Editorials in the Darke | Sequel Bait

From my Facebook Wall:

So I was reading your review for the new Blade Runner (I just love to read your eloquent reviews!) And I was thinking… it seems to me, that it is far easier to make a whole new film then to attempt sequels. But what would you classify as the top ten sequels (any genre) in your opinion ??

This is kinda a loaded question, but one I want to take a stab at. Let me break it down into parts before getting to the meat of the question itself.

Far Easier to make a whole new film than attempt sequels

As a writer, and someone who is familiar with fan fic, it’s easier to work from a framework. Original ideas are hard only because as writers we tend to question ourselves far too often and think we are being too derivative of someone else’s body of work. This only gets harder as time goes on and more products are out there. Ex Machina could be seen as Blade Runner told with a cast of 3, but it isn’t quite that. Of course you also have reboots, in which you take the original narrative and try to modernize it or do something new with it. These have mostly poor reception with only a few actually even equaling the other work from a purely objective much less subjective standpoint. I could probably write a doctorate level thesis on that concept alone.

So then you come to the sequel itself, which has factors that can make it easier or harder when you take them into account:

  • Popularity of the property. This even has a further breakdown when you consider nostalgia.
  • Time between films
  • Budget
  • Success of the property
  • Property framework, or does the original work allow for organic sequels?

Frequently we find sequels being ordered with release dates before even a pen is put to paper to give a good script after a film does well in the box office. Usually this results in a train wreck as the creative process takes more time than is allowed, but the studio wants to get the money while people still care. Which leads into time between films. At 35 years Blade Runner is one of the longest times between actual sequels, but due to that it has built considerable credibility and nostalgia within the film community – yet it effectively bombed on its release. The popularity got it a sequel but also creates harsher judges of its quality on release. Some sequels are given less budget to work with all but damning them, while others are given exhorbitant budgets – which does not equal success as much of what made some things work was how the production had to get scrappy and do more with less, when given keys to the kingdom creativity can actually die.

Many films don’t leave room for sequels but we get them anyway. Carrie, Fright Night, even Star Wars could be considered a movie that had little room at the time for a sequel but here we are 40 years later. Others implicitly set up sequels which will never get made for good or for ill, Push, Jumper, and a lot of Young Adult films tend to fall into this category. Many reviewers (including me) and those in the critique business (Cinema Sins, Honest Trailers, Nostalgia Critic) even make jokes about how its cute they think they will get a sequel.

I could really go into this more, but for now let’s talk my top 10 sequels.

Rules:

  1. These are sequels I have seen both the original film and the sequel. If I haven’t seen it – it will not make the list, so you won’t see the critically acclaimed Godfather II on here.
  2. In many cases I am not stating explicitly that the sequel is better than the original, only that it is really good.
  3. I am including films that are part of series, but will only rate the second film against the first – so yes, you are going to see Empire Strikes Back on this list, but you won’t see Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Back to the Future 3, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, or Fury Road
  4. If I am reminded of a film later, I may re order this list.

Ok so here we go. These are in no particular order, currently.

    1. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back (1980) / Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

      Star Wars is an iconic piece of movie history. It defined the lives of tens of thousands of children and rewrote the rules of what summers and blockbusters were. It is, however, flawed. This doesn’t lessen it’s impact, but does give room for its sequel to be better. While it is clear Empire was written to be a continuation where Star Wars was not, despite protests to the contrary, it still holds as it’s own film. It successfully reintroduces the characters with no loss of personality, growth in character, and then expands the universe. The Empire becomes seen as the massive fist that it is vs. a single monstrosity. The sets, threats, and beats all just work better than they do in the first. Much of this can come from Kasdan’s writing, but also having the power of an established universe. You don’t need to explain as much, but have the luxury of using your footing to get more stable.

      Then of course there’s the ending. It would be easy to say no movie made now would have the audacity to end the way Empire does. While you still have some hope it *must* be acknowledged the heroes are playing from the back foot now and their positions are in jeopardy. This is really what gives it such staying power is that the heroes are not always triumphant. If you consistently win without sacrifice then the wins have no value. People, audiences, love to root for the underdog and if the hero is on top you just have a perfunctory win instead of a fight to come out on top in the next film. Empire delivers this and will always be remembered fondly for it.

    2. Color of Money (1986)/ The Hustler (1961)

      This will seem an odd one coming from me and it isn’t really a well known sequel. The original film has both amazing performances from Jackie Gleeson and Paul Newman. What the sequel does so smart is they introduce you to a very young Tom Cruise who seeks out a now aging Newman to show him how to shark. The music, the acting, the personalities all work and shows a logical dramatic evolution of the Newman character. It is actually rare to make a sequel like this where your original young star now plays the elder mentor. Its on this list as I think the formula here has opportunity for usage. It could and should have been used on the recent Flatliners film as Sutherland was in fact playing his prior character and would have been perfect to continue the story and mentor the new scientists on the risks.

