Superlative Tuesday :: the 2019 Golden Globes

8 Jan

I figure I can get away with it tonight because… it’s sort of television? Also, being honest, it took me two days to summon an ounce of caring about the Golden Globes beyond the adorable content that is celebrities’ elevator videos.

‘Cause here’s the thing. Some of my choice movies from last year, like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, were nominated for things, but they sure didn’t win. Some awkward feel-good about race relations in the olden days and a biopic that reportedly (I didn’t suffer through this myself, because I read up) ignored some rather large BIographical facts, did. I’m happy for Rami Malek, because he seems okay, and I’m happy for Regina King and Mahershala Ali, and I’m happy for Into the Spider-Verse (which we ARE going to go see, I swear, it’s just been mad around here), but I just have so little energy to expend on movies I don’t really care about as a whole.

And television! Not only did I have no idea anyone actually (still?) watched The Americans, I’ve literally never heard of The Kominsky Method (and that’s saying nothing of my strong opinions about The Good Place and how it should have been an easy choice). I’m happy for Sandra Oh (and do intend to do Killing Eve someday, but haven’t) and I’m happy for Richard Madden and blah blah.

I’m just learning that the older I get, the less I need award shows to tell me what’s quality entertainment for me. I’d still like the things I like to win things (or be nominated or even acknowledged) but I don’t have the same compulsion I used to to expose myself to ALL of the content. It’s just not worth it, and it’s not all that interesting sometimes.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Film Friday :: 2018 in film

4 Jan

You can’t really compare some of the movies I saw this year to each other in any meaningful way. Widows and The Hate U Give are, for example, in a whole different class than Aquaman, which is in a whole different class than Crazy Rich Asians, etc. So it’s back to the ol’ categories for me.

Ranking Superhero Movies

4. Avengers: Infinity War
Of the three Marvel and one DC films out last year, this is the one I enjoyed myself at the least. Ironically, it’s probably also the one I have the most elaborate opinions about. The thing about Infinity War is that there are parts (most of them discussed in my initial linked review) that I really enjoyed, but it also (I didn’t admit to this before because ugh, how embarrassing) triggered a panic attack for me (long story that’s far too psychological to get into). So that’s cool. It’s a very, very mixed bag of a film, and Endgame honestly looks exhausting and DC levels of darkness, but it’s transitory. I know that. And then we’ll be in a new phase, one that’s hopefully even better.

3. Ant-Man and the Wasp
The fact that I liked this more than Infinity War overall still shocks me, believe me. But here’s the thing. I walked out of this movie smiling. I walked out of that one doing the opposite of that. It’s not a particularly deep or insightful film. With the exception of Quantum Zone pseudoscience, I can’t imagine it will have many lasting effects on the cinematic universe at large. But it also had Hope being awesome and it also had Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) being awesome and even though it ended on snap-related cliffhanger it did so once we the audience had been speculating about what that would entail for weeks and not after we’d just been punched in the face with sadness for two hours. That counts for a lot.

2. Aquaman
This practically just came out but it came out in 2018 and it counts, so there. And it was a great time. The details of why (a kind and supportive protagonist, really amazing female characters, the importance of a superhero movie or really any movie about being mixed-race that’s ultimately so positive, etc.) are ones we already mostly discussed, but. I really cannot recommend this movie too much. It’s equal parts neon shiny flash, earnestness, and give-no-fucks comic book storytelling.

1. Black Panther
I mean, duh. Here’s the thing: I legitimately almost forgot this movie only came out this year. We’ve watched it at home on at least three or four separate occasions already, and every time I notice new things. Every time I feel things. Every time I am in awe. I really hope it actually wins some of the awards it’s nominated for, because it’s not just a great superhero movie or a great action movie or whatever. It’s a great movie period. It’s transcendent. And it’s one of those things that I watch and go “I feel so lucky to even have been around when this first came out, to have gotten to be a part of that in the tiniest way possible.”

Revenge Fantasies

7. Proud Mary
A very traditional revenge fantasy (tropes galore) but by no means a pointless one, and one that is stylish and fun. Haters can reexamine their life choices.

6. Black Panther
Well, at any rate it features Erik’s (Michael B. Jordan) revenge fantasy. He wants to make Wakanda pay for what it did to his father, its former prince, and what negligence he perceives it to have partaken in on a global scale. But there’s been a lot of debate about “Killmonger was right” rhetoric, and it’s not my place to get into it a lot, but I’ll say I strongly support Nakia’s (Lupita Nyong’o) viewpoint instead, which is in effect revolutionary kindness. Using resources to help, not to hurt. That’s a kind of beautiful revenge too, in its own weird way.

