He Said, She Said: Deets and Geets Newsletter October 2021

Welcome to the Deets and Geets Newsletter: He Said, She Said for October 2021. This month brings mostly spooky content with a bit of relationship drama. Below are the offerings, broken down by streaming service.

APPLE MOVIES

CANDYMAN (2021)

He Said: Continuing our horror movie bingefest of late, we rented the latest entry in the Candyman series. I remember being terrified of the original film as urban legends in general creeped me out and the idea of saying something in the mirror and getting subsequently hemmed up seemed like bad medicine to me. The remake is essentially a slasher film with obvious social commentary, which may be a pro or con depending on what one considers horror. For me, such heavy focus on the social horror and gentrification detracted from the lore and gravitas of the Candyman. Definitely worth a watch and better than many so-called horror movies these days.

She Said: I haven’t seen the original Candyman yet, so I might need to reserve judgment until after that, to understand what was updated or subverted or whatnot.  On its own, I thought it was fine—the premise is definitely horrific and the lore is interesting, but it seemed like something deeper was missing.

HBO MAX

FRIDAY THE 13TH  (1980), FRIDAY THE 13TH Part II (1981), and FRIDAY THE 13TH (Remake / 2009)

He Said of All: Watching the series again after so many years made me realize how much of a hillbilly Jason is. Viewing the early films and the remake through that lens brings a little more clarity to the lore as he’s more of a sadistic, backwoods berserker in a burlap sack rather than the single-minded stalker in a hockey mask he came to be as the series progressed.  If you like slasher movies with gratuitous nudity, and where people die by blade, arrow, axe, machete, brutal melee, or various environmental hazards, I recommend the franchise as Jason is one of most iconic fictional killers. If you like good acting and deep plot lines, however, I do not recommend any of the Fridays ever.

She Said of Friday the 13th (1980): There was a decent twist at the end of this original story setting up the hockey-masked serial-killing Jason, but as might be apparent from my takes on the Halloween movies, I think slasher movies overall are kind of boring.

She Said of Friday the 13th (1981): We get a more proper introduction to Jason in this movie, but still no hockey mask!  It didn’t hold my curiosity well enough to make me watch more in the series, so I opted to skip to the 2009 version.

She Said of Friday the 13th (2009): This retcon takes places decades after the original Friday the 13th.  A group of teen friends visits Camp Crystal Lake , and they all go missing—about a month later, the brother of one of them comes and meets up with another group of teens in search of his sister.  Much slaughter ensues.  It was cool to watch this movie right after watching the original and part two since it incorporated several elements of both.  Really, though, if I want to watch a movie about some deranged territorial dude named Jason or Freddy or Michael going around killing people, I can just turn on the news or read American history.  I like my horror to be more clever.

MALIGNANT

He Said: I was on the fence about this horror/thriller as well, but the advertising made me curious enough to check it out. LRK and I have been on a horror movie kick lately and have developed higher standards for our dark villains. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say this one fell short. Worth a watch overall for some of the action scenes and effects as well as the twist that will make you laugh, even if not in the good way. Given that this film is from the makers of the Insidious franchise, which has a bit of humor thrown in with the horror, I would recommend looking at the film through that lens rather than with expectations of straight horror.

She Said: I was bored during a good chunk of this horror movie about a woman who mysteriously seems to keep remotely seeing horrifying things while they are actually happening elsewhere—and then the last 30 minutes or so got really interesting.  You might be able to form a partial theory of what’s going on, but you probably wouldn’t ever predict the execution.  If you’re looking for something entertaining and lowkey spooky that will make you go “lol, whaaat did I just watch,” check it out.

NETFLIX

THE BURARI DEATHS

He Said: Very creepy true-life crime mystery about the deaths of eleven family members of the Bhatia family from Burari, Delhi. On 1 July 2018, ten of the family members were found hanged and the matriarch was strangled. The mystery surrounding the deaths is whether or not they were a suicides or homicides or somehow both. The story itself is pretty upsetting and learning more details about the family life leading up to the event makes the situation even more eerie. I watch a moderate amount of action and horror and gore, but this one disturbed me a bit due to the real-life aspect, and seeing what seems like a normal, thriving family gone in one night in a tragic way. The interviews presented are conducted by documentary team and also taken from news footage. A good watch, but may leave a shiver up the spine, so be prepared.

