Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

I’ve been in quite the ornery mood lately. I haven’t seen a movie, it seems, since November. I really haven’t been motivated to do too much. I hadn’t really seen a ton of trailers for Hidden Figures, but given everything that’s happening in this country (post election 2016), this seemed a movie I had to see. The movie is based on a book about three African American women who were integral in getting John Glenn to orbit the Earth. This was the time when the US were in a tight race with Communist Russia to get into space. The 1960s setting seemed to be more familiar than not. Take away the segregated bathrooms and that movie could be taking place now. The cousin I went to see the movie with commented that this could be a glimpse into the future instead of a story of triumph from the past.

The movie follows the story of three African American women, all of whom, from an early age, excelled at either science or math. Any woman, let alone a minority, would not be welcome in these fields. The fact that these women were African American, before people decided everyone should have equal rights, doesn’t accurately display how hard their struggles must have been. There are microcosms of incidents where the superiority of the white co-workers is used to show how different the world was then. In truth, those situations are very much still alive and well. I noticed that the woman who the main character is based on is still alive and I wonder what she would think about how little it feels like things have changed.

I digress. The story starts with a young African American family getting money that had been collected in the community to send their child, a kid, not a young adult, to college. The girl, Katherine Johnson, turns out to be a complete math whiz. The African American women are placed in a part of the Langley campus that is far removed from where their work needs to be done. There are dozens of scenes where Katherine is running across the campus to use the bathroom. The culmination of that scene was the perfect slow burn, a mere snapshot of everyday life for those who are not born with pale skin.

The narrative is nothing new, yet the story seemed somehow fresh. Each of the three characters had distinct storylines, distinct hurdles they had to overcome to be successful. Janelle Monáe stole every scene she was in. Kevin Costner was surprisingly accessible, where I expected him to be another hurdle, instead he worked towards equality, stating something along the lines of ‘wanting whoever could do the work’ to be involved. That shattered much of the boys club that existed within NASA. The often unlikable Kirsten Dunst was true to form, being unlikable, on purpose, and being put in her place by Octavia Spencer’s firey Dorothy. All in all, the hype is well given and the story is absolutely one you will not regret seeing.

As for the Hina test, it would be hard for me to find something amiss in this movie. The three main characters were African American women. The white characters were evolving to accept that being different wasn’t a bad thing. The sole criticism I could give this movie is that other than African Americans, there were no other minorities represented. I find it hard to believe there were no Asians or Hispanics at all in Virginia in the 1960s. However, at this point, that would really be quibbling with what delivers a powerful message to those that believe white supremacy is the only way forward. If not for this unknown story, our space program would have been leaps and bounds behind Russia.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Movie Review: Shut In

I need to take full responsibility for watching this movie. I’m going to start off right at the Hina test. This movie failed. It failed so miserably I can’t even give it half a point for having Naomi Watts being a pretty together person. As you may recall, the Hina test defines the use of strong female characters and diverse representation. This movie had none of these things. You might say, but Hina, there was a lead woman in the role. Yeah, there was. That was the one, ONE, thing the movie might have done right. And this is barring the absolutely predictable, tired plot.

Let’s go back half a click. This was a horror movie. The mom (Naomi Watts) is sending her troubled step-son (somewhere) and the son and father don’t both make it as the kid (Jonathan from Stranger Things) pulls the car into traffic. He goes into a vegetative state while the mom stays at home, working from a home office as a therapist or something for kids. While seeing one patient, she fights with a social worker to let him stay with her (which is, of course, ridiculous, you can’t just ‘keep’ kids – who did the research on this?). This is when the boy goes missing after showing up randomly at her house and wackiness ensues. When I say wackiness, I mean, it had a few jump scares and then the ending happened and I was like, that was a waste of an hour and a half. 