    3. Blade Runner 2049 (2017) / Blade Runner (1982)

      Just see my recent review and know that these films are amazing pieces of work and the sequel is the best possible sequel you can make from a movie that didn’t have implicit architecture to do so. Already news agencies are talking about how 2049 bombed. As a financial investment it certainly did, but this doesn’t keep it from being amazing film making.I was tempted to throw everyone by putting Kurt Russel’s Soldier on here as the sequel to Blade Runner, but as its merely a spiritual successor/side-quel set in the same Universe I couldn’t. But you should see it and I still consider it an amazing film for what it is.

    4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)/ Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

      The first movie of the remakes here has one of the greatest film surprises in it of all time with a single word uttered. The second capitalizes on the world and the conclusion and takes us a time into the future. The visuals become stronger as does the storytelling. It is great science fiction in that it makes us look at our own humanity and our interactions with each other through the lens of how Ape culture is being built, interacts with itself and the natural divisions that occur – THEN goes and adds humans into the mix to show when opposing cultures meet. Many deride movies like this for showing the evil of “man”, but ask the un-contacted tribe in the Amazon what they think of modern man. Wait, you can’t they were just wiped out by a gold mining company.We do have better angels, but movies like this remind us of what we do all too frequently overtly and unconsciously amongst our own society. This is why it makes my list as the movies put these issues in focus and do it well consecutively.

    5. Aliens (1986) / Alien (1979)

      Alien is one of the definitive horror films of all time. So how do you make a sequel in the genre? Trick question – you don’t. You instead turn it into a pulse pounding yet character driven action movie. Aliens does something that most horror and action films fail to do – let you get to know the characters just enough so that when they die you knew who they were and a basic personality. To borrow from Oceans 11 “He has to like you and forget you.” Modern films in these genres give us the same amount or more of disposable characters, letting you know they will die, but don’t bother to make you care so the stakes never rise. Think about Vasquez, tough as nails, reaching for her partner Drake. Sgt. Apone, Frost, Weirzbowski, Ferro. Most fans of the franchise know each of those names, but they were nothing more than tally marks against the things have gotten bad. Hudson, Vasquez, even Gorman are left with you so that when they die, you see just when it couldn’t get worse it does. Hicks is taken out for the last fifteen minutes of movie, but for a moment you worry he won’t make it because of how all the others were structured. Even Bishop is set up to let you worry and you do. Not bad for a machine. This is why Aliens is a fantastic sequel. It defies convention and sets up structure in a way that others should, but don’t learn from, on how to do horror/action/and or sci fi.

    6. Superman II (1981) / Superman (1978)

      Richard Donner cheated here. Both films were made in 1977 with Donner having filmed an estimated 75% of it prior to being removed from the project by the studio. Richard Lester replaced Donner, but to get the credit had to shoot 51% of the material – which meant much in the way of reshoots. While I do feel the Donner cut is superior and the troubled production does create some very interesting continuity errors in the movies, Superman II is quite likely the most remembered of the two movies. This comes down to Terrence Stamp as Zod and Reeves Superman being so much larger than life. It brings the otherworldly nature of Superman into the focus vs. the weird real estate story of the first. If I asked you to quote a line from either of these films easily 90% of people would say “Kneel before Zod” – and that right there is why it makes the list. The *fond* memories of it and how well it holds up 40 years later.

    7. Star Trek: First Contact (1996) / Star Trek: Generations (1994) AND Star Trek: Wrath of Khan (1982) / Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

      Ok this one is kinda a cheat as its the same franchise, but different generations. MP allowed for Khan where they reached into the series and pulled one of the iconic villains and resurrected him into one of the most iconic sequels of all time. The battle of wills and the sacrifice of friends to see it through. Sure the sacrifice was short circuited by another film, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of watching Spock die before your eyes.

      First Contact does similar and brings the analogy closer to Moby Dick (as the movie points out), but does so very well. It’s also the first time TNG really goes “Dark”; meanwhile telling two very different stories successfully. Both of these movies tend to top people’s Star Trek film lists and for good reason.

    8. The Dark Knight (2008)/ Batman Begins (2005)

      Batman Begins is the better comic book movie that remains true to its origins and is an overall better Batman film. The Dark Knight deviates keeping only trappings of comic book worlds but tells instead a gritty crime drama with a villain who is on par cinematicaly with Hannibal Lechter. It is better made as a film, where you could watch it and a movie like Heat in a film study of crime films and while there might be a few eyebrows raised the argument is easy to make.The loss of the more comic book aspects and too much of it shot during daylight do take away from the Batman nature of it, but with its billion dollar gross, near universal fan and critical praise The Dark Knight does need to be acknowledged as one of the great sequels of all time.

    9. Terminator 2 Judgement Day (1991) / Terminator (1984)

      What is it with Cameron making superior sequels -ignoring Pirhana II the spawning. In this case he expands on his own universe and gives one of the most financially successful sequels of all time. Terminator 2 largely holds up in every category from then til now even with its early generation CGI effects. There are some that don’t let’s be fair, but it works on a lot of levels in the FX department even now. Much was practical and then we have excellent character development like we saw with Empire Strikes back on how characters changed over time. Terminator gave us a world, a look and a feel. Terminator 2 capitalized on it. The sadness is that none of the sequels gave us John Connor like we were promised from T2’s battlefield shot or even a world as promised by Kyle Reese in the first.

