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Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss: Leadership in the Era of Corporate Social Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Although I haven’t read Harris’ previous book, The Servant Leader’s Manifesto (affiliate link), I would consider Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss a spiritual sequel. His corporate background informs his argument about where corporate interests can grow in a way that serves their employees and their stakeholders, and ultimately, themselves. As they say, write what you know, and Harris knows his audience well without talking down to them or overtly shaming them for being cogs in the machine. It’s one thing to be a cog, but the time is now to dialogue how to move forward. You must put in the work if you want results. The tone felt like a discussion, but not a one-sided one as can often be found in these books. There has been a quiet trend to move away from the “boss” moniker, and Harris points out on page 33 in the Kindle edition that

“‘boss’ comes from the Dutch word ‘base,’ which means ‘master.’”

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Book cover

It has racist connotations that I never thought to question before and evokes the childish retort of “let’s go, Brandon” as of late. I’m officially done using “boss” in any context, whether it’s meant to uplift women or in a corporate setting with the C-suite who could care less about me as an individual.

Overall, I enjoyed the book because it’s deeply rooted in identifying and encouraging people in power to unfurl the furiously capitalist processes that are currently in place and politely demand actionable solutions. The only way we can fix things as they are now is to acknowledge those

“toxic leadership practices created by top-down hierarchies must be replaced in favor of flatter, leaner, more agile, more collaborative, more supportive, and more holistic structures.”

It’s food for thought, and I hope that “boss” types will pick up this book and consider its approach. Harris does point out that while one person can make a change, it will take many people to make that change stick. He uses J.E.D.I. as a jumping-off point to provide the framework of the 6As of action and apply them to the 3Ps. No spoilers here; read the book to find out what they are!

My rating:

Zootopia (2016)

If you’re familiar with the species relations in Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (movie version) or even Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (affiliate link / book version), it brings up the question: who decides who is savage or not?

The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything.

But when rookie Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy.

Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery.

summary of the movie

Zootopia is a great talking piece for families. The Black Lives Matter movement is not something that can be explained or digested easily by kids. This movie opens the door to have them ask questions and it’s up to their parents to open up a dialogue.

It was handled well, and not heavy-handed at all. It felt like a Disney movie without being too cheesy. I’m excited that they’re taking this stuff on.

Yeah, I know it’s not some sweeping condemnation of the racial issues in America, but at least they’re trying to get a dialogue going.

I like to believe that Disney is fully cognizant that they have a responsibility to tell the next generation that happily ever afters don’t necessarily exist.

Maybe there are just ever afters and all the baggage that comes with that. We’re allowed to learn the lesson from every story we experience because that story ended where it needed to and where we take it is part of our own personal interpretation and journey.

That is the mark of a good story for me.

My rating:

Fruitvale Station (2013)

I vividly remember watching the footage of Oscar Grant’s murder on New Year’s Day 2009. Phones were becoming smarter every day. Citizen journalism was on the rise, even if it didn’t have a name then. The videos disturbed me greatly. So I resisted watching this movie until I was better prepared to consume it.

Ryan Coogler – being a Bay Area native – perfectly captures Bay Area culture. Coogler showed the world what it was like growing up in the Bay in subtle ways, not even considering that they filmed on location when and where they could. The dialogue stood out to me in a finite sort of way; the diction was very Bay Area.

Oscar could’ve been a kid I went to school with, another lost soul trying to get straight for his little girl. In fact, he was three years younger than me. That hit close to home.

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Seeing him roll with everyone to the City was like watching them in real-time. I could see groups like that anywhere in the Bay, on any given day.

When the people come together on the BART to ring in the New Year, that’s what gave me the biggest smile. That’s what I loved most about living there. You come together when the music’s on, no matter what your path is.

Watching the movie was additionally bittersweet for me. When I attended orientation for my grad program, I lived with my extended family in Alameda temporarily. Thus, the closest BART station into the City was – you guessed it – Fruitvale Station.

