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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Sorry to Bother You

16 Jul

As a rule, one of the most surreal experiences is attending events that you can tell part of the audience isn’t prepared for. This happened at Hamilton, it happened at Janelle Monae, it’s been a theme this year, and it definitely happened today when we went to see Sorry to Bother You.

This is not to say that this movie was for either of us, exactly; it’s not. As mentioned, I’m a white girl, and drift partner is white-passing mixed race/biracial (Chinese/white). But we at least clearly knew what we were there for and were open to and appreciative of it. This is not to say our entire audience wasn’t, or that we were the only people who seemed [insert adjective here] enough to get it, but a great many of them… well, you got the impression they were just there to waste a hot Sunday afternoon in a dark/air conditioned theater. (And we can say this with certainty because we were the first ones there and watched every single person and group enter.) Sitting quite near us was one of several middle-aged or older white couples, and this gentleman felt compelled to pass judgment on each trailer they showed, many of which were also not for “white people” movies; there were also a lot of laughs when things were funny, but probably not the kind of funny that most of us in the crowd were supposed to laugh at.

I describe this in detail because in a way it really complements the film itself, and also because there’s only so much we can say about the film itself without ruining it for you. The basic premise of the movie is this: Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is unemployed, lives in his uncle’s house, and feels inadequate compared to his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), an anti-establishment performance artist. He ends up scoring a telemarketing job at RegalView, where he flounders for the first few days until an older coworker, Langston (Danny Glover), lets him in on a little secret: Cash needs to use his “white voice” to engage his customers. Once he does this, he begins to rise in the ranks of the company to become a Power Caller. Meanwhile, his coworkers, including Detroit and Squeeze (Steven Yeun) rally to protest their low wages and demand unionization. This is the first thirty minutes of the movie, give or take, and it is literally all we can tell you without spoiling some of the best moments.

What we can spoil: the performances, for one. Lakeith Stanfield was in the ensemble of Get Out last year, in a role that very much prepared him for being able to pretend to do a “white voice” (his “white voice” in the film is literally a white actor, though), and he should probably win a bunch of awards for this movie because he’s really wonderful at carrying it. It feels odd to say Steven Yeun is a delight because it’s not like his character did any particularly delighted or delightful things but it was mostly just a delight to get to see him not in immediate danger and sometimes also to see him get to be funny. And Tessa Thompson, well. Tessa Thompson is… everything. That’s the easiest way to put it. I’m just going to put it out there and say if this was a movie about/by white people, her character would have been written and treated like shit and made as unlikable as possible, and I was worried for half a second about this happening here but I shouldn’t have been. She just got to be an aggressively Afropunk feminist artist with agency and emotional authority, and she is also in fact impossible to stop watching because she’s entrancing and beautiful and her voice is the best thing ever and also, she wore shirts that said things like “the future is female ejaculation” and earrings that said things like “tell Homeland Security / we are the bomb.” (Thompson confirmed on twitter that most of her costumes were shirts she bought for herself.)

The best comparison we can think of is to Get Out, in terms of both social commentary and darkly comedic tone, which is a bit of a shame because the two movies really deserve to stand on their own merits. But there aren’t that many movies in the “dark racial comedy/social satire” subgenre, so here we are. This movie will probably receive similar attention to Get Out come awards season, at least I hope so, but I suspect the ending will be deeply polarizing. There are going to be people who hate it, and it’s possible that it will keep this movie out of the big Oscar races, but I really hope it won’t.

–your fangirl heroines.

taking20no20shit

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Music Monday :: our thoughts on Dirty Computer and Janelle Monae live

25 Jun

First we were going to wait to talk about the album till we’d seen her in concert, since we knew we had tickets. Then the concert was weirdly timed for the posting schedule. Then we were just busy and/or forgetful. So HERE WE GO. Time to talk about Dirty Computer as an album, an emotion picture, and a concert too.

I’ve been caught up on my Janelle Monae for awhile (the entire Archandroid collection is a really good way to busy up your entire afternoon) but as soon as she released the video for “Make Me Feel” it was clear we were in a whole new league. And I (drift partner) binged her entire discography right after that video came out, and also said idly, “gee, it’d be funny if she decided to release a whole album just to come out as queer, that seems like something she’d do.” In other news, I also called Kristen Stewart being bisexual back in 2012, and I am a gay prophet.

Also, right around “Make Me Feel,” the internet suddenly arrived at the conclusion that Janelle and Tessa Thompson are probably dating. There’s literal years’ worth of clues, compiled by multiple people if you google around, and these don’t even get into the hints about each woman individually (previous queer-type themes and language in Janelle’s earlier work, Tessa passionately advocating for Valkyrie being bisexual, and playing it that way, in Thor: Ragnarok as per comics but despite studio interference, also this picture). Shipping real people can get creepy really fast, and of course they’re entitled to privacy – but is it really that creepy if they’re making an epic 45-minute movie about themselves being in love despite impossible odds? I’m just saying.