5. Avengers: Infinity War
The thwarted revenge fantasy. Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) want revenge on Thanos (Josh Brolin). It doesn’t work. It goes very poorly. But that purple asshat is gonna get his by Endgame, and if Nebula doesn’t strike the killing blow I’m gonna cut someone. She deserves that.

4. Ocean’s Eight
The comedic revenge fantasy, and one that goes exactly according to plan. Debbie (Sandra Bullock) gets revenge on her ex (Richard Armitage). Pretty much all of the other women get revenge on whatever is holding them back. It’s weirdly uplifting.

3. Sorry to Bother You
Revenge on capitalism, kind of. Sort of. In a very, very strange way. It’s also revenge on moviegoers who thought they were going to get a simple movie that they could easily wrap their heads around, which is still funny to reflect on.

2. The Hate U Give
No no, hear me out. This is also about revolutionary kindness, and it’s that kind of revenge. Revenge against an unjust society. It’s a story about people refusing to be silent and fighting for basic rights and decency in the face of a whole lot of bullshit, and that’s sometimes the most inspirational revenge fantasy available.

1. Widows
And then you have this, which is also a traditional revenge story. A group of widows joins together to commit their deceased husbands’ last perfect crime and get their lives back. You can’t really practice this kind of revenge in real life, as opposed to revolutionary kindness as revenge which you can, but it’s still very satisfying to watch.

Freaking Adorable Romance

4. Love, Simon
Specifically Simon (Nick Robinson) and his quest to find Blue. This is a very sweet gay romance (as well as a sweet platonic story) and a very sweet teenage romance and it’s just 100% worth it. Cynics need not apply, unless they feel they too may have their hearts melted.

3. Crazy Rich Asians
Specifically Rachel (Constance Wu) and Nick (Henry Golding). I am often cynical about m/f romance, I admit this completely. That’s why it’s a shock that this list of adorable romance is primarily m/f. But this is a couple I can very much get behind. They care about each other and want to do what’s right for each other and even though that doesn’t always work they work it out by the film’s end. Love conquers all, etc. Plus, they’re just gorgeous together.

2. Black Panther
Specifically Nakia and T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). This is how you write exes who get back together. They do. They care about each other. There are never snide remarks. It’s not the ~Huntingbird~ shit I was worrying about it being. It’s just two people who care about each other, still, who are in T’Challa’s case totally undone by the other, who still have identities outside of each other but would do anything for each other.

1. Aquaman
Specifically Arthur (Jason Momoa) and Mera (Amber Heard). Good freaking grief, were these two adorable. As we discussed previously, the build of their relationship (grudging allies to friends to lovers) is believable and charming, and they are so clearly into each other that it’s infectious. Plus, they respect each other, and that’s important. That’s a theme here.

A List, In No Particular Order and Without Commentary, Of Standout Ladies

10. The cast of Ocean’s Eight (Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham-Carter, Awkwafina, Anne Hathaway)

9. Detroit (Tessa Thompson, Sorry to Bother You)

8. Shank (voiced by Gal Gadot, Ralph Breaks the Internet)

7. Mera and Atlanna (Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman, Aquaman)

6. Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen, Ant-Man and the Wasp)

5. The cast of Widows (Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo)

4. Starr (Amandla Stenberg, The Hate U Give)

3. Wanda and Gamora (Elizabeth Olsen and Zoe Saldana, Avengers: Infinity War)

2. Astrid Leong (Gemma Chan, Crazy Rich Asians)

1. The ladies of Black Panther (Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett)

–your fangirl heroine.

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Television Thursday :: 2018 in television

3 Jan

As for Things in Print, I’m going to link to a list of drift partner’s recs this year. With the exceptions of some graphic novels that I will eventually discuss I’m sure (some Paper Girls which is fabulous as always, a surprising amount of DC – the first two sets of Bombshells United, Mystik U, Mera Queen of Atlantis, etc.) and Neverworld Wake which I’ve already discussed, pretty much everything I read for the first time was recommended/given by her, and she read so many books that not even all the ones I read made her list. (Admittedly I read a lot more of the fluffy ones listed [7/10 as opposed to 1/10] because I do most of my reading in the later evening and I’m not always in the mood to swath myself in “serious” by that point in the day.)

