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Being Black and Watching “Get Out”

CJ

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**Mild Spoilers Ahead**

“What would happen if black people starred in horror films?” 

That question has been parodied and pondered for quite a while. Luckily for us, Jordan Peele decided to offer up his own answer, in the form of Get Out. In some cases, it has already happened…but a film of this caliber has not. 

First, let me preface this by saying that this is how I watched the film:

Basically like this…

While it’s true that I invited the people I sat next to, the color scheme essentially matched this picture. Two black friends of mine also came…but we had to “reserve” separate seats. Altogether that made for quite an interesting experience.

Ever since the film’s trailer was released, Get Out has been on my mind. And I was so excited to see it last week that I even got a whole group to come with me. I am not necessarily a fan of horror films—frankly a lot of clichéd formulas only convinced me to see a minimal amount of the newer films to avoid becoming bored by the ending. But Get Out is something different. It’s realistic horror, based on the Night Doctors and Sundown Towns of old Black America. Peele also brought up some practices back to life that sent a chill up my spine: hypnosis, human auction, etc. I’ll try not to spoil too much but there are some parts where I just cannot resist.

As someone who has often been the token, only, or first black woman (or person)  in many of my ventures, I found that Peele’s direction spoke to most of my entire existence. Of course, my results were nowhere near as terrifying.

Although Chris (our protagonist, played by Daniel Kaluuya) was thrust into the lion’s den, it was the audience that got to experience the discomfort that just led to unrest- especially me. Peele covered multiple layers of a fear that many black and brown people face in America. I felt the paranoia that people are watching you for all of the wrong reasons.

I pinpointed the puns and micro-aggressions, tacked onto backhanded compliments. The fetishized comments just freaked me out entirely. Conversations that began with “I would’ve voted for Obama for a 3rd term” were sprinkled into the film, and are reflected from real life. It is a feeling that is entirely personal, but profound each time. Peele disguised it cleverly too—in a world where political correctness is scoffed at, that whole “is it just me” paranoia often featured in horror is even more insidious here because it was actually happening but shoved to the side by the majority. Chris was intentionally outnumbered and outmatched. The ultimate grossness of racial relations gone awry slowly escalated the further Chris went away from the city.

Get Out was made even better by the Armitage’s ally-ship with Chris. Surprise…it’s fake. But Peele gave us a very nice bait and switch in the form of Rose (played by Allison Williams). While I never expected the Armitage parents to be totally versed in current social platitudes, it was Rose who I had the most hope for and ultimately betrayed me (and everyone else, according to some very vocal audience members). This is unfortunately a very true reality for many disadvantaged peoples- realizing that your friend or partner may not truly ride or die for you. One misplaced word, one odd gesture- and all of a sudden that partner is a stranger. In this case, it was all on purpose, but Rose pointing out the cop’s behavior after the wreck or calling out her family’s passive aggressive attitude made her a prime wolf in sheep’s clothing.

And while Chris went down the rabbit hole, his friend Rod offered a fantastic antithesis. He was the embodiment of the memes that joke about black people being realistic in a horror setting, and the tension release that was much needed.


But then he was also the embodiment of brotherhood, and ultimately Chris’ savior from a revolting fate.

While we’re here, I have to say how much I loved the third act. It subverted a lot of the classic archetypes you see in many a horror film.  Once you see it, you’ll understand what I mean. I think it’s very much Peele’s version of “cut the bullshit” and kill the stereotype, in more ways than one. Instead of suspense, there was racial tension. Slow kills in other films became three kills in three minutes in Get Out, and at least some of the black men live. I could not have been happier to see Rod in that (oddly apprehended) police car, coming to save Chris.

Because what kind of terrible irony would it have been to have a real cop step out of that car and pin that bloodbath on Chris? Well, I guess our reality…

In the end, the scars are deep for our protagonist, but (mostly) psychological. He may still have a particular trigger for the rest of his life too. If that isn’t a euphemism for the psychological terrors that marginalized people endure on a daily basis, I don’t know what is.

