Tag Archive | Bechdel Test

Movie Review: Chronicle

 Chronicle was one of those flicks you watch and imagine what it could have been if only the concept, characters and actors had been in the hands of someone else. You yearn for the potential film you almost saw. 

Chronicle Movie PosterIt’s your typical superhero origin story, except the heroes aren’t terribly heroic. They acquire super-powers in a mysterious glowing cave near a “rave” in the woods surrounding Seattle. I dug the Pacific Northwest shout-out, spotting our brand of coastal forests long before the space needle graced the screen.

Side note: Do people still go to “raves?”

Anywho – regular people get extraordinary powers and use them in the fashion you would imagine ordinary folks to do. They goof around in thrill seeking escapades, impressing classmates and using parlor tricks to hook up with ladies. Then, the bad seed goes nuts and gets in a knock down, drag out, levitated fight in the middle of downtown Seattle.

Absolute power corrupting absolutely is a classic tale, but one rarely told from a realistic perspective, from average dudes at your typical American High School. We are treated to all the joy and mystery of discovering human flight and telekinesis. And the horror of realizing these powers could harm or kill others. There were bits of moral pondering thrown in, but it was a little lost in the muddle of the story. I didn’t buy the philosophical quoting.

What didn’t jive well? The shaky hand cam style.Yes, it’s a cheaper way to film and also a commentary on how much we “chronicle” our daily lives, but this kind of device gets old after a while if the plot is having to stretch to account for why we are viewing things with different camera angles. Suddenly, there are two people running around who must film absolutely everything. Or one character who feels obligated to pick up where the other left off.

When the characters are constantly, or at least consistently, commenting on the presence of the camera, it takes the audience out of the film. In no way did I believe this film was a real chronicle of these super powers. The ship of sincerely believing this is found camera footage sailed with The Blair Witch Project. But it’s been recycled again and again in what would otherwise be higher quality flicks:

And now, Chronicle.

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Movie Review: Attack the Block

Attack The Block is a flick that I’ve been quietly pining away for the last 5 months. It was in American theatres around mid-July and no one had heard about it. Or wanted to see it. Then it was gone in the blink of an eye but kept popping up again on my radar, once because Edgar Wright of Scott Pilgrim fame (also the executive producer of ATB) was talking it up, and another when Racialicious wrote up a blog entry about it. Well, several to be more precise. I’ll link those at the bottom.

Attack The Block movie posterReally, I’m sure people have already covered the movie in far more eloquent terms than I could. But, for me personally, watching something like this is a minor miracle that I’d like to pass on to friends, family and some of the random strangers that stumble upon my blog.

Please – go rent Attack the Block. It’s available through Red Box (there’s one of those on every major street corner, ya know). I’m sure it’s on Netflix. It’s out there, circulating in the world and here you are, sitting in front of your computer screen reading some silly review.

RANT ABOUT GENRE ENTERTAINMENT

What I love about alien movies lately? They let us have a dialogue about race that I just don’t see happening in a lot of other genre entertainment. Game of Thrones is rad, but race is not on the menu for that particular six course meal. LOTR is a bit more subtle than 300, but there’s still an element of dark vs light man flesh (guess who wins?).

The gothic/monster genre has done a little bit better on the race front – at least Twilight made an attempt (though arguably a poor one) to include Native Americans. Remember those people who lived here in “America” before white kids took over? Yeah, very often genre fiction doesn’t.

By far – science fiction allows us to meet on an equal playing field. I love you fantasy, but you are far to stuck in your gender/race roles. Sci Fi is usually forward looking. It has the glory of giving us alternate future worlds in which it doesn’t matter if you’re a dude a lady or black and white.

BACK TO THE MOVIE REVIEW

Attack The Block is like that. Except it talks about race. Gives a bit of a nod to gender. It talks about socio-economic status. It doesn’t give us a happy ending in which the heroes solve all those problems. But it does give us a realistic one. Which is exceptional for a film about a gang of tough London kids fighting off a horde of aliens in their apartment complex.

Dan, The DH, was skeptical when we first plopped the DVD in. This, from a guy who spent the weekend playing Skyrim. 😉 But by the end he was clearly won over to my side of the fence. The side where I knew this would be a good, fun and unique romp before the DVD even started spinning up.