So the release of the next single, “Pynk,” was… well, it just felt like a confirmation of everything we and everyone on the internet were thinking. In this video, Janelle and several (but not all) of her dancers wear pink pants clearly designed to resemble vaginas while they dance, and in multiple shots Tessa’s head is poking out from between Janelle’s legs, clearly meant to represent the clitoris. In case you ever wondered what it would sound like if a woman wrote a song about enjoying the giving and receiving of cunnilingus, this is your answer.

Dirty Computer as a whole is, like all of Janelle’s stuff, a concept album, but it’s the first not to be directly connected to the others. In it (this is not a spoiler, the movie explains this in the first two minutes) the government is bad and considers people computers, and anyone who deviates from the norm is a “dirty computer.” This includes people who are the wrong color (not white) or the wrong sexuality (not straight) or, you know, any/all of the reasons people get discriminated against. These people are regularly rounded up and basically memory-wiped into compliance. In short, this ain’t fucking around.

As such, each song and therefore video represents a memory being wiped from Jane’s (Janelle’s character) mind. And every single damn one is Making Points, a lot of which really aren’t my place to discuss because I’m not a black woman and they’re reflective of that specific experience. There is a lot of subtle and less-subtle stuff that’s clearly influenced by Janelle’s religious upbringing, which I (drift partner) can talk about because, same hat. “I just wanna find a god / and I hope she loves me too” in “Crazy Classic Life” (which is also a throwback to part of one of her older songs, “Q.U.E.E.N.”: “Say will your God accept me in my black and white? / Will he approve the way I’m made? / Or should I reprogram the programming and get down?”) and “while I sit in my room writing letters to my church and things and such” in “So Afraid” are two of the most blatant examples, but she is also literally wearing a veil on the album cover that is meant to evoke Catholic imagery, so there you go. Also, as a person who grew up with a lot of religiously-based guilt and shame, I definitely recognize a lot of the “fuck it” vibes on this album.

And, of course, it’s really queer. Jane has two love interests in the film, Tessa Thompson’s Zen and Jayson Aaron’s Che, and they’re just a big lovely bisexual pile all over the videos. But also, it’s just… very Sapphic a lot of the time. Janelle spends a lot of time admiring ladies in these videos, singing near suggestive parts of their bodies and touching them and being touched by them and generally just appreciating them, but it’s nowhere near the skeezy male-gazey girl on girl stuff that many films and music videos and whatnot are guilty of sharing. It’s just loving and, again, appreciating, and yeah, it’s sexy but it’s also just beautiful and welcome.

Seeing her live was also quite an experience. It was at an outdoor park venue, and the place was sold out, although we suspect some of the attendees may have been there because they had season tickets to all of the park’s summer concerts, or possibly had been dragged there by adults. It became glaringly obvious who was actually there as a fan and who was there for one of the aforementioned reasons. But the people who were there on purpose were definitely at the right place, and were having a blast, and so were we.

Janelle commits 1000% to everything she is doing, and this includes props. She brought not only her throne from “Django Jane,” but her vagina pants, and also everyone else’s vagina pants, so they could all do the routine (unfortunately, sans Tessa). She changed costumes about five times, and her backup dancers did as well, because dammit, why not. She also did some of the older songs thrown in, which was nice; it was more or less the expected ones, “Q.U.E.E.N.” and “Tightrope” and such, but she also did “Primetime” after giving a very nice speech about loving the people you are with and we were gross and sappy. Somewhat to spite the people behind us.

This is a paragraph devoted to the people mentioned two paragraphs up, which is to say those behind us. There were also some teenage boys in front of us who kept making surprised faces at each other and chuckling nervously, but they were at least quiet. The people behind us (at least two men; there may have been other people with them, but they were the culprits) did. Not. Shut. Up. They were talking during St. Beauty, who opened, which was rude but honestly, especially at outdoor venues I feel like opening acts are treated a little more casually and I hoped they would settle down. They did not. They proceeded to talk, mostly about the concert itself, for the entire concert. Loud enough that I could actually follow entire threads of conversations (they disapproved of people clapping along during songs, or at least found it stupid; they didn’t like when Janelle addressed the women and/or queer people and/or brown people in the crowd specifically; they were snarky whenever it got queer; they didn’t seem to know most of the songs or to particularly like most of the ones they did know). It got to the point where, when my arm was around drift partner’s waist during “Primetime,” I considered pulling an Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way and putting up my middle finger at them. I definitely also kept glaring at them out of the corner of my eye, but they didn’t seem to get the message. Thankfully, they left before the encore, so we got “So Afraid” and “Americans” in peace, at least.

