Re:Viewing Netflix’s Re:Mind

Guess who just binge-watched a J-Pop star vehicle show on Netflix! Me. Guess who’s going to review it for the masses now. Me. Let’s go.

Re:Mind is a thirteen episode long 2018 Japanese television show (released on Netflix) that stars J-Pop group Hiragana Keyakizaka46. For a basic, no spoilers plot summary: Eleven high school girls are kidnapped the day before their graduation, waking up in a dining room with their feet locked beneath the floor and no way to escape. They eventually realize that the clues scattered throughout the room are there to help remind (get it?) them of past events and dirty laundry that they must all air out if any of them wants the chance of escaping.

Re:Mind is, in many ways, what a laymen would expect out of a Japanese television show: Cute girls in high school uniforms, squeally acting, weird settings, and general creepiness. For the more seasoning viewer of Japanese media, it’s riddled with far more specific and uniquely Japanese narrative and character tropes. Sociopathic, cut-throat highschoolers? Check. Romantic two-girl friendships? Check. Beach/festival symbolism? Check. It being weirdly okay for high schoolers to date people way older than them? Cheeeeck. Creepy dark-haired girls being creepy? Check. Random references to American media/Western philosophy? Check.

Re:Mind is, in a word, cliche. In more words, it is a narratively rambling, poorly-acted mess of a show plagued by repetition, and plot holes that you’re forced to notice, and characters prone to getting real annoying real fast. That may sound like I dislike this show. It sounds like I’m not going to recommend it. If we’re talking pure, objective quality of television making, I cannot honestly give this show a good review. It’s bad. But, boy, do I love it anyway. And not just because it helped me brush up on my Japanese.

Spoilers ahoy. Ikimashou!

While watching Re:Mind, I was consistently Re:minded of two other stories. The first is Another, an anime series where a bunch of cursed high schoolers desperately try to uncover who among them is the supernatural source of all the violent deaths plaguing their class. The second is And Then There Were None, a classic Agatha Christie murder story wherein a bunch of people with shady pasts on an isolated aisle start dying one by one . . . until there are none. You can see the similarities. All are mysteries. All feature groups of people who need to uncover and admit to their pasts if they want to save themselves from dying. All are caused by a villain with a twisted sense of balance/justice. All are sufficiently creepy and symbolism laden.

The thing all three of these stories have the most in common, though, is there ability to keep you intrigued to the last minute with the sheer mystery of it all. You want to know what the hell is happening. You want to know why these people are here and why this is happening to them in particular. You want to know how they get out of this situation. You want to know how it’s going to end. For all of it’s very apparent faults, Re:Mind strings you, the viewer, along very well. There are mysteries that don’t do this, that fail to grab and hold your attention. So Re:Mind deserves credit where it’s due. If you’re like me, you may find a lot of the revelations very underwhelming, but there are enough of them to keep you going to the batshit ending.

The core twelve episodes (episode thirteen is supplementary prequel fare) are only around 20 minutes long, which certainly helps. The actual pacing of individual episodes can be pretty bad, which I’ll get into very soon, but once you’re hooked on the formula, the episode-to-episode pacing is done impressively well. The formula is this: a new topic in need of remembering is sussed out, drama happens, one of the girls disappears–but only probably. This is an ingenious formula for this kind of show. There are eleven girls and eleven episodes (excluding the introduction and prequel). Once you realize that the premise centers around them getting picked off one-by-one, it has you anticipating who it will be by the end, and why. And when that doesn’t happen–as is sometimes the case–it has you anticipating how things will progress. Is more than one of them going to get picked off in the next episode? Will multiple girls escape? It’s a formula, and the well-orchestrated breaks from it, that keeps you watching.

And that’s a very good thing for this show, because fuck can these girls get tedious. They are locked to the floor of this dining room, and we are locked there with them, excluding the occasional flashback episode opener. Remember what I said about the pacing within individual episodes being bad? By the time you get to episode 5, you will get very tired of Mirei explaining the basic plot to the others at the beginning of every episode, and you will get very tired of them insisting that something is “just a coincidence” even though they are literally locked in a room where everything is intended to mean something, and they know that. I get that it’s a bottle show with one set and they have to fill the twenty minutes somehow, but constantly repeating the two same points of mind-boggling obliviousness over and over on the parts of the girls gets really annoying and makes them look like idiots.

Speaking of the characters, there are eleven of them. And they get killed off periodically. Some of them are going to be more well-developed than others, and some of them are going to be much better acted than others. This is a J-Pop group, after all, not trained actors. I cannot recommend this show to you if you don’t like campy overacting, by Re:Mind is right up your alley if that’s something you like and/or can tolerate. Some of them get some genuinely good moments, usually crying and confessing something. The kinda main character Mirei (aka the only one who fucking remembers the plot from episode to episode) gets a good self-reflective moment. There’s a scene where two girls revealed to be a couple talk about how they wanted to move in together after graduating, then one of them dies, and it’s all very sad. Then the other one has a genuinely well-acted sad speech. There are some nice moments in this show that make the repetitive bickering worth getting through, and those are just a few examples.

The best episodes are mid-series, following the appearance of a bag-headed man with a suit and a severe limp who adds a level of tension and malice that the show was lacking beforehand. It also helps that he’s literally there to force these girls to move the plot along. They have a very irritating tendency to not mention things and be secretive and cagey even when they know their lives depend upon airing the truth. And right around the time that gets super annoying, bag man shows up and uses the sheer power of creepiness, intimidation, and baseball bats to make them go around the table and admit to shit they should have admitted to immediately. I emphasize so much with your violent, impatient finger tapping, bag man. His sudden disappearance also marks a new point for the show, wherein the remaining characters get some much-needed development and backstory that spurns on the following episodes. Like I said, the overarching plot works great. That character was introduced at just the right time, served the right purpose, and exited when he had to.

And, now I shall segue into a new section just as abruptly as bag man’s death.

I call this section Re:Mind Plot Holes and All the Questions Left Unanswered

1.) How are they disappearing? They are locked into the floor. There are two holes in the floor that their ankles go in, and they can’t get out. Yet they somehow manage to get spirited away in literally a second whenever the lights go out, and no one sees what happens to them. One of them was holding someone’s hand, breathing directly into her face, and she still disappeared in a second with the person she was grabbing onto not having any idea of what happened. That doesn’t even touch upon the issue of bag man, who disappears in literally a second without even the half-assed excuse of a trapdoor being underneath his feet. The most logical answer is literally “A wizard did it.” Spoilers. There is nothing magical about this situation. A normal person is doing this. Somehow.

2.) Speaking of the sudden disappearing acts: Why did none of those girls keep their camera flashlights on when that happened so they could see wtf was going on? I get why they didn’t in the beginning–they didn’t know who was going to be taken. But after a while, they know who’s gonna get spirited away next; and instead of training their flashlights and cameras on that person as soon as the lights start flickering, no one seems interested in finding out how this is happening.

