s amazing in so much that he does.  He’s awesome and an actor who acts, who very quickly is no longer John Goodman but the character he’s portraying.

And thanks to Brain Dead (an awesome show everyone should be watching) I love Mary Elizabeth Winstead.  Two actors I like in a movie? Score.

The basic premise is that a woman, Michelle (played by Winstead) is in a car crash.  She wakes up chained to a wall in the basement of a man named Howard (John Goodman).  She tries to escape and he tells her the world has basically ended.  The air is contaminated and the end is nigh, she is in his bunker.  It turns out he has opened his doors to another survivor, a man named Emmett.  Is he telling the truth or is there something more sinister at play?

The Good:  The tension.  How it plays off the fear of a man kidnapping a woman because- how many movies are like that?  How many news stories?  It’s got shades of the Lovely Bones with the woman trapped in the basement, chained.  You never know if Howard is fully good or bad.

The pacing is actually good, as well.  The tension gets amped up as we go along.  As do the questions.  There are beats to keep the story from being stagnant.  You meet the other survivor.  Michelle attempts to escape and sees part of Howard’s story is true- an infected woman slams up against the window.  She begins to relax, we relax for a bit, then Michelle finds an SOS message scratched in blood into the surface facing window.  And it keeps ramping out.

And it doesn’t end there.  The escape montage, like so many movies, the finding out.  The final struggle.  The escape to learn – some truths can’t be escape.  This has you question a heck of a lot of what happened in that bunker.

The Bad:  There are questions that we’ll never get an answer to.  To some degree, I like that.  To others – I can’t help but wonder what happened to certain characters.  We don’t really learn much about the characters to see character growth.  Howard, we learn he gets creepier but as a character he is the same from beginning to end.  The other guy in the bunker is. . .the other guy in the bunker  I don’t quite remember his name.  He’s there as final motivation, to show us Howard’s temperament in black and white.  And at the end Michelle has to make a decision.  The clenched jaw tells us it’s a turning point for her, that she’s developed as a person, changed.  But it came across a bit over the top for me.

The Female:  This won’t pass the Bechdel test (two women, talking to each other, not about a man) because besides the woman who is infected and tries to get inside the bunker, Michelle is it.  She is the main character.  I do like that the tension is based on the fact that men. hurt. women.   A woman picked up by a man, in Disney it’s for saving, in the real world it’s for hurting and that is given room to breathe here.  Michelle is allowed to be her own woman in the film, make decisions, and figure the rules out.

Granted, part of the premise IS around the woman in peril and the ending can make some think differently of Howard and the motives.  I was thinking of Misery for a bit, because in that a man is kidnapped by a woman, and that’s part of the shock, that a man could do that to a woman.  It’s not really shocking in cinema for the opposite to happen.

Overall though, I enjoyed watching it and it kept my attention.  AND, I didn’t get motion sickness.

 

Marta Martinez Saves the World

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A while ago, Jacob Haddon of Apokrupha and I were chatting on Facebook, as we do, about the rhetoric around women in sci-fi and fantasy.  How few there are in the field, that there is a backlash when women speak out, and the Hugos.  The talk turned somehow to Godzilla (as it can) and a rant, probably from me, how even big monster narratives were being taken away from those who created them, in this case Godzilla being created as a response to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and turned into another vehicle to show how amazing white males are.  I likened Jurassic Park to a continuation of the motif.

Then I asked, “If a woman’s place is in the kitchen, what happens when the kitchen attacks?” and the joke suddenly began to form into a reality.  What if women DID own the apocalypse?  What if we took those marginalized by society, the cat lady, the female engineer, the fat woman, and showed how they can kick ass just as much as everyone else?  What if we didn’t flip the script as much as just show how strong women can be and how they can fight off big monsters just like the boys can and not just be the prize at the end of the battle?

Thus was born Kaiju Revisited, a series of big monster novellas wherein women kick ass.  There is an awesome line-up of female authors on board, which thoroughly excites me.

As does my novella, my first non-short story, kicking off the series.  Wherein the kitchen DOES attack and the female engineering student, and her cat, go out to save the world.

Marta Martinez Saves The World was a lot of fun for me to write.  I just let myself loose, let my influences shine, and let Marta Martinez, a marginalized female engineering student, take center stage.  I hope the fun shines through and you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And I hope you read the rest of the issues, and clamor for more so we can keep it going.  Because the big monster sandbox is big enough for all of us, and baby it’s time to start playin’.