It was surreal to be there, knowing this happened to him. My life changed for the better, and Oscar never got that chance, even though he was ready to make those moves. That was a sobering thought.

The acting was on point from the whole cast: Michael B. Jordan’s Oscar and Octavia Spencer’s Wanda were standouts, each was beautifully rendered.

Stories like this need to be told. I’m glad Coogler fought to tell Oscar’s story. We’re all the better for it.

Gifted (2017)

Gifted is a beautiful, heart-wrenching picture. Chris Evans headlines as Frank Adler, uncle to the precocious and uber-talented McKenna Grace’s Mary, the gifted of the title. Jenny Slate, Lindsay Duncan, and Octavia Spencer round out the intimate cast.

I loved Evans and Grace’s chemistry. My favorite line of his is something along the lines of, “I had no business being her father, and I told myself every day that I would call Child Services, but then she’d do something that made me stop and say, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.'”

I was on board with the story, but my heart broke at this moment. I’m not a parent. I’m the best damn auntie ever if I do say so myself. Ask any of my babies. I’ll be damned if I was left in charge of my niece or nephew by one of my siblings or my friends who are sisters to me anyways, and some outside power tried to take them away from me or put that shadow of a doubt in my head that us being apart would be better for all of us.

Family is family.

It doesn’t matter how you came together; you make it work, which Frank did in his way. I bought that. I honestly thought it was going to be a cheese-fest, but the story dug into my soul.

Grace held this picture. Like, I was in awe of how well she carried her lines. Anyone else would’ve garbled on them, but Grace pulled them off. But, of course, she had the best ones too. When I said precocious, I wasn’t joking. Mary crunches numbers like a computer, swings curses like a slingshot, and fights for the underdog without much deliberation.

Yet, underneath the bravado and misunderstood (or completely understood) genius, there is still a fragile little girl. I can’t wait to see where her career goes. I’m a fan. Her scenes with Octavia Spencer’s Roberta were a highlight for me, and they provided some much-needed relief from the dramatic scenes that make up much of the film.

As her uncle, Evans pulls off the worn, damaged single father vibe very well. His scenes with Lindsay Duncan were exquisite. I enjoy every one of her performances. I’m glad they didn’t oversaturate his relationship with Mary’s teacher Bonnie either, played by Jenny Slate. It could’ve been much worse because, in anyone else’s hands (acting or script-wise), Bonnie would’ve been the savior who would light a fire under him to make the right decisions, and blah blah blah.

Frank comes to his conclusions on what is right and what he should do. But, then, you can see how he lives with the consequences of all of them. I enjoyed that. He pulls back when Mary needs to shine and fills up the screen with his understated performance when needed. I’ve been following this kid since Not Another Teen Movie. There isn’t anything I’ve seen him in that hasn’t knocked my socks off. Gifted joins that list.

Gifted is a feel-good movie without being over the top cornball. It’s funny when it needs to be and dramatic in all the right places. The dialogue is the right amount of sass. If they toned down the mouth, I guarantee you that I would’ve walked out of the theater complaining about it in this review. Instead, the dialogue humanized them, which is hard to forget to do when you’re writing something that you want to pluck at a movie-going public’s heartstrings.

Tom Flynn wrote the screenplay, and it’s his second feature-length screenplay. He did a fantastic job with this one. People always overextend the credit to the directors (Marc Webb also did 500 Days of Summer), but if they didn’t have a script, if they didn’t have a writer to put words in the actors’ mouths, there would be no movie.

And that’s my plug for my fellow writers out there: tell a damn good story. Then, everything else will fall into place.

Dunkirk (2017)

My knee-jerk capsule review from Instagram remains the same: Dunkirk was a great picture. It may become the definitive movie version of the battle. I hope it does because the cast and crew put a lot of heart and soul into the movie. You can see it from the direction, the script, and the acting.