3.) Speaking of phones, I have a very hard time believing that not a single one of these well-off high school girls has mobile data on their cellphone. It’s a huge plot point that they can’t get a signal and can’t connect to wi-fi so can’t call for help. It’s like the writers just forgot that there are other options. What if one of their phones was a wi-fi hotspot? That would ruin this entire plot. Speaking of . . .

4.) How did this entire plot even happen? Spoilers: the perp is just some high school girl who up and decided to be Jigsaw one day. I’m willing to buy that she got a rich guy to cover the finances of her implied-to-be-on-a-boat, lavishly decorated floor-to-ceiling with highly symbolic ornamentation psychological torture dining room. But how did she even get all of her classmates there to begin with? Was she using the same power she apparently has to spirit people away from locked rooms?

5.) Speaking of powers, this plot required omniscience on the part of the villain. It’s not as bad as Jigsaw, but we’re still left in awe of the fact that the exact right topics get brought up in the exact right order so that the exact right people will be in the room for symbolic purposes. Thank god Mirei noticed the clues in the exact order necessary to knock people off as symbolically as possible. What if the girls had done what any rational person would do and just go around the table to talk about bad shit they did?

6.) Wtf was the ending? I wanna say the boat exploded and they all went to a Heaven Beach after their Heaven Graduation, but who knows? Also the girl being revenged is still alive, I guess. But also knew about the whole revenge plot enough to send a symbolic picture. But also was obviously not involved in the revenge plot because Jigsaw schoolgirl didn’t even know she was alive. So . . . Questions.

I call this section Re:Mind Me of Random Things I Actually Like

1.) The aesthetic. Questions about how this all got put together aside, the torture dining room we spend this series locked in is one cool-ass, intricate set piece with subtle details hinting at where they are and at future plot points. A+.

2.) The atmosphere. From the second the show starts with a girl slowly waking up and removing a velvet sack from her head to find that she’s chained to the floor, to the creepy wheelchair dinner scene ending, this show has the foreboding atmosphere down to a T.

3.) The stupid, over-the-top high school drama. First, Miho is just missing because they were mean to her. Then, you figure out it was a consorted bullying effort on the part of their whole friend group. Then, you figure out that their bullying put her in a wheelchair. Then you figure out that her best friend died, sending her into depression. Then you figure out that her boyfriend was a scumbag who kinda cheated on her. Then you figure out through the new girlfriend that said scumbag boyfriend was the one who killed Miho’s best friend. Then you figure out that she committed suicide. Then you figure out that they ruined her dad’s career. Then you figure out that was just an accident. Then you figure out it kind of wasn’t. Then you figure out she had a secret illegitimate sister. Then you figure out she didn’t die at all, but was just in hiding by a beach somewhere.  It just keeps ramping up. It’s glorious.

Re:Mind is a fun and campy, if occasionally tedious, show that is utterly binge watchable for all of its good and bad parts. If you want an actually good Japanese mystery show, I’d point you in the direction of Erased or Death Note. But if you have a weekend and nothing better to do, Re:Mind isn’t the worst way to spend your time, especially if some part in you deep down still loves Days of Our Lives.


1:16 AKA Thoughts on Sony’s Venom

Hey, guys! It’s been a while. How about I make my grand re-entrance into the world of pop culture reviewing by talking about the trailer everybody seems least interested in? Yeah, I know you got your Solos and your raptors and your Deadpools and your Cloverfields, but what about that one movie people didn’t even think was real?

I’m great at marketing.

So, Venom’s getting a movie, I guess. I don’t know why. And I honestly don’t know how, what with the utter clusterfuck that is character licensing. This movie is actually somewhat of a miracle. It’s like a mutant baby that no one wanted or expected but who still refuses to die no matter how many coat hangers get in its way. From what we see of this trailer, though, this mutant baby is less of a Wolverine and more of a Beak. Look it up.

I’m not much of a fan of comic books, and out of the comics that I have read, Venom-centric Spiderman stories are not among them. Everything I know about Eddie Brock and Venom comes from Spiderman 3 and various television versions–mostly Spectacular Spiderman (which is the best Spiderman cartoon, and I will hear no other opinion). So I’m looking at this from the POV of someone who is only passingly familiar with the character. With that in mind, I am thoroughly underwhelmed, not as a funny books fan but as someone who likes film.

I don’t want to knock it strictly for being a Sony property. Yeah, Sony made the Emoji Movie and Smurfs. And Flatliners. And Peter Rabbit looks really awful . . . BUT Baby Driver and Blade Runner 2049 are both Sony properties, and the collective quality of those two films alone could possibly make up for . . . literally everything else. “The Sony logo is not an automatic strike against a movie,” she said, trying to be optimistic. Even if I put my pessimism about the Sony brand on the backburner, though, this does not bode well.

How the hell is this movie going to work when the actually recognizable character–Spiderman–is, in all likelihood, not going to show up. He may not even be mentioned. Comic book fans know who Venom is. I know who Venom is because of a short-lived animated series that featured him for a few episodes on the back-end. As much as you’d like to think that Marvel making blockbuster films means that there are more comic nerds–that is not the case. People like movies. Most people know Venom as the third-tier villain who showed up in the last half of the last act of the worst Spiderman movie. That character cannot carry a film on his own, especially given the context that any entities that could ground Venom in a recognizable universe–Spiderman or other villains in his rogue’s gallery–probably aren’t going to be there because Sony doesn’t have the rights to them.

I know what you’re going to say: Marvel made Guardians of the Galaxy, and that was a bunch of utterly unknown comic characters being given a film that wasn’t grounded very well within the Marvel universe until future installments. But Sony isn’t Marvel Studios. More importantly, Sony doesn’t have James Gunn writing its scripts. And this teaser trailer does nothing but confirm my preconceived notion that this is gonna suck.  When the only thing people seem to care about is making an unrelated meme out of a two-second clip from the trailer, you fail. You fail, Sony. Let’s go through it point by point, shall we? Watch along here.


  • That looked like cut Flatliners footage. Why are blue-and-red strobe lights in a medical setting a weirdly specific visual this studio does?


  • So this is in San Fran, not New York, making it even less likely that He Who Shall Not Be Mentioned will who up.


  • LOL. Tom Hardy looks so fucking confused. “Whose ominously narrating at me!”


  • So the alien is caught by a bunch of evil white coats, meaning that this is likely a different cannon from the films we’ve seen previously. That’s fine by me.


  • I don’t remember the alien giving people Chronicle powers, but okay. That’s what we’re doing, I guess.


  • MORE Chronicle powers. Did Venom have telekinesis in the comics, and that was just never translated into any other media iteration of him? Tell me, nerds.


  • Yes, the meme face. 1:16 is me when I– oh, whatever, you’ve seen it done.