The recs I can back up and do back up are The Nowhere Girls (veeeery heavy but very worth it), Not Your Sidekick (not pictured is its sequel Not Your Villain, which was also adorable), Let’s Talk About Love (with the warning that in addition to its adorable romance, there’s best friend drama that ultimately achieves little and isn’t particularly resolved – I know I’m sensitive to that so if you are too be aware), The Belles (one of my favorites this year for sure – I’ve already reread it), To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (which I’ll discuss wrt to the Netflix film in a bit), Labyrinth Lost (which not only had a perfectly supportive best friend, but had a romance that actually surprised me and pleased me), A Blade So Black (with lots of pleasant nerd details), and What If It’s Us (with lots of pleasant nerd details too).

And now onto television. (It’s been a really weird and kind of awful week. Excuse the schedule interruption.

Animated Series

3. Big Hero 6
I don’t think it’s any sort of secret that I adore this movie. I’ve seen it a bunch of times, including twice in theaters, I’ve cosplayed from it, I sing its praises here whenever relevant. So when they announced the show awhile back I was delighted, as was drift partner; unfortunately, we don’t get Disney XD and finding this particular show online was difficult. So we’ve had to settle for DVDs, which means that we’re actually only… seven episodes into this. Oops. I still can’t recommend those seven episodes more: there are burgeoning superteam shenanigans of the most innocent kind, there’s basically an entire episode about Honey and Gogo’s relationship with each other, Fred has something called a “Bro-Tillion” which is exactly like it sounds, the monsters of the week kept making us bust up laughing, Aunt Cass becomes a more prominent character, and just in case you were worried about TJ Miller, he’s been replaced by Brooks Wheelan (who did a whole one season on SNL, most notably). It’s a good old time.

2. Marvel Rising
And speaking of Disney XD! Miraculously, the first chunk of Marvel Rising shorts aired on YouTube, and the feature-length installment was quite easy to get a hold of. Marvel Rising, we’re fairly sure, is Marvel’s answer to DC Superhero Girls (which is adorable too, what of it I’ve seen), which is to say superhero stuff skewed toward a younger, female audience. I can’t state this more clearly: all of the animated stuff I’m discussing definitely, definitely is for children. Don’t expect adult-level stories or anything, but adults can (and obviously have been) enjoyed. The lineup of this superteam is, so far,  very young SHIELD agents Quake (voiced by Chloe Bennet, still, although this is a very separate universe from Agents of SHIELD, obviously) and Patriot (Kamil McFadden), high school besties Ms. Marvel (Kathreen Khavari) and Squirrel Girl (Milana Vayntrub), Inferno (Tyler Posey), America Chavez (Cierra Ramirez), and (well, it’s going to include) Ghost Spider, formerly Spider-Gwen (Dove Cameron), and they’re also supervised by Captain Marvel (Kim Raver). They’ve faced a few antagonists already and met several supporting characters, and they also have TWO animal sidekicks (Squirrel Girl’s other bestie Tippy-Toe and Lockjaw the amazing teleporting giant bulldog, both voiced by Dee Bradley Baker). More characters are coming. And they’re already merched the hell out: not only do they make fashion dolls (pretty decent ones, for the most part), they have other toys and there were Halloween costumes. It’s pretty fantastic.

1. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
I never watched the original She-Ra, largely because (as I’ve said before) I was too busy going hard for Sailor Moon for most of my childhood to catch up on other magical girl stuff. The Netflix reboot, however, is run by Noelle Stevenson, who (I just realized is younger than me, which is upsetting, but anyway) is behind Nimona and Lumberjanes and is a big queer nerd who I trust very much. Plus, it was making men on the internet mad. And can I just say this is the most adorable nonsense show? It’s actually got a fairly cohesive plot, but it knows how on the nose it is so much that it goes from potentially ironic all the way back to aggressively sincere and hopeful again. The on the nose aspects are something that this show inherited from its original: things like naming (there’s not a character in the show whose name doesn’t pertain to what they do or are directly) and really straightforward good/bad themes. It does actually involve a lot of questioning of the latter (Adora, the protagonist, used to be on the bad side and learned it was bad so she quit; good characters similarly go bad) but still. It’s painfully earnest at times, but I mean that as a compliment. The voice cast is incredible. The theme song is barely a song, but it’s charmingly bad. I really am impressed.