This side of Nolan was refreshing. I feel like his big blockbusters were the first rounds to the main event. Nolan said in the marketing junkets for this movie that this was his dream project for many years. But he felt he wasn’t professionally ready to. I’m glad he knew his limitations because a first-time director could’ve fucked it up.

Rather than focusing on people who were there, he took a safer route in storytelling by focusing on three interconnected threads based on land, sea, and air while using minimal dialogue.

Sometimes when you make a picture about a historical event that historians have picked apart, and the public knows so well, artistic license is a hard sell. You may want to oversell it with dialogue or cramming in romantic relationships, and Nolan doesn’t do that with this movie.

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His use of unknown actors was straight out of the silent film era, which he said influenced his approach to the film. For example, he gets mad close when the enemy is zooming towards them. So you feel claustrophobic alongside these baby-faced soldiers who can hear shit is about to go down, but they don’t know where it’s coming from too.

That was my favorite part. My father served in the Vietnam conflict and told me you could hear the missiles coming, but you never knew from where or where they were going to land. But you knew instinctively to take cover. I think Nolan nailed it, and hearing doom overhead was a masterful craft choice.

Speaking of sound, I feel like the soundtrack was off-putting. I can’t explain it even after reading the press published when I saw the movie and chewing on why it annoyed me for a few days. Usually, when a film relies on having no dialogue to create action for the atmosphere, you must fill in the blanks as a moviegoer.

Nolan didn’t give me that chance because he and Hans Zimmer used Nolan’s pocket watch to create tension. You’ll hear it and go, I’m supposed to be scared now, so I felt it took me out of the experience slightly. I don’t want someone holding my hand, commanding that I think a certain way. I want to come to that conclusion for myself.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

They’re young… they’re in love… and they kill people.

Bonnie and Clyde is a solid, character-driven film that holds up well after 50 years. They easily could’ve made a picture focusing solely on the action, but it was led by these larger-than-life characters. I felt Beatty and Dunaway had great chemistry.

There were a lot of women from that era (Shirley MacLaine, Jane Fonda, Tuesday Weld, Ann-Margret, Leslie Caron, Carol Lynley, Sue Lyon, Cher, Natalie Wood) who probably would’ve interpreted Bonnie much differently from Dunaway. Beatty was a good choice and the reason why MacLaine missed out. Their supporting cast was perfect: built like a tank Gene Hackman, diminutive Michael J. Pollard, silly Gene Wilder (in his first movie), and shrill Estelle Parsons (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the film).

I’m glad there was a balanced character study of Bonnie and Clyde. They could’ve slanted the movie one way or the other. But they showed each of their motivations through their dialogue together, as well as their attraction to the other equally. In fact, I feel like if this was handled by another director, they would’ve messed it up.

A concern I had before the screening was how they were going to handle the actual timeline. Their crime spree was about 2 years – give or take. Director Arthur Penn subtly plugged in references to years and locations throughout the film if you’re watching carefully. I mean, not when they’re talking about clearing the border to go to Oklahoma in the dialogue. You’ll be able to pick up on where you’re at even without the prior study of their story.

I’m also partial to the fact that Bonnie was a poet. Here’s the poem that Dunaway read in the film that was written by the real-life, Bonnie:

The Story of Bonnie and Clyde

You’ve read the story of Jesse James
Of how he lived and died;
If you’re still in need
Of something to read,
Here’s the story of Bonnie and Clyde.

Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang,
I’m sure you all have read
How they rob and steal
And those who squeal
Are usually found dying or dead.

There’s lots of untruths to these write-ups;
They’re not so ruthless as that;
Their nature is raw;
They hate all the law
The stool pigeons, spotters, and rats.

They call them cold-blooded killers;
They say they are heartless and mean;
But I say this with pride,
That I once knew Clyde
When he was honest and upright and clean.

But the laws fooled around,
Kept taking him down
And locking him up in a cell,
Till he said to me,
“I’ll never be free,
So I’ll meet a few of them in hell.”