  • Upon further viewing, you see Tom Hardy’s veins get all weird and maybe the beginnings of a little baby alien tendril by his neck. This is all we see of the titular Venom in this teaser trailer.


  • That ominous narration was really poorly written. “We all have our demons.” It’s an alien, ya silly goose. Hopefully it was only for the trailer.


  •  Gonna be totally honest here, guys. That cool Venom logo looks like Haunter. The Pokemon. First connection my brain made.


  •  V . . . Somebody should tell the marketing team that Venom is not a distinct or famous enough character to go marketing shit based off of one letter/symbol. As I said, the logo looks like a Pokemon, and the V just makes me think of V for Vendetta. Neither of those things help in making me remember or want to see this movie.



I don’t get it, guys. This doesn’t look like a superhero/comic book movie. I’m not complaining about that on principle. Hell, my favorite Marvel film is Spiderman Homecoming, and that’s because it’s pretty much a John Hughes high school comedy with spandex sometimes. I’m burnt out on comic book movies. If this doesn’t want to be a comic book movie, that works for me. The problem is that the only way this is going to get asses in seats is if it makes it clear that it takes place in the Spiderverse, and it doesn’t do that. It doesn’t do much of anything really. This looks like a generic movie that would come out back when Chronicle was first making the rounds.

This looks like Fant4stic.

I think Tom Hardy filmed a vague sci-fi thriller for Sony like 12 years ago before he was famous, and some intern took the footage off a dusty shelf somewhere, and they just decided to re-cut it into a Venom movie because that same intern heard pray tell that someone kinda wanting a Venom movie once. I think they’re trying to make it seem like a horror movie. It even has an October release date. But if you’re going to market it on the body horror, you should . . . market it on the body horror. Once again, the only thing that intrigued viewers in this trailer was a meme-able facial expression. The whole “make it mysterious to keep ’em guessing” tactic doesn’t work when the “mysterious” footage we’re shown makes your movie look like a spliced together fan trailer that some 16-year-old made after hearing that Tom Hardy was a possible casting choice for Eddie Brock.

I love Tom Hardy. He’s one of my favorite actors. If you’d told me that he was cast in a Venom movie, I’d think it was good casting. Go watch Bronson to see how batshit scary Hardy can be. This movie, though . . . it doesn’t look promising. Everything about it has the marks of a production studio snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. You have Tom Hardy. You have major studio money. You have a cool character. You have the Marvel logo, technically. And yet they manage.

I guess we’ll just have to wait for the real trailer to see if the future looks a little brighter.

A Very Belated Blade Runner 2049 Review

Background! The original Blade Runner was released in 1982 and directed by Ridley Scott, based incredibly loosely off the Philip K. Dick book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It flopped in the box office at the time but quickly gained a cult status as one of the defacto–if not the defacto–cyberpunk films, popularizing the cyberpunk=crime noir aesthetic and inspiring other great works like Cowboy Beebob, Ghost in the Shell, and Ergo Proxy. If you’re wondering why those are all anime, it’s because Japan loves the shit out of its Blade Runner.

Blade Runner 2049 is the much delayed sequel, directed by the Frenchest man on the face of the planet, Denis Villenueve. It is a direct sequel, not remake or reboot, continuing 30 years after the end of the original story. So how is it?


I was very wary about this film when it was first getting hyped up. The current Hollywood scene is one very lacking in new ideas. I know that. You know that. Everyone knows that. In particular, it’s a Hollywood that inexplicably loves bringing back beloved cult classic 80s films and utterly ruining them in order to make a quick cash-grab off of a recognizable name: Terminator, Robocob, Ghostbusters, Total Recall, The Thing, every single slasher movie ever, the list goes on and on. In addition to that, talk of a Blade Runner sequel and the development hell it’s gone through for the past 30 years didn’t inspire much confidence. So I think I can be forgiven for not having very high expectations for 2049.
That wariness wasn’t me being overly nostalgic. I’m actually far more familiar with the things inspired by Blade Runner than I am with the OG film. I saw it for the first time just a few years ago and recently re-watched it to prep for 2049. And, from the perspective of someone who isn’t all that attached to the first movie, I kinda like the sequel more. Commence your boos and jeers and claims of movie nerd blasphemy. That’s not to say that I don’t like Blade Runner. I think it’s a great movie with great set design and music and atmosphere. It created what is, to this day, one of the realest-feeling shitty cyberpunk futures out there. And I think Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy continuation that improves upon the flaws of the original in many ways. It is a film made by people who wanted to do right by the original. You can accuse it of being part of an annoying trend, and you can accuse it of being an attempted cash grab, and you’d likely be correct. But you can’t accuse it of being soulless.

The Blade Runner films are interesting because they run in almost direct contrast to the Philip K. Dick book they’re “based off of.” In the books, replicants were essentially a metaphor for human selfishness and lack of empathy. Ridley Scott, however, cast them as sympathetic creatures, ones that represented the human capacity for change and growing empathy and awareness. So yeah, the exact opposite. That trend continues in 2049,  especially with the introduction of a replicant revolution, something Dick wasn’t much of a fan of as a concept. The main character of 2049 is a confirmed replicant this time around and a very sympathetic one. Not to mention a far better blade runner than Rick “gets his ass kicked by almost every suspect he meets” Deckard.
What made the first film so good is what makes this one so good: the atmosphere and world building. And, holy fuck, is it a sad world being built. 2049 does a lot to expand upon the setting, something aided quite a lot by current-generation CGI. It’s all very grimy and alternatively neon-saturated or washed-out, depending on what kind of depressing it’s gunning for at the moment.
Many people are saying it’s too long, which is a perfectly valid complaint. It’s almost three hours and, save for a few action scenes in act three, very slowly paced, like the original. Most of the stuff that happens in the first hour doesn’t need to be there or be so drawn out, from a strictly practical standpoint. I understand people being turned off by it. Personally, though, I don’t mind it being 2 hours and 45 minutes long: That gives me more time to see this world and the incredibly sad interpersonal interactions of the people in it. I know that sounds a bit odd, but the thing that kept me invested during the techincally-unnecessary parts was the near-constant growing sense of how sad this really is.
Like the main character Officer K’s relationship with his mass produced, holographic girlfriend Joi, for instance. If you think about that relationship for more than two seconds, it’ll make you more depressed at Officer K’s station in life. Either the LAPD gave him a holo-girlfriend because they knew he was lonely, but then proceeded to still treat him like someone less-than-a-person who was beyond such emotions. Or he bought himself a holo-girlfriend because he was so lonely, with the people around him still treating him like he has no real emotions or need for positive interaction even after they know that he felt compelled to find himself a companion explicitly made to love you. Then there’s the bag-o’-worms concerning whether or not Joi’s love for him means anything at all, with a lot of the seemingly genuine acts of affection and support that could possibly indicate sentience are later shown to be basic parts of her programming. And that’s just one relationship. That’s not even touching upon K’s interactions with his boss, or with Deckard, both of which also have the same underlying melancholy nature to them. Rather fitting for a sequel to a film that was all about making really sad, existential implications about how and why things are the way they are.
If I had any complaint about this film, it would be that the villains are a bit confusing. Niander Wallace is such a stereotypical, over-the-top bad guy that he reminds me of a 1960s James Bond villain, and I can’t determine if that’s intentional or not. If it is intentional, I’m not sure why. That’s not to say Leto does a bad job. His acting is very good. But in a film of toned-down performances and downplayed, atmospheric cues, his evil villain lair and sweeping, grandiose monologues about how he’s God and stuff just seem like they’re out of a different movie entirely. Then there’s Luv, who is yet another example of me just not being sure if the direction her character was taken in was intentional or not. She’s supposed to be this completely subservient, empty shell of a robot, but she sure as fuck seems like she has emotions, and doesn’t do what she’s told to do on multiple occasions. In her case, though, I’m inclined to believe that the discrepancies were intentional and left intentionally ambiguous. It is Blade Runner, after all. Maybe I just don’t like ambiguity. Who knows?