    10. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) / Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

      I have a love for The First Avenger. Of the two movies it is the one I am more likely to watch just because it is a touch more on the feel good components (all things considered) and less on more modern horror shows. It makes me feel in the right ways. That being said, Winter Soldier is without a doubt the best sequel in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even Cinema Sins and Honest Trailers had issues mocking it because much like Dark Knight it is solid film making. What it does better is keep within the strongest parts of its comic book trappings.

That’s my list. While I have a feeling I missed something and didn’t fully explain everything (I’m already at 2500 words) I believe these are the right choices. There were a few who didn’t make the cut. I may get inspired to talk about remakes/reboots in a future post to this. Special thanks to Jessica L. for inspiring this post.

Comment here on AmusedintheDark on Facebook on what you think should be on this list or if you agree or disagree.

Runners Up:

  • The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) / Pitch Black (2000)
  • The Wolverine (2013) / X Men Origins Wolverine (2009)
  • Hellboy 2 The Golden Army (2008) / Hellboy (2004)
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Darke Reviews – Best and Worst of 2016

I haven’t tried one of these before, I see some people do top 10, top 5, top 7, or top 11. I see some only do Best, some do best and worst. Let’s face it the movie review game is flooded with people who have their own takes and spins – so might as well take my own right?

Now this list is strictly based on movies I have watched as part of a First Run experience in theatres. So things like Goonies don’t count, nor do direct to DVD purchases.

Best of 2016

This was a hard category, because quite honestly out of the 40+ movies I watched this year most were just good or “ok”, others were completely Meh. Only 10 made it into potential ranking for best movies of the year and that has been paired down to the following 6.

  1. Arrival
    When considering overall production value, mental engagement, visuals, the film making, script, and just concept. Arrival for me has to be the best movie of the year. It may not win in the rewatch category, but it just nails it and is one of the best sci-fi movies this decade (which we’re now 70% through). If this doesn’t get at least a nod for the Oscars I am going to be even further disappointed in the Academy.
  2. Kubo and the Two Strings
    This almost nailed the number one slot. It so beautiful and heartfelt. To date this is Laika’s best film and is absolutely magical. Watching their behind the scenes production videos should make you even more in awe of what was finally released on screen. I have had the opportunity to share it with people who missed it in theatres that “don’t watch animation” and they loved it. Don’t pass this one up.
  3. Moana
    It’s better than Frozen. Full stop, no argument. It is nearly flawless. Frozen shows signs of its 11th hour edits, Moana does not. Granted Let it Go is still a superior, and intensely personal song, to anything in Moana; but I have to give credit to the Princess ‘I want song’ “How Far I’ll go”. While not as personal to me, it still resonated, as does the rest of the movie. The animation is some of the best Disney has ever done and shows how far they are going and how much more that they can do. It is an incredible tight production with a small cast and very focused and directed story. I am hoping Disney takes notes on this one and continues to give us more like Moana.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPAbx5kgCJo
  4. The Witch
    This one stuck with me. It stuck with me hard. I want to say there are not a lot of good witch movies, which is true, but thats doing a disservice to this to limit it so much. There are not a lot of good period horror movies. I suppose it makes some sense as you can’t shoot as cheaply when doing a period piece, but I would love to see other productions follow the footsteps of this one. It isn’t for everyone, but this is a list of what I loved this year and I truly loved the Witch for all it gave me. It made me feel. It made me think. It made me smile at the end. It’s a good film deserving a good watch.
  5. Deadpool
    Not for kids. Awesome movie that I spent laughing from credit to post credit. I am looking forward to the sequel to see if it they caught lightning in a
    bottle or is there a recipe they figured out to make a successful R Rated movie.
  6. Suicide Squad
    I know this is making a lot of peoples worst of the year lists. I’ve watched it in theatres twice, watched the extended edition for a third time. I have to acknowledge it does have flaws, but the DCEU really needs to pay more attention to David Ayer and less to Zack Snyder. He nailed these characters and there’s a lot of effort behind the scenes to really bring them to life. The actors themselves gave it their all and it shows too. With the recent announcement of Gotham City Sirens as a Harley Quinn spin off film with Ayer at the helm I am excited again for a DC movie. I just hope he lets her have more control over the costume this time.

Worst  of 2016

As I said before the ability to pair this list down to the worst of the worst was difficult with so many potential contenders this year. Some were badly made, others bad concepts, some just outright offensive, and two were so below mediocre I couldn’t even bring myself to write about them.