Another really cool thing is that Janelle kept stopping to be really affirming of everyone who was there, but especially black and brown and queer folks. One thing I (drift partner) have noticed that she’s done a lot lately, pretty much every time it comes up, is say the entire acronym when she references “the LGBTQIA” community. As someone who is part of the “A” umbrella (asexual) and who’s been really irritated and discouraged by the bad anti-asexual discourse in part of the queer community lately, it has been really touching and validating to know that Janelle agrees that asexual, aromantic, and agender people belong here too. She doesn’t have to keep saying that, but she does anyway, and I really appreciate it. She also got so emotional during part of “So Afraid” that she had to pause for a second because she was having so many feelings about all of us being there and being seen and validated together, and that was so sweet.

In short: Janelle Monae is everything. The end.

–your fangirl heroines.

a20simpler20time

Marvel Monday :: our thoughts on season 5 of Agents of SHIELD

21 May

This season of Agents of SHIELD had the great advantage of airing after Inhumans, which would make most anything look good. This season of Agents of SHIELD was good in and of itself, although incredibly draining and at times almost overwhelmingly dark in ways that attacked us, personally, but it’s sort of like how watching Infinity War like a week after we finally watched Justice League helped matters significantly.

So, our usual breakdown shall ensue.

  • Daisy (Chloe Bennet) sort of got her own arc this season! Which is to say, she got the destruction of the world pinned on her because of her powers and she had to fight her way out of a network of creepy blue aliens who used spoopy tech and Ben Wa balls instead of fighting fair. And she also gracefully stepped down from the role that Coulson was encouraging her towards, Director of SHIELD, which is good because even though my girl would be a great Director, she also needs a break really badly.
  • Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) really needs to only go to space when she wants to from now on because she also needs a break. Said creepy blue aliens literally had her enslaved for a few episodes, not to mention deafened to all but the leader’s voice by said spoopy tech, and that was viscerally horrifying (the aliens enslaved people for general reasons and also Inhumans for low-rate gladiatorial purposes, and all of this was horrifying) but she got to do sort of a Princess Leia move and that was good. Then came the compulsory heterosexuality, which was not good. It was not good because romantic FitzSimmons is one of our least favorite things here, and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) himself was literally the worst (again regarding Daisy), and it took up way too much of Jemma’s screentime in the back half of the season especially. Also, you can’t just establish that Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) can pop out of exile to help Fitz with a mission and then not invite him and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) to the abruptly rushed terrible FitzSimmons wedding (honestly our thoughts about episode 100 are not favorable in general but the wedding is cringeworthy), except they did and I call bullshit.
  • Melinda (Ming-Na Wen) kicked her usual amount of ass, had more than her usual amount of UST with Coulson (Clark Gregg), and also had a subplot where she got to be a mom. I am not into the idea of every woman having to be a mother, but we know it’s something Melinda at least used to really want and since Bahrain doubted her capabilities for, so watching her act as a mom to Robin (Lexy Kolker, Ava Kolker, and Willow Hale at respective ages) in the somewhat hypothetical future timeline was unexpectedly heartwrenching. And I guess she and Coulson are finally gonna BOOOOOONE, but hey, we don’t have to watch it, so I’m okay.
  • Elena (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) spent her time in the future mostly working and helping a couple of sad space kids named Flint (Coy Stewart) and Tess (Eve Harlow) and being in love with Mack (Henry Simmons). Then in the midseason finale we found out that a future version of her had been captured by the creepy blue aliens and at some point lost her arms and knew what would happen and gave warnings. Thus, the second half of the season, once they were back in the present, was mostly devoted to trying to get the team to follow her future self’s warnings. And also dealing with the fact that she did in fact get her arms cut off (horrifyingly) and replaced with robot prosthetics (which created some drama but ultimately were useful and good). She and Mack also had a lot of debates about, essentially, morality, which was interesting. They’re very good and gay together.
  • In the first half of the season, our villains were the aforementioned creepy blue aliens. They’re Kree and they all majorly sucked, and sometimes it was funny (like the fact that Sinara [Florence Faivre] literally fought with magical Ben Wa balls, that was funny) and sometimes it was horrifying (Kasius [Dominic Rains] was basically blue Joffrey who didn’t like to get his hands dirty and when he was injured and later murdered I cheered). But they paled in comparison to…
  • In the second half of the season, we were introduced to Ruby (Dove Cameron), who was basically a baby Hydra super soldier, or if you prefer, female Kylo Ren. Her mother, General Hale (played by Catherine Dent – the character doesn’t get a first name because MCU mothers don’t matter I guess), was impregnated with dubious consent by some super creepy Hydra higher-ups and basically Ruby was raised to be the perfect soldier. Except they forgot that when you do that you basically get Kylo Ren, who has zero control over their emotions or interest in being at all reasonable or adhering to anything but their own moral code. Great job, guys. Anyway, she’s basically like if you crossed a snake and Regina George and then gave this creature sharp weapons or maybe like if you actually found one of those lizard aliens and tried to tell them how humans act? It’s an incredible performance, because Cameron is…humanoid but not quite human. There’s weird little head and eye movements she does, weird facial expressions, that make her seem just the slightest bit off. I have no idea if this was intentional or not, but having now seen her also act in Disney’s Descendants series, I have to think it must have been? She is also hilarious because she’s basically Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way from “My Immortal” except slightly more articulate and with more murder.
  • This season also included the most annoying character, Deke (JJ Ward) who we eventually find out is FitzSimmons’ grandson from the hypothetical future they travel to. When he finally tells Daisy this fact her response is, “That makes so much sense! You and Fitz are both such… special people.” Which, same. Deke is a self-serving ass. He sells Daisy into slavery and then thinks that deciding to help the others makes up for it. He also ends up in the present day through a quirk of science fiction nonsense and… just pretty much sucks all the time. The scene where he gets drunk for the first time would be hilarious if it was literally any other character, but alas. He also develops a crush on Daisy and expresses this by leaving a pile of lemons on her bed, because in the future giving people lemons was apparently a prime seduction technique. Daisy, however, wants none of his lemons and repeatedly makes this clear, which is great. Deke also spends a lot of the back half of the season trying to preserve parts of the timeline so FitzSimmons still procreate and produce his mother and therefore she produces him, because he’s afraid that if something goes wrong he’ll just go poof. And then guess what? HE DOES. A Thing happens and we just literally never see him again, with no explanation. It’s kind of a shame because JJ Ward seems like a cool enough dude, but the character just sucked.
  • And hey, remember how we mentioned that Fitz was literally being The Worst? He was. He awkwardly married Jemma literally just at the prompting of a dying Coulson (turns out Ghost Rider made his Tahiti magic go away, or whatever) and it made me think of nothing more than the terrible Jessica/Hoyt wedding at the end of True Blood, which should explain to you why it is bad. Then his evil Framework self resurfaced and did some unforgivable shit to Daisy, and then there was a lot of narrative bullshit where people were willing to brush past it (ugh), and he kind of tried to do better except he kind of just complained all the time and watched Jemma do things. And then… well. Justice has been served.
  • SPACE