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

Synopsis:  After a failed diplomatic attempt by Capt. Kirk that looked straight out of MIB, the Enterprise takes on a mission past the nebula to rescue a ship.  Once they get through the nebula they are attacked viciously be a swarm of ships that move like bees and the Enterprise is destroyed, landing on a nearby planet, and the crew taken hostage.

Because this is an action movie, and a male one at that, Kirk finds a motorcycle on this abandoned planet.  Scottie finds a female engineer who has fixed up a former federation ship, the USS Franklin, and together, motorcycle and engineer girl (who can kick ass) save the crew, find the bigger plot that the big baddie named Krall wants to do, and save the federation.

There’s also a bit of stuff about both Kirk and Spock getting offered jobs off Enterprise.  Nods to the original spock, Leonard Nimoy dying and this causing a crisis for current world spock as the last Vulcan, and a dedication to Anton Yelchin.

The Good:  Action!  Humour!  It’s funny, with self-referential jokes that had some people laughing way harder than I was.  For instance, Kirk says that his life feels episodic, and Star Trek was episodic TV and these movies are episodic, get it?  That opening scene when Kirk tries to be an ambassador to little puppy aliens and fails is funny!  He’s attacked by puppy aliens, and one gets named and stays on the ship.  Did I mention the action?  Things get blown up, a lot.  There’s hand to hand combat.  Aliens.  The main bad guy, Krall, wants to destroy the federation and all the aliens speak English, which is awesome.  Because in the future all aliens speak English all the time.  It just makes things easier.

The cast, as always, is having fun.  Especially Karl Urban as Bones, Chris Pine as Kirk, Simon Pegg as Scottie, and Zachary Quinto as Spock.  Those far are digging it and it shows and it makes them fun to watch.

The Bad:  This film doesn’t think it has enough to stand on its own yet.  As a franchise reboot, the film is trying to tell us that it’s good, which makes it – eh.  They talk of Spock and show a picture of the original Star Trek crew.  There are a lot of callbacks to legitimize themselves, and not only wasn’t needed it didn’t let the cast get out of the shadow and fully into their own groove.

The camera work was one twirl away from shaky cam.  While I didn’t vomit and leave the theater as happens with full on shaky, I found myself getting dizzy.  Half the time I wondered if they thought this was the interactive write at Universal Studios that was being filmed instead of a movie.  Really, it turned a LOT and made it hard to see the action.

They had Idris Elba in the cast and squandered him.  I can go all objectify-y and say when you have someone that fine keep him out of make-up, or I can say that when you have an actor that awesome why just make him grunt his lines out and so one note?  There was no room for range in the character, and Elba got the range.  I’m sure for him it’s a great paycheck, for this gal it was a waste of an awesome actor.

The story was basic- it was a draft story, not a fully fledged one.  “Let’s – have them crash on a planet.  Yeah, yeah, do that.  Maybe have Spock and Uhura fight. yeah, yeah, that.  And then she’s captured, and he finds her, but we have her save him because – twist, she’s the girl, right?  yeah – that.  okay, then let’s make the bad guy- I Know!  a twist at the end about who he is.  Let’s Shyamalan this motherf*cker of a film.”

And that’s how it was made.   Ideas thrown and what stuck to the wall stuck.  There was the potential for great commentary on the creation of the federation and implications of its creation in the future.  For talk about the price of peace and what happens to those indoctrinated to war for peace when there are no more wars.  But that went to the wayside for explosions and. . .more explosions.

The Female:  This film really made me realize that modern media just cannot have women talk to one another.  Each group had a woman in it, among many many men, but no group had more than one who could speak.

Uhura:  Of the Enterprise group she’s the female.  A love interest to Spock.  A communications expert who wasn’t needed because everyone spoke English.  She’s captured, Spock is motivated to save her, she finds him first, they kiss at the end.

Jaylah:  Some white alien with white hair (long and flowy, because we have to find her attractive) and black markings on her face who speaks English but with an accent.  She’s of the crashed team along with Scotty and Kirk.  She is the Deux ex femina leading them to the deux ex machina- the USS Franklin they can fix to free everyone.  Her  parents are dead, she’s alone, she knows how to fight and is good with electronics.

Commodore Paris:  She’s of the Space Station team. She speaks mainly with Kirk and doesn’t exist elsewhere.

And never the woman shall meet.