  1. Divergent: Allegiant / London Has Fallen
    It’s a tie!. You’ll notice there is no link to the reviews. These two movies left me with such amazing apathy at how bad they were by comparison to their predecessors I couldn’t even come up with the energy to write about it. To be fair Gods of Egypt almost made the 6th spot. I maintained my boycott and didn’t pay money to see it, but it was on HBO when I was on a work trip and I did watch. Not only did it deserve the boycott, but it was beyond horrific. I have seen better SyFy movie of the weeks.
  2. Mechanic: Resurrection
    This was just such mediocre garbage that tried to pass itself off as an action movie. I have seen student films that look better.
  3. Independence Day Resuregence
    Sometimes sequels are better. Sometimes they are worse. Sometimes they are not needed. Sometimes we just don’t care. No one wanted it. No one asked for it. Ok well not recently. A lot of us wanted to see more back in 1996. Bigger isn’t better. Scaling up isn’t always the way to go. I guarantee you no one wanted to see more of Brent Spiners butt.  If you watch this you will want your time back and ask yourself why it was made.
  4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
    *sigh*
  5. 10 Cloverfield Lane
    I am once again the contrarian. I am seeing this make some folks top 10 lists, and in one case the number one slot. I am asking myself if we watched the same movie.  It moved up the list over movies that were just badly made because it left me irritated. I have to assume that is not the feeling the filmmakers wanted to evoke.
  6. Inferno
    Yeah. So you are probably wondering how this and the number two slot beat out BvS? Because there are moments of brilliance in BvS. There are moments of good action. There are moments of good characters. Bat-fleck is good. Wonder Woman is flipping amazing. This movie though has no brilliance. It is a paycheck for some people and I have to say they did not earn it.  It is the worst made movie of the year because of the budget, the starpower, and former skill level of those involved in the production. They had all the components and clearly threw them in the trash before cooking with them.

Wait where’s Passengers?

It gets it’s own category!

Most Hated Movie of 2016

Passengers
My hate for this film only grows. It’s not just bad it’s patently offensive to anyone with decency – which is clearly not the director or writer. My biggest disappointment with it? It didn’t bomb harder.

 

That’s it everyone. That’s the year.

Agree/Disagree? Tell me your thoughts here or on Facebook!

Darke Reviews | Doctor Strange (2016)

First off let me apologize, as this is not actually a review.

One of the principles of my day job is Integrity without Compromise. So I am left with a quandary –

See a movie that I actually want to see but I know has a problem in it that I have boycotted movies in the past for.

– or –

Not see one of the most anticipated movies of the year and be unable to tell my readers about it.

I am sorry everyone, but I have to stick to my guns on this one. Due to the White-washing of a historically Asian character known as the Ancient One I cannot see Dr. Strange. Yes, Tilda Swinton is an amazing actor. There has been nothing she has done that I haven’t enjoyed her performance. The fault only lays on her for taking the role.

The real problem comes down to Marvel Studios and the writers rationale for doing so. Money. There’s absolutely no morality to the decision, point in fact it’s the opposite of it. I get big business I really do, but that doesn’t mean I have to let them slide on it.

This is where geopolitics comes into play. For those that don’t know China considers Tibet part of China. Tibet does not consider themselves part of China. If they cast a Tibetan actor, they cannot screen the movie in China, the second largest audience for movies in the world.  They can’t make money in China if they cast someone who is actually Tibetan, but if you cast a Chinese actor for the Tibetan role it sends a different (and even worse) message.

So you are left with this decision that is like one of those button push “You get this, but this….”

  1. Cast a Tibetan as the role of the Ancient but now you can’t show your movie in China.
  2. Cast another ‘Asian’ as the role of the Acient but now you’ve invalidated an entire country it’s independence in a tacit manor which to the rest of the world looks as if you are endorsing China.
  3. Cast another ethnicity as the Ancient but be lambasted for not being true to the character.
  4. Cast a white actor in the role and be accused of white washing, but hey you get to release in China.

Marvel chose option 4.

I will not deny the complexity of this decision, it shouldn’t be denied and needs to be appreciated. They are a business and it wouldn’t be just this movie that could be at risk, as China could not allow other movies simply out of spite.

Are there other facets to how they did this to try to mitigate the white washing? Sure. They wrote the character as a title that could come from any culture; but at the same time they keep the original white-savior narrative of Dr. Strange. You know the story, the white guy learns from the wise old insert ethnic group and becomes the savior? The did try to mitigate it, but they didn’t go far enough or brave enough.

If you want to write that it’s not white washed try these tricks

1. He doesn’t go to Asia at all. Shamballah did not have to be terrestrial.
2. The Ancient isn’t white.

Why does it matter so much about a white actor in a role that could have gone to a person of colour?

Please please read this:

Jar Full of Major Characters

or this

Casting Minorities as White Characters is not a double standard. Here’s why

The short version is this:

“When there are so few raisins to start, any change made is really easy to spot, and makes a really significant difference.

This is why it is bad, even despicable, to take a character who was originally a character of color and make them white. But why it can be positive to take a character who was originally white and make them a character of color.

The white characters bowl is already so full that any change in number is almost meaningless (and is bound to be undone in mere minutes anyway, with the amount of new story creation going on), while the characters of color bowl changes hugely with each addition or subtraction, and any subtraction is a major loss. “

But, Jess, you’re white. Why does it matter to you?

Because I have a voice, social awareness and consciousness, and need to speak when I see something wrong.

