Words, words, words, art.

The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Measuring out years one Star Wars movie at a time.

December28

The last time I posted it was about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We’ve had two more Star Wars movies since then, Rogue One and The Last Jedi, as well as the tv show Rebels continuing. They’re all… really good. They’re what I wanted as a kid teen reading the Expanded Universe books.

The problem with a lapse in blog posting is that it’s easy to get hung up on that. “Oh, I haven’t posted in so long” becomes a shameful thing… for some people, at least. For me, at least.

So here I am breaking the seal on more blog posts. Maybe. Will I jump back in the saddle, so to speak? Leap back onto the keyboard? Who can say. I’ll try to do better, though.

Movies I wish I’d seen

June11

I don’t really like watching movies very much because more and more it’s becoming incredibly obvious that movies aren’t aimed at me or people like me, where “people like me” are “female.” You know. Roughly 50% of the population. Also, these people think and have thoughts and notice plot holes large enough to drive a semi through.

I’m not even going to touch on the ingrained, established sexism of the motion picture industry, despite the fact that women outnumber men when it comes to movie consumption. What I am going to touch on is 2 things:

    The Trailer for “Killers”

      The movie “Dog Soldiers”

      In “Killers,” Katherine Heigl plays a woman who goes from the over-protective, domineering, patriarchal custody of her father to the marriage bed of her husband, who is a former assassin for the CIA and Ashton Kutcher. He, of course, has not told her of his past because relationships based on lies and omissions are the best kind of relationships. Predictably, his past catches up to him and he winds up having to kill a lot of people while he protects and bosses around (dominates) his wife. Apparently he kills/has his wife kill a lot of female people? In brutal ways? God knows there isn’t enough of THAT in the world! What a novel concept: a man causing the deaths of lots of conventionally attractive in blood spattery violent ways!

      WHAT I WOULD LIKE THIS MOVIE TO BE: Heigl is the former assassin! Or current assassin. Either way, she is capable of taking care of herself and doesn’t need a man to protect her. In fact! Her past catches up to her and she winds up– shocking idea– protecting Kutcher. I think it would be really awesome to start the movie with the conceit that she’s just an innocent young woman, sheltered from the world, oh heavens what on earth will she do with this massive phallus gun??!? and then shit gets real and she shows her sharp shooting ability and saves the day instead of being saved. And possibly also she is not a white woman. Is that at all within the realm of probability?

      “Dog Soldiers” is not a werewolf movie about soldiers, it is a movie about soldiers and the bonds of brotherhood and also there are werewolves in it. That’s how it’s been described, anyway. What it actually is about is about trying to kidnap and experiment on local non-human people, and then breaking into their house and busting shit up and eating all their food and being surprised when they want to kill you. I mean, duh. Also, except for the female character and the main male character, everyone else was pretty interchangeable and flat… including the bad guy soldier character. I mean, they had characteristics like “likes football” and “is married” and… uh. That’s about it, I think. One guy’s really fast, maybe? I don’t even remember. The female character acts sympathetic towards them and then suddenly towards the end of the movie it’s like someone else started writing her or perhaps somebody realized they’d written themselves into a corner and OUT OF NOWHERE she starts talking about how the main character is a dudely dude who hates women and she’s just a bitch and it’s that time of the month and then she reveals that she unlocked a door and let the werewolves in. And also she is a werewolf. WHAT A TWIST!!! (this is after a really nice bit where someone was talking about pack dynamics and alpha male and female and I thought to myself “huh, cool, nice bit of parallel there, maybe this movie isn’t as bad as I thought” and then no, it really was.) I mean, it’s not a BAD movie, but you know. It’s not a good one. Also, the bad/evil guy is needlessly bad/evil. Relentlessly. For no reason. He’s just a massive evil dick, like he wakes up every morning and takes his “pure evil maliciousness” pills which make him do irrational but evil things like command a soldier to shoot an extremely expensive tracking dog which would have traumatized the dogs handler, and when the soldier doesn’t, he does it himself. Because he’s just so hard core evil that murdering dogs is second nature, even when that would require a lot of paperwork and explaining and also the cost and inconvenience of having to purchase and train a new dog.