Overall:  It was like a good episode of the old show.  A dizzying popcorn flick of motorcycles and man rescues and tons of jokes between friends that we all get because, having grown up on Star Trek, they’re our friends, too.

Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

Synopsis:  Erin is up for tenure at Columbia, when her old bestie Abby republishes their book on ghosts, much to her embarrassment.  Abby is a particle physicist working in a fly by night college with Dr. Holtzmann.  They end up at a haunted house, see that ghosts are real, and band together.

Meanwhile, Patty, the street-wise subway toll booth operator runs into a ghost and decides to join them, as well.

Turns out a guy is tired of the world and wants to bring about an apocalypse and has used their book to devise a way to break the veil and bring ghosts to NYC.  So it’s a battle of the female physicists against the disenfranchised male to save NYC.

The Good:  It was fun!  Blast-em up kind of fun.  There was slime, and thing exploded, and stupid jokes, and I definitely laughed.  I also cried.

The crying caught me off guard.  I didn’t realize the impact of having women, and women who looked closer to me, doing save the world type stuff.  The women bodies were varied, like men can be in buddy films, and not all ripped.  The first time I started to tear up was when all four were in their suits and they had Ecto-1 and it just made me happy.  The second time was when Holtzmann took out two guns and did the superhero spin, roll, and shoot killing all the baddies around her.  Oh man was that good.

Then there was Chris Hemsworth as Kevin and he was hilarious.  So much stupid fun with his one liners around the joint.  More on him later.

There were great lines in here as well acknowledging that yes, these are women.  It wasn’t a movie where roles for men were played by women.  In one scene, the disenfranchised male asks if they understand what it’s like to be so smart and work so hard and not get any credit- the women in the audience chuckled.  Abby did the, ‘well, d’uh- yeah.’ because it’s an everyday for women.  You can be smarter, faster, and have more experience and it won’t matter.  The fact that women get hired on experience and men on potential is, well, a fact.  Particularly in the STEM fields.

The Bad:  I have heard people complain that Kevin was just TOO dumb.  I mean, he covered his eyes when things were too loud.  He didn’t understand telephones.  While the girls were saving the world he was at a deli ordering a sandwich.  Everyone comments on how pretty he is but he’s dumber than a post.  “The women in men’s films are never that stupid,” I’ve seen said.  Well, here’s the thing, I don’t think his character is to make fun of the dumb blonde trope, although I can see how people would see that.  I think it’s more to make fun of how blind men are to when women say they aren’t being given equal pay, when they complain about how everything costs more as a woman, from haircuts and clothes to the taxing of maxi pads as non-necessary items.  The blindness when women say they don’t feel comfortable walking home at night.  I think the ignorance of Kevin was a collective ignorance of the female experience in a male body, to the point that when a woman complains men cover their eyes to not hear.

Then I hear complaints about Leslie Jones- the one black character having to be the street smart one.  I do wish, since this was a revamp/retelling and not a sequel that they made her a scientist as well.  I am tired of the street smart *insert ethnicity here* trope, and Leslie is a lot of fun and could have done a scientist role just as easily.  Hell, she could have been a subway engineer and brought that knowledge to the team just as well.

Some of the homages were a bit much.  Billy Murray was in it, as was Ernie Hudson and Dan Ackroyd.  Ackroyd’s felt the most forced, with the line, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” telegraphed like a preschooler telling you the same joke for the tenth time.

Making fun of academia and Columbia was the biggest irk.  It gets tiresome to see the big schools as snobby and old fashioned, even if there needs to be some change in the ivory towers (major change).  It’s a cheap laugh and trope.

The Female:  This might be the first movie I’ve reviewed that passes the Bechdel test (two women talk to each other, and not about a man).  They talk about their jobs, and childhood, and friendships, and ghosts.  Yes, they talk about Kevin as well, but it’s more the other things that make up the movie.  There are four women in charge of the film, then the Mayor’s secretary – who we see is really running the show (The Mayor is basically another ‘Kevin,’ just not as pretty).  The women have careers, degrees, and agency.  They know how to fight and explore and have a lot of fun.  They are all pretty amazing.