She Said: The Burari Deaths is a horrific and haunting three-part docu-series about a household of 11 family members who were found hanging inside their Delhi home in 2018.  The series contains photos and video footage of the family while they were living their seemingly normal lives, interspersed with photos of the crime scene and interviews of friends, police, and media members more recently speculating on what happened.  The documentary walks us through a likely theory about the deadly combination of patriarchy, superstition, and stigma over mental illness.  It’s a well-made series, but not an easy watch.

CLICKBAIT

He Said: I didn’t know what to make of this series, judging from the trailer, but it managed to be a decent slow-burn with enough twists to keep it interesting. The title is apt by the way because it explores how we can be misled even in the information age. I liked that it was not only set in Oakland, but filmed there as well (with some fictionalization). That said, if I hadn’t watched it with LRK, I wouldn’t have finished it…

She Said: What an aptly named show!  The first episode sets up a “what happened/whodunit” situation, and * spoiler * none of the episodes until the last one is really necessary to answer those questions.  My sister and brother-in-law managed to avoid being baited into any of the middle episodes and they were fully able to understand the last one.  I watched the whole thing and I enjoyed the clickbaity ride along the way!  I don’t think I ever could have predicted the answers.

DEATH NOTE

He Said: The source material for this film is both manga and anime, which usually spells trouble for the production values. This one has some talent and star-power behind it (Willem Defoe and Lakeith Stanfield), which doesn’t make the film stellar by any means, but helps to bring viewers into this comically macabre world. LRK and I recently revisited the anime and found the film glosses over what makes the anime compelling—the relationship between Light and Ryuk. This is one of those cases where making a limited series would trump making a film. I understand there may not be funding or time for that, but speaking strictly on ways to let the story breathe, that would be my take. 

She Said: Based on a Japanese manga series, this thriller film about a teenager who gets his hands on a book where he can write anyone’s name and cause them to die held my attention, but several things seemed too abrupt and underdeveloped.  Super Star Agni later showed me glimpses of an anime adaptation of the same material which was a full 37 episodes long, and indeed, way too much got lost in the American film adaptation.  I think there are better thrills out there.

HUSH

He Said: Another Kate Siegel (actor) / Mike Flanagan (director) collaboration. This husband and wife duo have churned out some quality binge material over the years, which LRK and I have consumed in mass quantities. This film bucks convention and manages to be a decent home invasion film, showing the vulnerabilities of technological dependence as well as how hard people can fight in their darkest hour. Poor, infuriating choices by the protagonist make the film longer than it needs to be, however. One Easter egg I’ll spoil is the Midnight Mass book the author protagonist has written.

She Said: This home invasion thriller which all occurs in one setting and only has four people in the entire movie is very well made.  Kate Siegel plays a deaf writer and the occupant of the home that is invaded, and the movie is directed by her husband, Mike Flanagan.  I’m decidedly a fan of their collabos, which also include The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Midnight Mass.

LITTLE THINGS: SEASON FOUR

He said nothing.

She Said: I’m really glad this season was the final one because though they and their “little things” felt fresh and cute in the first season or two. I don’t think I would be able to watch another season of Dhruv and Kavya continuing further in their cycles of being together and apart, sullen and manic, and vowing to “figure it out” and having cliché epiphanies.  It was sweet enough with nice cinematography and it ended at the right time.

MAID

He Said: Good show, but the protagonist makes infuriating choices. I know I say that a lot, but, damn it! “I have gotten lucky, but, oh no! I will forget my dire straits and piss it all away by doing the precarious thing again!” I know this sort of thing happens in real life and being poor can beget more poverty. I have been there. But watching it on screen is not always enjoyable. Luckily, the series has some great acting that makes you care about the struggle and appreciate the victories.

She Said: Featuring an actual mother-daughter pair of actors, Maid is a drama series about a broke young mother who abruptly leaves her emotionally abusive boyfriend in the middle of the night and tries to navigate many broken support systems (including that ex) to make things work for her daughter and herself.   We accompany our protagonist through the huge bummer of a situation that a domestic violence survivor finds herself in when she attempts the brave step of leaving.  Despite all of the despair and frustration that process entails, the show overall manages not to feel too heavy—it thoughtfully packs in a lot of realistic dynamics without feeling academic.