The story revolves around the son, the white kid who is basically a vegetable for the majority of the movie. Turns out, hold onto your pants, he wasn’t a veggie at all, but was just faking and didn’t want the kid to stay, so has been trying to capture him. The son had also been drugging the mom so she didn’t know which way was up. The mom has a doctor friend who happens to see some movement after she leaves a video chat and rushes off to save her. What the movie amounts to is a bunch of white guys either loving Watts or trying to save her while she flails helplessly through a nonsensical story. The one minority comes in to take her blood for three seconds. This movie was so beyond a waste of time. I’m sorry I wasted time seeing it over Arrival, over Madea at this point.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Following in Father’s Footsteps

It was cool and yet the sweat was dripping between his shoulder blades and down his back.  Just a few more miles, he kept telling himself.  The cargo was less agreeable.  Another few minutes and the break would have to be over.   
“Let’s go,” he said, his voice rough, breaking through the silence. The air was dry, making it hard for him to speak or even swallow.
A pair of light eyes looked up at him.  “Already?”
“I was sure you’d fallen asleep,” he said, offering her a hand.
“I wanted to sleep,” she said, brushing her jeans off.  Her hand touched her shin and she winced.  “I just couldn’t get comfortable.” 
There was a hole in the leg of her pants, the blood still wet.  Each time he caught sight of the cut he looked away.  The last stop shouldn’t have been so close, but it was impossible to gauge these things.  It was his sixth trip this year, and yet the nature of the work made it unpredictable. 
“I couldn’t sleep either,” he said, staying close to her, his voice low.  “Know anything about that Emanuel guy?”
“No, but he gave me a weird vibe,” she said, lowering her voice.
It was the same conclusion he had come to.  Most people were quiet, uncertain, scared.  Emanuel was none of those things.  If anything, he was calm and confident.  Someone with too much confidence might lead to a mistake or worse.
“How much further, sir?” a small boy said, his white shirt now brown from the dirt they’d lain in.
“Not too far, kiddo,” he said.  “I need you to stay close to your mom and sister.  Remember, you’re my deputy.”
“I know,” the boy said, beaming.  “I’m doing a good job, right?”
“Great,” he said, wiping the sweat from his brow.  “I know I can count on you.”
The boy smiled and hurried back to his mother.  The small family was laden with bags.  Even the boy carried a satchel across his back that seemed too big for him.  Everyone in the group was carrying as much of their belongings as they could, hoping to build a better life across the border.
“Hey,” the girl said as she looked up into his face.  “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Let’s go.”
With one look back, making sure the group was following, he started forward.  The standing rule was to move as he moved, avoid the roving lights, be quiet, and if you get separated, enjoy the trip back home.  The route they’d taken to escape at the last stop had forced him to use a less familiar path.  The stars were guiding him now.  Though he thought of them as cargo, they were still lives, his responsibility.  It was something his father had instilled in him, one of the only things.
An hour passed and the group was moving slower.  There was no point in trying to speed up the pace, they couldn’t keep up.  Everyone was tired and hot, exhausted from days of walking and camping in the wilderness.  His eyes scanned the people as they passed him.  First was the girl with the cut on her shin.  Then there was the mother with her young son and daughter.  The daughter was only two.  At that age, there was a good chance she wouldn’t remember any of this once they settled down.  Behind her was a pair of lovers, a year older than he was, engrossed in each other.  If anyone was going to get caught, they’d be the first.  The lovers seemed too engrossed in each other to notice anything dangerous, or anything at all.
After the lovesick couple was his least favorite member of the group, Emanuel.  The man had a rat-like appearance.  His clothes were all black and he was carrying a weapon of some sort.  This was not permitted, but there was no way of enforcing that rule. A fifteen-year-old boy standing up to a grown man would never work.  The last thing he needed was to get killed over a hunch. 
Behind Emanuel was a group of people all wearing dull-colored ponchos.  It looked like they were already dressed to assimilate.  Each of them carried two bags hidden under the loose fabric.  Any of them could have been mistaken for natives, ready to pick fruit as soon as they arrived.  The wages were abysmal, not enough to live off of, even if there were eight of them. 
The last of the group was the most unpredictable.  Parents often sent their children unaccompanied when they couldn’t afford to go with them, and he found himself looking into the eyes of former classmates.  None of them could go back to school, back to their old neighborhood.  The gangs had taken over and if not the gangs, the draft.  There was always someone needing bodies, in whatever shape they were in. 