–your fangirl heroines.

just20saying

Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War

20 May

So Infinity War has been happening to the world for about a month now. We went opening weekend, but suffice to say I thought it needed a repeat viewing before we discussed it and said repeat viewing… well, we timed it to follow the SHIELD s5 finale, just in case of something. (We’ll be discussing that tomorrow, and boy howdy, stuff and things, even if it didn’t actually pertain to Infinity War like we were worrying it might.)

Part of the thing about this movie is the official call for No Spoilers. Well, it’s been a month and that’s been broken plenty of times on the internet by now, but just in case you’re my mom and haven’t seen it yet we’ll keep the endgame stuff to ourselves. (Except for to say: it’s comics. Little is permanent.)

Instead, one of our regular lists of things we had opinions about, because overall, it was functional but I was mostly there for details, let’s be real.

  • This movie is, in my (drift partner’s) opinion, much more watchable than Civil War, which I think is a dumb exercise in misery. The main conceit of Civil War is that nerds like it when superheroes fight each other for some reason, so here is a threadbare reason for them to fight each other I guess. Oh, now everyone is mad and sad and half of them are in boat jail (and I, not drift partner, have some Opinions about boat jail that are not good and get stronger whenever I think about it). Infinity War made fandom sad, but in my opinion, prior to the last sequence, the movie understands how to tell a comic book story better AND it understands how to juggle more than five characters at once. Civil War was also very bad at this. Infinity War mixes up some of the character dynamics and throws our favorites and least favorites into new and exciting situations like: what if Thor met the Guardians! What if Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man met… IN SPACE! What is it like when some of our core heroes are in Wakanda, in awe and varyingly out of place and getting shit done! It bounces back and forth between 4-5 different groups and does so with enough variety that you never really have time to get too tired of any one scene. (Unless Doctor Strange is in it. We do not like him.) There are a few groan-worthy moments and some deeply dumb plot contrivances, but I did not feel like my soul was being sucked slowly from my body while watching it, which was at times the case with Civil War.
  • Let’s talk about those three what ifs, shall we? What if Thor met the Guardians! Well, it turns out that if Thor (Chris Hemsworth) met the Guardians it would involve wacky shenanigans. Thor quite literally smacks into the Guardians’ ship as they’re going to answer his (now demolished) ship’s distress call and they bring him aboard, and it goes pretty much exactly like you’d expect. Quill (Chris Pratt) is jealous of Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) favorable impression of Thor and Drax (Dave Bautista) makes a lot of blunt comments that can only be described as the rapid development of a massive crush. Thor ultimately goes off on a mission to get a new hammer, accompanied by Rocket and Groot, and Gamora, Quill, Drax, and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) go off to get one of the Infinity Stones. This is the first rearrangement of people.
  • What if Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man met… IN SPACE! Well. Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) gets shot out of space and down to Earth before the Asgardian ship goes boom and lands in Doctor Strange’s (Benadryl Crinklepants) house to alert him of the danger of Thanos. Then Doctor Strange goes to get Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) and they piss on each other for a while before battling some of Thanos’ minions, a battle Spider-Man (Tom Holland) eventually joins. Then Doctor Strange is a large box and Iron Man and Spider-Man are both on the same “flying donut” of a spaceship and wackiness ensues. Doctor Strange and Iron Man pretty much just piss on each other whenever they talk (and this only gets worse when they meet up with Quill et al), but at least once Spider-Man is there he makes things better.
  • What is it like when some of our core heroes are in Wakanda, in awe and varyingly out of place and getting shit done! The group that ends up in Wakanda is: Steve (Chris Evans), Sam (Anthony Mackie), Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany), Rhodey (Don Cheadle), and Bruce, and of course when they’re there so are T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Shuri (Letitia Wright), and a newly rehabilitated Bucky (Sebastian Stan). And pretty much what happens is shit gets done. Shuri does a lot of science, there’s a giant battle, Bruce doesn’t know how to behave around T’Challa, Rhodey and Sam are best buds, Steve and Bucky are boyfriends, Wanda does cool shit… y’know. The usual. But better, because it’s in Wakanda and everything is better there.