      WHAT I WOULD LIKE THIS MOVIE TO BE: Actual defined characters would have been nice. In a movie where almost everyone dies, if you have a small group of people, it’s kind of boring unless you actually care about and are invested in the people being torn apart. Realistic evil and moral grey areas would have been totally cool too. Also, the fact that the soldiers commandeered someones’ house and ate their dinner and busted shit up really goes unremarked. Honestly, I would have loved it if all the myths and legends of monstrous beasties eating people were just that– myths and legends. And the werewolves were hunting prey animals like deer or something, and they only attacked the humans because the humans were 1) trying to capture and experiment on them, Ultimate Weapon style and 2) broke into their house and fucked shit up. I mean, if I were a werewolf and somebody came into my home and ate my dinner and locked me out etc etc etc I would probably go apeshit on them. I mean, I’m pretty sure I’d do that even without being a werewolf. But that gives you a nice moment of “who is the real monster here.” Is it the humans who invade a sentient beings’ home and place of security, or is it the furry fanged creatures who simply want to be safe? Also a female character who is an actual fleshed out character and also isn’t an evil bitch monster would be totally rad.

      Obviously, I want to see movies that don’t actually exist, except in my own head. I know there’s a few movies that veer close to the preferred vision of “killers” that I have, and I’ve yet to see “Ginger Snaps” which is apparently the most awesomest werewolf movie in all of existence. But I’m getting tired of movies that are “close,” especially as one of the big, glaring failures tends to be “women don’t really exist as characters, except as props/accessories for men or else bitchmonsters.”

      (Oddly, and a second viewing may not hold up, I found “Quantum of Solace” to be exactly what I wanted in a movie, especially with regards to the female characters… one of whom is in a position of authority over Bond and the other of whom has her own agenda and motives, uses Bond to further them, doesn’t sleep with him, doesn’t get killed, and needs the same kind of saving that a male character would have needed… and also is physically scarred but still considers herself attractive and is considered by others to be attractive, as opposed to being considered ugly, flawed, damaged, pretty-except-for, etc.)

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Star Wars: The Spoilers Awaken

December28

I’m sure you’re interested in more hot takes on my ass and preparing for a pilonidal surgery but instead I’m going to talk about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Obviously there will be spoilers.

There is a problem with people of a certain age writing about Star Wars. For many of us, there is no time before Star Wars, no time we don’t remember having seen it. It’s sunk deep into our bones, soaked into our souls, flavoring the stories we’ve told ourselves and the play we’ve shared with others. So when a Star Wars movie or tv show or book comes out, it’s hard to separate our sense of self from what we’re consuming. It’s hard to accurately judge the product because there’s so much established emotion, context, hope, love, and projection going on. There are high standards to meet, but enough love and good will that a mediocre product can still be lofted up as long as it hits the right notes. The Prequels didn’t hit the right notes, for a number of reasons.

“Star Wars: Rebels” does hit the right notes, albeit on a smaller and more intimate scale. Please read more behind the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Fury Road and Agency

May26

Just saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” and it was utterly fantastic in so many different ways. Is it a perfect movie? No, of course not. But one thing I noticed was how many of the marginalized characters had agency, made their own decisions, controlled their own lives. There’s spoilers in this, so I’m going to tuck the text behind a fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Bechdel, Mako Mori, and other “feminist” “tests”

February7

In 1985, Alison Bechdel used an idea by her friend Liz Wallace to create a strip for “Dykes to Watch Out For” where two women discuss going to see a movie. One states her movie rule: That any movie she watches has to have:

  • at least two women
  • who talk to each other
  • about something other than a man

The character goes on to state that the last movie she was able to see was “Alien” because the two women in it discuss the monster.

This is, again, a comic from 1985.

