“King Cobra” isn’t even half as good as most entries in the medium it clearly despises

“King Cobra” isn’t even half as good as most entries in the medium it clearly despises

This review was commissioned by Patrick McClafferty! If you’d like to commission a review, please see my Commissions page.

 

WARNING: the following review contains discussions of child pornography and abuse.

 

There are very, very few queer-themed thrillers that I actually like. Stranger by the Lake is pretty much a classic at this point, The Talented Mr. Ripley is unfairly underrated, and Paul Verhoeven’s The Fourth Man really needs to be seen by more American audiences, but that’s about it as far as I’m concerned. Most of the reason I tend to hate thrillers with major LGBTQ characters is that they either feature said characters doing awful depraved things Because Gay or Because Trans as basically their entire motive (most of the reason I’ve never been able to work up the energy to defend Basic Instinct) or are just painfully low-rent and badly made (Hellbent, widely touted as the first slasher with an all-gay cast, springs to mind).

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How to Resist

When I started this blog, I didn’t think I would ever do anything with it that directly dealt with current politics except through the prism of entertainment. But I realize that’s not enough right now: I need to develop a plan to actively resist the current administration of fear and fascistic control.

Rather than focus on what NOT to do or who to NOT listen to, I’m going to try and keep it positive. Not necessarily that things will be sunshine and rainbows from my point of view, but I want to focus on  what we CAN do. I realize that not everything is going to be possible for a lot of folks due to accessibility barriers, so I’ll try to keep this as broad as possible while offering concessions.

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A Helpful Guide to Films Directed by Women: 2017 Edition

A Helpful Guide to Films Directed by Women: 2017 Edition

I strongly believe in the importance of supporting films that are directed by women, particularly women of color, due to the way that systemic sexism and racism in the film industry keep women from reaching creative and financial peaks. Unfortunately, many films directed by women don’t get as much of a marketing push as they should, so I’m going to make a list of promising narrative feature films that are getting released sometime this year either at a festival or in a wider release, or that are likely to be released this year, organized by genre.

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I Ruined Everything (For Myself): A Play About Depression and Art Criticism in One Act

I Ruined Everything (For Myself): A Play About Depression and Art Criticism in One Act

ROSS DICKERHOOF, 22 [henceforth referred to as “22”, sits alone at a table, nervously fidgeting. He seems to be looking for someone. ROSS DICKERHOOF, 17 [henceforth referred to as “17”], enters, chugging a Cherry Coke. 17 plops down across from 22.

 

17: This seat taken? [It’s not a question.]

 

22: Where were you?

 

17: Oh, just wrapping up the performance of my career. God, I’m so glad [REDACTED] let me be Renfield.

 

22: Yep. It sure is fitting.

 

17: [lowering his sunglasses] Ooh, feisty today. What’s up?

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My Favorite Things: 2016 Edition

My Favorite Things: 2016 Edition

I briefly entertained the idea of doing both a “best” and “worst” list for 2016 in entertainment, but after giving it some thought I decided to just do a “best” list, because 2016 had enough well-chronicled bad shit to make a “worst” list redundant. There was a lot that I liked and even loved this year in entertainment, and I want to draw attention to those things. This list is in no particular order of quality or preference, because if I tried to rank them it’d be pretty arbitrary and largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of wanting to talk about stuff I like.

Also, all comments either on this blog or on social media to the tune of “but what about [film/show/etc.]” or “ew, why’d you include that” will be ignored. Make your own list.

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(Mis)Understanding a Monster: Dracula Retrospective #1, “Nosferatu”

(Mis)Understanding a Monster: Dracula Retrospective #1, “Nosferatu”

Film: Nosferatu

Dracula/Dracula Analogue Performed by: Max Schreck

Year: 1922

Director: F.W. Murnau

Country: Germany

Character Type: Monstrously Othered Foreign Invader

Before we begin, yes, I’m aware that F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu isn’t exactly the first film adaptation of Dracula. There’s a Hungarian film called Dracula’s Death that, like a great many silent films, is presumed lost, though we may yet find a print of it in someone’s grandparents’ basement. As is, there’s really no way for anybody to watch it, so we’ll gloss over it. Dodgier still, there’s reports of a Russian Dracula film from 1920, simply titled Drakula, but there’s not enough evidence to properly conclude that this film even actually exists, so for our purposes, Nosferatu is the first film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel.

And what an adaptation it is.

I dare say Nosferatu has produced the most iconic imagery and contributions to modern vampire-related popular culture of any of the material on this list. It’s been visually quoted (particularly this shot) in everything from Batman Returns to Spongebob Squarepants, and its introduction of sunlight as a vulnerability for vampires has influenced multiple generations of vampire fiction. It’s also a huge standout of the German Expressionist movement, a wave of bizarre anti-realism that influenced hundreds of filmmakers from Alfred Hitchcock to Dario Argento to Wes Craven. Its pop culture imprint is so vast and powerful that it’s almost become its own thing, apart from the novel it’s adapting: it’s been remade by Werner Herzog (we’ll talk about that later) not as a re-working of Stoker’s novel but specifically as an expansion on Murnau’s film. It was also re-envisioned as Shadow of the Vampire, this time from the perspective of a fictionalized Murnau realizing that “Max Schreck” is actually a vampire just like the character he’s portraying in the film, but I’m not going to talk about that in this retrospective (though it is well worth checking out).

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“Moana,” “Rogue One” and How 2016’s Studio Films Failed Us

“Moana,” “Rogue One” and How 2016’s Studio Films Failed Us

[WARNING: Contains spoilers for both Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Moana. You’ve been warned.]

In the past week, I saw two very different Disney-owned properties. On one hand, there was a family-friendly animated musical adventure loosely based on Pacific Islander folklore; and on the other, there was a spinoff to one of the most successful franchises ever that focused on war and gritty reality IN SPACE and was decidedly not for children. Oddly enough, I found a lot of bizarre similarities in both of them. Not necessarily in story or themes, but how they fit into 2016’s studio filmmaking climate and Disney’s modern branding.

As I have often complained, 2016 was an absolutely hideous year for studio films. Many were outright disasters of construction and born of either incompetence or choking on ambition (e.g. Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, Warcraft, Alice Through the Looking Glass) and the ones that weren’t were either bland and dull (e.g. The Legend of Tarzan, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) or stunk of a particularly noxious white cishet male cult of personality (e.g. Sausage Party, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). So really, it was less a search for studio films that were good and more one for films that kept their heads above water well enough that they weren’t considered utter garbage.

Neither Moana nor Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a particularly great film; both have crippling flaws that keep me from wholeheartedly embracing their good qualities. On the other hand, they still manage to be relatively functional on a film level, so they were rewarded with massive box office grosses and effusive praise. Okay, that’s mean, but my question remains as to why we continue to reward mediocrity rather than showcase greatness, and both of these films are emblematic of trends in studio filmmaking that have been particularly prominent this year.

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