These weren’t his friends.  But it was hard not to feel bad for them, even if they’d bullied him when they were ten.  At the time, their families had been affluent and well-to-do.  Now that affluence couldn’t buy a loaf of bread or a pint of gas.  There were more than twenty people in his group, all with the same grim, dire expression.  The rich kids passed him and he stared forward as they did so.
The sound of something in the distance caught his ear and he turned, tilting his head.  A moment passed.  The sound drew closer.  In a flash, he raced past the long line, saying in a hoarse whisper, “Down.  Everyone get down.”
Like dominoes, the group fell, heedless of the broken objects that were strewn across their path.  The ponchos served well to camouflage those that wore them, and it crossed his mind to consider requiring all cargo to wear them in the future. 
Breathless as he reached the front of the queue, he hid behind a broken-down truck, next to the girl.  “You hear that?”
“A plane?” she said.
The sound drew closer and they looked skyward, seeing searchlights long before the aircraft came into view.  It was a helicopter, military by the look of it.  The lights streamed down in all directions and everyone did their best to be still.  This wasn’t the first airborne transport they’d seen.  The signs on the side were that of the border patrol.  That was far more troubling.
The first time Rob had seen the sign he had been with his father.  It was his first smuggling job.  The metal sign hung from the building with a large black border and red background with the number three in white on it.  The paint had faded since the last time he’d seen it.  The smell of death was all around the place.  Many people went in, few came out looking the same, if they came out at all.  There were always trucks and buses bustling out, people with forlorn, desperate looks on their faces staring out the windows.
The sound receded and she nudged him.  “Is it safe?”
“Let’s give it a few more minutes,” he said, knowing the group could use the rest to slow their racing hearts after another near-miss.
If the air was being watched, the road would be guarded as well, more so as they got closer.  It wouldn’t be long now.  Another few minutes and he turned, giving the sign to get moving.  The group moved at his command and another hour slid by.  The pace was much faster now, as everyone wanted to get off of the road, get to their destination, their salvation, as soon as possible.
It would be a long trek back home and he didn’t want to think of the constant questions from his mother.  At home, things were different.  His family didn’t struggle as others did.  His father had done everything possible to protect them and he now continued that tradition.
The sky was beginning to lighten.  The sun would be out soon, making it impossible to go any further.  The border should be less than a half hour away.  Time was running out.
“We’re almost there,” he said.  “Come on, everyone.”
All who passed him smiled, relieved that the ordeal was almost over, except Emanuel.  The man looked more foreboding than before.  “How far?”
“A half hour,” he said, running a hand through his slick hair, hoping to avoid a confrontation.  “I think we are just a couple miles away.”
“I hope you’re right,” Emanuel said, poking the younger man twice in the chest.
Now was not that time to fight back.  His gun was at his back, hidden under his long, tattered raincoat.  One quick shot and Emanuel wouldn’t be a problem anymore.  A smile crossed his face.  The money in his bank account slowed his trigger finger.
Fifteen minutes of walking and the border was just ahead.  There wasn’t a hint of anyone nearby.  Another easy transport.  Everyone rejoiced in their own ways, the pace increasing. 
One of his former classmates stopped, putting a hand out.  “I didn’t think you were worth the dirt you lived under, but I guess you’re alright.”
“How the mighty have fallen,” he said, shaking his hand.
“I’ll rebuild,” he said, tightening his grip.  “I’m going to crush you in the next life.”
“Good luck with that.”
The girl hovered behind him, not saying anything at first.  Once the guys had passed, it was the mother and her family who stopped.  “Thank you.”
“Be safe,” he said, patting her on the back, glancing at the boy.  “Be good, kiddo.”
The boy grinned, following close behind his mother.  The lovers passed without a word.  Emanuel hung back, watching from a distance. 
“You…thank you,” the girl said.  “For everything.”
“It…you were a lot of help,” he said, trying to smile.  “All the best.  I hope you can get your family over.”
“I hope they can find someone as good as you.”
“I’m not sure I’ll keep this up…it’s a tad dangerous, if you hadn’t noticed.”
“I might have,” she said with a laugh.  “But…thank you…again.”
It was an awkward moment, one he hated.  A hug would be too forward.  Two days in close proximity and he couldn’t say he knew her at all.  With the number of people he ferried, the faces all blended together.  It was critical to remain detached.  Perhaps she knew that.   The moment passed and she gave him a small smile, and turned to join the rest of the group.
Emanuel came up behind him, giving him a nudge.  “That was your one chance, virgin.”
“I’m not…shut up.”
“She’s sweet on you,” Emanuel said with a deep, throaty laugh.
“I…get moving, man,” he said, feeling uncomfortable.
Emanuel nodded, offering a hand.  “You did alright, kid.”
“I tried,” he said, shaking his hand.  “I…thanks for not shooting me.”
Emanuel furrowed his brow and cocked his head.  “I wasn’t armed.”
“That’s not a sniper rifle across your back?”
“Okay, man, whatever,” he said, putting his hands up.  “I need to get clear, too.”