In short, Blade Runner 2049 is a beautifully shot and acted film that expertly continues the themes and existential musing of the first movie while expanding the universe in which the stories take place. Everything but the last 30 seconds is pretty bleak, and you shouldn’t sit down to watch this unless you’re prepared for a long haul, but I think it’s worth the time it takes.You may not like this movie as much as me if you’re not a sucker for cyberpunk and transhumanist themes, but I’m still going to recommend it to you.
I’m mad that this didn’t get the box office return that it deserves, but, then again, the first Blade Runner was a flop too, and that didn’t stop it from getting its place in the cinematic landscape, so I’m optimistic on that point.
I’m seeing it in theaters a second time before it moves on, if that’s any indication of how much I enjoyed it. I’m giving it a 9/10. Give it your money while you still can, you dicks! This is why we can’t have nice things.

IT Review (aka A Good Stephen King Adaptation?!)

Hey, guys! I’m just back from a matinee showing of IT (2017), and it was a pretty solid film. After my round of shitty Netflix movies, a genuinely good film was a much appreciated change of pace. Seeing the fresh Rotten Tomatoes score encouraged me that this movie wouldn’t be a total train wreck before I went in to see it; but the actual video reviews I saw were very mixed, some loving it to death and some hating it and some thinking Stranger Things was better. So what do I think?

Overall, this is a good film, but it has some very apparent flaws. I understand why those flaws may be too much for some people to recommend it to others, but I don’t personally think they damn the movie too horribly. Some of them are flaws of film making, and some of them are flaws that come with accurately adapting a flawed work. If you go back and watch my impressions of the official trailer, pretty much all of my hopes and fears were accurate. Go me! In short: The camaraderie among the kids is what sells this movie, and the clown is what drags it down.

I fucking love the kids in the movie. Some of them are given way more to do than others (the characters of Mike and Stan kind of get shafted as far as screentime goes), but the Losers as a group were the best part of IT, hands down. They aren’t stupid horror movie fodder that you only want to see die. You don’t want anything to happen to these kids, and it’s not just because they’re children, it’s because they’re genuinely likable children played by genuinely good actors who sell their distinctly written characters very well. I was worried about the child acting component of this film because child acting usually isn’t the best, if you recall, but you don’t have to worry about that. They all range from good to great here. I’d say the actor for Mike is the “worst,” but that’s really only because he didn’t have much screentime in general, not because his actor turned in a bad performance. I liked them enough to feel really sad that a lot of them die in Chapter 2. Spoilers!

The kids are so good in this film that they make me like the rest of the movie less. Because, in the end of the day, this is a coming of age story mixed with an Eldrich Abomination horror tale about a killer clown eating a bunch of fuckers . . . and I would honestly rather see a normal coming of age story centered around this group of friends with varying degrees of awful home lives. The scenes where the kids are just hanging out, talking, and dealing with psychotic 80s bullies tended to be far more intriguing than any time the killer clown popped up. That’s not to say I wasn’t invested in the horror story. But I was invested because the characters being affected by the horror elements were ones I cared about, not because the horror elements themselves were overly effective.

Bad CGI is a huuuuuuuuge part of that. I saw the IT miniseries. I know you can give a killer clown lots of pointy teeth without PS2-level CGI effects fucking it up. The scene where a giant version of the clown comes out of the projector screen looked particularly awful in terms of the CG (which is disappointing, because everything leading up to that point was actually creepy). But, as a general rule, the CGI on Pennywise the Dancing clown is utter shite. They even made some of the balloons with computer effects. Really? You couldn’t get a physical balloon? They cost five cents at the party store, and you still feel the need to just add them in post?

The opening scene where Georgie gets killed by a clown in the stormdrain sets the tone because it’s a bunch of oddly funny stuff coming right before brutal physical and psychological violence against children. And that’s pretty much this entire film. The Scooby Doo haunted house scene where Bill, Eddie, and Richie go investigate the Monster House is a good scene because it plays that up. Pennywise pretty much spends that entire scene pranking Richie with really psychologically scaring things like showing him his own ‘Missing’ poster or a dummy of his own corpse in a coffin surrounded by creepy clown dolls. He also spends the entire time physically harming Eddie, making him fall through the floor/ceiling, breaking his arm, and almost eating him. It also features funnily labeled doors and one of the few instances of clown CGI that didn’t look horrible when Pennywise contorts himself out of an old refrigerator.

IT works best when it has a sense of humor about itself, which is odd seeing as how it’s a movie about kids dying awfully, but that’s how it turned out. It actually reminds me a lot of The Goonies or a 1980s Spielberg film (or Stranger Things, since it’s inevitably going to be mentioned)–kids on bikes in genuine danger that is mitigated by a general sense of adventure that permeates the tone. These kids are coming of age and learning to be strong and independent and building unbreakable bonds of friendship on a fun adventure romp to not be murdered by a killer clown that tore a seven-year-old’s arm off in the first five minutes! Fun!

I guess I should talk about Pennywise specifically, now. Ugh. He’s not very scary. And, to be fair, there are plenty of times in this film that play up the fact that he’s a clown wherein he’s clearly supposed to be more goofy and gangly than intimidating. That’s fine. It’s just that the scenes where he’s supposed to be scary are also really goofy, and I don’t think that’s what they were going for. The editing does this weird blur-effect on him every time he rushes someone/the camera, and it just looks silly. The basement scene where he comes out of the water and attacks Bill actually made me laugh because it just looks like he seizes out and trips on the stairs before faceplanting. That’s why you shouldn’t shake your body so much when you’re running after someone, dude, you can’t see where you feet are going. I don’t think that’s what you were going for, movie.