You know there’s something wrong in the world when a 30 year old white woman gets excited about seeing a 15 year old black male protagonist in a movie about aliens. Granted, John Boyega who potrays the hero Moses DOES look a lot like a young Denzel Washington.

John Boyega and Denzel Washington comparison

It's in the eyes and the lips. Sad eyes, pouty lips. Just sayin.

Dan and I aren’t the only ones who noticed. Seriously, google “John Boyega” and “Denzel Washington” it’s in every damn article written about him. Also worth noting – he’s already signed by Spike Lee for an HBO drama “Da Brick.” Hollywood moved fast!

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Movie Review: Breaking Dawn Part 1

I’ve had very mixed feelings going into watching this movie. The book is something of a train wreck – featuring an awkward wedding, a stunted honeymoon, a creepy demon baby and the most horrific birth scene I’ve ever witnessed depicted (this is coming from a woman who has witnessed four live births, mind you). 

And that’s just in the first half.

SIDE NOTE: I love you Mom and enjoy experiencing the Twilight fandom with you. But this is gonna get brutal, so avert your eyes. 🙂

THE GOOD:

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1 Movie PosterThe wedding scenes with Bella and her parents – especially the Charlie Swan from the movies whom I’ve come to love more than the Charlie Swan of the books (the book Charlie is a huge shipper/manipulator of the relationship between Bella and Jacob). Bella’s Mom has always been a bit of a tool, but she was motherly and weepy. Movie Charlie, for me, is really the soul of the series. He’s completely innocent of anything that’s happening and just loves the shit out of his daughter, but doesn’t continually place her in harm’s way. Me Gusta.

The emotional climax for Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner was spot-on. Really. I was impressed with how both of them dealt with their big “Bella died giving birth scene.” Pattinson especially displayed some real emotion. It’s fun to watch him progress through the series from a comically bad actor to someone who is able to provide much more range and inspire some real sympathy. Which is difficult when you’re playing sparkly abusive boyfriend/husband vamp man.

The wolf pack inter-relations were much more compelling to me than the martyr Bella dying for her demon baby plot-line. It’s so refreshing to see native people (or really, any person of color), depicted on-screen in a major big budget Hollywood flick. I’m so pleased that the Twilight franchise is making these kinds of gains. Seth Clearwater was adorbs and I just wanted to pinch his cheeks whenever he was on-screen. Leah Clearwater was another tool and it was difficult watching Jacob treat her like such an ass.

THE BAD:

The depiction of Native peoples in general was a little wonky. I’ve felt like most of the other movies didn’t go out of their way to stereotype First Nation people, but the “sparkling firewater” comment during the wedding threw me a bit for a loop. And then I swear I heard weird Taiko drumming during all the scenes with the werewolves. I mean, really?

I will briefly comment that the wedding and honeymoon were boring. I get that they needed to stretch out the material (90 minutes would have been fine, production team) but the long, lingering shots of the dress and the ring and her hair were just…blargh. I was over it by about 30 minutes in. And the sex scenes? Too brief. Plus the post-coital bruises. What. The. Fuck. That is not sexy. Maybe one or two choice bruises. But it’s so…rapey.

The whole messy business of imprinting. Yegh. Are you serious ya’ll? Why does poor Jacob have to get stuck loving a creepy vampire baby? Why not Leah Clearwater who shares his wolf thoughts and is real flesh and blood? I can see him feeling super protective of the baby because it’s part Bella…but everything else after that. Yikes. Especially with the recent media attention on child abuse (ala Penn State). Loving babies is cool. But Luuuuving babies, is not. There’s no talking your way around that.

THE UGLY:

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Re-Thinking Captain America: The First Avenger

Tumblr GIFs from the Captain America flick inspired me to some excitement about purchasing the Blu-Ray, DVD + Digital combo yesterday morning (only $20 at Target this week). Proof that fan-girl  is infectious. 🙂

But after re-watching, my first impressions have been changed quite a bit. Here’s how…

My first and only viewing of this flick up until last night was on a somewhat frazzled Friday evening before a week-long vacation at the beach. I’d been in charge of packing, grocery shopping and about a dozen other things…so mentally I was a bit fried. I will admit to this coloring my perception of the film at the time.

My original opinions were that it relied very extensively on CGI, rushed through so much material (don’t they all?) and borrowed heavily from other genre films in its concepts.

Who didn’t think that motorcycle chase through the woods smacked of the Endor forest scene?

HOWEVER.