Things That Make My Sapphic Heart Sing

5. Ruby (Dove Cameron, Agents of SHIELD)
Namely, her big gay crush on Quake. Even though Ruby was very misguided and very unhinged, she was a fun character because Dove Cameron commits and also (largely because she is a queer woman) radiates queer energy. Especially regarding Quake (again, Chloe Bennet) because oh man oh man I don’t care what you say Ruby was crushing on Quake in a gay way.

4. Misty and Colleen (Simone Missick and Jessica Henwick, Iron Fist)
We’re going to be discussing the ALL of the Marvel shows once we finish season 2 of Runaways and season 3 of Daredevil because we have a lot to say about them, but here’s one thing I’ll say in advance: the Disney streaming service had better freaking give us a Daughters of the Dragon series because that’s exactly what they were setting up for. Iron Fist season 2 was… marginally better than season 1, mostly because it was more of Colleen and Misty and less of Danny (Finn Jones), but at the end of the season/series you leave it with: Misty unsure about whether she wants to take the promotion she’s been offered in the NYPD, Danny fucked off to Asia on a broad (bro road) trip with Ward, and Colleen (who is no longer dating Danny) the new possessor of the Iron Fist.  One of the last scenes is Misty and Colleen discussing both their respective futures and how well they work as a team. The name “Daughter of the Dragon” has already been attributed to Colleen. The cancellation press release included the phrase “the Iron Fist will live on.” Simone Missick and Jessica Henwick are both totally into the idea. And they have 20x more onscreen chemistry (even if you just want to interpret it platonically) than anyone else in this excuse for a show. If they’re not trying to set up their Daughters of the Dragon team-up from the comics (where they work as investigators and bail bondswomen, and are very Sapphic even if it’s only implicit and only noticed by people like me who want that sort of thing) I will eat my proverbial hat.

3. Arthie and Yolanda (Sunita Mani and Shakira Barrera, GLOW)
One of my biggest complaints about the first season was that it just wasn’t gay enough, which is to say it wasn’t explicitly gay. It’s a show about women’s wrestling in the 80s, so of course it’s implicitly gay, but explicitly? Nope. They seem to have heard this complaint, because right away in season 2 the group gets a new member, Yolanda, who is upfront about the fact that she’s interested in women. At first it seems like this isn’t going to play out into a relationship, just flirtations here and there and Sapphicplatonic closeness (I was really rooting for her and Rhonda [Kate Nash] for a little while, because I just really wanted my favorite British songstress to get to play a bi/queer woman being as she is one, and they are very much with the closeness sometimes), but then suddenly, something develops with lovely, inexperienced, and heretofore presumed straight Arthie. It even starts with a big gay dance number. And it happens! And it works! And it’s very, very adorable. They spend their last appearance onscreen cuddling on a bus.

2. Karolina and Nico (Virginia Gardner and Lyrica Okano, Runaways)
Like I said, we’re not done with the season yet, but the presentation of their relationship is so in your face and beautiful. There are ups and downs and conflict and bad decisions and blah blah blah, but there is also intense love and a lot of closeness and kissing and cuddling and quality queer content. And that’s just magical and important.

1. Harlots
“Especially by the second season this show is Sapphic enough that it almost seems like we wrote it ourselves.” – me, reviewing Harlots in November. There’s a lot of bittersweet in the Sapphic content this show offers, but it’s nonetheless beautiful, and developed with care that is largely unrivaled on television.

Netflix Movies, Let’s Just Talk About Them

4. Dumplin’
I haven’t read this yet, but drift partner has and recommends it highly, but the movie was just so darned cute. Basically: plus size girl Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald) enters beauty pageant that her small-town mother (Jennifer Aniston) once won and now runs as a sort of protest. She’s joined by her best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush), though there’s a YA-novel bestie fight in the middle of the story, another more earnest and naive plus size girl she knows from school named Millie (Maddie Baillio), and an androgynous lesbian (Bex Taylor-Klaus). Adorable wackiness ensues a lot. Dove Cameron also appears in this piece as the surprisingly not-horrible popular girl, which is fun. Dove Cameron is a great actress and personality, let me just say.

3. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
This is a very cute book about a mixed-race teenage girl with romantic tendencies who gets herself into a very complicated fake dating scenario. I haven’t read the second or third, but I’ve been assured that the Netflix film’s conclusion is eventually reached in them (while it’s not in the first book). I mention that she’s mixed because it comes up pretty often in the book. Less so in the movie, unfortunately. Also unfortunate is the fact that they cast fully Vietnamese Lana Condor to play half-Korean Lara Jean Covey (and half-Chinese Janel Parrish to play her sister), but at least she’s talented and adorable to make up for it. It’s very cute. It’s a pretty straightforward story, and not that much needs to be said about it, but it’s exciting and important because, well, in a lot of other stories this character would be a white girl.

