Saturday, September 25, 2021

Madea Goes to Jail and the Transience of Identity

Picture this: It's late on a Saturday night, you are bored and want to watch a movie. But not a good movie, because there is something wrong with your brain. So you head over to [STREAMING SERVICE] and you see a film you've heard of, and one you're pretty certain you have a good hold of despite that. Madea Goes to Jail. What follows is a harrowing experience that can hardly be represented in words. But I guess I'll give it an shot.

Initially, the film presents itself as what one might expect. Madea, played by Tyler Perry, is an ornery old lady who apparently fucked up one too many times, and now is going to jail to meet a wacky cast of characters and learn a lesson or something. But then Madea leaves the courtroom. We stay and watch some completely separate characters. The actual main characters. Candy is a sex worker brought in on prostitution charges, and the prosecutor, Joshua, recuses himself as he knew her at some point in the past. What follows is a crash course in human misery, as every bad thing that could happen to a person happens to Candy. After one night back working on the streets, she is abducted and raped by a pimp, who plans to hold her captive until she escapes and seeks shelter with Joshua. When a local minister sets Candy up for a job interview, the man interviewing her sexually assaults her.

I could go over the laundry list of calamity that befalls Candy, but I think you get the point. What makes this film so bewildering to watch is that each of these scenes of tragedy is interspersed with scenes of Madea and her family being zany. You settle into the tone being dark and emotionally wracking, then Madea shows up for a sassy back-and-forth with Dr. Phil. It is impossible to get your footing with this movie. The listing says "Comedy." The description mentions nothing of tragedy.

What is the deal with this? I must mention I had never seen a Tyler Perry film before. Everyone I spoke to who has seen one of his films sat back like a jaded old schoolmaster and said, "Oh yes, they're all like that." One person's only comment was that it was a "funny movie." How could someone see every heart-wrenching event that takes place and come away with a bunch of yuks? It's simple. It's all in the name.

This film is billed as a comedy, and so that is what people see of it. Once they see Tyler Perry's name, they gloss over the details. Madea is a (supposedly) funny character, and her name is in the title, ergo the movie is a funny film. The content is almost irrelevant when we have nice little titles and genres to tell us what it is.

When does description cross the line into prescription? Is the film a comedy simply because it is labeled as such? Is it a comedy because it has some funny parts? Can it be a comedy even though most of the runtime would be better described as drama? Too often we take things by appearance, by how we think they should be sorted on first glance.

Most of the time with media, that works. If a movie is billed as a comedy and stars a comedic actor, we get what we expect. Sure, one or two sad things might happen in the film, but its primary purpose is to make you laugh. You pick what you want and that's the end of it. Life is rarely that simple.

The worst experience of your life can follow a moment of rare gaity.You can find yourself laughing at a funeral, mere minutes after crying the hardest you have ever cried. People can call you one thing your entire life and one day you realize you never fit in that mold at all. Films are made with intent. Indie or mainstream, somebody wrote a script and a bunch of people took their time to pick what parts they wanted in it until it appeared on your screen. Life has no intent. Things just happen. People just are.

The moral of Madea Goes to Jail arrives late in the film. While Madea and Candy are both incarcerated, Madea tells the group that you cannot be a victim, that you have to take responsibility for the things that happen to you. Shortly afterwards, both Candy and Madea are released from prison when it is revealed that the prosecutor has been padding charges, making all the cases she litigated invalid. Not a single thing about their escape from that situation was in their control. The film expects you to believe this moral it espouses while directly contradicting it with events portrayed in the film itself. It bills itself as a comedy, while bombarding me with more unfortunate events than those billed as dramas.

The labels we use are so inadequate at capturing life. So few things can be boiled down to a couple easily comprehensible terms. But we need them. You can't just think about everything all the time. We have hobbies, jobs, people to meet and things to do. You have to boil things down to handle everything being thrown at you day-to-day.

But there are times when you can't. When the words you used to describe yourself turn into a prison, a list of dos and don'ts. When the things people have said to you don't match up with what you can plainly see. When you've been submerged in an ocean of easily classified Comedies and Dramas, there falls into your lap that which defies these conventions. And though every signpost and label says it's one thing, you know it's not. It is not so easily categorized. The only question is:

Where do we go from there?

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Some Spider-Man Trailers (2021)

I hear the calls, the pleas, for people to know what their most obscure Spider-Man obsessed weirdo thinks of these new Spider-Man properties on the horizon. Worry not, for I have come to answer the call. Let's see what this shit's about.