Chris Evans turns in a fine performance. He is sympathetic as a skinny Steve, heroic as Captain America in WWII, then tragic as a sacrificing, suspended-animation-for-70-years dude.

The comedic timing is spot on. Especially Tommy Lee Jones – who in my opinion – has all the best one-liners.

The romance between Steve and Peggy isn’t overly weepy. In fact, Peggy Carter (played by the gorgeous and shapely Hayley Atwell from The Pillars of the Earth), while being one of two or three women featured in the film doing something other than dancing or flirting has a hugely prominent role and holds her own with all the dudes pretty well. Despite the Betty Sue nature of her character.

BRIEF RANDOM TANGENT: The whole scene with her punching the soldier WAS a bit far-fetched for me. She’s an intelligent, capable person…she doesn’t have to use her physical capabilities to intimidate dudes. And who really believed she could punch that jerk-wad out? Classic example of male writers confusing strong female characters with being physically STRONG rather than just well written. :\ We shall have to spend some time and effort revising that term…

Hugo Weaving as Red Skull was spot-on, even loved his accent…though it seemed to fluctuate at times between German and Austrian. He was menacing, but not too scary. Perfect for PG-13 but I found myself wishing that it had a bit darker, more Hell Boy-esque vibe. Like the vision of Nazis and the occult favored by Guillermo del Toro.

Not too sure about Hydra though. Where did all those people come from? Why were they so committed to Red Skull’s crazy-ass cause? That logical leap wasn’t very smooth and I remarked both times on it – why is it so easy for him to recruit more people? Hmph.

LOVED the use of the cosmic cube. Loved how everything is tying so neatly together for The Avengers movie in 2012.

I sense a Marvel movie rock-block coming on: 

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X-Men First Class: The Review

There’s some saying out there about expectations and how you shouldn’t get them “up” when you don’t know exactly what the outcome will be. It’s a saying because it’s mostly true. So there you have  it. I had ridiculous expectations for this film which didn’t translate to what we actually ended up viewing.

X-Men First Class Movie PosterBut I blame it on the pre-release fervor and those stupid Rotten Tomatoes numbers. 98%! 92%! Now it’s down to 88% – which sadly does not beat out The Dark Knight. But then again, X-Men: First Class hardly carries the same gravitas.

Not that it doesn’t make an attempt. It suffers a bit from Thor syndrome – it feels like three films in one and there’s hardly a moment to pause and breathe (except for maybe that wacky week-long montage). Really though, there’s much too much crammed into one film. It teeters perilously close to drowning in its own ambitions, but there was enough to rescue it from mediocrity (still kicking Thor’s Asgaardian ass).

*THAR BE SPOILERS BELOW*

THE GOOD: MAGNETO AND XAVIER

Who would have thought it was possible for Ian McKellen as Magneto to be upstaged by a young, muscular James-Bondy version of himself? Certainly not this lady. I had high hopes for Michael Fassbender after realizing I’d seen him in at least two other movies where he effortlessly stole the scenes. You might have missed him in Inglourious Basterds, Centurion and 300. In case you forgot how dead sexy and mostly naked he was in that last movie, here is a refresher:

That jump scene in the man-diaper? Delicious! And such intensity.

He has seriously made me fall deeply and madly in love with Magneto, who I’ve always kinda crushed on in the comic books especially when his clone Joseph was hanging around adding some extra tension to the Rogue and Gambit relationship. Though it was really hard to like him after he ripped all of Wolverine’s adamantium out of his body. Yeah, that happened. Kinda cruel.

Deeply surprised at a lack of similar sexual attraction to James McAvoy, who has been an actor crush since Atonement. No matter how hard they push the Charles Xavier as sex-kitten vibe, he cannot surpass the years of history I have with Xavier as a bald wise-old-sage. It would be like dating Buddha or finding him appealing during his younger years. Kinda skeevy.

Magneto however, has the bad boy image thang going for him. The heart-wrenching back story. Xavier’s evil-stepfather was non-existent and instead he spent his life apparently playing patriarch to Mystique if you can buy that. Which I can’t. That was the first bitter pill to swallow in this film. But that’s for later.

BFFs for Life! Until we spend the rest of it morally at odds. Whatevs. Chess is fun!

The Xavier-Magneto man love story was the drive of this film. Everything else, including the other mutants seemed secondary, dull and wasted. When you have two solid, attractive actors of their caliber – the entire film could have been hinged on them.