  • Ultimately, the standouts to us in this movie were Zoe Saldana, Elizabeth Olsen, and Tom Holland. Zoe Saldana got to show about three times more emotion in this film as in either Guardians film, which was cool, and even though they shoehorned in some needless Gamora/Quill romance to add to the angst or something, she got to shine as an individual and that was so welcome; Gamora’s arc deals with her relationship with Thanos (Josh Brolin) and also to a much lesser extent Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Saldana just gives it her all, performancewise. Elizabeth Olsen comes in with a slight advantage since we both love Wanda to bits and pieces (while acknowledging the flaws with the MCU’s setup of her character, but while also acknowledging that she is our girl) but regardless, there is a scene toward the end of the film that is just a solid 90 seconds of her emoting and I wanted to give her an award immediately; Wanda’s arc deals largely with her relationship with Vision, which let me just say is a lot weirder when Paul Bettany actually looks like Paul Bettany and not a purple robot, and his relationship with the Infinity Stone he carries and the disaster this obviously could create should Thanos get it, but it also gives her a lot of good moments with the team (we’ll discuss this in a minute). Tom Holland…someone told him this was a real movie and he brought it. Spider-Man has been a favorite of mine since I was sixteen and I’ve been waiting since 2009 to see a good Spider-Man again (the last one was Josh Keaton as the animated Spectacular Spider-Man, and prior to that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield both had something just “off” about them in one way or another). Holland brings a charm and sincerity to the role that has been missing, while remembering that Peter is, deep down, kind of a sarcastic little shit. And in this movie he matches the more experienced actors in terms of performance at every turn (and in one particular case, definitely surpasses them – Holland is British, as is Curdledmilk; however, Holland’s American accent is flawless, and Crabapple’s is…not).
  • My standard for this movie was how well-written characters would be when interacting, particularly those who had not previously met. Turns out Thor makes a much more agreeable companion for Rocket and Groot than the other Guardians, even though I still didn’t care about the two of them (there were a couple of throwback jokes regarding Rocket’s penchant for stealing prosthetic body parts, though, and that was sort of funny). Spider-Man is a very good boy and wanted to help all of his new friends in battle, and they were definitely his new friends even if he was afraid they were going to implant him with eggs not ten minutes prior; both times we saw this I flailed joyfully when he sprung forth to make sure Mantis didn’t fall down in a battle. As mentioned, Wanda has some really great little moments and the ones we cared about most were the ones with Natasha: they pick Wanda and Vision up and Natasha promptly scolds them for what amounts to being out past curfew, which is hilarious; there’s a bit in the final sequence that also involves Okoye that’s the most triumphant ladies-supporting-ladies thing I’ve seen in a Marvel movie in a long while (I’m purposely not spoiling the details because I flailed about them, too, in a way I hope some people can still also do).
  • Another highlight of this movie (say, over Civil War) is that there are a lot more amusing things sprinkled throughout. Pretty much everything Mantis says (or does, honestly) is comedy gold, particularly if it involves her scary face. At one point when Quill meets up with the douchebag duo and their scene-saving Spider-Man, he shouts, “Where’s Gamora?” and Iron Man replies “Who’s Gamora?” and Drax, while being stepped on and nearly shot with a laser gun or something, adds, “I’ll do you one better. Why is Gamora?” and this is the funniest thing I don’t even care that is my humor. And then…
  • That brings us to the villains. There’s Thanos, of course, who isn’t funny. He’s just some big asshole who looks, as Quill aptly points out, like Grimace (from McDonalds). But then there’s also the Children of Thanos, the ones who didn’t wise up like Gamora and Nebula. These fuckers are hilarious space garbage. Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) is like a weird Gothic skeleton version of the Shape of Water fishman if it in turn bred with Slenderman, and weirdly his maw is not particularly prominent, nor is it ebony. Better still is Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), who is just the worst. She’s the one who talks the most after Maw, and every word out of her mouth is a hilarious cliche about fighting or war or victory or something to that effect. She’s sort of insinuated to be the most powerful of Thanos’ children, at least of the bunch that appear together (Ebony Maw is usually by himself). But every time she’s onscreen she is impossible to take seriously. Also, her name is Proxima Midnight and that is objectively funny.
  • SPACE

–your fangirl heroines.

you20did20not20just

Spoiler Alert Saturday :: our thoughts on Love, Simon

21 Apr

We have been quite bad at keeping up with things lately. In our slight defense, things keep happening on the nights we need to write things, and/or we’ve just been busy and/or tired lately. It’s been an eventful month.