MIDNIGHT MASS

He Said: Midnight Mass! As mentioned above, this project has been in the works for a few years before finally coming out. For readers who haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the reveal, but by the time you realize what may be afoot, you will most likely be right, and that’s not a bad thing because the show is very compelling. Predictable in all the usual places, but still compelling. One thing that I found slightly over-the-top is how no one can answer a simple question. Character ONE could ask Character Two what they had for dinner and Character Two would monologue for three minutes about the best dinner they had as a kid on the lake with the fragrance of roasted meat emanating, and fireflies lighting up the night sky, before their drunk uncle kicks dirt on the meat and smashes the fireflies to bits while revealing HE was the one who failed to save the dog during the kayaking trip! And, therefore, Character Two did not feel like eating dinner.

She Said: I loved this suspenseful series about a preacher on an island who seems to bring the miracle of an angel with him.  It’s hard to say too much without getting into spoiler territory, but I will say that this show could have gotten really campy really fast, and it’s a true testament to the great writing, acting, and directing that it remained thoughtful, thrilling, and somber. 

RUROUNI KENSHIN: THE BEGINNINGS

He Said: As with Death Note, I’m not too familiar with the manga and anime this film was based on, so I can’t say how true to the source material it is. I can say, however, that I was surprised by how furious the swordplay can be and how nice the quiet moments are. Usually, anime- or manga-based films are poorly made and acted. Not saying they aren’t enjoyable (looking at you Full Metal Alchemist and Gintama), but this is definitely one of the better iterations. Gory, to be sure, but that’s par for the course with sword fighting films. I read that this the penultimate film, but also the series prequel, as the title denotes. The final film is on Netflix as well, but I will hold off watching it until I can see the other films in the series for continuity sake. Looking forward to them as they are reportedly good watches.

She Said nothing.

SQUID GAME

He Said: I wasn’t sold on this one until my brother-in-law said it was all the rage with his seventh-grade students. I initially thought it was some derivative Hunger Games, so bypassed it every time Netflix recommended it. I’ll admit, I was wrong. Beyond the gore and violence is a compelling story of people trying to reverse horrible financial situations or life choices and, in most cases, make things right with their families. Actually, duty to family is a major theme. The ending is predictable, however, and a bit of a letdown.

She Said: Squid Game is worth the hype!  This South Korean drama series about people who find themselves so entangled in debt that they would literally be willing to wager their lives playing a set of children’s games is dark, gory, riveting, and meme-worthy.  There only are a couple of people you really root for and it’s a real punch in the gut when they <spoiler> lose.  The ending definitely teases another season.

YOU: SEASON THREE

He said nothing.

She Said: I was so looking forward to the third season of this crazy show which totally glorifies and makes weirdly likeable and relatable this mass-murdering stalker white boy.  It was OK.  I could have done without the flashbacks to his childhood.  The best character this season was the mom-fluencer played by Shalita Grant, who played Dory’s lawyer on Search Party.  There’s a set-up for a next season and I will watch it, but I am not going to be constantly searching for the expected release date like I did for this season.

PARAMOUNT PLUS

EVIL: SEASON TWO

He Said: This show has the same quirky essence as The Good Fight and it works, especially with the is it supernatural or is it scientific angle. I don’t know how long they can keep it going since they have committed to a few plot lines they hinted at in the first season. Once they do that (purposely being vague), the end is usually near. That said, it’s been a good horror/comedy ride so far. If next season is the last, I trust it will be good.

She Said: This season about a preacher, a psychologist, and a contractor working for the church to see if people are possessed or not did not give a lingering creepy feeling the way the first season did, especially with the daughters’ storylines — but it still held up as a very creative and creepy look into various ways that evil or just weirdness culminating into the resemblance of evil can manifest.  I like that we got more Ben this season and he got many scares of his own.