There was a lot of gruff about an all female Ghostbusters, some of which made it into the film in sly commentary.  Here’s the thing, Ghostbusters is a fairy tale- and those are re envisioned all the time.  From Fractured Fairytales to a slew of anthologies about rewriting fairy tales, it’s part of our nature to rewrite these essential elements of story and allow ourselves room within them.  To take an exclusionary tale, but one central to our past and identity, and include in it an updating to allow those of us usually on the outside a way to be represented and have agency.  That’s why we have feminist fairy tales, and stories of Snow White as the vampire, and the thousands of variations – so we can stop having to identify with white men and identify as who we are, whatever that may be.  And in this case the new telling of the tale allows women and women of color to be part of the tale.  We get to have a connection to popular culture where we are heroes.

Overall:  It was great fun.  There were laughs to be had.  This is not arthouse deep cinema, but it’s also not dark brooding explosions with growling voices.  There’s lightness in tone and story and a lot of slime.  Oh, and a queef joke.

 

Movie Review: Batman Vs. Superman, Dawn of Justice

Synopsis:  There’s Batman.  And there’s Superman.  And stuff happens, I think.  Explosions.  We see Batman’s parents die YET AGAIN but oh, this time the gun firing is what spills Ma Wayne’s pearls.  There’s the Joker pretending to be Lex Luthor or vice versa.  Flash might be in this.  Bruce Wayne dreams a lot, so this might be like Inception and not a real movie at all.

I think there was something in there about people being scared of Superman and an attempt at discussing Gods vs Demons and judging people by your standards, not theirs.  Then there are more explosions.  You learn both Ma Kent and Ma Wayne are named Martha.

Doomsday, kryptonite, a grave, the end.

The Good:  Uhm.  Let me think.  On the objectification front- Henry Cavill looks good.  I usually don’t think that of Affleck, but in the opening scenes with the graying temples, it worked.  Gal Gadot wore a couple beautiful gowns.

The Bad:  This is a longer list.  First off- it was dark.  Not in tone (although that was as well) but in color.  You needed the explosions to just SEE ANYTHING.

I have a vague idea of plot- Lex Luthor kidnaps Ma Kent, tells Superman to kill Batman or she dies.  Batman is branding people for some reason, thinks Supes is too powerful.  But they bond and make-up.  A lot of this is speculation though.  For the most part, I had NO idea what was going on.  It felt like a series of ‘batman vs. superman’ trailers tacked together to make 2 hours.  The way Lex Luthor speaks makes me think all his lines were cut from the Dark Knight script as ‘not quite Joker enough.’  When they’re not nonsensical they’re trite (like turning a painting of angels and demons upside down, because you now know demons come from the sky).

So – you can’t see anything, and have no idea what’s going on.  That’s the basic gist of the bad.  Oh, and speaking in growls is back for Batman, so there’s that.

The Female:

Lois Lane is pointless except as a weak spot for Superman, because isn’t that all we are?

Ma Kent is kidnapped to make Superman kill Batman.

Ma Wayne is killed to make Batman become Batman (can’t be an overpowered male if not spurred by the death of a weak female somewhere) and, later, to bond with Supes over their Martha’s.

Wonder Woman has, per the pop-ups on my video player, 16 lines of dialogue.  She fights at the end a bit.  You still need a man to win, though.

Oh, Holly Hunter is in it as some senator.  She gets lines.  She says no to Lex Luthor.  She dies.

If any were removed, you’d never notice.  I don’t think they talked to each other at all, either.  Except for Lois Lane and Ma Kent about Superman – thus not passing the Bechdel Test (two women, talk to each other, and not about a man).

Overall:

I love the idea of Batman and Superman, grew up on both and read the Doomsday comic.  But really, just watch some youtube trailers of this and you’re fine.

 

 

Movie Review: DeadPool

Summary:  Wade Wilson is a jackass but he knows it so it’s all good.  He’s a mercenary for hire and specializes in protecting women from sleaze bag men, because of course.  He meets his female match in a possible prostitute (He offers her money, but I can never tell if that’s part of the ‘come on’ or not) and they can match snark to snark for the 5 minutes she’s on screen.  She also knows how to grab a man’s balls.

Then Wade is diagnosed with cancer.

He gets offered a chance to undergo experimental treatments that will also make him a ‘superhero’ – he doesn’t want to but he’s got a woman in his life now he wants to be alive to protect, so does it.

It’s a sham of human experimentation that most likely does not have IRB approval.  Shame.  And they like to torture their patients.  They want to make them into super powered slaves sold to the highest bidder.  Wade gets the treatment, escapes, and vows revenge under the name Deadpool.  However, he’s disfigured and ugly now so of course no woman can love him, even the one who did for however long the montage was for in the beginning.