As far as horror goes, I think Peele has given us a “social horror” that is similar to Black Mirror on some levels. Apparently, there may be even more to come. If I had to describe my experience of it quickly, I would say Get Out was a display of the most extreme form of cultural appropriation/marginalization, so prepare for some discourse afterwards. The performances by the entire cast and ensemble were fantastic, so if you like horror in general I would definitely advise seeing this movie. Maybe with some of your more woke friends, so you can enjoy the memes later.


Images courtesy of Blumhouse Productions

CJ

Actress, Singer, Writer, and aspiring Jack of all trades. Surviving the insanity that is Florida for 20-something years. Cute but dangerous.

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Air Capital Comic Con Sticks To Its Roots

Dan

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The comic convention used to be exactly what it sounds like: a way for the “Marvel Zombies”, “Batmaniacs”,  “Shellheads”, and “Wingnuts”  who braved the comics shops of the world for their monthly dose of multi-colored, multi-panel heroism; to get together with their own people. They traded old comics and new ones, wore homemade costumes, and argued over nonsense. The guests were artists and writers of the comics themselves, and the con was a chance for them to meet the people who loved their work.

But slowly but surely, the TV and movie conventions began to merge with the comic cons. With most of the con-goers belonging to multiple fandoms, for many, it was a no-brainer for them to consolidate. The nerds of the world rejoiced as they could at one stall meet the creator of Batman and in the next meet the Adam West who played him on TV. But, slowly but surely, the movie and film stars became the attractions at these cons. While no comic-con has truly shaken its comic book roots, it can be hard to find one today that still maintains that old school purism. But don’t fret true believers, there’s one in Wichita, and I attended it last weekend.

Air Capital Comic Con was co-founded in 2013 to help give the city of Wichita a yearly comic convention of its very own. Since then, it has only grown. The fans in Wichita that for years had to travel hours to Kansas City or Oklahoma City to scratch their nerd itch now only had to drive downtown. But Wichita is not a large city, and the convention itself reflects that.

Taking up a single exhibition hall iatWichita’s Convention Center, it’s easy to walk from one end of the con to the other. I felt strange walking by some of the same booths as I wandered around and took everything in. But size matters not, as they say, and the number of guests in attendance would no doubt be in line with a con twice the size of Air Capital.

The guest list, as I alluded to before, was almost entirely pulled from the halls of comics. Creators from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, Boom! and the indie scene made for a stacked roster for fans to mingle with. Big names included Greg Smallwood (Moon Knight, Dream Thief),  David Gallaher (High Moon, Box 13),  Steve Ellis (Skinwalker Studios), Alexis Zirrit (Space Riders) and Kevin Nowlan (Tomorrow Stories, Superman vs. Aliens). But it was not all old school, as the con also invited multiple high profile cosplayers as well, such as The Hive (Resident Evil Cosplay Collective), Children of Proteus (Aquatic Steampunks), Deadpool’s Chimichanga Shack., and the local chapter of the 501st Legion.

The vendors and artists in attendance ranged from toy shops and comic stores to cosplay gear and jewelry, to a “psychic cartoonist” named Lord Julius Pandhandle. The actually quite healthy Wichita writing scene (cough) was in attendance as well, with bestselling fantasy author Tamara Grantham, sci-fi scribe Tim Hunter, and master William Schlichter all meeting, greeting, and signing books alongside newer writers like AR Crebs and Dakota Caldwell (in character as his book’s main villain).

The attendance was a mix of the old, hardcore nerds who’d met Stan Lee when he wore gold medallions, parents bringing their kids for a day out in their best Spider-man costume, and teenagers dressed as anime characters hanging out with their people. And there was something for everyone. Local game shops and developers had a board gameplay area, and Wichita’s video game bar and e-sports org helper put together a huge array of consoles from the NES to the PS4 for people to play to their heart’s content. On the upper balcony, panels ran every few hours discussing things like villains and the comics industry. It even hosted a nerdy version of The Dating Game.

Overall, it really was a good con. I’m spoiled in that my home city of Indianapolis hosts multiple huge cons, including GenCon, every year.  And Air Capital isn’t near that big or exciting. That is no slight, however. I loved the heart that Air Capital Comic Con had, and the real sense that it was part of a thriving community. There was no flash or glitz, just passion, and good old-fashioned nerdiness. They know there is nowhere to go but up, and they maximize everything they can.  If you’re in the area next November or are wanting to add a stop for a promotional tour, you won’t find a better home than Air Capital Comic Con.