The road was so dimly lighted;
There were no highway signs to guide;
But they made up their minds
If all roads were blind,
They wouldn’t give up till they died.

The road gets dimmer and dimmer;
Sometimes you can hardly see;
But it’s fight, man to man,
And do all you can,
For they know they can never be free.

From heart-break some people have suffered;
From weariness some people have died;
But take it all in all,
Our troubles are small
Till we get like Bonnie and Clyde.

If a policeman is killed in Dallas,
And they have no clue or guide;
If they can’t find a fiend,
They just wipe their slate clean
And hand it on Bonnie and Clyde.

There’s two crimes committed in America
Not accredited to the Barrow mob;
They had no hand
In the kidnap demand,
Nor the Kansas City depot job.

A newsboy once said to his buddy;
“I wish old Clyde would get jumped;
In these awful hard times
We’d make a few dimes
If five or six cops would get bumped.”

The police haven’t got the report yet,
But Clyde called me up today;
He said, “Don’t start any fights
We aren’t working nights
We’re joining the NRA.”

From Irving to West Dallas viaduct
Is known as the Great Divide,
Where the women are kin,
And the men are men,
And they won’t “stool” on Bonnie and Clyde.

If they try to act like citizens
And rent them a nice little flat,
About the third night
They’re invited to fight
By a sub-gun’s rat-tat-tat.

They don’t think they’re too tough or desperate,
They know that the law always wins;
They’ve been shot at before,
But they do not ignore
That death is the wages of sin.

Some day they’ll go down together;
And they’ll bury them side by side;
To few it’ll be grief
To the law a relief
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.

Bonnie Parker

I was kind of annoyed by the jump cuts but IMDb says the film was influenced by French New Wave, so this gets a pass. I think smoother cuts would’ve been better though. I did enjoy the unusual balancing of the energy of “Keystone Kops-style slapstick films” that descended into “horrific and graphic violence.” For a film made in 1967, glorifying people on the losing side, this was a fresh take. It still works today. Bonnie and Clyde as a pair have transcended when they’re known for, and it seems silly looking back on them the way that we do, but they were real people.

They’re a bonded pair, which is part of their enduring mystique as the ideal “ride or die” couple in Americana. You can’t think of Clyde without Bonnie, or Bonnie without Clyde in the same breath. It also helped that they became famous during the Great Depression. Americans were searching for something, and not finding it. Then, here comes this photogenic, infamous couple, boosting cars, and robbing banks owned by the Man. They were doing what they needed to do to get by, since getting by wasn’t getting people anywhere.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Inside Out (2015)

As is typical with Disney releases, they screened Lava beforehand. It was adorable. James Ford Murphy – the director – was dropped in by Pete and Jonas for the tour, and he explained that the short was based on his love of Hawai’i. You could definitely tell he had a lot of love for it. Some might say he was in “lava” with it. That’ll make sense when you see it.

The thrust of this “fish out of water” story is Riley Anderson, a young 11-year-old hockey-playing girl who moves from Minnesota to San Francisco because of her father’s new job at a local startup called Brang. I, for one, sympathized with that journey so much. I did have a leg up on the emotional impact of moving having taken trips regularly over the years, but sometimes you can hype something up so much, and then you’re let down. Her first view of the house was how I feel when I drive around the city! And I go to school there, so that tells you how often I feel that hype.

The stars of the film are the emotions in Riley’s head: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black). They are in charge of maintaining the thoughts and memories which are stored in orbs over the course of her life in Headquarters, whose furnishings are very atomic chic. It was sort of like something out of Monsanto’s House of the Future at Tomorrowland in Disneyland.

I almost wish my emotions could be voiced by this cast in real life because they nailed it. What I like about the emotions is that they’re going on this journey with Riley. So the things that they’re experiencing in her head as they’re happening are all new to them. This was embodied at the very end when a certain button appears and Anger goes, “what’s this?” I paraphrased that. I’ll leave you to keep an eye out for that gag though.