Thirty years later, most movies still fail this basic criteria. This is the absolute bare minimum required for anything approaching decent representation of women, and yet most movies and tv shows don’t even offer this much. Marvel, for instance, is much lauded for their leftist movies, yet in “Captain America II: The Winter Soldier” Black Widow and Agent Maria Hill don’t interact except to discuss Nick Fury and who shot him. Black Widow, an amazing character, doesn’t interact with ANY women, although she talks about them in attempts to get Steve Rogers laid.

It’s possible to have a movie that passes the Bechdel test and is still a horrible movie that treats women like garbage, too. You could have two women whose only interaction is to discuss how much they looooove chocolate and manicures and shoes, for instance, or how bad they are at math. But since the vast majority of movies and tv shows have no or only one woman, even that doesn’t happen.

So some people have proposed the Mako Mori test to see if a movie is “truly” feminist, even though the Bechdel test isn’t anything close to a guarantee of feminism. The Mako Mori test is simple, involving:

  • at least one female character
  • who gets her own narrative arc
  • that is not about supporting a man’s story

Wow wow wow, amazing right? A movie that has a fully fledged female character that does stuff independent of a man? Well this obviously blows the Bechdel test out of the water, who needs that garbage thing anymore, right? Except this ignores the fact that Mako Mori type characters, as great as they are, still tend to be Exceptional Women who exist in isolation, in worlds populated almost solely by men. “Pacific Rim” had all of one female character other than Mako Mori, who had very few lines, and never interacted with Mori. Mori was raised by a man, studied with men, had no women in her life. She’s treated, her character is treated, as a human being with motivations and flaws and goals just like male characters are routinely treated. But she’s the ONLY female character allowed to be human. It’s a step forward, but it’s a baby step.

It is incredibly easy to set up a movie, tv show, or book that passes the Bechdel test. It’s the lowest possible bar for treating women characters as something more than accessories for male characters or tokens, yet most media still utterly fails to do this simple thing. The Mako Mori test provides a template for a more realized woman character, but still leaves her isolated and tottering gently on the pedestal of Exceptionalism. They’re both good starts, but after thirty years media still has the same problems Liz Wallace and Alison Bechdel were so frustrated with.

It’s interesting to see people pitting the Bechdel Test and the Mako Mori test against each other, as if there’s only One True Way to express women as human. And of course by “interesting” I mean “depressing as hell.” They’re both pretty bare bones requirements and yet these basic needs still aren’t met. Women overwhelmingly are not treated as humans and when they are, Mako Mori aside, they tend to be white women.

Women Gatekeepers of Nerdery

October30

I don’t remember a time when I hadn’t seen “Star Wars.” I grew up with it. The original trilogy is one of my mom’s favorite films, and she took Baby Me into the theater to see “The Empire Strikes Back,” nursing me to keep me quiet. We used to check out the television magazine in the Sunday Tribune and highlight the showings of “Star Wars” movies, and she’d let me stay up late to watch them. She started reading me “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” as a bedtime story when I was so young that it just sank into my conscious. I don’t remember hearing it for the first time, I don’t remember a time without those stories in my blood, although I do remember lying on an inflatable pool float on the floor one hot and sticky summer listening to her reading to me and my brothers. Something was going on with our bedrooms, I don’t remember what, and we weren’t able to sleep in them. So we camped out on the floor upstairs and she read to us by candle light.

My mom introduced me to a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and encouraged me to read and enjoy the genre. She scoured used book stores for out of print books back in the day when out of print books could be very hard to find (no internet!). She took it as given that I could and should love these books, these movies, these tv shows. She shared them with me, shared her love and adoration, her visions of the future and endless possibilities.

I know a huge amount of women who are really deeply invested in science fiction and fantasy books, movies, and tv shows. Most of them were introduced to it by other women, by their moms and aunts and older sisters and cousins and best friends. Paperbacks are circulated, pages worn fabric-smooth, binding creased and bent and chipping away, covers held on with yellowing tape. Read this. Try this. What do you think of this? Have you read this one yet? We induct each other into little worlds, usher each other in, introduce each other to our favorite books and characters and authors and worlds.

