The Wachowskis’ “Jupiter Ascending” Trailer

Jupiter Ascending looks amazing! I don’t really like sci-fi but I would see this in an instant. We’ll have to wait until July 25, 2014 for the Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski written/directed space epic to open, though. Jupiter Ascending stars Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones, a Russian immigrant janitor with the same genetic makeup as the Queen of the Universe, which grants her immortality and other cool powers.

[Spoiler alert] Because of this, Jupiter’s existence threatens the Queen of Space and so she must be killed. Channing Tatum is Caine, a genetically engineered hunter, part human albino and part wolf.  (What is it about pointed ears that is so irresistible…. ). Sent to Earth to finish off Jupiter and preserve the Queen’s reign, Caine decides that Jupiter is indeed awesome and switches sides, becoming her protector.  The duo must then evade the other hunters sent by the Queen, who is understandably angry and frightened of losing her throne…

In this future world as envisioned by the siblings Wachowski, humans are a lower life form, and human genes are spliced with other creatures’ to make them “better.” Soldiers are crossed with wolves to create a pack killer mentality; workers have bee genes to increase the hive mind and make them work harder. Some humans are hybridized with peacocks, according the cast list which shows actress Alexandra Fraser from World War Z in that role.

Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam has a (mysterious) role in Jupiter Ascending. The film also features James D’Arcy and Sean Bean, so basically it’s eye candy in space (as if Channing Tatum with pointed ears wasn’t enough!).  And with both a female protagonist and antagonist, it appeals across the board (like I said, I don’t really like science-fiction and I want to see it), which is good, since it’s set to be a Warner Bros tent-pole.

(Side note: Jupiter Jones was the name of the main character in the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators young adult mystery series which I read as a kid. Jupiter lived in a junkyard with his aunt and uncle, and I still remember details about the clues. Jupiter Jones is also band in Greenville, North Carolina)

Skip “Ender’s Game”: Geeks OUT Making an Impact

Thanks to Geeks OUT, the bad vibes on Ender’s Game are being felt beyond the LGBT community. Tonight I went to a signing at La Luz de Jesus, our local Los Feliz art gallery/alt.culture general store (books, candy, action figures, robots, stationery, statuary, shower curtains, rugs, blankets, stuffed toys, candles, flashlights, purses, clothing, tee shirts, make-up, perfume, soap,  CDs, jewelry, bones, taxidermy, Haitian sequined prayer flags–basically any thing you’d need to survive emergency gift-giving, lost luggage, a bad break up, or an earthquake) for Heavenly Bodies, Dr. Paul Koudounaris’ glorious photo book full of images of bejeweled skeletons, cult figures from a bygone time when  saints were believed to have worked miracles.

Matt Kennedy, the gallery director, and I were chatting about what we were going this weekend. Matt’s really into comics (he recently scored an original panel from Gasoline Alley, one that contains a pivotal plot point), loves weird history and science fiction (he and his wife play a drinking game centering around the TV show  Ancient Aliens–narrator says “alien” and you drink; narrator says “extra-terrestrial,” and you take three sips, etc.),  and has an encyclopedic knowledge of movies. In the midst of our geeking out I blurted:

Please don’t go see Ender’s Game!

He replied vehemently:

No way! No way would I see that. And I gotta tell you, a guy came in from the the film company, wanting to put up a poster from the movie and said, ‘Hey, maybe we could do a promotion with you.’ I told told him, ‘No, that’s not gonna happen,’ and he shook his head and went,”I know, I get it, I get it.’

Matt went to say that he did half-joking suggest to the film company promo guy that maybe he could try Lassen’s (the Mormon-owned health food store up the road that donated to support Prop 8–I won’t shop there, even though it’s the only health food store close by). The poster guy went away unhappily aware that the word was out on Ender’s Game–that the man behind the story, Orson Scott Card is a bigot.

Geek’s OUT has been the instrumental primogenitor in raising awareness about Orson Scott Card’s nastiness, his homophobia, his anti-equality activism through their Skip Ender’s Game campaign. In the Advocate, Patrick Yacco, a Geeks OUT board member writes brilliantly and passionately about why he is skipping Ender’s Game, and explains more eloquently than I what his group of sci-fi-loving queers has done and why. Their activism has shown what motivation and determination can accomplish. Geek OUT are true superheroes.

