12.28.2016

The Bar Loves "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series"

So, Netflix recently released Season 3 of FDTD and I ignored it as usual because the original films did nothing for me, and I couldn't see how or even why they would translate those films into a show.  But then, I remembered Brandon Soo Hoo was supposed to be on the show.  I found out he's a member of the main cast and has been for all three seasons thus far.  When you think of how rare that is for Asian Americans in Hollywood, I decided to give it a try.

I got hooked right away; I binge-watched like a crazed junkie for days straight, and am just now restarting Season 1.  For one, Quentin Tarantino has nothing to do with the show, which puts it squarely in the hands of Robert Rodriguez, who came up with the original story in the first place.  The series expands on that story, evoking Mesoamerican mythology and thus giving us a much more interesting version of vampires (and later on, other demons and gods).  The story is set in the deserts of Texas and Mexico, the dialogue has a lot of Spanish in addition to various Mesoamerican languages and dialects, and the soundtrack is bangin', featuring both tracks and actual appearances by Rodriguez's own band, Chingon (you remember them).

Most importantly, FDTD boasts a mostly brown cast.

In an age where it's hard to get people to notice a show and then watch it faithfully (much less write about it), one of the smartest things a showrunner can do is make sure the cast is as diverse as humanly possible.  The inclusion of Brandon Soo Hoo has not only got me watching the show, but also blogging about the show and telling all my friends and relatives.  I can't stress that enough. 

At first I was cynical about Soo Hoo's character, the equally cynical and smart-mouthed teenager Scott Fuller.  I didn't feel the writers were giving him enough to say and do, but I blame the original film, off which Season 1 is based.  The movie did this character no favors, and I think the writers had to find a way to work with that.

Also, as with the movie, there were these annoying lapses in judgment where the writers felt the need to constantly point out/remind the audience/call attention to the fact that Scott Fuller is Chinese, whether through his adoptive sister bringing up the fact he's adopted (no duh), or some asshole hurling racial slurs, or someone making comparisons between him and Bruce Lee, or having to correct someone who nicknames him "Tokyo Drift."

Writers...stop doing that. You don't need to explain the character's "Asianness" to us.  You don't need to apologize for casting an Asian American, because that's what you're really doing when you keep bringing it up every five seconds: you're pleading with White fandom not to have a meltdown. 'Cause let's face it - the folks with melanin? We don't care.  You had us at "cute Asian guy".  We don't really need any "explaining" beyond that.

Luckily, once the Season 1 storyline was resolved, that nonsense stopped.  By Season 2, Scott Fuller character is drastically upgraded and revamped and turned into one hell of a bad-ass.  Like, I didn't know Brandon Soo Hoo had skills like that.  And while I knew he was a talented actor with so much promise (and a hopefully bright future), his performance, his facial expressions, his ability to connect with another actor so meaningfully with just his eyes, left me in speechless awe.

As I mentioned earlier, he's been on the show for all three seasons, but his Facebook page is quiet, the number of fans are far too few, and if you Google him, almost nobody's interviewing him, there are no adoring fansites dedicated to his character, and why you pause to consider how blindingly cute this guy is, why aren't more people talking?  And by people, I specifically mean POC - how come nobody emailed me???  Did y'all just not know about this?

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***

Brandon Soo Hoo was absent from quite a few episodes at first, but since the show is predominantly brown, I was forgiving.  How couldn't I be, when I had Jesse Garcia and his intense amber eyes?

Garcia portrays Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez.  Gonzalez is a descendant of the otomi, an ancient bloodline immune to the venom of culebras, the serpentine vampires who are central to the show's mythos.  He's a natural born demon hunter, a gifted fighter, a shrewd strategist, and a cowboy all the way.

I cannot express how much I'm loving the fact that the role of the rebellious vaquero was given to a sun-kissed brown dude with no fucks to give.

Though Garcia is a main cast member without top billing, as far as I'm concerned this is his show.  Ranger Gonzalez is the true protagonist of FDTD.  You can see the weight of the show on his shoulders, which tells me Garcia is well aware of the implications of his role.  So if we do get a Season 4, it would help the show greatly now and in the future to shift its focus squarely onto him.  We need to know more about the otomi.  There's still so much mythology and indigenous history to tap into.

Like Soo Hoo, Jesse Garcia is an excellent actor; it's extremely frustrating to go searching for his other works only to find a very short list.  You can tell these two really poured everything into their characters.  This show obviously means a lot to them both.  When portraying Gonzalez, Garcia immerses himself completely - with every look, every gesture, every rasp of his voice - so much that I can't even imagine him playing anyone else.  I don't want to.

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Of course, Soo Hoo and Garcia aren't the only two reasons this show needs to be renewed.

Wilmer Valderrama is one hell of an actor.  As the suave, suit-clad culebra Carlos, Valderrama is terrifying, charming, enigmatic, and whimsical, all at the same time.  He brings so much swagger and poise to a character of innumerable layers.  By the end of Season 3, I was mindlessly, breathlessly in love with him.

Though he's Colombian-Venezuelan in real life, Valderrama portrays a Conquistador who was turned some 500 years before the beginning of the show.  It is Carlos who manipulates the Gecko Brothers into doing a bank job which brings them into the world of culebras.