Pennywise is most effective when he’s standing around, not moving, and not talking.  He’s scary because those are prime “clowns do not go there” shots, and they look really uncanny. I don’t necessarily want to say that he isn’t effective when he talks. The few scenes he gets to talk work well at getting you to thoroughly dislike him as the villain of the picture. Not because he’s scary or intimidating or strikes the fear of death and existential dread into you or anything. Just because he’s an asshole. He’s not scary, he’s just a dick. He’s pretty much depicted as that one guy who still bullies thirteen-year-olds even though he’s in community college. You just want to tell him to piss the fuck off because he’s too old to be picking on little kids. So if petty school-yard bullying is what you want out of your personification of all evil, child-eating clown, I guess this Pennywise will work for you.

I liked Tim Curry’s performance better. And, no, the miniseries is not good. It’s long and poorly acted had a budget of three cents. Tim Curry’s Pennywise was not scary. The only scary version of Pennywise is the one from the novel, in my opinion. To be fair to this film and the miniseries, IT is scary in the novel because prose allow far more context that a visual medium just cannot realistically provide. The novel starts out with a description of all the bad stuff that’s ever happened in this area, attributing it to some endless, great evil; and it’s only then that we see Georgie and the clown in the sewer. At that point, as a reader, you’re like, “Oh, shit, this horrible, never-ending evil is still here and it looks like a clown!? Fuck.”

Tim Curry’s IT was closer to the truly frightening IT of the novel in that book IT was all about corrupting good things. IT took the form of a clown because IT liked co-opting the image of something that was supposed to be the personification of happy, joyful, silliness and using it to do evil things. IT liked being affable to IT’s victims because pulling the rug out from under them by betraying their trust was this microcosm of their innocence and faith in the goodness of the world being destroyed in a single instant. That’s what IT was all about. Having Pennywise be creepy from the get-go is scarier on a surface level, yes, but the theme of the story is a loss of innocence and children figuring out that what they thought was good in the world and what they thought could be trusted couldn’t be. Pennywise was supposed to reflect that theme, and a stereotypical, obviously evil clown doesn’t do that. Now Pennywise is just some scary monster disconnected from the theme of the story. End of rant.

Also, these kids need to stop having fucking Scooby Doo syndrome. Stop splitting up! It’s kinda implied that Pennywise is hypnotizing them somehow, but if that’s the case it’s not gotten across. For the most part, it just looks like a bunch of kids who know damn well to stick together, but just don’t. It works the same way every time too! Group of children -> one of them sees something in their peripheral or hears a creepy, evil whisper off to the side somewhere -> that kid breaks off from the group without anyone noticing or caring -> the kid who is now alone almost gets the fuck eaten out of them. Stop it! It happens twice in the span of five minutes. You should know better.

I had a few other smaller complaints that stem from it being a Stephen King adaptation so therefore cannot be blamed solely on this film. The bullies are one-dimensional psychopaths who outright try to kill and physically torture other children. What kind of bullies did Stephen King have as a kid for “utterly insane murderer” to be his default bully character? If Derry, Main is such an awful place with an astronomically high murder and missing child rate, why is it still a vibrant, populated area with people moving to it? It’s not like it’s a city or anything where that would be understandable–it just seems like an inexplicably heavily populated suburb. I didn’t get that in the book, and I don’t get that here. All of the people are assholes, and I mean all of them. They don’t even get a helpful librarian or concerned passerby. Nope, as per the usual Stephen King fare, everyone who is not one of the main characters is an unpleasant dick.

A few more things I liked: the cinematography is beautiful, as I’ve stated multiple times.

The lighting is fantastic.

This is one of the few examples of a love triangle (Bill/Beverly/Ben) that I actually thought was done well and actually seemed sweet.

I like how the fat kid’s actually fat. I know that sounds like a weird thing to point out, but Hollywood has a tendency to insist that certain characters are fat or unattractive when they really aren’t. So kudos on getting an actual fat kid to play a fat kid.

I appreciated the lack of tweenage sewer orgies. If you’ve read the book, you know. If not–Bev has sex with all the boys while they’re freaking out in a sewer, and it was unnecessary in the book (in my opinion) and would have been utterly unjustifiable in the movie.

On that very awkward note, I end this review of IT (2017). I think it’s one of the better Stephen King films, and it certainly beats the miniseries in terms of production quality even though this new Pennywise is nowhere near as iconic as the Tim Curry version. I’m not sure how I feel about Chapter 2 coming up in 2019. As I’ve made pretty clear, the kids and their actors were what made this movie, and they’re not going to be kids and they’re going to have new actors for the All Grown Up! portion of the IT story. I guess we’ll just have to see.

IT (2017) gets a B– from me: above average, but still lacking in many respects.

What Happened to Monday? (aka What Happened to Good SciFi?)

What Happened to Monday? is a science fiction film found on Netflix, and it is . . . frustrating. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to go with: frustrating. It is directed by Tommy Wirkola and stars Noomi Rapace. In the future depicted in this film, overpopulation has screwed the planet, leading to a very strictly enforced one-child policy. Rapace plays the “dual” role of seven identical sisters who have taken up the collective role of one woman and who have gone through great lengths to ensure that no one will catch onto that fact. Also if they get caught, they’ll be cryogenically frozen. The remaining six sisters must figure out what the hell is going on after one of them disappears. Plot summary: done.

This movie intrigued me with its eye-catching title and trailer/summary, which is why I watched it in the first place. But, boy did it get trying after a while. Rapace is definitely trying to make the best out of a poor script, but that doesn’t save anything. What Happened to Monday? is a prime example of someone with a genuinely cool idea for a scifi dystopia . . . and little else by the way of things like plot and characters.

There are seven sisters in this movie, and that is too much. It would be too much for a good film, with a good script. There’s just not enough time to develop that many people in the span of less than 2 hours, and even less time to get us to care about them. And we are very much supposed to care about them. Sorry, movie, I don’t. Spoilers, by the way. Lots of spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Each sister is named after the day of the week that they are allowed to go outside. Monday is allowed to leave their apartment on Mondays, etc. That’s cool. I’ve always liked day-of-the-week names, but that’s the most interesting thing about them, collectively. This film’s character writing is genuinely awful: Out of the seven sisters, two of them get actual characterization, and the other five are defined solely by what visual stereotype they are. I appreciate that to a point. Show don’t tell is important, it usually makes things better. But “showing” doesn’t help when the only reason you don’t have to “tell” is that everything is so cliche and stereotypical in a visual sense that telling isn’t even needed.