They showed some trivia slides before the movie, and Pete put Riley’s hockey rink where the Walt Disney Family Museum is in real life. I thought that was cool. I love the museum.

What I enjoyed most was that they grounded the film in a lot of reality. There are islands in Riley’s head that systematically break down over the course of the film: Goofball Island, Family Island, Hockey Island, etc. I knew immediately what was happening. When you break something down, you have to build it back up again in a different way. That’s the closest thing to a spoiler you’re going to get out of me! The islands are based on Disneyland’s lands because Pete’s a Disney dork. I love that his passion allows him to make movies like that.

My favorite non-main character is Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong. His story arc was so emotional for me. I personally did not have an imaginary friend growing up, unless you count the girls from the Baby-Sitters’ Club. “Take her to the moon for me” will live on in my heart as one of the greatest final lines ever.

Overall, the movie was paced just right, and the peaks and valleys of the storyline were delivered perfectly. I haven’t read other reviews, so I hope the critics aren’t going to be mean. I enjoyed the movie immensely. It had the same piss and vinegar of every other Pixar hit without feeling like it was an echo of them. It will fit perfectly in the pantheon of Pixar. Of course, I’m completely biased but there hasn’t been one Pixar film that hasn’t hit all the right notes for me. Again, I really enjoyed Cars, but admittedly, not a huge fan of Cars 2. I can’t wait for it to hit Disney Movies Anywhere. Stay for the end credits. It’s hilarious and shows how these five emotions affect us individually.

As part of the Fathom Events special event premiere, Pete Docter (who also directed Monsters, Inc. and Up) and the producer Jonas Rivera brought us along on a tour of the Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville. My favorite parts were seeing Peter Sohn (he did the voice for Emile in Ratatouille and was the inspiration for Russell in Up) and the crew viewing the dailies for The Good Dinosaur, and John Lasseter who was producing Toy Story 4. I’m a little iffy on 4, to be honest. I’m quite happy with the Toy Story shorts they’ve had; dropping in to see how Woody and the gang are with Bonnie. I don’t know where else they can take the story, but I trust Mr. Lasseter. I even like Cars.

After some technical difficulties, the theater got to view a tape-delayed interview with Amy and Pete. I thought they would ask more questions from Twitter but they didn’t have that much time. The one thing that was in my head during the run-up to the movie was how they decided on the 5 emotions, and luckily someone from Twitter asked. Pete and the crew did their homework. They met with doctors who had ideas for 200 emotions, 18 emotions, etc. They met a doctor who suggested that we have 6 emotions. The sixth one was Surprise but Pete and the crew decided to combine that with Fear.

But my favorite part of the interview was when Pete and Amy were discussing the writing process. Amy and Bill had a lot of input into the script during the production process, which was wonderful. I just finished my semester of Humor in Writing, so everything they were saying about the writing process spoke to me deeply. I found myself nodding my head, like “yes! I understand where you’re coming from!”

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

On the surface, The Last Witch Hunter feels like Vin Diesel playing Vin Diesel in a Vin Diesel film, produced by Vin Diesel. And you may very well come away with that perspective, once you’re through. But if my writing program has taught me anything, it’s that the story takes precedence and it’s your job to tell the story to the best of your ability.

The premise of the story is something I hadn’t seen before. The Last Witch Hunter is based on Vin’s Dungeons & Dragons character that he has played nearly all his life. I wonder what stats he earned doing this movie.

I’m kidding.

The story begins over 800 years ago. Led by an elder named Dolan, Vin’s character Kaulder and the remaining men in his village (a generic Viking community that is never named) are charged with hunting down the Witch Queen. She’s only known by her title; she’s never given a name but is given all of the formality of the title by her kinsmen. In my writing program, someone would say, “why doesn’t she have a name? Boo!”