PEACOCK PLUS

HALLOWEEN KILLS

He Said: What the hell even is Michael Myers? That is what the film skates around. The characters don’t know. The writers don’t know. The franchise has been retconned so only the 1978, 2018, and 2021 films are cannon, which leaves a huuuuge time gap with room for lore, but we get nothing but Mikey is evil incarnate that can only be hurt and maybe die? Okay, but to what end? He chooses to kill most people, but not all. Why? Don’t have homeboy driving cars in the broad daylight, following traffic laws if he’s evil incarnate. If he’s just a dude, how can he get shot up, beaten, and stabbed, and get right back up after taking a breather? Choose one! On slasher ambience, this franchise is awesome, but the storytelling is subpar. 

She Said: In our September newsletter, I said I was not expecting much more than a murderously hollow affair from Halloween Kills—and it delivered just that.  The “direct sequel” that came out in 2018 asked us to ignore everything that had happened in the intervening movies, and Halloween Kills, which is the direct sequel to the 2018 movie, effectively asks us even to ignore whatever we might have thought we learned from that.  Like, after all this time, there is no cognizable motive, lore, or backstory to whatever the hell Michael is.  How frustrating!  Well, Halloween Ends is set to come out next year. I will watch it with the hope that at least the ending will really be the ending and give us some kind of answers!

Deets and Geets Newsletter for Late-April / Early-May 2021

Welcome to the Deets and Geets Newsletter He Said, She Said for the late April / early May 2021, broken down by streaming service. Included are all the pop culture happenings and geets that piqued our interests. In Deets: Mortal Kombat, Ajeeb Daastaans, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and The Haunting of Hill House, and Randy Weston’s African Cookbook in Geets.

Be sure to check out the previous newsletters if you’ve missed them and stay close for a new podcast episode coming later this month.

HBO MAX

Mortal Kombat

He said: My skepticism was well founded. This is an introduction for the “real” Mortal Kombat movie. To clarify, most of the earth realm characters have no special skills and no idea of what the Mortal Kombat tournament is until the end of the movie. This intro strategy would have paid off if the focus was on a small number of characters. For example, the coolest and most cogent part of the movie is the first fight scene and encounter between Scorpion and Sub Zero. These characters are from rival ninja clans and have clashing elemental powers—Sub Zero with his ice jutsu and Scorpion with hellish fire and a kunai rope dart. Because the movie began with this rivalry, the plot should have remained focused on it and then built out the universe over a series of movies, kind of like how Iron Man began the MCU. The result, however, was a series of rushed character introductions, failed melodrama, and okay action. For MK fans only.

She said nothing.

NETFLIX

Ajeeb Daastaans

He said: I’m not a big fan of anthology films because the individual pieces always start out promising, but end up being duds. Short films are like short stories in that they are hard to wrap up successfully. Usually the ending feels anticlimactic, rushed, underdeveloped, spurious, or relies too heavily on some Deus Ex Machina device. With that said, the first two films, Manju and Khilauna, respectively, are  anticlimactic and spurious, respectively. To be clear, they aren’t bad, but the endings feel off. The last two films, Geeli Pucchi and Ankahi, are the most gripping of the lot and feel the most complete with respect to story, pacing, acting, and cinematography. I enjoyed this anthology more than Lust Stories and Ghost Stories.

She said: “Ajeeb Daastaans” roughly translates to “Strange Stories” and the first two of the shorts in this Bollywood Netflix anthology are really just that.  Not good-strange or so-bad-it’s-good strange, either; just “wtf” strange in a way that I don’t even care to recollect or describe.

The third story, co-written and directed by Neeraj Ghaywan, is very well made.  It’s groundbreaking in many respects, centering a woman character who is working class, queer, and Dalit, and whose story has been written and directed by Ghaywan, a Dalit filmmaker, and portrayed by an A-list star (albeit not a Dalit one: Konkona Sen Sharma). I read and watched some interviews of Neeraj Ghaywan, and it’s super cool that he thought to bring in a diverse team to weigh in on matters that he couldn’t relate to in his lived experience; and he asked his actors to do homework, such as having Konkona read Yashica Dutt’s “Coming Out As Dalit.” The great care and thought put into this project really shows—it packs a punch through its understatement.

The fourth story about a mother (played by the expressive Shefali Shah) struggling with her daughter’s hearing loss and her husband’s seeming denial of this event is also heart-wrenching and worth a watch.