Because it matters to him: George Takei

So let me get this straight. You cast a white actress so you wouldn’t hurt sales … in Asia? This backpedaling is nearly as cringeworthy as the casting. Marvel must think we’re all idiots,” writes Takei. “Marvel already addressed the Tibetan question by setting the action and the Ancient One in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the film. It wouldn’t have mattered to the Chinese government by that point whether the character was white or Asian, as it was already in another country. So this is a red herring, and it’s insulting that they expect us to buy their explanation. They cast Tilda because they believe white audiences want to see white faces. Audiences, too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are.”

I do not under any circumstances get to tell him he is wrong or even attempt to invalidate his opinion.

TL;DR?

I am absolutely certain Dr. Strange is a good movie, maybe even great. I won’t know, I cannot give the movie money – nor can I allow someone to pay for a ticket for me.

If you wish to see it, I really hope you enjoy it. Even with movies I hate, if someone loves it I am happy for them. Legitimately so. My opinion and recommendation is just that, mine. I write to share it.

I wrote to share this. I would ask you not to see Dr. Strange, but if you do – enjoy it.

Boycotting a bad movie like Exodus or Gods of Egypt is easy.

Boycotting a good movie is hard.

 

PS.

Suicide Squad made over $700 Million dollars Domestic+World Wide without release in China, and that movie is problematic and divisive as hell amongst fans. I think you could have survived Marvel.

In Memoriam | Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

Please allow me a moment to join the legions who are sharing their thoughts and feelings about the passing of Mr. Gene Wilder.

I debated doing a full review of one of his classics, Blazing Saddles? Young Frankenstein? Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory? All of them so powerful and make up so much of who I am today. This is the comedian I grew up with. Young Frankenstein is one of my earliest movie memories in the comic genre. Blazing Saddles a close second. There’s few children of the 80s who don’t know Willy Wonka. My facebook wall is filled with lyrics from Pure Imagination.

Just yesterday on my way to Suicide Squad with some friends, one of them said “the suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts.” My life back in Maryland, you couldn’t go a week without “Put the Candle back.”  In Jacksonville? “Look at my hand. Steady as  rock.  Yeah but I shoot with this hand.” The lines though that define me? That mean the most to me…

“*We* are the music makers… and *we* are the dreamers of dreams”

“Oh, you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about.”

There are movies, moments in time, and lines that stick with you for your life from the moment you hear them. Let it Go of course is one, but these are the ones that defined who I became. Why I believe in a world where we never stop dreaming. A world in which we question things. Because of the passion this man put into his craft and to this film.

What passion? Well this article from 4 years ago for example: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/06/part-of-this-world-part-of-another.html

This is a man who knows his craft, who understands what goes into making a character. As a result, and this is hard to argue, he has brought to life one of the most iconic and memorable characters to ever grace the screen. The lines before from Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, sure they are good, but they are made great by Wilder.  He could be anything; a nightmare in human shape, a clown, a scientist, manic, serene, charming, and sublime. I’ve long said the comedic actors do the best in serious films, but Wilder easily did his best in comedy and brought (at times) a level of depth to them that so very few now can even comprehend. He stopped his career when he didn’t see projects he wanted to be associated with. He knew who and what he was and believed in and didn’t go in for the paycheck.

The man behind the camera was just as passionate. When Gilda Radner a righteous powerhouse comedienne in her own right, who also happened to be his wife, died of cancer. What did he do? He went to Congress. He testified and set up a foundation to help make sure no one else went through what she did. Not for him, but for her and the people like her who weren’t getting diagnosed properly. Who weren’t getting treatment.

….sorry had to take my glasses off. They weren’t doing well with the tears. Pardon any typo’s.

2016 has taken more legends from my life than most years I can recall. More people that hit me like a gunshot when I heard the news. Clearly the grisly reaper is mowing.

I know Jim said he was always wanted to go nowhere special, but Gene – you deserve the special. You deserve all the special and I hope that you and Gilda are curled up on a couch somewhere tonight telling stories of the last 27 years to each other.

Know that we loved you Mr. Wilder. Your legacy will never be forgotten. A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men, making you and your work some of the wisest we have.

Thank you for all the joy you brought to the world.

We will miss you.

GeneWilder

Darke Reviews – Hotel Transylvania 2

Hey folks, just putting this out there, I will not be seeing this movie. As much as it pains me to not see a Vampire movie of any kind on the silver screen; I am a woman of my word and am maintaining my boycott of all Adam Sandler films.

If he makes money from this, which he will, then he will continue to be allowed to make the other projects that are of far less quality. I cannot be a part of that in good conscience. I will review the original during the month of October, but this one falls under my perpetual boycott.

Sorry everyone.

Please see my review of Pixels for details on the boycott.

Darke Reviews – Pixels (2015)

I suppose that title is off isn’t it? Apologies for that. This is not a review so much as an ask and a notice given to my good readers.

Do not see this movie.
Do not see *any* Adam Sandler movie.