2. The Princess Switch
This is a garbage Netflix original that’s basically just a Hallmark Christmas movie, and all I have to say that is if you wanted The Princess Diaries 2 plus The Parent Trap at Christmas starring Vanessa Hudgens, you’re in luck. It’s one of the most paint-by-numbers things I’ve ever seen but it’s also very charming. There is also a scene where one Vanessa Hudgens and her love interest actually sit down to watch the film I’m about to discuss…

1. A Christmas Prince + A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding
When the first of these came out last year, I thought nothing of it. Hallmarkesque movies aren’t my thing, really, nor are Christmas sentimental fluff movies. But then we had to watch The Princess Switch because Vanessa Hudgens was playing her own surprise doppelganger and that sounded too, too weird, and it mentioned this, and we got really curious to see what the fuss was about. Enough fuss to make a sequel, even! Let me tell you: these are basically the same movie, but the Christmas Prince franchise (it will be at least a trilogy, mark my words) doesn’t have twins, just initial mistaken identity. They’re both set in fake European kingdoms. They both feature a common girl with few royal pretensions both falling in love with a prince and teaching him how to be better. They both feature orphanage-related charity. They both involve kitchen sequences. They both involve quirky little girls. They both involve gay best friends. They both involve butting heads with royal protocol. They both involve romcom levels of absurd drama and fake mystery. We both liked Princess Switch better overall, but the Christmas Prince franchise does have two major things to recommend it: a Tom Hiddleston wannabe (you can make the first film basically just a Thor AU) and a children’s play where Santa’s powers were given to him by a magical princess who warmed the heart of an ogre and turned him into a knight again, and where more importantly one of the random cast members is inexplicably dressed as a bee. Don’t watch these if you’re not seriously comfortable with Christmas and heterosexual nonsense, but, you know. They’re a weird niche that apparently needed to be filled.

Miscellany

2. Free Rein, again
Not only was the second season of Netflix’ (award-winning!) tween-oriented horse drama even more ridiculous than the first (I give props to its young actresses in particular for being able to pull this off, Jaylen Barron and Manpreet Bambra and my beloved Kerry Ingram and Celine Buckens and Navia Robinson and Charlotte Jordan and and and) but it yielded an honest-to-god Christmas special. This is a real gift.

1. Doctor Who
I finally give a damn about this show! All it took was a lady-shaped Doctor, apparently, and with her a return to what I’ve been assured are more traditional Who values and spirit. I absolutely love the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions (Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh) and their interplay. Also, the Doctor is a queer icon now. I don’t make the rules.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Music Monday :: 2018 in music (6 albums of the year)

31 Dec

Or, as “Lesbian Jesus” Hayley Kiyoko proclaimed it (and so it was), twentygayteen. It’s been a while since I actually posted a music review (mea culpa) but honestly, I covered my six favorite albums of the year, and I’m not just saying that for convenience. A lot of my faves put out some seriously good stuff this year.

(Honorable mentions in the faves category go to High as Hope by Florence and the Machine, By the Way, I Forgive You by Brandi Carlile, and Boarding House Reach by Jack White.)

So.

6. I’ll Be Your Girl (The Decemberists)
It’s saying a lot that this album is so low down in my rankings. In most years, a Decemberists album would be vying for number one. But it’s been quite a year. And hey, the title track is even kinda gay. Plus, “Rusalka, Rusalka” is just the most incredible jam.

5. Ruins (First Aid Kit)
This was my car album for a while this year and as such I became intimately, deeply familiar with it in a way that I wasn’t when I first discussed it. I am intimately familiar with the twang, beats, and harmonies, and “Rebel Heart” and “Distant Star” especially rip holes in me.

4. Yesterday Was Forever (Kate Nash)
Kate Nash is just one of my musical forever girls and this album is just so perfect. It’s it’s sweet (“My Little Alien,” which if you watch the music video is about her dog) and it’s sassy (“Hate You”) and it’s explicitly about important things like mental health (“Musical Theatre,” “Life in Pink”) and it’s just fabulous.

3. Love is Dead (CHVRCHES)
As with all things CHVRCHES, this album is addictive. This has been my main car album for a bit now and I notice new lovely things every time I play it, little lyrical twists or vocal flips or just… vibes. It’s a seriously good vibe.