The Haunting of Bly Manor and The Haunting of Hill House

He said, regarding both: Genuinely creepy! While they aren’t related in story, both series share some of the same cast members and ominous essence, which makes them kind of like American Horror Story in that way. There are jump scares and ghosts, but the real bite comes from the perpetual sense of dread. Definitely a slow burn, but worth the wait. After a few episodes, both shows open up a good deal of character development and storytelling. Think of them as well-crafted, but very long ghost stories.

She said, regarding The Haunting of Bly Manor: This series is haunting, trippy, and tragic at once.  In the first episode, at a pre-wedding celebration, an older lady starts telling the group this series-length suspenseful story set in the 1980s about two orphaned children, their diverse caretakers, and various disturbing encounters at some Bly Manor in England.  Grief and loss are at the core of the horror; the events and haunts are personal and psychological as well as supernatural. It’s a decently chilling and thoughtful series, and it got me interested in checking out its predecessor series with much of the same cast, The Haunting of Hill House.

She said, regarding The Haunting of Hill House: As mentioned in my blurb on The Haunting of Bly Manor, this series has much overlap in cast, and is also a horror-drama (horma?), but the characters and story are different.  This story is about a family of two parents and five kids who briefly live in a haunted house in Massachusetts, the effects of which are long-lasting on everyone in the family.  The ghosts and the protective (or not) walls are sometimes literal and other times metaphorical, and the storytelling hops around through different characters’ perspectives—kind of like a spooky This Is Us.

I must confess, I’m becoming weaker and weaker sauce as I age. Although both of The Haunting series were way more philosophical than spine-tingling, they left me sleepless for a few nights!

GEETS:

African Cookbook

He said: While reading Jazz People by Val Wilmer (no, not Val Kilmer), I was inspired to check out some of the artists she interviewed. One of the artists was jazz pianist and composer Randy Weston. The way he describes his style of piano playing and his new-found (at the time) love of Africa, more specifically Morocco, came through so vividly in the book, I had to check out his discography. I’ll write a proper review of the book at a later time, but can say for now it’s definitely worth the read especially because Valerie is a fantastic writer who does a great job of giving readers insight into artists’ minds and music.

One of my favorite Weston albums is African Cookbook. Something about the expressions and colors Weston and his quintet, African Rhythms, bring forth are a stellar salute to Africa. Make no mistake, this is a jazz album, but the swing is definitely African-influenced.  One can argue that most of the music we listen to today is African-influenced, but there is an undeniable African essence to the compositions. A solid and infectious listen.

My favorite song is the titular track, “African Cookbook,” a fourteen-minute groove. The players are Randy Weston (piano), Henry Texier (bass), Art Taylor (drums), Azzedin Niles Weston (percussion), Reebop Kwaku Baah (percussion).

For more of Weston’s music, check out his website. The image above is the 1972 version of the album, but some of the same songs are present in the longer 1969 version I described.

In Africa I discovered what the true purpose of a musician is. We are historians, and it is our purpose to tell the people the true story of our past, and to extend a better vision of the future —Randy Weston

She said nothing.

A Bohemian Rhapsody Review by LRK

By LRK for Deets and Geets Podcast

The dictionary definition of bohemian (aside from pertaining to the actual place Bohemia):

a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

Dictionary definition of rhapsody:

  1. music . an instrumental composition irregular in form and suggestive of improvisation.
  2. an ecstatic expression of feeling or enthusiasm.
  3. an epic poem, or a part of such a poem, as a book of the Iliad, suitable for recitation at one time.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” seems a very fitting title for the life of Freddie Mercury as it is shown to us in this movie and the eponymous Queen hit which was written by Freddie Mercury in 1975.

Rami Malek breathed life into Farrokh Bulsara-turned Freddy Mercury, showing us someone who was insecure and brazenly flamboyant at the same time. I didn’t know too much about Freddie’s personal life or personality before watching this movie and I don’t know to what extent it was fully accurate, but I was feeling it throughout. It gave off the essence of someone who felt lonely and suffocated, but liberated and in his element while he was performing.  That’s exactly the vibe of the song.