Images courtesy of Air Capital Comic Con

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All Hail the Porg

Kori

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With an official trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi finally dropping earlier this week, the internet has been a flurry with writers stampeding to try and determine the “true” meaning behind several tantalizing scenes. And everyone else fell in love with a Porg.

The Porg, a newly created species for the Star Wars universe, are said to be native residents of Ahch-To, the island Luke Skywalker has been hiding/meditating on since Kylo Ren killed all of his students and totally embraced his inner Edgelord. While the Porg weren’t the only new species we caught a glimpse of in the trailer, (seriously, what is that glitter Flareon supposed to be?) they have rapidly become an internet darling and are launching a thousand memes of their own.

This isn’t by accident. The designers at Star Wars were obviously determined to introduce the newest, cutest thing ever, and they used psychology to do so.

Shrewd and diabolical design and marketing? Maybe. Do I still want one? You bet your biscuits I do. I and you aren’t alone. In fact, the Disney team was counting on this. It’s no coincidence there is now a conveniently accessible line of Porg merchandise already available to buy, and right in time for the holidays.

Funko Domination has begun!

Of course, the meme machine that is the internet has been busy, churning out delightful design after design.

 

Now naturally, there are those who do not find the Porg or their kids, the Porglets to be cute. Maybe they’re contrarians, or maybe they just don’t know joy in their lives. They can take solace in the fact that there is plenty of other Star Wars merchandise in the sea, and that there are no plans for Disney and Lucasfilm to follow in the steps of the Ewoks and make a Porg movie.

Yet.

(Disney, please, I’m begging you, give me a Porg movie.)


Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm

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Top 5 Essential Films for Your Collection: Comedies

Jeremiah

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One of the most asked and debated questions in the cinephile community is “What movies should I own in my DVD collection?” It’s a question I’ve asked myself, so I did as any writer does and decided to make my own list of essential movies one should have in their DVD collection. Notice the words ‘dvd collection’; I’m talking hard copies here. And it’s worth mentioning that these are not the only five movies one should have in your collection; nor is it in any way saying you have to own all five.

My aim with this series is to hopefully introduce you to some films you may never have heard of or, even better, cause you to reevaluate the ones you have seen. Lists are useful for helping broaden one’s base of knowledge, organizing one’s thoughts, and starting a discussion, after all.

Each entry in this article series will revolve around a specific genre or topic. Because (thankfully) movies are constantly being made, I had to set a cut-off date. What I consider The Essentials will be made up of films released before 2015.

These are the top five comedies that I think are essential to your collection. Comedies are difficult to critique simply because what is funny to me is not funny to you. Keep in mind that if a film is left off, it does not mean I don’t think it valuable or funny. Mel Brooks and Jacques Tati are not on here, and I would never argue that they are not essential.

Again, these are not all the essential movies, just some of them.

Groundhog Day (1993) – Harold Ramis

Groundhog Day is, in many ways, one of the more perfect comedies ever made. It’s also one of the best romantic comedies ever made. It’s also a perfect example of a movie being deeper than it first appears. Either by accident or design Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin’s screenplay hints at, explores, and illustrates essential moral, philosophical tenants in such a way it’s easily missed upon the first couple of viewings. Lines like “I’ve killed myself so many times I don’t even exist anymore.” or my favorite “I’ve come to the end of me, Rita. There’s no way out.”

Billy Murray, “Plays the perfect bastard.” as Roger Ebert once noted.  An egotistical weatherman who becomes trapped in his own personal Punxsutawney purgatory; inexplicably relieving the same day over and over. His early attempts to bed his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) fail miserably. As each day repeats itself, time becomes abstract, and Phil begins to question not just mortality but his own morality. He becomes a better version of himself, and that’s the version Rita begins to fall for.

The ending is wonderful in its ambiguity. It has the appearance of being a nice and tidy crowd-pleasing Hollywood ending. But much like the movie itself, there’s a possibility there’s more than meets the eyes. Groundhog Day is the rare comedy that’s hilarious, moving, and thought-provoking.