All of which is to say that our review of Love, Simon is grossly belatedly written and posted. Sorry, you guys.

That said, we were definitely not late in writing or posting it out of any dislike, because it’s a charming and important piece of cinema. Yes, it’s a teen movie, it’s very teenage in fact, but it’s the best kind of teenage, earnest and endearing and not dumbed down.

This movie is based on a 2015 young adult novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I (drift partner) listened to the audiobook back in September, knowing that this movie was due to come out and having been meaning to read it for literally a year before that. The movie is actually a really stellar adaptation of the book, one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory. I generally prefer to read books before seeing movies, but I would say that reading the book before the movie in this case actually spoils too much. It’s probably better to go in cold and be surprised.

This is a funny, sweet, poignant story about a sixteen year old named Simon (Nick Robinson)  who is closeted and anxious about coming out. He has been secretly emailing someone in his town, a fellow closeted gay teen codenamed “Blue.” (The movie changes this a bit, having Simon reply to Blue’s initial post on his school’s gossip blog about Blue being secretly gay. It was a tiny bit jarring but not a huge deal in the long run.) Simon is wracking his brain trying to figure out who Blue could possibly be, when disaster strikes in the form of Martin (Logan Miller). Martin has a crush on one of Simon’s best friends, Abby (Alexandra Shipp), and blackmails Simon to help him get in good with Abby: if Simon doesn’t, he will reveal Simon’s secret to the whole school.

I (drift partner) wasn’t exactly a closeted gay “teen” since I didn’t figure myself out until college, but I have a soft spot for YA stories with closeted characters because I can relate. Simon is actually one of the tamer ones I’ve read: unlike The Miseducation of Cameron Post or Autoboyography, there’s not really a religious element driving the conflict around coming out. Instead, it’s just that Simon is afraid his dorky, loving family and friends won’t actually be all that accepting. It’s the kind of conflict that might seem silly to non-queer people, but most queer people, even those who had the most accepting and affirming upbringings, will be able to relate. That fear and anxiety comes from the idea that you might share something that is such a big part of you with someone you care about, and they might not be okay with it. With you.

(I [original heroine] was definitely in a similar situation to his; I didn’t figure myself out until college either, although I honestly should have done, but even though I grew up surrounded by relatively socially liberal friends, many of them drama nerds like Simon’s pals, and an immediate family that I figured probably wouldn’t have a problem with it, coming out was always an adventure in anxiety. I’ve been fairly lucky, but I admit that there’s a scene dealing with Simon’s dad’s reaction to his coming out that got me, both because it was lovely and something every queer kid deserves and because it was an experience that I never realized I’d missed.)

This is only part of the movie’s story, though. Another huge part of the movie – and one that we won’t be spoiling in this review – is Blue’s identity, which, yes, does get resolved. This is one thing that I feel the movie majorly improved on, too. I need to read the book again, but I remember feeling sort of…underwhelmed by the reveal, because I didn’t feel like the character Blue turned out to be had been set up quite enough for me. I might be totally wrong here! It was months ago. But the movie deliberately added in a few more scenes with this character interacting with Simon and I really appreciated that. It also kept in the single most harrowing scene in the whole book, and I don’t feel bad spoiling this because I’m doing everyone a favor here: Martin claims to be Blue at one point. It’s not Martin. Thank me later.

There are a bunch of little things this movie does right, but my favorites are the scenes with Simon’s mom (Jennifer Garner) and dad (Josh Duhamel) after he’s told them he’s gay. I’ve had a soft spot for Jennifer Garner ever since Daredevil, even though that was certainly a movie, and I can’t imagine a better fantasy mom character to give an affirming speech to the queer audience. It made me cry and non-animated movies rarely-to-never make me cry. The dad’s scene is mentioned above, and it was one of the best scenes from the book to me, so I’m really glad they kept it.

Also, like we said, the movie is just a really endearing, nice teen movie. The teenagers act like teenagers; sometimes they are frustrating and emotional and messy, and the narrative lets that happen. They’re not perfect. It’s really well-done. Also watching the ending in a theater full of real teenagers was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, because they were eating it up, and then at the romantic reveal at the end they burst into literal cheers and applause and my heart grew three sizes. I hear this happened at dozens of other screenings too. (They also had a very loud enthusiastic conversation once the credits started rolling about how “now we need more movies about gay teens! And trans teens too!” It was the cutest damn thing.)