I wanted more of their story. I wanted the entire movie to be theirs because we only saw them on-screen for about 10-15 minutes of bonding before…you know, all the craziness happens (not going to spoil all of that ya’ll).

These two actors were hands down the best part of this film and decidedly rescued it from itself. The same cannot be said for the rest of the flick.

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Battle: Los Angeles And It’s Betters

Battle Los Angeles Movie PosterThere are some films, for which the only possible way to describe them is by referencing other, better projects with similarities. Battle: Los Angeles is that film.

Even when I first heard about it at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con, watched the trailer, listened to the panel speaking – I was thinking, “It’s like Black Hawk Down with aliens!” I suppose, in retrospect, even mentally packaging a movie in that manner means it’s probably not gonna be ground-breaking…or better than it’s predecessor.

But you know, I was really looking forward to some pulse-quickening urban combat with aliens on the big screen.

What greeted me was a 90 minute long Marine Corps advertisement and stilted dialogue. Some of the exchanges – in no part to the actors who for the most part believably sold their lines – were so damned awkward! After viewing we chuckled about the female lead, Bridget Moynahan declaring, “I’m a vet,” as they were dissecting an alien corpse. Of course she is. Or a nurse. Or a doctor.

It was totally out-of-place. As was the bizarre monologue foisted upon Aaron Eckhart in the last 1/3 of the movie. It  completely sucked me out of the film and I sat there thinking, “this is such a shitty monologue.” But I watched Eckhart for a moment in this movie-limbo and decided he was so INTO his role, I could easily step back in. He knew the lines were crap, but he emoted them and basically made it so the words didn’t matter, but the emotion he imbued them with DID. That’s Grade A fucking talent right there.

Oh – and Marines NOT swearing. FUCK YOU PG-13!! I have friends and family who have spent time in the military or in vocations which primarily consist of other dudes talking shit and swearing. Ugh. UGH. For a movie that seemed to want so badly to come across as realistic, having Marines NOT swear so obviously was a bit repulsive.

THE SEXIST STUFF (OF COURSE)

Michelle Rodriguez was noticeably flat in this film, she has loads of personality and bad-assery in real life, but her character felt muted. Also disappointingly portrayed was the idea that any Marines in this situation would be irritated by another Marine joining them just because she’s in “Tech.” It basically gave them license to say, “we’re going to treat this lady soldier like she has no idea how to hold a gun, but not because she’s a woman – cause she’s in TECH!” Of course, she holds her own and proves she can kick ass during combat…but I get so impossibly tired of watching women have to prove themselves in these situations.

It wasn’t quite G.I. Jane, but it felt just similar enough to raise my eyebrows. Of course, I have a low threshold for sexist bullshit, so take from that what you will.

Just saying: women have been in the armed forces and serving their country for years now. Successfully leading troops in combat. Can we get the fuck over it already?

DISTRICT 9

In my heart I was hoping it would be more like District 9. For me,”District 9″ is the ultimate Aliens on earth movie. If Aliens really landed here it would most likely always be an accident (Why the hell would they WANT to come to earth?) and they would be low on resources and everyone would resent the burden they created on the public. The aliens themselves had a personality that few other “alien on earth films” seem able to imbue. Another beef with “Battle:LA” was how boring and homogenous the aliens were. You are writing a script about FUCKING ALIENS. You have complete and total license to make them interesting. But by all means, outfit them in metal with stupid guns and no unique physical features. Boring.

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iZombie: A Heroine with Brains

In the back of the first four American Vampire books sneak preview pages for other Vertigo series have lurked – the most attractive of them being the iZombie series by the artistic team which brought the world Madman, Michael and Laura Allred and written by Chris Roberson. The series is about a young woman who must eat a brain once a month in order to maintain her existence, but in the process absorbs the thoughts and impulses of the person whom she consumed. The first example leads to her solving a mystery – Nancy Drew style.

Gwen is helped along by her band of wacky friends – a ghost from the 1960s named Ellie and a Were-Terrier named Scott (who the ladies lovingly call Spot). Also lurking behind the scenes are a band of paint-balling female vampires and a mysterious mummy. A liberal college town feels like the perfect setting for these supernatural creatures, who live together in the super awesome town of Eugene, Oregon. Where else could these groups live without detection? While it’s not my P-Town, Eugene is equally as cool.