Much as I did with Exodus: Gods and Kings, I am boycotting this film and all future Adam Sandler films. It is not because I do not like comedy, for while I am not a fan I do actually enjoy some comedy. Point in fact I have enjoyed several of his previous films, such as Hotel Transylvania, The Waterboy, and 50  First Dates. The problem is Sandler now. I do not know what has happened. I do not know precisely when humor turned to racist, misogynistic, mean spirited caricature.  Allow me to give specific examples as I prefer to give details when I have them:

Native Americans walk off Adam Sandler movie

“The script called for native women’s names such as “Beaver’s Breath” and “No Bra” and an actress portraying an Apache woman to squat and urinate while smoking a peace pipe, ICTMN reported.

“When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted. … We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave,’ ” said Allison Young, a Navajo and one of the actors who left the set.”

Now it could be argued he is trying to do a send up similar to Blazing Saddles, a great comedy from 1974. A true satire of the western film and its tropes. The problem is, it has been done and it was done better in 1974. Westerns by and large do not exist now with most millennials probably having never seen one. Blazing Saddles is a classic. It could not, and should not, be made today. The deeply racist tones of the movie were needed then as we were still as a nation coming to grips with these topics. In fact, watching the film it more picks on the Caucasians for being racist (and stupid). Granted now, we are *still* dealing with these things, but such a film now would come across both bitter and political.

This, based on the reports from the set by the Native Americans was actually showing a large degree of disrespect to the culture and the people who were being portrayed – making them the butt of the joke rather than the ones who get to poke at the idiocy.

Someone might say – well he is just producing? Nope. He’s a writer on this. So he knows. Of course, it gets worse.

If you are familiar with the term black face – you know how god awful it is. The idea of using make up to make a Caucasian (most often) black. The recent issue with Rachel Dolezal as a prime example, it is in no way by any rational individual to consider black face socially acceptable.  So is red face acceptable? Making an individual “look native american”…

If you think the answer is yes. You are part of the problem.

“According to an on-set pro, members of the makeup team have been darkening actors of various ethnicities (including black and Asian talent) to make them appear Native American.

One of the actors, Allison Young, confirmed to MSNBC that makeup was used on talent. “I’m full-blooded Navajo and they bronzed me. I was quite confused,” Young told the network. “That says something when the cultural advisor for the film quits because he’s offended.”

Source: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/adam-sandlers-ridiculous-six-makeup-792582

Ok he is racist, got that covered; so why is he sexist?

Well assuming some of the comments above didn’t illustrate this, lets go to a more recent story from just last month

Rose McGowan fired by agent calling out Adam Sandlers sexism

The casting note was very specific. “Please make sure to read the attached script before coming in so you understand the context of the scenes,” it read. “Wardrobe note: Black (or dark) form-fitting tank that shows off cleavage (push-up bras encouraged). And formfitting leggings or jeans. Nothing white.”

In hindsight, McGowan says, “It was just so dumb. I was offended by the stupidity more than anything. I was offended by the fact that went through so many people’s hands and nobody red flagged it. This is normal to so many people. It was probably even a girl that had to type it up. It’s institutionally OK.”

 

I’m sorry? I thought auditions were you know about acting and how well you could do the job, not how good you look in a push up bra. Now while some roles may call for specific body types, this to me does not seem needed when you need an actress first and a pair of boobs second? But then again apparently Sandler wants the T&A over acting.

TL:DR

Ultimately he and the Hollywood machine that continues to allow him is problematic. He continues to churn out horrible movie after horrible movie because people pay money to see them. If you think the above behavior is not a problem, then go ahead and see the movie. If you do think it is a problem – please see something else. Please stop giving him money.
My predictions for you who do see the movie:

  • Women who are nothing but sex objects to be lusted after
  • Women who are seen as little more than a prize or a trophy
  • Women who are considered nags and need to but “cut down” by the humourous men
  • Women with no agency
  • Bitter, sophomoric comedy from Sandler and James
  • Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad trying their best and likely being the only bright spots in the movie.

I understand the drive to see this movie for the 80’s video game nostalgia. I was torn on this simply because of that. I just cannot in good conscience see this film or support Sandler in any way. I ask that you join me in this as he needs to be stopped in a meaningful way.

If you really, really want to see Pixels this weekend – watch the original short. It has more heart than I think this movie will.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUnyUrA34bQ

Fighting The Ignorance Towards Trans Individuals

I went to bed nearly crying last night (edit: I finished this post in tears). I spent the better part of today trying to write this in my head, half distracted at work, still keeping up with the news and various responses. I still don’t know where to start. Let’s start with the facts as we know them then:

Sunday December 28, 2014, a young transwoman whose preferred name was Leelah Alcorn left her home near Kings Mill, Ohio. She walked an estimated 3-4 miles before allowing herself to be struck by a semi truck on an Ohio interstate. (source: LGBTWNation.com).

Through a scheduled post on Tumblr her suicide note appeared, (link); as did an apology to her siblings and a final note to her parents (link).

There is a lot in her note worth mentioning. I have spent quite a bit of time now reading over the comments on various blogs and facebook pages. I watched a news article on WCPO, a Cincinnati television station.  I watched as her own mother still stayed in denial as to both the gender and nature of the death.

LeelahAlcorn1

Note: This facebook post has since been taken down

 

 

I have watched as people who observed the various articles began slamming Christians, Christianity, her Therapists, her family, wishing harm upon her mother, wishing legal action upon them, wishing hate on all those involved in the loss of this child.