“I know,” Emanuel said, glaring at the ground.  “You…you’re the rats, you know.”
“Excuse me?”
“Spreading this disease of people…and for what?”
“Money — that’s what the world runs on.”
“And what happens to those places?  The people there don’t want to have more people…and what about the country they’re escaping?  What about them?”
“What do you care?”
“I care…because it isn’t legal.”
“Be cool, man.”  Now he knew the feeling he’d had about Emanuel all along.
“I can’t,” Emanuel said.  “I…I need to…fix this.”
“Let it go,” he said, trying to guess whether Emanuel was going to kill everyone or just him.
“I…” Emanuel turned, staring at the retreating group, his hands limp at his side.
This was his chance and he took it, pulling the gun out, pressing it to the back of Emanuel’s head.  “Enough…once they’re clear…you’re done.”
“I’m…I’m not what you think,” Emanuel said, not moving.
“I’ve heard it all. It’s always the same.  Some relative you have to avenge, some injustice no one cares about but you…I don’t care.  You end, here and now.”
“You’re making a mistake…a big mistake.”
“Yeah…my mistake was taking your money,” he said, grabbing Emanuel’s collar.  “On your hands and knees.”
“Don’t do this,” Emanuel said, falling forward.
“I can’t have you jeopardizing this.”
“Your illegal livelihood?”
“We all need to make money,” he said, shoving Emanuel again.  “I bet you didn’t get your gear for free.”
“I paid a high price.”
“I could have used these hours ago,” he said as he pulled the night-vision goggles off of Emanuel’s head.
The sun was now reaching across the horizon.  The refugees were almost there.  A few more steps and his job would be complete.  The moment was always one he loved.  The smell of freedom as they crossed into Mexico, out of the remnants of the United States.  Each person had paid half a million pesos to cross over.  The dollar was worth next to nothing. 
Floodlights sprung forth, trucks circling as the refugees were spotted and caught.  The pleas and cries could be heard from where he and Emanuel waited.  There would be a bonus for getting them this far without being spotted by the government first.  The money for providing new “inventory” for terrorist groups was high and this one paid the most.  There were many buyers to choose from. 
The two young women would be sold into slaving.  The young men would be put into hard labor.  The poncho group and small family might be able to get away.  None had anything of value and might have contacts on the other side.  A smirk crossed his face as he thought of the people who’d trusted him.  Each one, save for the girl, was being delivered in near-mint condition.  It was unfortunate he couldn’t see what would happen to his old bullies.  Anything was too good for them and now he had a hostage to deal with. 
“Any last words?” he said, pressing the gun into Emanuel’s head.
“I’m with the office of the president.”
“I’ve heard that one before,” he said with a laugh.  “Let me guess, you’re the president in disguise.”
“Seriously, kid…you’re…murder is a…”
“Wouldn’t be my first.”
“In my back pocket…my clearance card…just…look.”
“Mr. Smith?” he said as he pulled the ID out.  “This is so fake.  Who are you fooling?”
“Kid…it’s a codename, listen…this…the government wanted to know how everyone was getting out…I’ve been…recording everything…they…they already know who you are…”
“I let my hand off this trigger and I know you’ll kill me.”
“I won’t.”
“How stupid do you think I am?”
“Very,” Emanuel said.  “And…did…did you just send those people to their deaths?”
“Not necessarily.”
“How…how can you? And me?”
“You? No…” It was more fun to make him wait.  The gun was tight in his hand as he heard footsteps approach 
“Que paso, Roberto?”
“Quién es?”
The armed guerilla moved around him.  The militia wasn’t far behind.  A few more captured refugees and he would be promoted from guide to assassin.  The man grinned at seeing Emanuel.  The ID was taken, the smile growing wider.
“Good work, my young friend,” the guerilla said with a thick accent, pulling Emanuel to his feet.   “Mr. Smith…we go to Washington with some demands, including a mighty gift for the resistance in America.”
“You can’t,” Emanuel said, struggling, doubling over with a grunt as a punch landed in his midsection.  “We’re just trying to find a solution.”
“No one wants your solutions,” the young man said, smiling.  “Can I get a ride back?”
“Of course,” the guerilla said.  “We give you a new gun, too.  Does that one even work?”
Emanuel glared.  “You can’t do this…I’m an official of the United States…protected by—”
Another punch to the gut and the armed guerilla leaned in.  “There is no United States.  The country was too worried about looking outside to see what was happening inside.  The terrorists were always here, right under your noses.  Now the help you refrained from giving others has bitten you.  You are alone and you will be sold to the highest bidder.  Thank you for helping us get a new tank…I wanted one with a really, really big turret.”
Emanuel looked at him, a cold hard stare, before a bag was pulled over his head.  The guerilla nodded at the nearby jeep.  “How is your mother?”
“Good,” he said.  “She misses my dad.”
“Ah, that is to be expected…does she know?”
“Best not to tell her.”
“Ah, what can she do?” he shrugged. “She’d still have to keep me around…”
“When a woman finds her lover’s killer, no matter the relation, she will react with vengeance…best not to mention it, Roberto.  You are too good at what you do.”
“My dad taught me everything I know.”