And you can tell that they were leaning really heavily on this, because the less visually distinctive a character’s respective stereotype is, the less time they survive in this movie. If they aren’t immediately identifiable as a certain character cliche, then they have to be gotten rid of. Here are the characters in this movie: bottle-blonde party girl who wears flirtatious pink clothes, nerdy girl with bad posture who wears hoodies with too-long sleeves and glasses, Ripley rip-off with sweat stained tanktop and messy hair, hippie girl with a few braids in her dyed-red hair, and demure girl who wears grandma-ish clothes. The hippie one and the demure one aren’t immediately identifiable as those cliches upon first glance, so they go first, leaving the ones with far more obvious cliches to take the lead. The sister who is essentially the main character and therefore given actual personality traits, Thursday, is not as obviously cliched in a physical/visual sense, but you can tell the second she opens her mouth that she’s the stereotypical rebellious dystopia protagonist who wants adventure in the great, wide somewhere.

That leaves Monday, the titular character, whose twist is ruined by this aforementioned set-up of poor writing. She gets characterization outside of being a visual stereotype, so you know when she disappears, she’s not really gone. Of course she’s not–she’s an actual character among this sea of visually recognizable short-hands for personality. They wouldn’t get rid of her. And since the actual personality they give her is one vaguely antagonistic towards her siblings, guess who turns out to be the main bad guy? “Oh, such a shock!” said no one who watched this. It would actually be a genuine and surprising plot twist if the script didn’t shoot itself in the foot by seeing it fit to only give personality to the most important characters. Instead, they decided that it had to be seven sisters instead of five or four, because some of them needed to be cannon fodder with as much personality as a Star Trek red shirt.

And that’s not even the worst non-twist in this film. It at least took me a few scenes to piece together that Monday was probably the main bad guy of the story. But there is one plot point that is so fucking obvious, that the second it was mentioned, I knew it was going to be a “twist.” Someone who doesn’t know what fiction is could tell where this particular plot point is going. It’s the cyrogenic freezing thing: They don’t freeze you if you’re a sibling who gets caught, they just euthanize you. If that was something you already assumed this totalitarian government did as soon as you read the plot “dystopian future with strict one-child policy,” congratulations, you have an IQ over 1.

I wouldn’t mind this “twist” being in the movie, except for the fact that the entire last act depends on this shocking revelation as a plot point, and I cannot understand for the life of me how these script writers thought anyone would find this “twist” surprising. I cannot understand for the life of me how anyone within the universe of this film found this surprising.

That is an excellent lead-in to my second-largest gripe with this film behind the character writing: this world makes no sense, and the plot does not lend itself to the world shown to us. It’s a lot of little things that are going to seem like nitpicks and unimportant minutia. But this is scifi–a genre utterly dependent upon making a setting that is internally believable. You are creating a world that doesn’t exist, and therefore need to establish it in the mind of the audience as a real place with real nuances and real impacts of whatever dystopian edict you’ve gone with. The dystopian edict this time around is: Overpopulation is bad, everybody only gets one kid.

The world shown here does not reflect that dystopian edict at all. This edict has apparently had no effect on the culture of things or how people talk about stuff like marriage and family planning, or how people view things philosophically. I’ll just give you a few examples:

In the world of Inception, high-power businessmen can undergo training to protect their subconscious from people invading their dreams. That’s not something with huge attention drawn to it, but it’s a thing they can do, because that is a threat they have in the world of Inception.

In Equilibrium, everything looks like the inside of an Apple store, because why wouldn’t it when your populace has no capacity or need for creativity? It’s not called attention to, that’s just how things look.

In Brave New World, their romantic comedies are about people making a commitment to fucking around because, in that world, romantic/sexual monogamy is bad. It’s a detail that fleshes out that world more.

In Gattaca, there’s a two-second scene of a woman checking her potential boyfriend’s genetics at a parlor, showing that these “Check Your Partner’s Genetic Code” places exist. And why wouldn’t they, with the society that is set up?

Those are examples of world building. They’re examples of a writer asking the question “What small things about society would be different if this dystopia I have in mind was the reality?” and then putting those little hints and small touches in their work. What Happened to Monday? has nothing like that. There are no small touches that make this world feel real, nothing that makes it seem like the one-child policy had any tangible impact on anything this society does. Everything that happens, everything that is shown, is “because plot.” The one instance I can think of that came close to saying something about the goings-on of this world was a scene where a bunch of people in a shanty town help one of the characters escape from the cops. There’s the implication that the government, or at least its law enforcement officials, don’t treat the poor very well. That’s is as far as world building goes in this film.

And, as the cherry on top of the sundae, this dystopia doesn’t even make sense.

Why do their dossiers have “Only Child” on them in big, bold letters? That’s totally a nitpick, but in a world where everyone is, by necessity, an only child, why is that specification needed? If they aren’t an only child, they’re not going to be walking around with a pop-up profile saying that they’re a sibling because that’s a death sentence, and if they had a sibling before but don’t now, they’re still an only child. That is a pointless feature only there because the writers apparently thought the audience was too stupid to understand what a one-child policy is.

Why is overpopulation and multiple births even an issue when the ending shows us that this society has fully functioning, readily available artificial wombs? If you’re going to be a dystopia hell-bent on population control, why don’t you just take people’s eggs and sperm, save them for a rainy day, and if a couple wants to have a kid, they go in and ask the Child Allocation Bureau to put their genetic material together in an artificial womb; and if the end result is more than one fertilized egg, get rid of the ones you don’t want and only keep one. They would have total control over that situation; they would stop the whole “too many septuplets are being born” problem without forcing anyone to have an abortion, presumably. Why don’t they do that? They’re acting like there’s no other way to deal with the overpopulation issue when it literally stares you right in the goddamn face at the end of this movie. You’re telling me the society that was apparently okay with a one-child policy and dragging full grown adults and children away to be frozen “for a better time” would balk at the idea of test-tube babies?

This plot itself also doesn’t make sense in the context of the world provided: The Big Bad in charge of the Child Allocation Bureau gets outsed in the end because the populace figured out she killed siblings. It’s clearly not something she wants getting out. So what’s the plot of this movie again? Oh yeah, the Big Bad deciding to kill the main set of siblings in the most noticeable, high-profile, and violent ways possible, all while apparently sanctioning the murder of any random civilian who knows nothing and has nothing to do with anything along the way. How does openly and violently killing these people with no regard for subtlety or secrecy, and leaving a blood and property damage trail the size of fucking Kansas, going to make the CAB look good again?

Is there a reason you’re sending violent mercenaries who kill any civilian who looks at them the wrong way to go apprehend six young women who you could have easily arrested the normal way, as you successfully did with the first two? If the reason is “we wouldn’t have an exciting action movie if we did that,” you fail, movie.

You fail.

This movie’s interesting premise was squandered by poor execution and a plot with little thought put into its emotional impact or logical sense. Rapace is trying her best to breathe life into these stereotypical cardboard cut-out characters, and she has some fun with their different styles. But she couldn’t save a shit script with a not-big-enough production budget.

It gets a 4/10 from me.



Where the Hell is that Death Note Review?!