I’ve watched enough. Now sit down and listen.

It would be easy to blame the Christians. They seem a good punching bag these days, but they aren’t the problem. I know plenty of “good” Christians who support me.

It would be easy to blame the parents. Leelah’s note makes it pretty clear a lot of blame does belong there.

It would be easy to blame the therapists. They clearly failed.

It would be easy to blame her school(s). No one stepped in to protect her.

It will be easy in the coming days when people type #Translivesmatter to say #alllivesmatter.

Let me speak from a place of experience. Let me speak from someone who is a transwoman who is lost, has contemplated suicide more times than anyone knows, who even tried it when she was Leelah’s age.

We need to blame Ignorance, and if you will let me, I want to help end some.

Let me start with the scary one for everyone who knows me personally. If I am in any state but California someone can MURDER me and use the TransPanic defense. “I didn’t know and it scared me, so I killed them in a panic.” I want you to consider that. I want you to look long and hard at the people and community around you, around your lawmakers; and consider someone could murder me and might be able to get away with it. (Sources: Jurist , Advocate)

Just because I am Trans.

Now that I have made it personal for some of you, let me get to some even more fun statistics courtesy of the CDC.

  • Negative attitudes toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people put these youth at increased risk for experiences with violence, compared with other students.1 Violence can include behaviors such as bullying, teasing, harassment, physical assault, and suicide-related behaviors.
  • A nationally representative study of adolescents in grades 7–12 found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers

The link above has more statistics for you to peruse as well as What Schools Can do (Safe zones), What Parents Can Do, and more. At least one study (link) shows that at least 20% of homeless youth are LGBTQ, I have seen others that have that number at 40%. That same study shows that 62% are more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual homeless peers (29%).

Leelah did not have to die. You could say that about any child who feels the need to commit suicide and it is true, but to say that dilutes and weakens the conversation we need to have today. Much like the gay rights conversation of it’s a choice/I was born this way – trans individuals feel the same. With the numbers I gave above, who would choose this? Who would choose to go from having the lovely privilege of being a male to being female? Less pay, increased chance of rape, physical, mental, societal abuse and stigma? To be hated by some groups of feminists? To have even some Gay rights activists hate that you exist? Why in any deities name would someone choose this?

Why would I choose this when I would lose a fiancee of 15 years? When I would have someone who was my closest friend where I grew up admit to me she was ready to bolt to get away from me when we met again recently (she didn’t and we still talk)? Why would I choose to risk being ostracized by any living blood relative I have? Why would I choose to risk being alone for the rest of my life?

Why would Leelah choose to be who she wanted to be in a home where she was at risk? Why would she choose to be different when accepting what she was told would be so much easier? So much less painful?

The answer is simple: It’s not a choice. It is who we are and it is more painful to live a lie.

So many things went wrong for Leelah and I understand every last one of them.

She was told God doesn’t make mistakes. It’s just a phase. She was told she was being selfish and that she needed to look to God for help. She had all her ties to anything resembling a support structure online cut from her. She had any semblance of normalcy from school taken from her when she was moved to a private school. In her own words her parents saw her as an embarrassment to THEM. All of this from parents and therapists – who exactly is selfish?

I want to attack the parents right now and I might in a moment. Let me start with the therapists. They failed in every concievable sense. If they are licensed by any state board, there could in my non legal opinion be grounds for investigation. According to the American Psychological Association (link)  and the Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender-Nonconforming People (link). They were in the wrong. We are not broken. We are not mentally wrong.

In addition to prejudice and discrimination in society at large, stigma can contribute to abuse and neglect in one’s relationships with peers and family members, which in turn can lead to psychological distress. However, these symptoms are socially induced and are not inherent to being transsexual, transgender, or gender-nonconforming.

And their treatment plan goes against the standards of care:

Options for Psychological and Medical
Treatment of Gender Dysphoria
For individuals seeking care for gender dysphoria, a variety of therapeutic options can be considered.
The number and type of interventions applied and the order in which these take place may differ
from person to person (e.g., Bockting, Knudson, & Goldberg, 2006; Bolin, 1994; Rachlin, 1999;
Rachlin, Green, & Lombardi, 2008; Rachlin, Hansbury, & Pardo, 2010). Treatment options include
the following:
• Changes in gender expression and role (which may involve living part time or full time in
another gender role, consistent with one’s gender identity);
• Hormone therapy to feminize or masculinize the body;10
• Surgery to change primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (e.g., breasts/chest, external
and/or internal genitalia, facial features, body contouring);
• Psychotherapy (individual, couple, family, or group) for purposes such as exploring gender
identity, role, and expression; addressing the negative impact of gender dysphoria and stigma
on mental health; alleviating internalized transphobia; enhancing social and peer support;
improving body image; or promoting resilience.
Options for Social Support and Changes in Gender Expression
In addition (or as an alternative) to the psychological- and medical-treatment options described
above, other options can be considered to help alleviate gender dysphoria, for example:
• In-person and online peer support resources, groups, or community organizations that provide
avenues for social support and advocacy;
• In-person and online support resources for families and friends;
• Voice and communication therapy to help individuals develop verbal and non-verbal
communication skills that facilitate comfort with their gender identity;
• Hair removal through electrolysis, laser treatment, or waxing;
• Breast binding or padding, genital tucking or penile prostheses, padding of hips or buttocks;
• Changes in name and gender marker on identity documents.