I haven’t on-purpose gone to a movie theater for a movie about teenagers marketed to teenagers since 2013. (That was The Host. Yeah, I know.) I can’t think of a better movie to have broken that streak for. Even if this isn’t your usual genre, I can’t recommend this movie enough. It’s sweet and affirming in a way that I think a lot of us really needed this year.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Theatre Thursday :: our thoughts on Hamilton

29 Mar

(Mostly drift partner’s thoughts, honestly.)

As y’all know, I (fangirl heroine) got on the Hamilton train a reasonable while ago. The thing is, Hamilton is fantastic and I love it, but I also know that it’s not really for me, entirely, and that’s okay. I’m fine with that. It’s important that it is what it is, and I’m still so thrilled that we got to go, like holy damn. I definitely saw people getting up during the show and like, if you really have to go to the bathroom that is what it is, but also, you got to see freaking Hamilton you should sit your ass down and enjoy it for the sake of everyone who doesn’t get to do that themselves.

I (drift partner) am nothing if not a contrarian, so it took me months to get around to listening to Hamilton for the first time. I still think In the Heights is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s better musical, if less universally appealing. That being said, I absolutely understand why Hamilton has become a phenomenon, and it’s deserved. Hamilton is a great musical, and it being so popular doesn’t negate that. (That being said, I have some thoughts on the Hamilton fandom and how so much of it is white people, but I won’t get into that right now.)

We saw the Philip Tour cast, dedicated to the memory of Philip Hamilton. It’s pointless for me (and me) to review the musical itself, because of course it’s great, but here are some thoughts on this cast and production in particular:

  • Marcus Choi was cast as George Washington in late 2017, and I heard about it in late January. I don’t always have feelings about Asian people getting cast in huge roles, but this felt weirdly “big” to me, so I was really hoping that I’d get to see him as Washington. Luckily, I did! I don’t have a lot of thoughts or feelings on Washington as portrayed by Christopher Jackson on the OBCR, but I really loved Choi as the General. I’m not sure if it was personal bias, but I felt like he “popped” a lot more for me, and I got genuinely emotional during “One Last Time.” I also liked his voice more than Jackson’s – Jackson has a nice voice, but Choi’s voice came across as more dynamic and expressive to me. Even if the rest of the cast had been duds (they aren’t, of course), Choi would have made the show for me.
  • Shoba Narayan as Eliza had big shoes to fill, because I adore Phillipa Soo, but she definitely met my expectations. Her performance of “Burn” gave me chills, and you could tell that she was putting everything she had into the “Stay Alive” reprise. Also, I (your fangirl heroine) am not often a crier where fiction is concerned, you know this about me, but when she was belting out her verses in the finale I seriously choked/welled up, she was killing it so hard. I’m honestly struggling to remember the last time I got chills that hard (not to say I don’t get chills often during musicals, but) because she was absolutely transcendent. She and Joseph Morales had great chemistry, and I loved watching them together. Soo will always be my favorite Eliza, but Narayan was a highlight of this show.
  • Speaking of Joseph Morales, I found his take on Alexander really interesting. Lin-Manuel Miranda is completely incapable of even a little bit of chill or of coming across as anything but painfully sincere, even if he’s trying to play a flirt. His Alexander has so! many! feelings! all the time! Whereas Morales’ Hamilton came across as a bit more of a bro – not in a bad way, but he was a little more cocksure and he played some of the jokey asides in a way that came across as more wink-wink than the one on the OBCR. It was cool to see someone’s interpretation of a character that I’m so familiar with that was so different.
  • Nyla Sostre was delightfully hammy as Peggy Schuyler (this is important because Peggy is comedy gold) and absolutely stole the show every second she was onstage as Maria. It was actually sort of funny watching her with Morales, who was playing up the “feelings what are those” dudebro thing, while Sostre was having EVERY FEELING EVERYWHERE.
  • I found Nik Walker’s Burr mostly pleasant, although I don’t know what happened but “Wait For It” was weirdly understated. I was a bit disappointed because that’s my favorite song, but he was fine in every other song, so oh well, it may have just been the one off song. “Dear Theodosia” was gorgeous, and he and Morales sounded wonderful together. I think there was a sinister/purposeful undertone missing that Leslie Odom Jr. puts into the OBCR, but Walker is a great singer and I can definitely see what he brings to this role.
  • Fergie L. Philippe was another person who was absolutely chewing all the scenery he could whenever he was onscreen, and he was a delight. His Hercules Mulligan was a powerhouse (as he should be), and his James Madison was just the right combination of bully-bro and legitimate political threat.
  • Daveed Diggs is a hard act to follow, but Kyle Scatliffe absolutely killed it as Lafayette and Jefferson. He was doing a very silly French accent, as is appropriate, and dancing all over the stage and having a blast. I love it when I can tell that actors really love their job, and he definitely does. (I will say that it’s good that I knew the lyrics so well, because the silly French accent does make it a bit hard to enunciate words.)
  • Groff is a really hard act to follow, but Jon Patrick Walker was clearly having the time of his life as King George. Of course, the audience lost their shit every time he came onstage, and he ate it up. He was a little more simpering and nasal than Groff, which actually worked better for this production, I think.
  • There were some cool staging details that I didn’t know about because I’ve only listened to the album.
    • Eliza literally burning the letters onstage during “Burn” is a great visual touch, although I was a little anxious about the fire (I’m sure it’s fine, my anxiety is just exacerbated by fire).
    • I didn’t realize King George is there during “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” dancing around like a loon, and honestly, that just made what was already one of my favorite songs that much better.
    • I also didn’t know that Maria/Peggy’s actress is in the background/chorus of so many songs, but she is (I could tell because of the red dress). That was a fun little visual game for me.
    • I (your fangirl heroine) am the bar wench, as you know. This has always been my thing and it always will be, and so when there was a chorus girl tending bar during “My Shot” (and one of the white girls no less, so I didn’t feel bad about appropriating) my mom leaned over, nudged me, and whispered “That’s you.” Of course it was, and of course I wound up watching her through the ensemble numbers for the rest of the show. I’m not a hundred percent sure which cast member she was, but she was a lot of fun to watch. I mean, they all were, but, you know. That’s me.
  • I (drift partner) expected to cry a lot more than I did, which is fine because I hate crying in public. I did a bit during “History Has Its Eyes on You” because I had some feelings about Asian-Americans being badass and stuff, though.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Spoiler Alert Monday :: our thoughts on Black Panther