There are also a couple X-men in here for some reason.  Colossus with a thick Russian accent that feels so. . . .cartoony and Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

The Good:  If a cat were to be human and have superpowers – it would be Deadpool.  He knocks stuff off the table, doesn’t listen to anyone, has his own idea of how to move and be cool and in general doesn’t care about your shit and has his own agenda.  However, he’s not necessarily evil, although he can be portrayed that way.  Also, he has a lot of memes around him.  And there’s the snark.

In that way – Deadpool is fun.  It’s hero is irreverent and enjoys his own snark and jokes.  Deadpool is known for breaking the fourth wall but I never really see him as more than Ryan Reynolds, they seem so fit for each other, and so it’s fine that I see Ryan Reynold’s eyes and not necessarily Deadpool’s.  As a girl who grew up reading 90s superhero comics, there’s a weirdness of nostalgia thrown in as well.

Explosions – check.  Weird ‘fun’ ways to kill people – yup.  There are car chases and juvenile jokes that garnered a laugh or two.  It follows the formula pretty well of being mainstream but mocking it, which is in itself mainstream.  From the opening credits ripped straight from the Honest Trailer series on youtube to the end where our hero continues his life as if he hasn’t learned anything at all you know exactly what this movie is.  It doesn’t veer from the script.

There were also some good jokes poked at the Wolverine franchise which has been such a disappointment (and I still watch and will still watch when a new one comes out because I hate myself) and the X-men in general.

 

The Bad:  Up in the description I talked about how when Wade is getting tested on he’s told that what is really going on is they are creating super powered Weapon X type bad guys for hire by others.  This is totally dropped.  At least, if it’s picked up again, I didn’t catch it.

Because it follows this ‘I’m a superhero movie that’s a different sort of sameness,’ I found myself getting bored.  I mean, I actually unpacked a bookcase I’ve been meaning to put together and finally did it during this film because that’s how much my attention was held.  It’s a nice bookcase, one of those cheap particle board ones with a cardboard backing, but was clean sorely needed.   Two hours of snark can also become tiring even when fun.  It’s riffing, fine, and begins to feel like a locker room.

IDK the need for the X-men in this film, the two they could get the rights too.  I think they were to provide some kind of growth for Deadpool beyond revenge – that ‘hey, look, you can be a good guy like us’ type of thing.  It also provided room for jokes.  But they just come in to scene once in a while while Deadpool does his thing and seem to be there to extend the film beyond 20 minutes by allowing the object of Deadpool’s revenge to escape each time.

 

The Female:  The film has women in it.  There’s one in each group.  The bad scientist people have Angel – a superstrong woman who says, IDK, ten words maybe during the film?  The Deadpool Coalition has his girlfriend who we’re told can match him in snark but don’t really see much of, and The X-men side has Negasonic Teenage Warhead.  I think that’s it.  They don’t talk much, or to each other, they’re the women for specific women in film reasons.  Oh yeah, then there’s his blind female roommate and possibly the only non-white person in this universe, unless you count Colossus who is silver.

Angel:  “Look!  Bad guys can be female too!  And she’s strong, isn’t that cool?”- that’s what it feels like the movie is saying.  She also allows Colossus to show he is a good guy and has manners by saying he doesn’t hit women before she hits him and, irony, sends him flying across a junkyard.

Negasonic:  Sullen female mean girl.  Deadpool nails the stereotype when he says she either says something mean or nothing at all.  She has a few lines – validating Deadpool at the end that he is ‘cool’.  She can also take out Angel showing, look!  another strong woman.  But to do so she has to burn off her baggy sullen clothes for a spandex suit, albeit one that covers her entire body, thankfully.

Blind Al:  The spunky older woman cliche who does things a grandma shouldn’t, like drugs.

Vanessa:  The Hooker with a Heart for the Hero.  I like capitalizing Hs today.  They show she’s his equal by a ‘who has a worse life’ match in the beginning of their love story.  However, despite the film wanting to say they aren’t like other films, She even says she’s not a damsel in distress!  she’s the catalyst.  He undergoes the operation for her and then he seeks revenge for her and then she’s kidnapped and he goes after the bad guys to save her and she’s not in the film that much.