Well, they don’t exactly exist there untroubled – two Fossors (who essentially hunt supernatural creatures) have entered town and are looking for a murderer piling up dead bodies. One of them is young and attractive, the other sporting a potentially job-related facial scar, which is sexy in it’s own way.

So – while iZombie sports Gwen as it’s heroine, it’s really more of an ensemble cast. Even Spot’s friends in the college IT department are featured prominently.

WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT

Some of the writing is a little wobbly in the first few issues, but there are some highlights – especially when Gwen’s voice is prominently on display. The sequence towards the end of the first issue when Gwen is digging up her victim to munch on his brain is positively gorgeous, hilarious and chilling.

At times, the characters seems a bit too forced quirky and their dimensionality is lacking, but they each have a distinct personality and history which carried the story well through the first four issues. My hope is that more will be revealed about them in the near future.

WHAT’S GOOD

An example of what keeps the artwork snazzy in this book - the right colorist

The art is saved from being too cartoony by the delicious shading, which fills out the faces and scenery – giving them much needed depth. The work reminds me quite a lot of Underground, but in this instance it’s salvaged by the colorist, rather than hindered. Gwen especially, with her white and grey hair, yellowed zombie eyes and purple/ash skin is gorgeously rendered. I can’t imagine her looking more appealing if she were alive. Probably the prettiest and sexiest Zombie I’ve ever seen. And shockingly, she doesn’t need to bare her body parts to effect that aura – although there are a few scenes in which she’s naked while changing. All done very tastefully,  and showing us that her body looks like a real woman’s. No crazy big boobs or narrow wist and curvaceous hips.

Also enjoying a cast that features a wide range of races, without feeling like they are inserted because of tokenism or some desire or need to seem or feel multicultural. In fact – it seems a better reflection of the diversity that a college town like Eugene would probably boast.

CONCLUSION

I’m not crazy in love with this series – but I’m intrigued by it. It’s got a unique and local spin on supernatural creatures, a diverse cast of characters, and a strong but strange heroine.

As I mentioned before – I need to see a bit more character development or history in order for me to really feel invested in these characters. Sure, there were moments when I was genuinely concerned for their safety, but I’m not exceptionally compelled either way at the moment.

For now – the zany group, the mystery and the gorgeous artwork are enough to keep me coming back.

Bechdel Test: iZombie features several female characters and PASSES the women test, does PASS the men test and features more than two minority characters with names and speaking parts, so therefore it DOES PASS the race test.

Comics Go Underground…No, Really.

After meeting the gracious and awesome Steve Lieber on Free Comic Book Day last year – I was psyched to pick up the trade paperback of the miniseries Underground, on which he collaborated with Jeff Parker.

The book languished in our box for a while, and has languished at my house for twice as long – while book club reading, job hunting and vacations have taken precedent. So, I was finally able to breeze through the entire thing tonight, and am feeling pretty ambivalent about my first pass.

The story takes place in Marion, Kentucky in the Appalachian Mountains, and most of the action is centered on Stillwater Cave, which is probably fictional. But has a pretty cool name. Some of the locals want to turn it into a tourist spot, and Wesley Fischer, our heroine, a spelunker and Park Ranger, is spiritedly resisting such attempts as they will spoil the natural environment or some such nonsense. She’s obviously a hippie with no understanding of how small town economics works.

Well, anyways – madness and gunfights and bat guano ensue!

WHAT’S GOOD HERE

I like Lieber’s artwork. It’s not exceptionally flashy, but I’m really captivated by the emotion and facial variations he uses for his characters. Some of the layout is dynamic as well, and the especially gorgeous and gripping scenes take place in the cave, near the middle of the book. The beginning and end caps provide all the plot set-up and resolution, but all the page turning action falls within the middle. And the beautiful shading by Ron Chan on this portion of the book is glorious. I wish I could say the same for the rest…but if you decide to give this book  a read through (which I suggest, with some reservations), you should note how the shading fades as they move closer into the cave and further away from light. It’s quite moody and claustrophobic. When the art and story are working well together, they are extremely effective.

An example of one of the beautifully shaded cave images

It seems appropriate to pay some compliments to Wesley Fischer, who is an outspoken, strong and knowledgeable main character. The story and book are hers, even if lots of the heroic action sequences take place between the “bad guys” and Seth, the sexy male Park Ranger who ends up being Wesley’s accidental spelunking partner. Of course, there is romantic entanglement between the two, but aside from some implied sex, it didn’t seem to add much to the story. There are some instances when romance isn’t needed and doesn’t work. This is one of those times – there is enough happening that the love story could have easily taken a back seat.