So in that, the therapists failed absolutely and unequivocally; perhaps on a criminal level, but I am not fit to judge that as I have no legal experience. The negligence of the parents should also not be ignored. Was it criminal? Maybe. Again I can’t say. I think there may be grounds for investigation however, as their deeply held beliefs left their daughter with so much depression and hopelessness that she didn’t see a way out. This girl was beautiful. She was going to be positively radiant and loved by someone as she got free and found her path to transition. She has a line in her note I want to make sure people read:

I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

In this statement I identify with her. I have people who tell me I am beautiful and I don’t feel it. The words of support are not wasted, but the internal psychology when I look in the mirror? Yeah I feel Leelah. I don’t think I am going to ever find a man or woman who wants to be in a relationship with me. I don’t think I am going to be happy with my final transition – my voice, my weight, my body frame, my hair, my inability to conceive a child, take your pick. There isn’t any winning. I am sad enough already. I fight depression nearly every single day of my life.

Unlike Leelah, who was so young and innocent, I believe it gets better. I shouldn’t. I see horrible stuff in the world every single day. I see between the stories and look at the truth and how horrible things are for trans folk. Yet somehow, I believe no matter how low I am, no matter how bad and dark a space my head takes me (and it goes dark trust me) – there’s always a bit of hope. That hope comes from a support structure of a family of 1’s and 0’s, images, and sometimes even voices. If I didn’t have the friends I have that have become more family to me than anyone I share DNA with – I’d be right there with Leelah. If I didn’t have a job at Intuit, who supports people like me, I’d be right there with Leelah. It Does Get Better; but…she was alone and it couldn’t. She was lost and afraid. She saw no way out from her own life and her own path.

For that as a society and a people  we need to do better. She asked as much, even as she talks about not having any hope or way out she still had some:

My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.

So this is what I am asking if you have read all of this, don’t let Leelah’s death be another sad statistic that we forget about amidst champagne and fireworks 24 hours from now. Don’t just be passive and talk about how horrible it is. TELL  people how horrible it is. Convince them that this was avoidable. There are millions of people in this country right now who are still thinking she is broken. That her parents were in the right to force her to be something she wasn’t. Even her own school is still saying “He” and “Josh”.

 If you read this and know someone who is trans-

  • Get the pronouns right. Words DO hurt.
    • I still get called He and Him and it hurts every single time
  • Let them know they have your support.
  • Don’t be passive – if a ‘friend’ makes a joke about Trans* – STOP THEM. Tell them they are offensive. If they tell you to lighten up – tell them how much it can hurt someone. It’s not just a joke.
  • Be a shoulder for them, they may not have it at home.
  • Understand we are afraid of discrimination. We’re afraid of not being able to get a job, being attacked physically, being persecuted by the law – just for existing.
  • Understand we are afraid we will likely be alone for the rest of our lives. You may go home to your spouse or kids and we may go home alone – forever.
  • Understand you can’t pray this away. This isn’t a choice any person would WANT to make. This is who we are.
  • We are not freaks, we know who we are and who we want to be.
  • We don’t want to force out beliefs or agenda on you or anyone – we just want to feel safe and be at peace.

 

If you are Trans and reading this

  • I know how afraid you might feel.
  • I know how alone you might feel.
  • Know that I am here.
  • Know that others reading this (hopefully) are there for you.
  • Know, please for the love of all that anyone holds dear, know that you are NOT BROKEN. You are NOT A MISTAKE. You are NOT a FREAK
  • It does get better. I may not seem like it right now, but it does. I am saying this from my experience. I have a lot of things in this world others don’t and I am trans. I have a job, a house, a car, friends. You can too. It gets better. Please believe that, even in those dark moments. Believe it.
  • Suicide isn’t an option. Don’t do it. Find another way.
    • If you need someone to talk to – message me or use some of the resources I am linking below.

If you are reading this and see your own life situation reflected:

Know that you aren’t alone. The entire LGBTQA+ spectrum, minorities of all shapes, sizes, colors, races, identities; there are hundreds of thousands of others who feel alone, persecuted, and hated just for being. We need to be one community. One humanity. We aren’t as alone in our pain as we think and as we feel, no matter how hard our minds convince us otherwise.

Everyone:

Show compassion. Show understanding. Be an educator. Talk to your friends, family, teachers,  coworkers – let them know this kind of thing has to stop. The ignorance must stop. Let them know the abuse must stop. The Bullying must stop. The death must stop. Revolutions are always bloody – I think we have enough blood of our children soaking the ground now. Let it be enough.

Stop talking about how horrible it is and do something to end it. Help laws get passed to protect people. Stop laws that discriminate. Let’s do as Leelah asked and help fix society.

 

RESOURCES