2. Expectations (Hayley Kiyoko)
As I said back when, Expectations is basically a journey through Sapphic tropes, and it’s a glorious one at that. It’s a (mostly) happy lesbian pop album, and that’s just so important and such a thing that this year needed.

1. Dirty Computer (Janelle Monae)
Here’s the thing about this album, this emotion picture, this artist. They are fucking experiences, immersive and vastly important ones. Janelle Monae’s whole thing is really a movement, and while some of it is not for me (being as I am a white person) and I respect that, some of it is (being as I am a queer woman) and damn do I feel glad to get to be even just a tiny fannish part of it. Every song on this album is catchy as hell and full of incredible beats and lyrics and goodness (and sometimes even Zoe Kravitz or Stevie Wonder or someone) and it’s just been this year’s jam.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Fashion Friday :: and to close the year, for you.

28 Dec

cersei

Yes, you, Mom. (Actual Mom, not Space Mom aka Carrie Fisher.) Here’s some fashiony nonsense to make you smile, ’cause I know you dig Cersei (Lena Headey).

(I’m doing my 2018 wrapup posts next week, at the beginning of 2019. I need time to work it all through still.)

luxe

See, because this has texture too, like Cersei’s dress. And the odds of finding a dress that was long sleeved and long in general were pretty slim, but this is nice. It’s edgy without being too edgy. Luxe Stunner Maxi Dress, Betsey Johnson at ModCloth.

fanciful

Here. Short sleeves on top of a long-sleeved dress. Get creative about the arrangement of the collars, it’s worth it. A Fanciful Finish Jacket, ModCloth.

strut

This seems appropriate. Tall boots are very “don’t fuck with me” on the right person. Strut Else Is New Knee High Boot in Black, ModCloth.

photogenic

I’m not going to bother getting lost in the Etsy abyss in hopes of a non-costumey looking crown (not that costumey is bad, but it’s not how a modern Cersei would dress). This is nice and statement-y though. Photogenic Fretwork Necklace, ModCloth.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Aquaman

23 Dec

(Drift partner is starting this sucker off.)

If you had said to me a year ago “the superhero movie of 2018 that is going to give you the most personal feelings is Aquaman,” I would have laughed in your face.

Everyone has made fun of this movie for years. The second it was announced, people had jokes. “Haha he talks to fish hahahaha look at his outfit hahaha Superman would kick his ass!” Aquaman has never been DC’s most respected, popular, or lucrative character. Because, well. He’s the king of the ocean and he talks to fish. How could you possibly tell a good story about that?

I am here to tell you, somehow they managed it.

Aquaman, much like last year’s Wonder Woman, is DC shedding the grimdark gritty realism which they have become somewhat infamous for in favor of a brightly-colored, deeply sincere romp of a story about a man who can talk to sea creatures and wields an enormous trident. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is the son of Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), Queen of Atlantis, and a lighthouse keeper named Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) who rescues her when she washes ashore after escaping an arranged marriage. They, naturally, fall in love, but when her would-be husband comes after her and her new family, she feels it is necessary to return to him to protect Thomas and Arthur. Arthur, therefore, grows up feeling somewhat adrift and unsure of his place, as a child who fits into neither the human nor the Atlantan world. He does have some connection to his mother’s people through Vulko (Willem Dafoe), who mentors the boy throughout his youth and teaches him to control his powers as well as the trident his mother once wielded. He becomes something of a vigilante of the sea, going after those who target the innocent. However, he soon learns that his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) plans to wage war against the “surface world,” and he has to team up with Mera (Amber Heard) to ensure that both their worlds are protected from Orm’s power-hungry desires.