 

Mean Girls (2004) – Mark Waters 

Mean Girls is a sharply written comedy about girls coming of age in high school. It’s also one of the more transformative and lasting comedies made in the last two decades. So much of the movie has entered the popular consciousness that many people can cite it or quote it without having ever seen a frame of it.

Cady (Lindsay Lohan) is the new girl at school. She soon befriends a couple of outcasts Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese). Together they plot the downfall of The Plastics, a trio of the most popular girls who rule the school: Gretchen (Lacey Chabert), Karen (Amanda Seyfried), and Regina (Rachel McAdams). Of course, anyone who’s ever seen a spy movie knows Cady begins to lose herself as she more and more is drawn into the mind games and gossip wars with The Plastics.

It’s Heathers mixed with Clueless and yet it’s still wholly original. This is because Tina Fey grounds the characters and the comedy. There are flashes of her trademark surrealism such as Mr. Duvall (Tim Meadows) ripping off his shirt during a school riot. But Cady, Regina, Janis, and the rest are richly drawn characters. The Plastics start off as the villains of the piece until ultimately it’s revealed there are no villains. They’re just teenagers. Maybe that’s why Mean Girls has endured; it’s about teenagers not the idea of teenagers.

 

The Heat (2013) – Paul Feig

The Heat is hilarious. It’s the type of funny that I really can’t tell you why I laughed. I just did. Like Groucho Marx sitting on the balcony of the opera and saying “Boogedy Boogedy!”. Sometimes funny is just funny. There’s nothing particularly new about The Heat, a buddy cop odd-couple comedy, but it never feels tired or forced.

Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is the straight-laced by the book FBI agent.  While Detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) is the disorganized slob, who doesn’t remember when she last saw the book. Paul Feig and his screenwriter Katie Dippold allow McCarthy and Bullock to riff of each other. The two have gangbuster chemistry. McCarthy is like Lucille Ball and Jerry Lewis rolled into one as she barrels through the movie. Bullock doesn’t play the straight woman so much as a dry tense coiled spring. McCarthy is constantly bursting where Bullock is always just about too.

The Heat never pretends to be anything other than what it is. It’s as pure a comedy as you’re likely to see in a while. Sometimes a movie doesn’t need to be about something; sometimes they just need to be great at what they’re trying to do.

 

Coming To America (1988) – John Landis

Eddie Murphy co-wrote and starred in what remains one of the seminal comedic classics of our time. Coming To America was and is a reminder of the immense talent and imagination of Eddie Murphy. Landis may have directed it but this is Murphy’s baby from start to finish.

The notion of African royalty coming to America only to find himself just another black man in America is daring by any generation’s standard. Coming To America explores the multitudes of black experiences of varying classes while never losing its goofy zeal and manic asides. There’s even a fairy tale love story between Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and Lisa (Shari Headley) that never overplays itself.

Murphy and his co-star Arsenio Hall play multiple characters, but these aren’t caricatures. Murphy and Hall’s characters walk that fine line between broad and nuanced. They do such a good job that when the movie came out many were shocked that it was them and not different actors; especially because some of the characters they invented were white. Coming To America is an astonishing comedy both in breadth and laughs.

Trouble In Paradise (1932) – Ernst Lubitsch

Of all the names sadly lost to the current generation of film lovers, one of them is Ernst Lubitsch. More than a master of comedy he was a master of storytelling and characters. He made several masterpieces The Shop Around the Corner, To Be Or Not To Be, and Ninotchka to name a few.

Trouble In Paradise is a pre-code romantic comedy unlike any other. Preceding the fact that it is both deeply romantic and sensual it is also deeply insightful about how its characters and to some degree about us in the audience. Gaston Marceau (Herbert Marshall) is a renowned thief and conman. One night he seduces and attempts to rob Lily who is also a thief and con-woman. The two laugh and fall instantly in love over their shared amorality.

Gaston and Lilly plot to rob perfume magnate Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis). Things take a turn when Mariette begins to flirt with Gaston.  Mariette is neither gullible or as dimwitted as Gaston had thought. Trouble In Paradise is the rare instance of an honestly believable love triangle. Lubitsch handles all of this in sublime visual style allowing the eroticism between Gaston and Colet to pulsate through the screen. A masterwork for any time period it’s proof positive that comedies can be funny, sexy, and smart without having to sacrifice one for the other.


Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Pictures

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