Yeah . . . I dropped the ball on this one. YourMovieSucks and BlackCriticGuy’s respective rants on the topic pretty much mirror my own. Go watch those if you want in-depth ranting.

It was bad. It was the opposite of good. You named the main character Light Turner, and when this parody existed for years before your project was even greenlit you should have know better, movie. You should have known better.

Netflix’s Death Note would be a relatively poor adaptation even if it was a genuinely good movie. There are plenty of films that I like–even love–that are piss poor adaptations of original source material. The Shining is a good example. There are movies that I love with major flaws stemming from it being too loyal of an adaptation to the source material–No Country for Old Men, for instance.  The point I’m trying to make is that how well something follows the original source material is not an indication of quality.

I wanted to get that out of the way now, because Death Note (2017) is yet another example of What’s-the-Point? Syndrome. It adds nothing new, nothing of substance, and all of its major flaws are flaws not found in the anime. In fact, it adds flaws and makes certain elements worse. So what is the point of it existing if it doesn’t do anything interesting and there’s something out there that did this story better? Just go watch the anime! It’s the normiest anime this side of Cowboy Beebop–watching it won’t make you a weeb.

I need to stop looking forward to anime movies. I think that’s my issue. I was tentatively looking forward to this film on account of the director having made You’re Next, which is a very flawed but interesting subversion of home invasion horror movies. The trailers made it seem like he was trying to get the tone and atmosphere right for this adaptation.

To begin with, it seemed hopeful. The opening moments reminded me a lot of Donnie Darko, which is one of my favorite movies. The only issue is that Donnie Darko is a slow-paced and cerebral character study that takes the time to really analyze the unhinged mentality of the protagonist as a means of making the audience question the nature of reality and sanity, and Death Note (2017) . . . does not do those things. But hey, the opening is a bunch ominous, slow-mo sweeping shots played out to mood-setting 80s music! The entire film is also pretty much trying to be Heathers, another one of my all time favorite movies, except this time Veronica and JD found a book that murders people. And don’t try to be Heathers, movie. No one asked for another Heathers. We hardly asked for another Death Note, and you didn’t even do that one right. You should really avoid invoking memories of other, better films in your shitty one.

What are the good things about this movie? I like the aesthetic–there are interesting shots and angles and editing. The lighting is nice and atmospheric. The color pallet works for the general tone–it even has a bit of the stark red/blue symbolism going on as an homage to the anime’s style. Ryuk looks infinitely better than he does in any of the Japanese live action films, and he’s also acted very well. Darius from Atlanta is trying his best. The gore didn’t look overly cheap, for the most part. The 80s music soundtrack was random; but I like 80s music, sure, why not? That’s about it, as far as good things go.

As for the shitty elements:

1.) I have not seen worse pacing in a movie since Fant4stic. No joke, no exaggeration. Just like that abominable train wreck, Death Note takes things that should have essentially been the crux of the entire movie and reduces them to rushed montages with a voice over explaining what’s going on.

2.) The tone is all over the place. You get the impression that it wants to be this dark, gritty Donnie Darko-style character study of Light’s growing psychosis. But it also wants to have over-the-top Final Destination-style death scenes. And also be a black comedy with a bumbling idiot main character doing bad things. And also be a 90s action movie with a lose-cannon cop who don’t play by the rules. Also a YA supernatural romance story. Hey, remember when we were supposed to be watching Death Note? I sure don’t.

I think that the director heard the Heathers line: “My teenage angst bullshit has a body count,” and decided to make a campy black comedy about two stupid and immature teenagers killing people because they’re stupid and immature. What made him think that the Death Note franchise would be the place to situate that campy black comedy is anyone’s guess. But I think that’s what he was going for, because there’s lots of scenes and awkward dialogue that’re clearly supposed to be funny.

3.) Speaking of horrible dialogue–the script is really bad. There is one scene in the first ten minutes that made me cringe while I watched it because the clunky exposition levels were off the charts. The aforementioned montage where Light becomes Kira also has some of the worst voice over dialogue I’ve ever heard. You know, when Light in the anime said “most people are sheep,” he was immediately called pretentious and told to get off his high horse. But leave it to Death Note (2017) to take that line and play it for super serious, yo. It’s just so deep and stuff.

4.) That leads in perfectly to the main problem this movie has: the characters. Holy shit these characters. A good number of my problems with them come from an adaptation stand-point. Let it be known that Light Turner is a bitch and a moron who is so pathetic that he let’s himself get led around by the dick by a girl more unappealing than Bella fucking Swan, and who is so drastically unintelligent that it’s a wonder he didn’t saunter onto the first crime scene of the movie bragging to the cops about how he killed somebody. He’s the main source of the weird, confusing “bumbling, idiotic sociopathy is supposed to be funny,” moments.

L starts out fine but presumably got lobotomized half-way through the movie, turning into an emotional, impulsive idiot who went from being able to deduce the exact city where Kira was located and pinpointing the area where he lived to being unable to figure out basic, obvious murder plots thought up by an idiotic seventeen year old and his sociopath girlfriend. And Mia/Misa is a try-hard edgelord who would have worked wonderfully if she was played like one of the goths from South Park who is, in reality, just as shallow and stupid as the people she makes fun of. She’s not, though.

That’s really my main issue–the characters. And in comparison to how they were in the anime and manga, there is no getting around how much this film falls short in that department. I’m not inherently against character changes. I understand the changes they made here. I think they could have been executed well. The problem is that they weren’t.

Firstly, Light is an idiot in this movie. Am I the only one who is insulted by the idea that the “American” version of one of the most intelligent characters in modern fiction is depicted as a goddamn moron? Everything he does is ill-advised, at best. You have Light Yagami, who once spent half a fucking manga issue going into detail about the ridiculously elaborate security measures he’d taken to ensure the Death Note doesn’t get discovered, who came up with scheme after scheme to make sure that anyone who even came close to figuring out his identity died in a way that couldn’t be traced back to him. Then you have this poor facsimile of him in Light Turner, who almost exclusively kills people who can be directly traced back to him, does nothing to keep the Death Note secure, and who immediately reveals his identity as a Death Note user to the first hot chick who gives him a half-chub in gym class. I’m not exaggerating. Here is the conversation.

Light: Hey, are you sad that guy died?

Mia: No. I’m sad I didn’t see that guy die, though.

Light: I killed him! This is how I killed him! It’s a magic notebook. I’ll show you how it works and everything. Are we dating now?

Fucking moron.

And then there’s Mia, the most infuriating insufferable character I’ve seen in anything in a long time. Say what you want about Misa Amane from the anime. I know lots of people find her annoying. I get it. At least there was some level of intrigue with her. At least there was some originality in her characterization. She was a girl with a violent and tragic past who latched onto Kira as a concept and idealized him so much that she was willing to put up with any amount of abuse from him, no matter how obvious or sadistic. Even more interestingly, she was, in general terms, on the same level as him: Yeah, he was smarter, but she had a Death Note, more powers and ways to use it than him, and an unpredictable craziness. That power dynamic was intriguing.