I have been reading more about ‘Women in Refrigerators’:  the idea is how women do not exist in films on screen but their loss is what drives a male hero or anti-hero to action.  Examples include every Law and Order SVU episode where a female is raped before the opening credits and then the team spends the time finding the person.  Supernatural – where the mother is killed and that spurs Sam and Dean into their father’s business.  DC Legends of Tomorrow where the lead’s wife is killed so he now seeks vengeance.  The list goes on.    This also goes for comics and The Mary Sue has a video compilation on their site.

Now, Vanessa doesn’t die but this is a similar concept.  Wade  undergoes treatment to protect her (his words) and then she is kidnapped and he has to protect her (his actions) and other than that, eh.

And as for the Bechdel test – I don’t recall the females having two sentences of dialogue to each other but then, maybe I sneezed.  Or maybe I was hammering my bookcase together during the two seconds they had dialogue.

 

 

 

Damned If You Do, Damned if You Don’t – MFA debate raises its ugly head

In light of an age old writerly debate starting once again, a story:
 
When I graduated with my Bachelors, I was excited. I was the first from my family to get a college degree and managed to go to an Ivy League school. I worked my ass off to go through there and had so many barriers, including a family who thought that by me going to school I was saying I was better than them – I had to sacrifice a lot just to get those four years in.
Newly minted diploma in hand I go to interview one in a suit and meet with some HR person and talk about my degree in Film and English and my love of anime and am familiar with about two-thirds of the ones she mentions.  This was early nineties so it was Robotech probably movies like Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies.  I was part of the Anime club at college at one point as well and was of the generation when it was initially called Japanimation.  She likes me so I go to a second interview.  Then I meet the vice-president and she shows me around.  We talk pay – it will be NYC abysmal at about 30K to start. The main job, though, will be watching videos to correct the english of subtitles and then writing DVD copy.  It’s explained that some of the videos are incredibly rough and misogynistic and at the time I don’t care.
Then I meet the president of the company.  He has his office overlooking Central Park and is wearing a cowboy hat and has his cowboy boots propped up on his desk.  And he says to me:
“Everyone speaks very highly of you but there’s no way I’m hiring some privileged ass Ivy League (he might have ended this with bitch).  I wanted to bring you in to tell you that in person, that these kids like you who don’t know how to work and have it all handed to you come in here thinking you can do a job or deserve one because you went to those schools won’t work for me because you don’t know how to work. You can’t do anything.  You’re just useless kids riding off of mommy and daddy’s money and want me to wipe your noses at your desks.”
I tried to protest – I knew work!  He was judging me harshly based on this pre-conceived notion.  I’d made it through three other interviews talking about the work and work ethic, and here he was telling me how useless I was and my degree and how I didn’t know a thing about work when since about age 9 I had been instrumental in getting food on my families table, from selling comics to baby-sitting to other things.  I wanted to scream about tirals of my life.  Why was he judging me like this?
He didn’t listen.  The VP who was in the room was mortified and apologized to me profusely.  I didn’t get the job and decided to temp for a while after that to get my bearings.
How does this tie into the MFA debate?  
There is no right way to do anything and no matter what you do someone will try and shame you for it.  And let me be clear – THIS SUCKS.
There is no right way to write and become a writer either and this is tripping people up.  There is STORY and there are ways to tell a STORY but there are multiple ways stemming from multiple cultures and if you are lucky you were exposed to more than one idea of STORY and can appreciate the variety out there.  That’s rare and goes into the question of why TOCs pop up with all white male authors – it’s a tradition ingrained.
When someone’s mind is set, like the gentleman interviewing me, there’s also really no way to change their mind and THIS ALSO SUCKS.
There are writers who suffer for their art there are those who do not.  There are those who are raging alcoholics and have many cats there are those who do not.  If all art was the same and came from the same roots – well think how boring that would be, or think of how hard that would be for someone who wanted something different (which is also what we’re going through now, writing has been the same for so long it’s hard to accept people outside that sameness tradition because people just don’t know how.).
What I also see in the MFA debate that I saw in my interview was an irrational bias that seemed to stem from jealousy or the idea of fairness.  It was unfair I got to go Ivy when that gentleman hadn’t.  This was something my mother had said, that it was unfair I got to go to school when she hadn’t.  And it’s something I feel a lot too when I look at some of my MFA peeps getting published – the females in my program, 2 out of 3, went there married and knew they would never have to work after.  It was a throwback at times, being around women of leisure who in the past would have learned embroidery and here an MFA was a modern day woman of leisure activity.  I found it incredibly unfair that they didn’t have to fight to be there and every day was a tiring fight for me.  I found it unfair when they started their own presses after the program to publish each other.
In the initial swing from unfair there is pride.  I know I have to work.  I know I have worked and my writing will reflect not that writing from a place of privilege, but the writing of a ‘fully formed human’ and there’s judgement there.  That judgement definitely still pops up when I hear how these people once again published each other and the connectivity at play, the fact that they are in a world I am excluded from even though we did the same things.
In the end, it’s a debate with no winning rhetoric.  Some people go to MFAs, some don’t.  Not all who go to an MFA continue to write after, not all who struggle at home to write continue.  Not all MFA people are successful, not all those who struggle are.  Whether you went to one or not you’ll run into people who think you’re awesome and you’ll run into people who think you suck for the decisions you made in your life and won’t care to hear the backstory.  Yes, MFAs can help depending on what you want to do and how you leverage them, as can creating your own virtual MFA through the numerous online workshops (thinking Critters for one has churned out amazing writers).
There are choices we make in our lives and careers, and they are made from various data points.  Not all choices may seem available to all people but they shape who we are and how we view the world and thus how we create our art.  It’s hard to judge a person on their choices when we don’t know their backstory (technically, it’s incredibly easy to do that.  It’s why this post started.  But I feel I shouldn’t so easily).
MFA, non-MFA – we need to work more on exploring and expanding the definition of ‘GOOD WRITING’ and change the debate because it’s part of the larger issue of a limited cultural view.