**I wrote this short story years ago - my vision of Trump's America**

Friday, November 4, 2016

Movie Review: Ouija: The Origin of Evil

I know, suspend your disbelief, even though this movie came out weeks ago, I really wanted to see it, so I did. The original was, not good, to say the least. The idea that a Ouija board is dangerous is nothing new. If you’re like me, and you love watching those TV shows about people being haunted (my fave is A/The Haunting on Destination America), then you are familiar with the idea that a spirit board is a way to talk to those on ‘the other side’ – the other side being people who are dead who haven’t passed on. This movie takes that idea and turns it into something that should be terrifying. People use these things as toys, but caution should be exercised because one has no idea who is using the spirit board. In other words, you don’t know who is talking. In the movies, they always make it seem like someone is just messing around. Truthfully, we just don’t know. It could be a spirit, it could be a mystery breeze, it could be someone passing gas, who knows. If you don’t believe in that sort of thing, this movie will just be ridiculous. If you do believe, then go ahead and keep reading and maybe go see the movie.

The movie begins with a séance. The woman running the séance looked strangely familiar (turns out it was Esme from the Twilight movies). The story centers around a single mother who makes a living, seemingly, by scamming people out of their money by pretending to reach out to their recently deceased. (The opening sequence had Bernard (from Lost) in it. When she asked for his wife’s name, I inadvertently said ‘Rose’ aloud.) The family is struggling with money and when one of the girls (the older one) goes out one night, playing with an Ouija board with her friends, she suggests the idea to her mother. For whatever reason, the mother decides that pretending to be a psychic is more valuable than getting a real job, but that isn’t really relevant to the story. Once the Ouija board becomes part of the act, the youngest kid takes a turn at it, getting the triangle thing to move without touching it. What should be alarming to her mother is treated as wonderful. This should be a sign to the viewer that the movie won’t improve in content from here.