More and more the recommendations involve “there’s a female central character!” or “nobody gets raped in this one!”

Science Fiction and Fantasy, like Gaming, has a reputation as being male-dominated, a genre ruled by men: written by men, about men, for men. Women interested in these areas are treated as trespassers, foreigners, creatures suspect and false. This despite the fact that there’s a very long history of women writing Science Fiction and Fantasy… that one could easily argue that the novel in general and Science Fiction specifically were founded/originated by women authors. Women have always been involved with Science Fiction, with Fantasy, with Gaming, with Horror, with Pulp, with all the little islands men set themselves up as absolute rulers of despite all evidence to the contrary.

So let’s have a toast to the women in our lives who introduce us to our favorite nerd things, our geeky tv shows and movies and books and games. Let’s think of our lady friends and their recommendations and our history. Let’s remember each other with fondness and kindness and keep sharing our passion and love.

Women have been a part of every aspect of nerd culture since the very beginning. We aren’t going anywhere. But we’re bringing others with us.

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31 Days of Horror: Hiatus

October29

I have a sick kid, so haven’t been able to watch movies lately.

He’s not worryingly sick, just sick enough to stay home from school (first with a stomach bug, then with a cold).

If he were 10 or older I’d try to find movies to watch with him/around him. But he’s 5, and my review of “Curious George And The Big Halloween Boo Fest Of Ridiculous Circumstances” would only devolve into a rant about colonization and the 1%.

I’ll finish up reviewing 31 movies total, but alas, it might not happen until after October is finished.

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31 Days of Horror: “Audrey Rose”

October24

“Audrey Rose” is a movie about white people discovering Hinduism.

There are good things to say about “Audrey Rose.” Anthony Hopkins is outstanding in the film as bereaved father slash stalker, and child actress Susan Swift was simply phenomenal. Additionally, unlike a lot of modern films, background New York is filled with People of Color: Black cops, a Black bailiff, a Jewish lawyer who talks about Shabbas and Dybbuks, a restaurant filled with patrons including a Black woman and a Sikh family, a mixed race jury, Indian expert witnesses. Most modern movies are notoriously, unrealistically white.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t have much else redeeming it, and also suffers badly under Indian-specific Orientalism.

The plot of the movie is that young Ivy Templeton regularly has night terrors right around her birthday. They get worse the older she gets. Meanwhile, around her 11th birthday, a creeper dude (Hopkins) has been lurking around outside her school, following her and her mom home, trailing her dad en route to work, slipping gifts for her into her dad’s grocery bag, etc. The tension ramps up and then takes a frankly bizarre and almost preachy turn for pro-reincarnation… from a very Western European/Monotheistic point of view.

Stalker Elliot Hoover reveals that lost his wife and daughter in a horrific car crash almost 11 years ago, and that night terror afflicted Ivy is his daughter reincarnated, and her soul can’t rest because reasons. Ivy’s mother Janice, who is very ineffectual (sobbing and screaming while her daughter has a night terror, for instance), falls for Hoover’s line of bull very quickly to her husband Bill’s disgust. The movie seesaws for a while between “Is Hoover just a creepy stalker” and “no this is for real come on” and comes down too heavily pro-reincarnation. It’s very much a Movie With A Message (reincarnation is totally cool and every single person in India has no fear of death and never grieves for the dead because they all, every single one of them, believe in reincarnation and everything’s totally peaceful and cool if filled with violence and starvation they’re just, you know, so SPIRITUAL) that includes a freaking court trial to determine whether or not Ivy is Hoover’s reincarnated daughter.

They decide to settle things with a dose of hypnosis/age regression which people keep stressing out about how OMG DANGEROUS!!!!!!!!! it is. Ivy dies from it, for ~reasons~ and the movie closes with Janice penning a thank you letter to Hoover where she talks about both reincarnation and heaven. The cosmology is sloppy.