On Writing While Female – Part III

Part I

Part II

I now write my experiences.  The female experience.  How when I take public transportation men don’t take no for an answer when asking me to ‘get freaky with them’ and have followed me, or punched the side of the train behind my head.  How I can’t walk outside because that’s ‘male space’ and if a man talks to me and I don’t respond, it’s a violation of their domain and they get angry, scream, threaten.  How so many of us have been violated in some way or another by men.  (So, two things here.  I have had two serious stalkers in my life, both ended up in jail for seriously hurting and in one case killing other people.  When life as a female comes up in social groups I often say I haven’t met a woman who hasn’t had a stalker.  And guess what?  Everyone then comments on theirs from the past.  I still haven’t met a woman who hasn’t had a stalker.  The other thing is the percentage of women that are molested.  Last time I followed the stalker question up with this one, every woman also raised their hand.  It’s harrowing, but none of us weren’t in some way violated.)

It’s not easy to identify as female, and there’s a reason I’m saying ‘identify as’ rather than ‘am’.  And it goes to the abuse.  So much abuse.  To be female is to not belong except as an object.  It is to fight every day just to stand.  To feel like you need to apologize for everything, every thought, that you have to step off the sidewalk to a curb when a man is walking down the middle if you don’t want to get run into.  To not matter.  This was drilled into me.  My brother was a man and mattered, I did not.  A common poem repeated in my house was, “A Woman a Dog and a Walnut Tree, the more you beat them the better they be.”

Of course I didn’t want to be female or a girl or anything like that, but I knew I wasn’t a boy and couldn’t be a man.  I denied my gender and sexuality for a long time, and feel I’m still in the process of claiming it.

Writing female is hard because there is this history of female voices not being anything but chatter.  Background noise. The braying of a mule or barking of a dog.  And this, I think, is the most horrifying thing of all and is certainly a horror motif- to be screaming as you’re attacked but having no sound come out.  No one to hear you despite being in a crowd.

And there aren’t spaces on the Table of Contents for you either.  Because editors raised the same way as I, on male stories, say ‘I judge the story, not the writer’ but arne’t seeing the limitations in their view when they read.  They aren’t see the limitations in their idea of a ‘good story.’

And this is why, as hard as it is, I write horror.  I write female.  I’m balancing out the use of male characters now, but I try to be cognizant of their use, the maleness, and why I am writing them in.  It’s time to get the word out that female leads, female writers, that what they have to say in the canon matters.  We do that by writing it.  By not fitting in anymore, but standing up and out despite the new horrors that come from this simple act of defiance.  I’m tired of being a man’s shadow.  I am my own person, and my own writer.  It may greatly limit my chances at publication, but when I do get a story published I no longer feel I’m part of the problem or ‘passing’ as a female who can write as well as a male.  I’m a woman who can write well.

My name is Victorya Chase.  I identify as female.  And I am a writer.

(Tomorrow – Part IV – What can we do?)