Before this movie came out there was controversy surrounding it with people saying it was going to be whitewashed or straightwashed or it was going to erase his HIV and none of those things were true. After the release other criticisms were levied on it such as bisexual erasure, because after Freddie tells his long-time girlfriend Mary “I think I might be bisexual,” she says “Freddie, you’re gay.” To me, this wasn’t the film taking a stand on his sexuality, it was an example of the context he lived in and the ways that the people around him who he loved couldn’t fully understand or support him and may have inadvertently caused confusion or suffering to him.  That scene also seemed to be more about Mary’s self-preservation, like she had to believe he was incapable of being attracted to her to reconcile still staying in each other’s lives.

Freddie as an individual was deeply layered, complex, and uncommon on all levels especially in his time.  There doesn’t seem a way you could fully do justice to everything he was in a two-hour-and-some-change film. There’s any number of directions that could have been further developed including his Parsi heritage and how that affected his personality and his beliefs, but this film is also about him as an artist and about Queen as a band. I think on the whole it did a good balancing of showing his personal life and his professional life and his pathos as an artist.  If anything I would have liked to see more of the creative process that went behind the music, such as different versions of the songs and how they got edited; I’m sure it wasn’t quite as linear as they showed it sometimes.  Also although I didn’t see the film as vilifying queerness, I do think it’s a fair point that it did come off as a PSA for Queen and for the almost-nobility of Mercury’s band members as being a thorough brotherly support system that themselves never got into drugs or had any negative lifestyle influence on him.

I’m happy that Freddie Mercury has been put on the map of public consciousness as a Parsi Indian and that he was played by an Egyptian American.  He was also shown having sexual and romantic relationships at least one woman as well as men, and that’s more than what we generally see.   Other than that, the storytelling itself isn’t something super original or groundbreaking but if you’re a fan of the music, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t enjoy watching the movie.

Check out the enhanced video version of the review below:

September 2018 Haiku Reviews

Blog and podcast updates have been slow lately due to my law studies. That said, we remain! Deets and Geets will be updated with Episode 7 soon and look out for more writings here in October!

For now, check out two fresh haiku reviews from LRK!

 

PADMAN

padman-review-the-flick-is-like-a-long-drawn-public-service-film-thats-worth-your-money

Wife is not having

His Padmansplaining until

Big B and UN

 

GHOUL

Ghoul Image

Hindu police state

Near future with nineties tech

Muslim solutions

Afros in Space: Lando Calrissian by Super Star Agni

My last post on Afrofuturism explored the term’s origin and how I felt Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is the A-1 example of the intersection of African Diaspora culture with technology in 2018. I still believe that to be true, but should mention another stellar example of Afrofuturistic representation this year:

Lando

Admittedly, I threw heavy shade on Solo per the lackluster first trailer and all the drama that went down during shooting. Truth be told, it’s pretty good.

For those who have yet to see it, Solo basically reveals how Han Solo: got his name, captained the Millennium Falcon, acquired his blaster, met Chewie, met Lando, got his swagger, and became a smuggler. So, while the movie initially feels like a Solo get list, the overall project comes together in an slick, intergalactic swashbuckling package that’s entertaining even for those not totally into Star Wars.

Lando-Calrissian-Movie-Star-Wars-Spin-Off-PlansThe biggest surprise for me was finding out not only that Lando is in the film, but that Donald Glover would play the role. As a kid, I never thought much of the Lando character, first introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. He wasn’t a jedi; he was no longer a smuggler; he no longer owned a cool ship. He was just a businessman in a cape, a mayor of some city in the clouds, who double-crossed the main cast only to somewhat redeem himself after getting choked by Chewbacca. Boring! His appearance in The Return of the Jedi was only slightly better as he had some slick maneuvers in the Falcon near the film’s end.

As an adult, though, I can see the layers. First of all, he wears capes even though he isn’t a Jedi. Actually, his capes are better than all of the Jedis’. Second, getting out of the smuggling business to become a legit entrepreneur and boss who wears silky Count-von-Count-style capes is way better than getting hunted down by the Sith or galavanting around the universe with Yoda on your back, berating you with object-subject-verb commands.

While Lando may not get his own movie any time soon, there are positive rumblings Billy Dee Williams may be reprising his role as the caped crusader for Episode IX, which is great, but homeboy is 81 years old, so they should probably wrap production sooner than later.