Since Geeks OUT launched this campaign earlier this year, we’ve faced a slew of criticism, ranging from “you need to separate the art from the artist” to “this isn’t big enough to make a difference.” To the first argument, I have to draw on my experience of being a queer geek and knowing that Orson Scott Card doesn’t respect who I am as a fan of science fiction. We’re not talking about someone who at one time or another made some stupid comments and is now apologizing for them, like James Gunn, director of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. Card actively works to target and undermine the LGBT community’s progress, and he’s quietly begun attacking people of color as well. To me, consuming any of his products is extremely problematic, and I’m addressing that in the fashion I see fit.

On the other hand, to say that the Skip Ender’s Game campaign won’t have an impact is completely moot at this point. Geeks OUT has pushed Card’s atrocious attacks on the LGBT community to the forefront of mainstream media, with nearly every outlet that reports on Ender’s Game commenting on his radical activism. Even if people weren’t aware of his views, they’re learning about them now. Regardless of Ender’s Game’s box office tally, Geeks OUT has helped raise awareness of Orson Scott Card’s fear-mongering, and no amount of ticket sales can change that.

Matt Kennedy isn’t the only straight sci-fi fan who’s skipping Ender’s Game. On Facebook and in real life, straight sci-fans have told me they are not going to see Ender’s Game, period, not even by paying for a ticket at the megaplex and sneaking in. That’s huge.  Geeks OUT are true superheroes. Their activism has shown what motivation and determination can accomplish.

Skip Ender’s Game!

Need something? La Luz de Jesus probably has it.

Left to right, Matt Kennedy, artist Christopher Ulrich, Paul Koudounaris PhD.

Koudounaris and two of his Heavenly Bodies.

Edward Snowden: Comic Books and Video Games Inspired, Motivated Whistleblowing

The Advocate’s interview with Glenn Greenwald reveals a lot about the lawyer-turned journalist who broke the Edward Snowden NSA leaks. And in it, Greenwald explains that during a his lengthy interview with Snowden in Hong Kong he learned what inspired and motivated the twenty-something security expert to blow the whistle on the NSA’s surveillance programs:

It wasn’t Hegelian theories on power structures or Ron Paul rhetoric about privacy; it wasn’t Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals (Greenwald’s greatest influence) or Jeffersonian notions of government. It was comic books and video  games. “You have good guys who are forced to do difficult but good things,” Snowden said to Greenwald, a bit embarrassed.

Greenwald goes into more, explaining how his husband, David Miranda, opened his eyes to pop culture.

“It’s not a simplistic ideology. David is one of the most complex, intellectually curious, and sophisticated people I’ve ever met, and he’s the one who convinced me that being influenced by the moral dynamics of a comic book or video game is no less noble than being shaped by a novel or a book,” Greenwald reasons. “You can watch The Matrix and take it as an action movie, or you can delve into all its greater existentialist meanings. All of the narratives in these comic books are about these single individuals devoted to justice who have the willingness to be brave, who can defeat even the most powerful edifices of evil.”

Exactly. Comic books, video games, movies, and yes, even TV shows can influence, shape, and mold character and morals. Unfortunately, we don’t know which comic books and video games  affected Snowden. Greenwald didn’t ask!

Paging Dr. Wertham!


Late Night: Kim Fowley Is the Lord of Garbage

I met Kim Fowley, the man who discovered created the Runaways, when I was 16, and at the time I thought he was the scariest man on earth. Tall, skinny with huge deep-set eyes and giant teeth, he had a rapid fire series of phrases he’d rattle off as he leered. A typical sentence might sound like this

 The bitch is gonna do the dog on a pussy-eating guitar godhead level or I will make her crawl like garbage while she goes waaaaagn. W-A-A-A-A-G-N waaaagn!

Yes, he spelled waaaagn letter my letter. Fowley was already legendary when I first met him; along with Runaways, he’d produced a Helen Reddy record and  done the Tomorrow Show with  Tom Snyder discussing New Wave, and a couple of us from Westlake School for Girls had the idea of starting a punk fanzine, so I bravely called the recording studio where he worked to ask for an interview–and he said yes! I credit Kim with my career as a writer, because he has this attitude of if you say it, you can be it, and since we had said we had a punk ‘zine and wanted to interview him, we had to carry through on it.

Somehow Kim ended up marrying one of my high school friends who shall remain nameless, though she is pictured on the cover his 1978 solo album in a dress she borrowed from me; I also did her makeup.  The marriage was annulled and the bride never spoke to me again, but Kim and I stayed in touch sort of once I was back from college at UC Berkeley, where I had gotten really sick. He called my mom and asked if he could take me to church (!), and showed up on a Sunday in cab wearing a suit with a banana and a stack of restraining orders in his jacket pocket. He was a perfect gentleman always to me, despite rumors of all sorts of bad behavior whispered to me by others.