19 Feb

It was a weird weekend and we’re posting this now so deal with it. It can’t wait.

First of all: we are not the people whose opinions about this movie matter at all. Even if we had both hated Black Panther, that wouldn’t have mattered. Black Panther is a superhero movie with a worldwide release by a major studio directed by, written by, starring, and designed by a largely black cast and crew, about a fictional African country that has never been colonized and has the greatest technological achievements of any country in the world. That is groundbreaking. (If you’re reading this and wondering why it’s such a big deal, I really recommend seeking out black writers’ thoughts on the film.)

Of course, the movie is also just really great. If you’re tired of superhero movies about the same old hero’s journey, I think you’ll be pleased with the places this movie goes. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his home country of Wakanda shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War to be crowned king after the tragic death of his father, T’Chaka. He wants to be a good king, but he is faced with a choice: keep Wakanda’s secrets and remain sequestered from the rest of the world, or use their country’s resources and power to help the oppressed around the world. Things become more complicated when a newcomer appears, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who challenges T’Challa’s leadership

I don’t want to give too much away, but here are some non-spoilery (or the vaguest of spoilers) highlights:

  • Shuri (Letitia Wright) is the smartest person in the world, and she’s a sixteen-year-old princess who loves her brother and gives him lots of shit. She is probably going to be my favorite character of 2018 and if we don’t get a movie about her I will flip a desk. She’s this weird ball of teenage girl energy and the absolute pure essence of the Afrofuturism that this movie is bringing to the forefront (check that out, it’s super interesting), from her clothes to her multitude of inventions to her attitude to her technology.
  • T’Challa himself is a great character, much more dimensional than the (delightful) glimpses of him we got in Civil War as a quiet but skillful warrior trying to avenge the death of his father. His arc in this movie is a bit different from the typical superhero arc, and it’s wonderful to watch.
  • Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) fills the “love interest” role, but oh, thank goodness, there’s a brief glimpse of good het in a Marvel movie again, because she and T’Challa are great. It could be a dangerous setup, the exes who work together (goodness knows Marvel has messed that up before), but they work so well together. They’re still obviously on good terms despite the ambiguous breakup in their past; she can fight alongside him, he can confide in her, she protects him and his with all of her heart. She’s also incredible in her own right, multitalented and fearless and outspoken.
  • Then there’s Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje. They’re Wakanda’s elite all-lady warrior group, but that even seems like an understatement. They’re just fantastic at everything. Okoye is their general and she’s very driven by tradition and justice but also capable of snarking. (Ayo [Florence Kasumba], who had one little moment in Civil War, is still around as well, so that’s nice.)
  • Also on the kickass women front is Ramonda (Angela Bassett), T’Challa’s mother and Wakanda’s queen (mother). She gets to grieve for her husband without it being treated as a weakness, exemplify what it means to behave like royalty, have a great relationship with both of her kids… she’s pretty damn awesome.
  • ALSO M’BAKU (Winston Davis). I don’t want to spoil anything but he has one of the best lines in the movie and I love him.
  • W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) is an interesting character that I wanted to see more of. He went in a different direction than I was expecting, but Kaluuya does incredible things with his face and there’s one particular scene that is iconic.
  • Erik Killmonger is a great villain, one of the best the MCU has had, and Jordan gives an incredible performance. He’s also a terrible person, but at least he’s more interesting and fun to watch than most of the villains have been.

Go see this movie as soon as you can. It’s worth it.

–your fangirl heroines.

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