I think it was fascinating to know her only by her name. When you name something – like Rumplestiltskin – shit’s about to go down. I think it was a craft choice to know her only by her title. She is incredibly powerful and completely threatened by the presence of humanity. She has brought a plague down on them and laid waste to Kaulder’s wife Helena and their daughter Elizabeth. Obviously, when deciding to join the hunting party, Kaulder has nothing to lose. Kaulder kills her but she curses him with immortality.

There’s a voiceover by Michael Caine which sums up where we are in the story when we are brought to the present day. Dolan has become a hereditary title and they have been charged with keeping Kaulder on the straight and narrow through their secret society, the Axe and the Cross, with its heavy Christian imagery. Michael Caine’s character is the 36th Dolan. Kaulder has been entrusted with a mission to help keep the human world separate from the witch world, due to a pact that was forged sometime after Kaulder became immortal.

So in terms of story, it wasn’t anything new. Isn’t it always some savior character who has to save humanity from itself, or a dark power that has been sleeping for ages? I was kind of hoping they would twist the conventions of witches in pop culture as we know them a little bit. However, the filmmakers don’t paint witchcraft as black and white.

There is an uneasy peace between Kaulder and the witches. He wears a bracelet with the symbol of the Axe and Cross, and they all know who he is even if they have never met each other before. He only punishes those who flaunt their presence because that would break the truce between humanity and the witches.

The introduction of Rose Leslie’s Chloe feels like we’ve seen it all before. She is a witch who owns a bar and Kaulder goes to her for assistance. She doesn’t willingly give it but joins his mission when she has no other place to go. Chloe is a dream walker, which is considered a power for dark witches only. However, throughout the film, Chloe proves that she isn’t a dark witch, even though she was born with those powers. Witchcraft is shown as evil but how the witch practices it, depends on each individual.

Looking back, every ounce of me believed Chloe was going to assert her allegiance to witchcraft and bow before the Witch Queen. The person who does end up betraying Kaulder because you can’t have a fantasy popcorn flick without betrayal against the hero was kind of like, “duh, I should’ve seen that coming.” I spent the whole time so focused on Chloe that I didn’t think the betrayer would do that. That was my fault. I turned my critical eye to the wrong person.

The action was excellent. The jump scares were needed for a bit of levity, in terms of the heaviness of the mythology that they throw at you. You really have to hold onto the mythology as you go. We’ve discussed that in writing workshops. As a writer, the mythology of your story is yours to do with as you see fit, but as long as you establish it early and stick to it, no one will be able to fault you. Now, how clearly fleshed out that mythology is and if it works is in the hands of the reader is a different beast.

Another thing that came up in my head as I was watching was “Why now?” Why are we following Kaulder at this point in time after 800 years of him doing this thing that he does? Why didn’t we meet him earlier in his journey? I don’t know if I bought the film’s reasons why by the end of the story, although within the mythology it makes perfect sense.

I’m also unsure if I bought the chemistry between Kaulder and Chloe. You’ve spent 800 years policing witches and this one is the one that cracked your veneer? Maybe that’s because I don’t see Vin as a sexual being. All the action movies I’ve seen him in make him out to be sexy without the act of having sex if that makes sense. Seeing him with a woman onscreen is somehow off-putting to me. This is funny because I grew up in the era of action films where the hero always wins the woman.

I hear there is a sequel brewing, but like all things in life, subject to change.

atomic blonde featured image

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Atomic Blonde is a thrill ride.

The movie takes place amid the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the filmmakers embraced The Coldest City (paid link) graphic novel source material full force. They played it close to its comic book roots rather than relying on reality. I was six when it came down, but I legit remember when and where I was when the Wall fell. But the way Charlize filled every frame, the way James McAvoy chewed the scenery, the way they lit it had the aroma of a comic book panel. Every frame is a painting. I liked that.

The sets they used for the late 80s Berlin felt so fake, but they made that world work in a good way. So, props to the filmmakers for embracing that. So many movies based on graphic novels (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – paid link – nailed that comic book-y world, too) take the cinematic elements of the source material and try to put it in the real world. The filmmakers didn’t do that with this movie, and it worked well. I was impressed. You never once forgot that you were watching a real-life comic book.