We're gonna start off with the thing I am less likely to hate entirely, and that's the recently announced sequel to the PS4's Marvel's Spider-Man, called Marvel's Spider-Man 2.

Seeing as how I really liked the first game, I have high hopes for this one. I haven't played Miles Morales yet because the PS4 version seems to be not-great in terms of performance, and I'm not buying a PS5 until they make a Spider-Man version that bundles with the new game. No Elden Ring for me until 2023.

For obvious impressions, looks like we'll get Kraven and Venom as villains in this game, which in most other media I would find to be too much, but the first game balanced a lot of villains at once and did a real good job, so I'm not worried. Kraven as a big bad would be cool, but he might just be a first act villain to be replaced by... Venom? Doc Ock wasn't in the trailers too much, so there's likely a lot of surprises ahead.

Now, who's gonna be Venom? The post-credits sequence of the first game hinted the symbiote was being used to cure Harry Osborn of whatever disease he had, so he might be a likely candidate. They could introduce Eddie Brock, flesh him out as a normal guy before the symbiote gets all gooey on him. It's pretty much a sure thing that Peter will get it first, because that's the kind of blatant fanservice the first game was so good at.

On a more speculative note, how's Miles Morales going to factor in here? In the middle of the trailer it looks like Peter and Miles are performing a takedown together. Could this mean co-op? It could just mean Miles is an AI-controller partner, like your Last of Us or something, but co-op is my dream. Two Spider-Mans, working together! That would be so rad. Normally I'd be a bit mad at the 4 robot legs Spider-Man sports during a couple clips in the trailer, seeing as how they're either a Superior thing or a MCU thing, but there was already a suit in the original game that gave you robot legs for a short time, so I can't be too mad.

At any rate, glad we're finally getting something about it, and hopefully we're all still alive by 2023.

On a more recent note, (And I mean really recent)

Venom 2! I had some problems with the first one, but over time I've come to appreciate it a bit more. At least they didn't make the symbiote some symbol for inner darkness, instead it's just a shitty asshole in the form of goo who calls Eddie a loser. You take what you can get.

Carnage has been a sore spot for me since they announced that Woody Harrelson would be Cletus Kasady. For reasons I do not have time to explain, I hate Woody Harrelson. For reasons I have just enough time to explain, he's not great for Carnage. Cletus is supposed to be a young, wiry guy, full of twitchy psychopath energy. Harrelson is old. I honestly think Robert Pattinson would have been a better choice, but unfortunately for all of us, he's Batman.

I was wondering how they would give Kasady a symbiote, since it's not like Cletus and Eddie would be sharing a jail cell, and it looks like they just had him fuckin' bite Eddie. It's pretty a pretty crazy thing for a crazy man to do, but... does it make any sense? I might be asking the wrong questions.

I like how even though Venom is clearly the symbiote wrapping around Eddie and making him all buff and big, Carnage looks to be made entirely of goo, so much so that he can just open a hole in his chest. Hopefully when the fight starts it's a little less confusing than two very similarly colored lumps of goo smashing into one another.

There's a couple shots of Shriek in the trailer, probably in the same prison as Carnage. In the comics they had a relationship, and it seems pretty likely here too. I'm anticipating what they'll do with that whole thing. Since the first Venom wasn't so bad in the end, I'm not dreading this. Whether or not I'll see it in a reasonable timeframe is a different matter.

Now for the bad one.


Listen, I am willing to admit this is just me. I'm the malcontent here. But MCU Spider-Man. I don't like him. The last two movies have been him fighting Iron Man villains, either trying to impress Iron Dad or following the orders of Grandpa Fury. Hell, in Far From Home it seemed like he didn't even want to be Spider-Man. And don't get me started on the glasses!

The point is: MCU Spider-Man and I don't get along. And I wasn't too enthused by the reveal of yet another new suit before the trailer even dropped. So, in the context of my regard for the previous two films I want to say:

This doesn't look as bad.

Sheesh, at least this is Peter doing a thing on his own that he just wants to do, even if it's not crime-fighting. It really seems like he doesn't want to fight crime. But! Dr. Strange is more like your free-wheeling uncle who takes you to the old record shop and lets you have ice cream for dinner, instead of someone telling Peter what to do yet again. That doesn't utterly offend my sensibilities.

By now everyone's heard the rumors about this film featuring the two previous Live Action Spider-Man iterations, and every day that seems more likely. Especially considering Alfred Molina's back. I know a lot of people are real hyped for this, but once again I'm the needless contrarian. I want to make this clear, I loved Spider-Verse. It was phenomenal, the best Spider-Man movie ever made. So the last thing I want is a watered-down Disney bullshit take on it, where nobody on the production gets Spider-Man the way I do. Into The Spider-Verse got it.