Kim is a weird, super bright genius and he would occasionally, before we lost touch, tell me stories about his past in his hyperbolic, adjective-filled, convoluted way. So when I saw that the first volume of his memoir, Lord of Garbage, had been published–how could I resist? Covering from his birth to age thirty, Lord of Garbage is a Dickensian tale of a California childhood besmirched by divorce and remarriages, bad medicine, polio, teen gangs, and the redemption of rock n roll.

Fowley was mentored by Alan Freed, the man who coined the phrase ‘rock and roll’ (three words that changed the world, says Fowley). He went on to write or co-write hundreds of songs, produced what are now cult records, as well as hits like “Alley Oop” and the novelty hit “They’re Coming to Take Me Away,” and written and directed over a dozen low-budget movies. Fowley also wrote a lot of poetry, some of which is included in Lord of Garbage.

Fowley says he dictated Lord of Garbage  into his publisher’s voicemail while recovering from bladder cancer, whacked out on drugs and potential death. It’s glorious prose; visual vulgar, brilliant and bold, rolling off the page, rocking in the brain.   I can’t wait until volumes two and three are released. Fowley does two radio shows a week on Steve Van Zandt’s Sirius XM station, and is currently recovering from additional cancer surgeries.  He’ll be reading from Lord of Garbage on October 5th at La Luz de Jesus, the mega-gallery/cool stuff shop in my neighborhood. I’m going, I’d like to thank him for the influence he played in my life.

Check out his take on cancer, home health care, life, and death here:

Finding Nemo Finds A Conscience: Pixar Movie Influenced by Blackfish Documentary

“When you look into their eyes you know someone is home.”

Thus begins the trailer for the controversial documentary Blackfish, a sentiment apparently shared by the creators of the Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory who are adjusting the movie’s plot line in response to the content of the film.

According to Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove who recounted this story to the LA Times, after watching the documentary this spring Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter and the director of Finding Dory, Andrew Stanton sat down with Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

What resulted was a change in the yet-to-be released sequel’s plot.  The film was originally set to end at Marine Park, described as a “SeaWorld-type environment.” While the film would still end in the same place, the  animals are now given the option to leave if they so choose.

While Pixar declined to comment on the exchange, the company did confirm screening Blackfish and noted that employees were “impacted” by the film.

Blackfish offers a glimpse into the treatment subjected to the orcas, or killer whales who entertain the masses at SeaWorld.  It focuses on an orca named Tilikum, said to be responsible for the death of three people – including senior SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

The film, currently playing in select theaters across the country, has already received a harsh rebuke from SeaWorld who hired publicists to help ensure that journalists covering the documentary were made well aware of their response to what they refer to as a “dishonest movie.” Filmmakers in turned issued a point by point response to SeaWorld’s claims.

Yet the truth is that Tilikum’s first attack took place in 1991, nine years before the death of Dawn Brancheau, and resulted in the death of Sealand of the Pacific trainer Keltie Byrne. At the time it was reasoned that re-releasing Tilikum back into the wild was problematic due to fears he would not be able to survive in the wild.

That concern would be moot if he had never been brought into captivity in the first place.

More recently footage of a dolphin lying on the concrete beside its tank made its way to YouTube.

Blackfish will be airing on CNN on October 24th.  In the meantime, click here to find screenings in your area.

Late Night FDL: Any Early Bets on the Oscars?

Tomorrow we’ll be live blogging the Oscars beginning with the Red Carpet at 7pm ET (4pm PT) –a hard choice E! or ABC?– and then at 9pm ET (6pm PT), when the show starts. FDL is especially stoked this year as three of the five nominees for Best Documentary have been part of Movie Night –Hell and Back Again; If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front; and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.

So what nominated films have you seen? What have you seen that you think should have been nominated? Who do like for Best Actor and Actress? And for the supporting slots?

Will the French sweep their categories with The Artist? And then there’s the American battle of the heavy-weights: Scorsese vs Allen for Best Director, with three strong contenders in Terrance Malick for Tree of Life, Alexander Payne with The Descendents and The Artist‘s Michel Hazanavicius.

Oscar contender–and ten time nominee (making him the Susan Lucci of the Academy)–Martin Scoresese has made a list of 85 films you need to see in order to know anything about film. I’ve seen over half of them, thanks in part to my amazing high school teacher, the amazing Jim Hosney. I sat in on his classes in 7th, 8th and 9th grade, and then was able to take them for credit in 10th–and I did every semester.