I have described an odd hybrid of The Lion King and Balto to you, yes, but hold on. The reason that Aquaman is somewhat remarkable is that the story is explicitly about a character who is biracial, who feels a bit out of place in either one of the “worlds” his parents come from. The conflict comes partially from Orm’s desire for power, but mostly from the fact that Arthur is neither fully human nor fully Atlantan. He is both, a “half-breed” (as the Atlantans are constantly reminding us, an extremely loaded term for mixed-race and biracial people and one which I frankly could have been okay with hearing a few less times in this movie, but oh well) who almost everyone immediately dismisses as unworthy of ruling Atlantis. The filmmakers also made a conscious decision to cast Jason Momoa, a biracial man who is of Native Hawaiian and German descent and has been outspoken about his heritage and identity. The Atlantans are all extremely pale white actors, while Thomas Curry is played by a Māori actor. Arthur has Atlantan abilities from his mother, but sports a variety of tattoos that are clearly meant to reflect his father’s culture. Therefore, writing the character as conflicted about his heritage and being part of “multiple worlds” has a double meaning that some viewers may not pick up on, but I as a biracial person immediately recognized. And while it does get tiresome that the only story media seems to like to tell about biracial people is that they are “caught between two worlds” (see also: Balto)…I still burst into tears as the movie ended, because so many of the things Arthur was feeling are things that I have also felt. When I was growing up, the only story I had with a biracial character was Balto. Balto is an animated film loosely based on true events, but centered around the titular character, who is half-wolf. That film, too, is about Balto learning to connect with both sides of his heritage and learning how both of them make him who he is. However, you may have guessed the issue with this: Balto is a dog. I did not learn about other any stories centering biracial people until high school. So, to bring it back to Aquaman, the fact that this film explicitly centers around a biracial character played by a biracial actor is deeply meaningful and important to me. (Other films about biracial characters that I love, such as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Shades of Ray, about a biracial Korean girl and a biracial Pakistani man respectively, neglected to cast biracial actors, and in the case of the former, erased some of the important cultural connections from the novel. There have been some important exceptions to this unfortunate trend, such as Belle (2014) and this year’s A Wrinkle in Time, but many casting directors don’t seem to understand how essential it is to find an actor for these roles whose personal experiences as a biracial or multiracial person will inform their performance.)

The film is also sometimes painfully earnest. It presents deeply ridiculous concepts to you on a shiny silver platter and expects you to nod and go along with it. Orm talks about how he will become ruler of the seven undersea kingdoms and thus become the Ocean Master. Ocean Master. That is a phrase that people say with completely straight faces. Additionally, the characters do things such as communicate with whales, manipulate water, and ride enormous CGI creatures into battle with comically straight faces. Everything is treated as if it is just how things are and there’s almost no sense of irony or fourth-wall breaking. It’s quite charming, and it’s really due to the strength of the actors in question, who (particularly Amber Heard) are asked to do some pretty ridiculous things. And wear objectively terrible outfits. I do not think I have seen a superhero film be quite so earnestly ridiculous since Daredevil (2003). This film is miles better than that one, but it comes from the same place of sincerity. You will believe a man can talk to fish.

While I, your original heroine, wholeheartedly agree with all of the feelings drift partner has described (caveat: I, being a very white person, do not claim the same connection to the heritage stuff, but I think it’s very cool to see in a mainstream superhero film) what I want to talk about is women. (Shocker?) Spoiler alert, you think Atlanna is dead for a good chunk of the movie and then she’s not, for… well, pretty much the same reason as Janet Van Dyne in Ant-Man and the Wasp, actually. Oh no, she was sent to a horrible place (although in this case on purpose) but then something something portals magic weird sci-fi bullshit and she foraged and survived by herself for decades in a weird sci-fi bullshit nonsensescape. (This time with dinosaurs!!!! And guarded by kaiju!!!!) And she’s great and she and her son reunite and can I just say sometimes I think about how Nicole Kidman was married to Tom Cruise but now she’s not and suddenly she’s the inspirational, very much alive mother in a superhero movie who finds true love and that’s just really cool. She even gets to do a little bit of (literal) fish-out-of-water comedy at the beginning and that’s always fun.

And Mera. Mera!!!!! I have a soft spot for Mera because of DC Bombshells, honestly, where she does have a romance with Arthur but it’s not something that’s brought up for a good bunch of issues because first you get stories about how she Wants To Help. And also is BFFs (that canonically used to bang) with Diana. I have not been exposed to Mera in any other media, save her brief and very dumb appearance in Justice League (which they do mention in this film, more on that in a minute), and I did some reading today and my goodness she’s had a bad time of it in her comics history (I mean, that’s not uncommon, but babygirl was literally so tormented that she was a Red Lantern for awhile), but I kind of went into this primed to like her. Also because Amber Heard is a lovely (bisexual/feminist advocate/etc.) woman that I respect a lot. (And because it’s exciting to have a bisexual woman playing a [at least in one continuity, which counts] bisexual character. It’s not the first time this has happened, even in a superhero franchise [see also: Saffron Burrows as Victoria Hand, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, etc.], but it’s exciting and cool.)