I wanted to like this movie a lot, and would have enjoyed it more if there’d been more of a question over whether or not reincarnation existed/Ivy was Audrey Rose reincarnated. Also if there’d been less cultural appropriation of reincarnation/Hinduism. Anthony Hopkins is absolutely incredible, though, so if you’re a big fan watch it just for him.

This movie gets 2 out of 5 stars.

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31 Days of Horror: “Cockneys Vs Zombies”

October23

“Cockneys Vs Zombies” is not “Shaun of the Dead,” but kind of wants to be.

It’s a bank heist movie and a family movie and a zombie movie, mashed together. It’s a dark comedy that isn’t very funny. As an American, a lot of the references, jokes, and choice of actors was completely beyond me, though, so perhaps if I were English I would have appreciated it more. Netflix recommended this movie based on my enjoyment of “John Dies at the End” so I was expecting something very weird, and this… wasn’t that weird.

The movie opens with a construction crew doing some digging. Two men discover a sealed vault and open it up, hoping to find treasure. Instead they find a bunch of bones, and a meaty damp-looking mobile corpse that quickly attacks them. This unleashes the zombie horror on London’s East End. While that’s cooking, Terry and Andy MacGuire discuss their bank robbery plans. They very obviously have no idea what they’re actually doing, and are making a lot of very bad decisions. Their day job apparently consists of taking hot pre-packaged meals to residents of Care Homes (Retirement Communities), including their grand dad Ray, who raised them. Ray berates them for working such a crap job, tries to inspire them to work harder, to get better jobs, to make more of themselves. Ray, and the rest of the residents, are troubled by the fact that the land their home is on has been sold, and they are all going to be relocated someplace else. Other than his service in World War II, Ray has never been outside of the East End. All of his friends, his family, his memories, his shops, he’ll be leaving all that behind. He’s not looking forward to it.

The movie splits into two congruent story lines as the boys head out to rob a bank. They pick up their cousin Katey and two male friends of theirs. In the ordinary course of things, they should have stuck with Katey alone. Since one of those friends had a massive stash of guns, however, it turns out to have been a good choice. Their bank robbery is a massive bumbling clusterfuck that veers away from being a shoot out with the police at the end due only to a surge of zombies that ate the cops. The group heads out, quickly realizing what’s going on… and resolving to go rescue their grand dad.

This movie isn’t as weird or as funny as I was hoping, and a lot of the special effects fall flat, looking too obviously computer-generated. The acting is good, though, and the movie does do a few remarkable things:

  • Katey is a phenomenal character, and I wish she’d been a protagonist or is the star of a sequel or something. She’s a well written, well-realized character who is an expert at lock picking and hot wiring, she’s quick on the uptake and an excellent shot, she’s very focused, she cares deeply about her cousins and grand dad. She’s utterly amazing, and she isn’t sexually assaulted or raped.
  • In fact, nobody in the movie is sexually assaulted or raped or threatened with same. There’s some rude jokes about sex, but nothing threatening. This is an incredibly welcome change and I deeply appreciate it.
  • Gentrification is directly addressed in this movie, with Ray and his friends having their home taken from them so a development company can erect luxury flats or whatever. The old folks are simply expected to shuffle away, are treated as inconvenient. The zombie plague is, after all, directly caused by the development company. The group of survivors takes a moment to question whether or not the police/military will even make an effort to save East End and its residents, and Ray says they’ll save themselves, as they’ve always done.
  • While predominantly white, two Black men have speaking roles (one of them significant), and the zombie hoards include PoC. It’s pretty common for people to say “Oh well this movie/show/etc is set in England so obvos every single person has to be white, regardless of England’s actual demographics.” So it was nice to see a mixed cast.
  • There’s a lot of women in this film, and they talk about stuff other than men (mostly they talk about zombies). Katey and Emma are full and active participants in the movie with critical roles, and never play damsels in distress or need special ladysaving. Peggy, Ray’s girlfriend, acquits herself well against zombies using both a sledgehammer and a machine gun.
  • There is no question of leaving any of Ray’s elderly and disabled/slow moving friends behind. They aren’t CARRIED, either. Erik is assisted in walking (he just had a hip replacement), but he and Hamish (who uses a walker) primarily move under their own power, of their own volition. Through the movie, the old folks are shown as having value and being able to control the situation.