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The fight training was heavily grounded in reality, though Charlize said that she never full-on punches anybody during the press tour. Instead, she uses objects to take the brunt of her power. If she were to full force sock it to somebody, she risked shattering her whole hand. It was comical the way she used some of the objects. You’ll never use your car keys the same way again.

As far as the writing goes, I enjoyed the subversion of the spy trope. It’s always spy vs. spy when it comes to stories in that world, but it’s spy vs. spy vs. spy vs. spy. But it’s not in a straight line, someone is playing someone else, who’s playing the first person, but then there’s this dude disguised as another dude. I loved it.

The director of John Wick: Chapter I bowed out of Chapter 2 to develop this picture. Keanu ended up training for Chapter 2 alongside Charlize since they were filming concurrently, and they go way back. There were rumors that they would try for a crossover with John Wick, and I thought that was a great idea because I love Keanu and Charlize’s chemistry.

But after seeing Atomic Blonde, it doesn’t make logistical sense. They don’t even take place simultaneously unless they introduce some time travel plot device, and I will scream bloody murder if they try. They both work in their own respective, stand-alone worlds. What is up with a pop culture where everything has to crossover nowadays? This opinion is coming from a Marvel fan who wants the film series to acknowledge the TV series somehow.

Now to my complaints. I’m probably the only person this affected, but music is a massive part of the movie-going experience. It should enhance the movie, not take people out of it. You hear the Funeral March of a Marionette, and you immediately think of Alfred Hitchcock. That’s just how it is.

I wish they would’ve called me to help with the soundtrack because they did what Watchmen did. But, unfortunately, they relied on songs reminiscent of the time rather than actual charted songs from the year the movie takes place: November 1989.

  • 1981’s Under Pressure by David Bowie
  • 1981’s Der Kommissar (though I think this was a cover because it wasn’t Falco singing, and not the ATF version either)
  • 1983’s Blue Monday by New Order
  • 1983’s 99 Luftballons by Nena
  • 1985’s Voices Carry by ’til tuesday

They were the ones I recognized that I could recall. I’m pretty sure I heard a Clash song, but I could be projecting. 1988’s Father Figure by George Michael gets a pass, only because it’s marginally close to the date. But, I went back to check Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1989, and aesthetically, none of these songs would have worked for the era of the movie. So, they get a pass for the marginally accurate soundtrack. But, not much.

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) / House of Wax (1953)

I decided to do a double feature of the original Mystery of the Wax Museum and its 50s remake, House of Wax.

Mystery is a fun 30s romp, on the surface. It was a suspenseful thriller, and it hooks you from the first punch to Igor’s face. I liked the pacing. It didn’t fill the time with useless backstory or filler montage scenes as we expect in modern films. It was nonstop action. I think that’s what I appreciate about movies back in the day. They didn’t waste anyone’s time with nonsense. Michael Curtiz was a masterful director, later directing Casablanca and Mildred Pierce, among many others.

Igor’s backstory reminded me of the Pygmalion myth, where the creator falls in love with his creation. You could say Mystery takes the Pygmalion myth further when he takes a human being devoid of humanity and turns them into creatures (the judge into Voltaire, Joan Gale into St. Joan of Arc). I love exploring the idea that society is controlled and harnessed to live forever in art.

What is unique about the film is the power the women hold. The villains from Mystery fall into the same gender slots: we figure out the disfigured Igor’s motivation, and wax is the only thing preserving the appearance of humanity. Professor Darcy is a junkie and follows Igor’s directives because he is guaranteed his next fix. Drugs are bad, m’kay?

Hugo is a deaf-mute and must follow his master’s orders or try and find someone else to accept his imperfections. I love that dynamic. He’s guaranteed room and board, so long as he keeps Igor’s dreadful secret. No one would question Hugo, and no one would go so far as to harbor a deaf-mute back in those days. The autonomy of the villains is fascinating and probably not thought of much.