Reader, I am here to tell you that Mera was everything I could want and more. As drift partner mentioned, her costumes are outstanding…ly ridiculous (in one scene she wears a dress both inspired by and accessorized with jellyfish, and it’s horrible and I’m going to cosplay it) and she somehow manages to pull it off. But she’s also a driving force of the narrative. She pops up out of the ocean and Arthur is just like “oh shit, what now” more or less because their first (underwater) meeting was accompanied by Very Bad Bullshit Motherbox Things (I assume most of you didn’t bother to watch Justice League, so, exposition). And he’s like “no no I don’t want any of this” but she saves him and his dad from a very big (Orm-orchestrated) ocean-related disaster and he’s like “yeah, I guess I have to help.” And off they go on wacky adventures.

First it’s underwater to get clues and also talk to Vulko. Mera has her own seacraft to pilot (which she does so admirably) and she assures him not to worry because she can get through the gates with “diplomatic clearance.” This isn’t fully explained, and it may just be because her dad is one of the kings of one of the other kingdoms underwater (making her a princess), or because she’s engaged to Orm, but I also choose to believe, and feel pretty valid in doing, that she has some measure of political power independent of that because she’s well-respected and intelligent and seems to know what the fuck is up. (Am I saying she’s underwater Princess Leia? Maybe. Yes.) Then it’s back to the “surface world” to go on a literal scavenger hunt for the magic trident that will help Arthur save the day, during which Mera wears ridiculous (but comfortable-looking) safari clothes, gets time to experience regret about how her choice to help Arthur has put her at odds with her people (which Arthur listens to and respects), does some pretty cool waterbending (some of which is to kick people’s asses, which is also a thing she can do just hand-to-hand or on, um, fishback), she’s femme in a way that’s accepted but not treated as a detraction from her power,  and also gets to have some of those (literal) fish-out-of-water moments that are so whimsical and charming and goofy. She’s actually a pretty well-rounded character and she actually goes toe-to-toe with the villains of the piece multiple times and she can fight alongside Arthur and pretty much the only thing she doesn’t have going for her is being the true king of two worlds who can talk to the fish. She kicks ass, in short, and I love her.

Also, so does Arthur. I was expecting their relationship to be fine, certainly better than Cavill!Superman’s with Lois Lane (not Amy Adams’ fault, though), but I wasn’t expecting it to actually be something I really, actively enjoyed. And a lot of this comes down to the fact that Arthur clearly respects her, clearly likes her (there’s of course the rocky beginning, but that’s less her and more the situation/his anger at Atlanteans for allegedly killing his mom/etc.), clearly thinks she’s capable, clearly enjoys being around her – you know, all of those things you roll your eyes at couples for not doing sometimes. The progression from “ugh” to “you’re okay” to “I respect you” to “I like you” to “I like you a lot” to “I’m [she’s] gonna climb you [him] like a tree” feels legitimate, largely because there is a progression. It’s not just “ugh” to the kissing parts, but it’s also not just “oh I love you but the narrative never really gets into why.” It’s never even a hate-to-love thing. At first they aren’t coming from the same place, but then they are and they develop fondness for each other along the way. He’s never disrespectful of her, not in a gross sexualizing way (he clearly thinks she’s attractive, but he’s not creepy about it!) and not in a demeaning infantilizing way (he clearly realizes she can kick his or anyone’s ass from the get-go, and he’s here for it – he seems genuinely, incidentally, like a dude who respects women, having also been respectful of/admiring toward Diana in Justice League). By the end of the movie, it’s like, hell yeah, I’m here for Arthur and Mera, king and queen of the ocean.

I saw a headline that was like “Aquaman has no business being this good.” I agree, but I’m also not going to complain. No indeed.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Fashion Friday :: she’s easy to style.

14 Dec

melisandre

And she was in season seven… barely. Oh Melisandre (Carice van Houten).

upstate

Duh. This is just too easy. Upstate Swank Shawl in Burgundy, ModCloth.

through

Today, in honor of Stevie Nicks’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also in honor of I kept seeing burgundy dresses that reminded me of Stevie Nicks, I’m doing Melisandre but if she was Stevie Nicks. Go with it. Through the Bluebells A-Line Dress in Burgundy Lace, ModCloth.

where

These are good for cold weather, so there, it’s relevant. Where There’s Warmth Fleece-Lined Tights in Burgundy, ModCloth.

fairytale

Oh my freaking god, I want these myself. These are absolutely gorgeous. Fairytale Flair Velvet Boot, ModCloth.

genuinely

Because you need a necklace for Mel. Genuinely Jazzy Statement Necklace, ModCloth.

–your fangirl heroine.

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