Especially since Seth was never fully realized in the same way as Wesley. Actually, he reminded me quite a bit of your typical female supporting character – easy on the eyes, there to provide an element of danger and risk for the more knowledgeable and experienced Wesley, but without much dimensionality. He’s actually quite a bit like the female love interest in an action movie. Hah.

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Stephen King in Comic Books

I’m not the kind of English major who is going to lie to you and say that a Stephen King novel is not in one of my Top 10 Favorite books of all time. Hell, there might even be two in there. *cough* It and The Stand *cough*. I was raised on a steady diet of Dean Koontz and Stephen King in the 5th and 6th grades, and picking up one of King’s books now is like settling down to a heaping plate of mashed potatoes or curling up in a pile of clothes fresh from the dryer. Satisfaction.

When someone told me that Stephen King was writing a comic book about Vampires (with a capital V) I was insanely there. Actually, I’m not sure when or where I heard of it, but I picked up the first issues of American Vampire and N. and was immediately hooked. And then life happened and they were both made box regulars and several issues piled up and I lent them out to someone.

Last week they were magically returned to me, and we swung by our comic book store to empty our box, and yet more issues landed in our hands.

With a big old stack of comics to sift through, you might not be surprised to discover while I gravitated heavily towards the One Shots featuring Marvel women characters, it was American Vampire and N. that I read first.

Once a Stephen King fan girl, always a Stephen King fan girl.

There was a small part of me that secretly hoped, wished and prayed he would make an appearance at Comic Con to promote these books. Of course he wasn’t there. He’s an old man, and he doesn’t need the publicity. Who is foolish enough to think that Stephen King needs a promoter? But yes…would I be a true fangirl if I hadn’t daydreamed at least once?

So he wasn’t. And I read the books anyway.

*********************************************************************************

STEPHEN KING’S N.

They are certainly Stephen King, but paired with some of the most amazing artists in the industry. Alex Maleev has crafted some of the most gorgeous artwork I’ve come across in my nearly two decades relationship with comic books. Outside of perhaps Alex Ross. He is one of the few artists who I will follow to any book for any reason.

So N. is immediately going to suck me in as a reader. Pair that with a truly creepy Stephen King tale, and who could NOT be sold? The writer doing the adapting is someone I was not familiar with before picking up the series, but I think a lot of what you really need to know about Marc Guggenheim comes across in the afterword in the first issue. Before I started this blog and dedicated a considerable chunk of my time to Comic Books, it never really occurred to me to read what writers and artists scribble in forewords and afterwords. But now, I think it’s very important.

And Guggenheim seems like the perfect person to adapt what originally appeared as only documents in the King version of the story. He gives them excellent textual and graphical context, and if it’s even possible with a Maleev piece, I found myself being quite drawn away from the images and transported instead into the visuals that the words inspired. It’s kind of a battle then, which I will say ended (for me at least) in a draw.

There are certainly haunting images here. Maleev paints such vivid pictures and emotions, it’s like looking at snapshots rather than lines and ink.

But the story – about Ackerman’s Field, the stone circle, and the obsessive need to count objects in order to keep evil at bay is what really drives the book and puts it all together. I’ve got all the floppies, but am dying to purchase this series as a trade and leaf through the collection again. It’s so haunting…the kind of story that sticks with you. I found myself telling it around the campfire this weekend as if it truly were a scary story, but also a real thing. And god, that final panel makes the hair on my arm stand up…thinking…what if it were?

Especially since 8 is my favorite number, and I feel a particular aversion to 7.

For a small sample of the story and the captivating art, you can check out Episodes 1-5 of the motion comic on this here YouTube video:

Bechdel Test: This miniseries does NOT pass the women test, does PASS the men test and DOES NOT PASS the race test.

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The Bechdel Test: 30 Days of Entertainment Recap

Sorry this is a few days late – had to put my Eclipse thoughts down in print (well, as close to print as the internet gets), and my brother arrived home from the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday. Then last night I suffered the indignity of The Last Airbender. Oh you can bet a review of that is forthcoming as well. Anyways, was busy but not busy enough to forget about the recap of the last month’s efforts. So, without further adieu…

WHAT WAS REVIEWED

Comic Books, Regular Books, Television Shows and Movies. I tried to pick a variety of items to test over the month, but you can rest assured that I wasn’t merely selecting things on the basis of them being “worthy.” What was read or watched is really stuff that I would normally consume and didn’t vary from my routine. Except for a few exceptions.