The affections of Joe Worth – the millionaire playboy suspected of murdering Joan Gale – change as soon as he meets Florence. This plot point brings me to my following observation. I felt the way that Florence’s love life played out was poor. She establishes her goals in life quite early in the film that she’s all about being a legit reporter and having fun, and if Florence is going to marry, she’s going to marry for money. So she interviews Worth in jail and dazzles him. But, unfortunately, she’s a sassy broad, and he wants to strap on the old ball and chain and marry her within 24 hours of their initial meeting.

Of course, my feminist lens became further blurred with annoyance when her editor-in-chief’s final directive was “act like a lady and marry me.” Rude. He spent the whole film maligning her work, going as far as to fire her for lack of good stories. He spends the entire movie telling her she wasn’t good enough. The moment she shows her mettle, then he goes, “oh, a worthy opponent. She should be my wife!” She shoves Worth aside in favor of the editor. I much prefer Worth for her because he was a guy guaranteed to take care of and love her without any pretension.

It’s technically a Pre-Code film, so I’m a little off-put by the happily ever after we Americans are so famous for now. I only like HEAs if they make sense. She should’ve married for money, that’s all I’m saying. At least she could continue being a reporter. Then, she wouldn’t have to worry about financing her lifestyle. Yes, I know I am looking at this with a modern lens, but I want to believe.

It’s technically a lost film, and the distributed print is a poor man’s copy of the original Technicolor. However, the Technicolor saturation was awful, as noted by other reviews and Wikipedia. So, of course, that’s the copy I have since I have the bundled version of Mystery and House. It’s okay. Some of the colors are a bit jarring but don’t detract all that much. It only becomes an annoyance when you know to look for it.

House of Wax follows the original plot of Mystery with some slight changes. I don’t wish to dwell too much on that aspect. I preferred Mystery over House, to be honest.

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I caught the opening title cards where it announced it was mastered for 3-D. When it was first released, it was the first successful 3-D picture. Fascinating. You can always tell when a movie slathers on the 3-D. I was like, “why is this annoying guy with the paddle ball breaking the third wall right now?”

Then my brain looped my thoughts together: viewers were supposed to see his character in 3-D. How exciting it must’ve been to see that in a theater. I personally and professionally hate 3-D. You might as well give the people Smellovision. But this movie came out in 1953. The novelty must’ve made for a fun theater-going experience.

I loved Vincent Price’s performance as Professor Jarrod. I think he carries the picture. The evolution of his character was fun to see play out too. He embraces the horror that he has to live with every day. I’m glad Mr. Wallace called him out on it. I would think something was amiss if an artist changed his point of view so rapidly like that. I kept looking at Igor and tried to place him every time he came onscreen. I finally had to look it up. Charles Bronson played him!! You can’t miss that chin.

I think the cops in this film were more believable than Mystery, however. I will give it that. They did detective work rather than having a newspaper lady character kick rocks. I was thoroughly annoyed by the vapid Cathy character. I did feel bad that she had to die in that manner to become Joan of Arc, though.

From the feminist side, you can see who owns this version of the story. That’s right, THE MEN. Pfft. They dominate this story. I didn’t feel anything for Sue, even though she was a massive part of the story moving forward. She had an even lesser status than Florence. At least Florence was brassy enough to keep making noise. The filmmakers diminished Sue to where her fears were merely troublesome for the men in charge because she was a lady.

The difference between Sue and Florence is that Florence didn’t let her gender stop her. She kept busting balls. For Florence, she had something to prove to everyone. Sue cried from the grief of losing Cathy the whole time, and the men only kicked rocks to shut her up. A part of me hoped House would genuinely become a horror picture and refuse the happily ever after for Sue. I had no sympathy for her and hoped she would die. So you can see how the Production Code had a significant influence on movies. Remember that only 20 years elapsed between Mystery and House.

Maybe that’s why they remade it: to remind women of their place in a horror picture.