An Ouija board is not a toy. That is the main lesson of this movie. In many ways, this is good life advice. Talking to ghosts or entities that aren’t there is never a good idea. Needless to say, the movie doesn’t end well for basically everyone, except maybe Bernard. There were a ton of jump scares. I spent a good amount of the movie with my eyes covered. With respect to my Hina test, this movie didn’t do all that well. I will have to fail it. There were no people other than white people in this movie. The female characters were central to the story, but none of them were really strong. The mom almost was, but then, until the priest (because, of course there’s a priest in a horror movie) comes along, she’s not sure what to do. Thank goodness a single white man came along to save her and her family. The movie did reflect the late 1960’s accurately with the lack of diversity and women in power, but otherwise, this was a fail on all fronts. The story was entertaining. I was pleasantly surprised at how scary the movie was.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Movie Review: The Girl on the Train

This book was read during our book club. For whatever reason, perhaps I was gun shy after reading Gone Girl and hating it, I skipped. If you didn’t read the book, I don’t think you’re missing too much, however you won’t get all the nuances of the characters. In a way, this story is about a reformed drunk, but that’s cutting a lot of other stuff out. If you did read the book, I’m told the story mostly sticks to what happens, yet leaves a lot of details out, as per usual. This could devolve into a rant about how Hollywood ruins everything it touches, but that would require more than one blog post.

The movie begins with Emily Blunt riding the train to and from NYC (the book was set in London, but they moved it because: Hollywood knows best). Rachel (Blunt’s character) sees this girl out the window of the train and her imagination runs wild, concocting a story for her that is based partially on a reality that for reasons we sort of learn later, she can’t remember. The girl goes missing and Rachel creates an entire narrative about what might have happened. Her drunkenness creates obvious issues and the cops begin to think she’s involved.

Part of the frustration of this movie, and Gone Girl, is that it uses the unreliable narrator. We, as the audience, can’t trust the narrative perspective to be accurate or truthful. I’ve read books that execute this well, in a movie format, I’m not sure I like the effect. There are a lot of scenes that are disjointed or hazy, with Blunt stumbling through dialogue with other characters as if it is the first time they’ve spoken about a particular topic. I know I’m not distilling this very well, but that is a direct reflection of the movie, which was executed somewhat poorly.

Emily Blunt is a great actress. There is little she can’t do well, but if the direction and story are so consumed with holding onto a surprise ending, then that becomes the focus, as it did in this movie. This isn’t a horror movie, it is a mystery. Yes, at one point we do wonder if Blunt killed the girl, but that becomes less and less likely. The twists and turns felt more annoying than intriguing. I don’t know if I just found everyone unlikeable, but the movie was meh, at best. I saw it for $6 and I wouldn’t do that again. As for my Hina test: there were only white people in this movie. Even though the movie centered around a woman, she was a bedraggled, weak character throughout. In no way did this movie represent diversity or women in a positive or fair way.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Movie Review: The Blair Witch

Come on, if you didn’t see this coming, you must be very new to this blog. If there’s a horror movie out, no matter how bad it might be, I will watch it. I still remember seeing the first movie and not understanding what had happened until we see those fatal, final shots. I went into this movie with pretty high expectations. I should have reset that to something far more realistic. The original movie was made with practically no script and a shoe-string budget. This movie had way more hype and funding and yet it still was basically the same movie.