There’s a lot I appreciate about this movie, and I wish I liked it more. It really needed tighter writing, better pacing, and more humor. I mean, there’s a scene where an old man in a bathrobe escapes a zombie horde while using a walker, and it just… kind of… falls… flat. They escape in a double decker bus. There’s these ridiculous moments, but it never really gels.

I have a feeling this movie gets compared to “Shaun of the Dead” a LOT for a number of reasons and it just doesn’t measure up at all. Sadly, it’s pretty derivative, so it utterly fails at being its own thing instead. I don’t regret seeing this movie, but I wish it had been better. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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31 Days of Horror: “Candyman”

October22

“Candyman” is a classic horror movie about racism, abandonment, and Chicago.

I grew up in a really religious household, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I went to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, I went to Catholic school from second grade (CCD classes prior to that) through High School. The way I was raised just felt normal. Most of my friends were Catholic, or came from conservative families, or both. My parents were a little stricter in some ways than my friends’ parents, and I felt very little desire to rebel against them (out of very real fear of rejection/abandonment. Ironically, I got thrown out of the house for doing laundry at the wrong time and not for any petty teenage rebellion or high spirits. In retrospect, I could have lived it up a lot more and gotten the same result.). So when my parents banned almost every movie in existence, I didn’t really question it or try to sneak around to watch them. The upshot is that there are a ton of classic movies I have never seen. “Candyman” is one of them.

“Candyman” is a movie set in Chicago. Like the best urban fantasy and horror the city is a vital, integral part of the story. It’s almost a character in its own right. The movie opens tracking vehicles along the knotted tangle of expressways, moving from the South Side Northwards. Views of the luxurious high rise condos of the Gold Coast through protagonist Helen Lyle’s window; the cop car tooling down Lower Wacker Drive; Cabrini-Green, the setting of much of the horror; the University of Illinois at Chicago, pre-extensive external renovations; the bridges spanning the cold murky depths of the Chicago River; Stroger Hospital. Part of the character of Chicago is racism and segregation, and the movie digs much more deeply into issues like systemic racism and sexism than I was expecting.

Grad Students Helen Lyle and Bernadette Walsh are working on a thesis about Urban Legends, back when your average college student didn’t know what Urban Legends were. Helen’s husband, Trevor, is a professor at UIC. Despite her protests, he touches on Urban Legends in a lecture, cuing in potential interviewees/story tellers about what Urban Legends are and how they spread. He’s also very flirty with a female student, something he seems to have a history with. While transcribing tape recordings about a Bloody Mary-esque character named “Candyman” in her office, a cleaning lady mentions she’s heard about him. Intrigued and hungry for more data, Helen asks her and then another cleaning lady (who lives in Cabrini-Green) questions. They tell her a story about a woman who was killed by Candyman when he came in through her bathroom mirror… waiting in an adjoining apartment, removed the mirrored medicine cabinet, kicked her mirrored medicine cabinet out, and came through the hole. Helen does a bit of research and discovers that this is an actual thing that actually happened, and that the Housing Projects were so poorly made that the medicine cabinets were just set into holes in the cinderblock walls. There was nothing, no barrier, between the medicine cabinets. The victim called the police twice about the intruder, called 911 to report a break in, and was ignored.

I want to point out two things here:

1) Bernadette and the cleaning women are all Black, and the film passes the Bechdel test with wildly flying colors. Helen listens attentively to the cleaning women and treats them as experts in their knowledge, learns from them… but she’ll also be profiting from their story in a way they can’t, as she has access to academia and publishing and they don’t.