After submitting three episodes of Justified and  having them fail the women and race test, I determined that I could leave off including that show in the future. I still finished up the first season, but have now realized that it doesn’t nearly hold a candle to the awesomeness that was Deadwood. That show was simply too good, and Justified will never be anything like it. Damn, damn, double damn.

There was also a point that I tried to read Ex Machina and realized intuitively it wasn’t going to pass, so was unable to trudge through it. It also started getting super meta by including the author, and that is a gigantic turn-off to me. No one has ever done it well and it completely ruins the story. Sorry writers. We don’t want to SEE YOU in the story. We want the story. You are not welcome there.

I also left off The Road as well. It was a book club requirement and did not pass the women and race test either.

It feels important to disclose what I didn’t even bother putting to the test, because  it still matters to the test. So there you have it – at least three more items that do not pass the test which were not included in the posts for various reasons.

HOW HAS IT IMPACTED PRESENT AND FUTURE ENTERTAINMENT CHOICES?

It’s certainly made me more conscious on a basic level of inclusion. Having to be so meticulous about scouting it out in books, comic books and movies has definitely led to it becoming something of a second nature. It’s kind of a habit now, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever really be able to turn my brain off to examining the nuances. This makes my brain quite happy, as its natural state is to over-think everything.

The Bechdel Test hasn’t necessarily inspired me to give up all entertainment that is dominated by white men, because then I would be giving up some of the franchises and pieces of entertainment that I love. But I’m not going to forget that they only include men and what that says to me as a female reader and someone who feels inclusion is imperative in order to properly reflect humanity and society.

It seems important to mention that even if something passed the test, that didn’t automatically give it a stamp of feminist approval, or mean it was not stereotypically depicting people of color.

Who would have thought that Eclipse and Bree Tanner would have passed the tests? I still firmly believe the Twilight saga is deviously misogynistic and paints a deeply troublesome portrait of romantic love to teen girls that is not achievable in reality. Bella is a disturbing heroine for a younger generation of women.

Another way Twilight passed is through the inclusion of Native Americans; the Quileute characters and use of legends. Outside of the wolf related folklore, there isn’t much mentioned about the current culture and life on the reservation. This is a subject area I would need to do a bit more research on, but the inclusion of Native American characters in the Twilight Saga has clearly been a mixed blessing.

– The real Quileutes in La Push have benefited financially from the exposure and seem pleased to have contemporary depictions of Natives shown in Hollywood (rather than “leather and feather” versions from the 1800s)

– The heritage of actors and actresses depicting the role has been a crucial part of the casting process. Not all of the cast members are full-blooded Native American, and this presents a problem.

– A more in-depth analysis of First Nation representation in the franchise is provided here.

– Actual quotes from Chaske Spencer, the Native American who plays Sam Uley.

This seems like enough material for an entirely different post. Regardless, I guess you could give Stephenie Meyer props for actually including Native Americans in a huge Hollywood blockbuster franchise with all the usual stereotypes stripped away.

Non-Twilight Related Business. Another surprise for me was seeing that Push passed the test. I didn’t have any expectations one way or the other going into it, and so when I started tallying up, I was impressed. It’s been a quiet favorite of mine, an under-rated screen gem which was set up for a sequel it will never receive, much to my dismay. So, even happier to note that it passed both tests, though the Race test only marginally. And perhaps only then because it took place in Hong Kong. But yay for that right? Kudos to films set in foreign countries for no real reason without disrespecting the country and culture.

It also seems strange to me that many of the books, movies, TV shows included women and minority characters, yet left off the need for them to interact with one another. Glee is a great example of a show that purports to be inclusive, but rarely utilizes the characters of color and hardly ever has them converse together. There are still characters of color in the background who haven’t had speaking roles, yet have appeared every episode. That’s hugely disturbing. Sometimes – and I’m sure folks will hate hearing this – I feel like minority or disabled characters are included simply in the series so they can get away with an ethnic joke or a joke about people in wheelchairs that otherwise would be inappropriate if uttered by a white or able-bodied character. For reals.

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