In case you’ve never heard of the original, The Blair Witch Project, the movie centers around a found-footage premise where three filmmakers go out to investigate the folk lore about the Blair Witch and never return. The movie itself was quite revolutionary at the time. The found-footage genre was barren and the idea of having the actors double as cameramen saved majorly on the budget. The three filmmakers decide to camp in the woods, which are purported to be haunted, and terrifying things begin to happen. The map is the first thing to get lost (long before GPS) and the group walk in circles for days. One member goes missing and then the last two members end up at an abandoned house, never to leave it. The movie ends on that note. A sequel was made, but I never subjected myself to it, so I couldn’t tell you what it’s about.

Fast forward about fourteen years and the audience meets James, the then four-year old brother of Heather, the only woman in the first movie. James stumbles upon some guy uploading a video to YouTube with a clip that may, or may not, be his sister. The footage was supposedly found near where she disappeared. James’ friend, Lisa is making a movie for school and decides to make James’ search for his sister the subject. The two are joined by James’ childhood friend Paul and his girlfriend Ashely (both are African American). The four set out to meet the guy who found the footage. The audience meets Lane and Talia. These two are characterized as the usual small town hicks. They insist on going out with the friends and this creates some tension, as Lane has a Confederate flag prominently displayed in his house.

Without divulging too many SPOILERS the movie follows very closely to the original. The African American characters are the first ones to be attacked or go missing, fulfilling the usual horror trope. The antics that plagued the first film crew repeat, though with some added assistance from Lane and Talia, who plant some evidence, only to be proven to have planted the items in the first place. It is at this point that the group disbands. Lane and Talia are sent away and the other four friends try to make their way out of the forest, only to get hopelessly lost. The rest of the story devolves further into the original, instead of really introducing anything new except the idea that you shouldn’t look the witch in the eye.

And this is the point where I was more frustrated than anything. This was the chance for the filmmakers, real ones, not the ones in the movie, to add to the lore, to enhance what has been said about the Blair Witch. I think of the infinite possibilities. It almost cheapened the movie to have her on-screen, however grainy that might have been. The concept of ‘time travel’ through the movie was also mind numbing. Lane and Talia are lost for a week, but James and Co (the characters being followed) are lost for a half a day. This is never fully explained. There were so many places where the story could have improved upon what was a pretty strong base, but it just fell flat and wasn’t scary at all. For my new-found Hina test, this did pass, but barely. There were three female characters, all strong in their own right. There were two minorities in the movie, one making it almost to the end of the movie. None seemed forced into the story. I have to give this a pass on the Hina test.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New Bechdel Test: The Hina Test

I have a tendency to rate movies based on a variety of measures. There is the generic good vs. bad, as in, did I enjoy it or was it just boring? I also look at the execution of the cast to the story that is being told. By no means am I an expert. I wouldn’t call myself a critic, per say, but just a person who would like to see certain things in movies: like strong female characters and a diversity of casting. In fairness, this isn’t something that can easily be applied, like the aforementioned Bechdel test, which just requires to female characters to have a conversation that doesn’t just center around a man. In, what I am calling the Hina test, the viewer would really have to assess, on his or her own, whether the two needs are met. I’m going to make this as simple as I can.

The first question of the test: Are there strong female characters in the movie? The definition of this is a woman that doesn’t require a man to save her. That should be simple enough. For example, the Avengers movies would meet this as Scarlet Witch doesn’t need anyone’s help. In a more recent movie, Morgan actually meets this. The main character, played by Kate Mara was a badass, she was self-sufficient.

The second question: Is there diversity in the casting? The definition of this is that the cast is not entirely one color. I don’t know how to say that any other way. I recently watched The Host (which was a Korean horror movie) – that movie would fail because all of the characters except one was Korean. Again, Morgan would pass this test, as the cast was well represented. There is a careful line that needs to be drawn around having diversity and those people not being integral to the plot. This also includes diversity with sexuality, as a sworn #Clexa fan I would be doing a disservice to the cause by not addressing the Bury Your Gays issue that pervades Hollywood. I think that might be harder to assess, but should be taken into consideration when watching movies/TV.

I’m curious what, if anyone, will say to this new test I’ve developed. I think I’ve seen enough movies that these are the two things that are often glaringly missing. Comments or thoughts are always appreciated.