2) The bit about the congruent space between bathrooms? True. People WERE murdered by intruders punching through the bathroom cabinets. “Candyman” is based on a Clive Barker short story, a story written by an Englishman and set in England. Bernard Rose, another Englishman, wrote the script and directed the movie and did a fantastic job localizing the story. At the same time, he’s a white man who is literally profiting off the pain of Black people, sensationalizing actual horrific things that actually happened to actual people and making money off them in ways the people who experienced these things don’t have means of doing. Themes of abandonment thread their way through the film: people call 911 and are dismissed; Helen calls her husband for help and he’s off fucking a student; Helen and other people scream for help and are ignored; Trevor abandons Helen for his sexy perky-nippled student; multiple housing projects holding thousands of people are left to rot and decay, those within written off as unsalvageable human trash.

After a smug, condescending lecture from another man doing Urban Legend work, Helen decides that she and Bernadette are going to gather some first hand data and visit the Cabrini-Green projects, interview some residents, take some photos. This is a shockingly bad idea and Bernadette, who has actual brains in her head, does everything she can to convince Helen not to go. The two women wind up going together. A resident points out that every time white people come by bad things follow them, and this is very true as Helen’s actions rile up Candyman and cause problems for everyone, including herself.

The “real” history of Candyman, which omits his name and date of birth or death, is an absolutely unrealistic bit of unlikely circumstance and convoluted torture and murder, yet is told as unassailable fact by a man who studies Urban Legends and their hallmarks. The Urban Legend of a man breaking through a medicine cabinet is revealed to be true. UIC, a campus rich with Urban Legends of its own (both legends common to any campus with heavy use of Brutalist Architecture as well as more specific ones relating to the Behavior Science Building and Art and Architecture Building), is a wonderful choice as Helen and Bernadette’s college. Helen is attacked, but is not sexually assaulted or raped; she undresses on camera and it’s not titillating or voyeuristic. Her friendship with Bernadette is deep and loving. Helen repeatedly crawls through small openings, emerging from screaming mouths, born again from concrete birth canals. Helen fights to retain control of herself, of her mind, of her actions.

“Candyman” also explicitly questions the function of Urban Legends. Why are they so wide spread? Why are they so important? What do they mean, what do they offer? What if they are religion, a sacrament, something sacred and divine? What if we create god? What if our desires and fears manifest themselves as power and flesh, and become hungry? What if Urban Legends grant a special form of immortality?

It’s a fantastic movie.

It’s also not without its flaws.

One of the themes of the movie is that Candyman, a large Black man who is literally not human, preys upon and controls a white woman. He ruins her character, destroys her mind, posesses her, touches her body, kisses her. This is a pretty common, and pretty racist, fear about scary Black men despoiling white women. This could have been avoided by casting Helen Lyle as pretty much any ethnicity other than white, even made less obvious by darkening her hair. Urban Legends and stereotypes about sexually insatiable white-virgin-deflowering Black men abound. Does the movie knowingly play with this trope, or simply lazily fall prey to it?

Ultimately, I was pretty blown away by this movie and wish I’d watched it earlier. I was aware of its status as “cult classic,” and all too often that means “kind of shitty and very dated” (and so much about this movie IS dated, like UIC’s East Side architecture which as drastically been changed, or the fact that most of the housing projects have since been torn down and the ones close enough to the Gold Coast developed as luxury condos… which were supposed to be mixed-use with a certain percentage going to CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) tenants. That has overwhelmingly failed to happen, and a whole lot of people have been left homeless.). But there’s a lot about this movie to enjoy, to think about, and to unpack.

In my personal rating system for 31 days of horror, 5 stars means “buy this movie, it has good re-watch potential”; 4 stars means “rent this movie, watch it”; 3 stars means “find this movie for free, eh”; 2 stars means “skip it”; and 1 star means “ugh.” I’ve run across one movie that I thought deserved negative stars. “Candyman” is the first movie I felt deserved 5 stars. There’s a lot going on.

5 out of 5 stars for “Candyman.”

I’m really glad. I was getting super burned out by shitty, hateful, shallow gore horror and flapping tits.

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