Meanwhile, Mia Sutton is a half-assed Ramona Flowers clone written by someone who didn’t seem to realize that Ramona Flowers was supposed to be a hypocritical bitch too aloof for her own good. I want to say she’s supposed to be this film’s version of Misa, but it honestly seems like the character roles got reversed here. Light is now the hopelessly enamored idiot, and Mia is the sociopathic murderer who will kill anyone who annoys her.

That could have been cool. They could have played up the level of manipulation that was in the anime, where it’s the girl manipulating the emotions of the guy to achieve her sadistic end goals, but nope. I think they’re both supposed to genuinely like each other even though he’s an awkward spaz with no charm whatsoever and she’s a sociopath who contradicts everything he says. This movie took an interesting character relationship built around one manipulative person taking advantage of another’s unconditional love and turned it into another Bonnie and Clyde, criminals in lurv wannabe scenario, which has been done to death.

This movie is bad. If it had been released in theaters, it would have flopped hard. Even if you don’t compare it to the anime, the characters are obnoxious and the plot makes no sense all on its own. And when you do compare it to the anime, it makes you want to kill yourself. It gets a 2/10 because Light Turner screaming like a little girl is funny. The end.

God, you might as well get Michael fucking Bay to direct a Cowboy Beebop movie at this point.

Initial Thoughts on HBO’s “Confederate”

Hey, guys! This will be a quick rundown of what I think about the pseudo-controversy around HBO’s proposed upcoming project Confederate. As for what I think on the topic, here’s my ten cents. (My two cents is free. A nuisance, who sent? You sent for me?)

As you may or may not know, Game of Thrones is winding down, and the showrunners of that television behemoth need something to follow it up with. So writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, pitched a new idea to HBO to put into production once GoT runs its course–a show called Confederate in which the Civil War wasn’t overly productive on the social change front and slavery still exists into the current year. Dun dun duuuuuun.

I’m going to throw myself on the mercy of the nerd community right now and admit that I have zero interest in Game of Thrones. I thought the show was historical fiction for quite a while because I paid so little attention to it that I didn’t even know that dragons and snow zombies were a thing. So when I defend the Game of Thrones showrunners, don’t go thinking it’s because I’m a fangirl who thinks they can do nothing wrong.

From what I can glean from articles and relevant Tweet compilations, people seem to be up in arms because they don’t understand the concept of speculative fiction, and being confronted with something they don’t understand makes them angry. A lot of people are convinced that this is racist for incredibly confusing and not overly thought out reasons. Trump is president, and racists still exist in places, therefore . . . this new show promotes white supremacy, I guess . . .

. . .


* * *

HBO, to its credit, hasn’t backed down. Maybe Confederate will get forwarded past pre-production, maybe it won’t. But kudos to HBO for not kowtowing to vocal minorities who complain about -isms on the internet every time an artist sneezes in a direction they don’t like. Pro-tip: Don’t apologize to those people. The line they want you to toe is ever-changing, and nothing you can do will be good enough for them to stop making sweeping claims about your moral character.

Here is the statement HBO has released: “We have great respect for the dialogue and concern being expressed around Confederate. We have faith that [writers] Nichelle, Dan, David and Malcolm will approach the subject with care and sensitivity. The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see.”

What? Wait until you see the actual content of something before judging it as a thing that promotes racial supremacy?! Balderdash! My monocle is popping right out of my eye socket, I’m so blown away by such an unprecedented notion!

So yeah, I don’t think this is racist. You can tell this is very knee-jerk outrage because this idea is cliched as fuck. It’s been done to death. There’s a mockumentary, an episode of Sliders, a Twilight Zone episode, multiple speculative fiction books (some of them written by black people, by the way), at least one fake alternative universe history text book. I could go on, but I think you get the point. The backlash is especially odd because of the existence of two other shows: The Man in the High Castle and The Handmaid’s Tale.

The former is an alternative universe speculative fiction story about what would happen if a major war was won by the opposing side, therefore resulting in continued subjugation of an oppressed group. Does that sound at all familiar? Antisemitism is also a problem in the world still. Where were all the people coming out of the woodwork to say that The Man in the High Castle was contributing to real-life racism because it was a what-if show about the Nazis winning World War II? Something tells me that if The Handmaid’s Tale weren’t based off of a popular pre-existing work with a story people are familiar with, it would have also been the victim of knee-jerk outrage because its premise is about a universe where women are the property of men, and sexism is a serious topic that shouldn’t be made light of like this. *Sobs*

This is sadly indicative of the recent tendency of a screeching public to encourage self-censorship of artists with “bad ideas,” with little to no regard for the actual merit of the artist or the work in question.

That being said: I think Confederate sounds like a stupid idea, just on the surface. It’s been done plenty of times before and is now a really derivative and uninspired topic, at least in my opinion. Slavery and the Holocaust are the two most over-utilized historical set pieces on the face of the planet (see also: why I thought The Man in the High Castle was wildly uninteresting after Episode One). Where’s my alternative history, speculative fiction television show about what would happen if the Japanese managed to colonize the fuck out of all of East and South East Asia like they wanted to? I would like a little more variety in the awful, harrowing historical events that we choose to care about and make tons of fiction centered around, is all I’m saying.

Go out and ask a history buff. The ones I’ve talked to have tended to agree that America would have put a stop to slavery whether the Union won the Civil War or not. The general consensus seems to be that, if it hadn’t happened sometime before, the Industrial Revolution would have killed slavery by making it an obsolete and overly expensive social institution to maintain, especially since it was only concentrated in one section of the country. So the idea that pre-Civil War-style African slavery would still exist in the modern day is already a really iffy what-if scenario. That’s the flaw with most of these “What if slavery still existed?” pieces of fiction. They, more often than not, seem more concerned with motifs and moral messages about how destructive racism is and less concerned with creating a universe that makes sense.

I’m not saying they couldn’t make it work, but they’ve definitely got their work cut out for them in regards to coming up with believable excuses as to why things turned out this way. The mockumentary (The Confederate States of America) was flawed because it depicted the “CSA” as a country so consumed by racism and so obsessed with upholding racism and slavery that it didn’t really seem like a functional place. You have to be sold on the idea that chattel slavery still exists in 21st century America before going into it, otherwise you’ll be too hung up on the details. This new show will also have that issue. And if it actually does go through the effort of creating those detail-oriented historical changes to make a believable world, I’d be very interested in watching it. But if it’s just “Everything’s the same, but Omar is a slave now!”, then that sounds hokey and ham-fisted and poorly done.

Confederate is still being conceptualized, so I can’t make any claims about how well or poorly done the historical fiction elements are. I have my hopes that it’ll be good. I like when art turns out to be worth my time, believe it or not.