I don't care to speculate too much on what form this multiverse is going to take. Maybe they'll just mash up all the previous universes by the end so we get Electro and Doc Ock in the MCU. It would be fitting if Spider-Man's new villains aren't even his again, they're just the villains of alternate-universe Spider-Men. I would like to see Andrew Garfield again, since he's my favorite. But overall I'm just not that excited. In any case, I don't know what the release situation is gonna be for this, theaters? Streaming? Both? It looks like they're aiming for a theatrical release, but as I think we've all seen the deadly virus propagating through the countryside doesn't really care what movie studios want. Ah well. I'll see it eventually.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Hell is Flamin' Hot

As I have gotten older, I find myself drawn towards interests of the mind, rather than those of the senses. But on occasion there arises the aesthete within, that which cares only for the novel, the decadent, an as-yet unknown sensation. This frame of mind arose upon hearing of a new beverage, one of limited supply. One that promised danger, a warning I would fail to heed. Mtn Dew: Flamin' Hot.

This is not the first such offer made available for special Dew. The first, my own personal white whale, was Cake Smash, a cake flavored soda I may never taste. Filled with such regret, I purchased the premiere beverage with unaccustomed zeal. Despite the dubious nature of the intended flavor, I ordered two six-packs, the maximum.

Remember that.

When one's future is primarily anticipated with an overtone of dread, a single notion of optimism shines all the brighter. And if one makes a bright spot their focal point, it is liable to hurt the eyes.

A week I waited with high expectations. Each hurdle met with the knowledge that soon, soon I would have something new. Each UPS notification was met with delight. I dreamed of ginger beer, of piquant spiced cider, all in preparation for the arrival. In the middle of the seventh day the two packages arrived.

It was mediocre.

The color is an unnatural, radioactive orange. The fragrance can politely be described as chemical. The primary taste is that of ambiguous citrus, neither orange nor lime nor a noticeable combination. Once one has quaffed a mouthful, there remains the question of spice. One may have forgotten. One could; for a moment. The heat remains beyond grasp of the senses until the very end, when its appearance is masked, subdued. It may be interpreted as the body's own response to what has entered it, such as heartburn or a more malignant reaction.

In short, it could have been worse. I was in no rush to drink the remaining eleven cans, but I had adequate storage, and the expiration date was months away. That could have been the end of it.

That should have been the end of it.

The following morning I brought a can for my coworkers to sample, with most impressions mirroring my own. I received a strange notification of an upcoming delivery from UPS.

"How odd," I mused. "I don't remember purchasing anything else."

I put it out of my mind. It may be from a crowdfunding campaign I had forgotten, or something bought while inebriated. Surely, nothing to get fired up about. The day passed in relative mundanity. Arriving home that evening, my mind lit upon the delivery that had occurred. I had but a moment to muse on possibilities before I saw what had arrived. A chill crawled up my spine. It was the same box as the day before. The tell-tale tape fastening it shut, emblazoned with an impudent fire imp. How odd. Perhaps it was a secret addendum to the soda, a gift pack if you will. I tore off the tape and opened the box, only to be greeted by the same six cans I had unveiled the day prior.

I was overburdened with Dew. My refrigerator was already packed to the brim with a soda I did not have much incentive to drink. But I merely shrugged. It was only soda. Perhaps there was an error in shipping. I set it, unpacked, in the basement. I had to go to bed. Another day of work awaited.

The next day began in my usual sleep-deprived stupor. I regaled my coworkers with my tale of renegade Dew, secure in the fact that this was only a single incident, an anomaly I could laugh in remembrance of. But my cachinnation was short lived.

My phone sounded with another UPS notification.

It was identical to the previous message. But it couldn't be. There was no possible way I could get three shipments of soda on three subsequent days, almost entirely in error. A shadow clouded over my mind. Every limb became heavy with cold, carbonated, liquid dread. I had to know. But I was terrified to find out.

It was dark when I returned. A bone-chilling wind cut through my jacket. My hands shook as I approached my door. And there it was, sitting on the porch. More Mountain Dew.

I refused to believe it. Who did this to me? The light left my eyes. I saw my future in this Dew-saturated purgatory. Each day a new delivery of a soda I was beginning to resent. I sat down, staring blankly at the floor.

And cracked open a Mtn Dew Flamin' Hot.