Carlos is an exceedingly complex person, being both friend and traitor to everyone around him.  In three seasons we see him at his highest and lowest, yet Valderrama somehow never diminishes the character's dignity.  He also channels a certain pensive caballero mystique, which elevates not only the character, but the whole show.  He gave a truly enthralling performance, and I hope he and Robert Rodriguez continue working together. There's no reason why they can't (just like there's no reason not to renew FDTD) since the El Rey Network is Rodriguez's network after all (way to hustle, bruh).

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Parting Thoughts

FDTD needs better female characters, and better casting choices for those characters

It's no accident that there aren't any women listed above. There was no one worthy of gushing over.  I get that the original film was set in a strip club, and I get that the point of Season 1 was to reboot the whole story.  But the nudity and excessive bimbification of women got old very old quickly, and thankfully was mostly gone by Season 2.

I also gave the side-eye to the Beckification of the Mesoamerican women on this show.  Y'all, "Mesoamerica" is basically Mexico and Texas; these are supposed to be Mexican women (whom I'm surrounded by on a daily basis here in Houston), yet the women on the show did not reflect their diversity.  They were all fairly bony (flaca), pale, and mostly dark-haired.  No curves, no glorious brown skin, no signature red or gold highlights, and none of them under five feet tall.

The two prominent exceptions were the culebra Ximena (Emily Rios) and the human Manola (Gabrielle Walsh), who had some curves and some darkness to them.  They were also strong, fearless women.  They were also killed off pretty quickly, when neither one actually needed to die.

Becky and the Gecko Brothers

I'm willing to accept that Scott Fuller's sister Kate and los hermanos Gecko are canon characters from the original film.  But to be honest, trying to keep them throughout show was a mistake.  They were basic.  The actors' performances vastly paled in comparison to those listed above.  Kate almost single-handedly ruined Season 3; she was not compelling, and the storyline they gave her was far beyond the actress's abilities.

Los hermanos Gecko also helped in that department; the actors' portraying the brothers have no swag.   Their storylines should've been phased out in Season 1, so that they could be wrapped up early in Season 2, latest.  I lost count of how many times I could see and hear where the writers were struggling to keep them not only relevant to the story, but front and center.  They didn't need to be front and center.  This is not their show.  This is Freddie Gonzalez's show, and the writers were at their best whenever they put him front and center.

And speaking of...

I also didn't see why Gonzalez couldn't have a bronze-skinned, fat-bottomed, gut-toting, no-fucks-giving Chicana wife who knew more about culebras than he did, and who could've been sent to protect him (since they insisted on writing him as married).  They gave him the cliched fragile, stay-at-home White wife who's only capable of the most basic dialogue, and who later tries to divorce him and keep him from seeing his daughter.

Guys...this is this is 21st Century.  Please stop writing like you're back in the 1980s and 1990s when it comes to race and women.  Especially when you're on your own network.  Brown is beautiful.  Dark is beautiful.  Strength is beautiful. Short is beautiful.  This show is pretty good, but as with many shows, it could be ten times better if the writers just did right by the women and didn't pander to White fandom.

12.22.2016

Intro to Red Flags: Belated Post for International National Men's Day (Part 1)

I was planning to post on November 19th to celebrate International Men's Day, but this election got me fucked up.  Anyways....

As I planned this post, I started to realize that I really have a lot to say on this topic.  So it's not all going to fit into a single post; I'll be doing a series of posts on various ways how I think society fails men.

One of my cousins recently broke up with his fiancee and this weekend and he's still working through it.  We got to talking this weekend, and we had a lengthy conversation which spanned his most dysfunctional relationships. He's been hit, called horrible names on a daily basis, and because he's an engineer (but not wealthy), too many women have tried to use him financially (his fiancee quit her job - without warning or consulting him - right before they were supposed to move in together.  For six months, my cousin supported her as she dragged her heels about getting a new job and furthering her education).

My cousin has had a woman break up with him on the morning of his birthday.  That same evening, when he was about to meet up with friends to celebrate - bringing his own special, favorite cake - she showed up to make sure he wasn't "going anywhere".  She threw his (very expensive) cake in the trash, starting knocking things off the counter, and physically tried to prevent him from leaving.

Another girlfriend once invited him to a wedding reception at a very expensive restaurant.  My cousin showed up in his aging Toyota to find himself among men in shiny Lamborghinis.  He parked on the highest floor where there were no other cars.  When he arrived inside, there was no wedding reception (of course).  His girlfriend was sitting alone at the bar, sipping wine.  She'd already ordered a full bottle, and got very angry when my cousin flat-out refused pay for it.

The horror stories continued for hours, but you get the gist.

11.20.2016

No, we will not "come together"

I've spent two weeks trying to write this post.  Meanwhile, vastly superior think pieces have popped up saying everything I want to say.
It started shortly after Election Day with my Uber driver. I climbed into the front seat of his black sedan and he smiled politely. We weren’t going far, but somehow, the talk quickly turned to Trump.

“I admit, I voted for him,” he said sheepishly, briefly meeting my eyes. “I just care about the economy.” I nodded, too tired to get into a debate.

Then there was the guy who chatted me up during a weekend getaway to Reno. “All this racist, sexist stuff,” he said, waving his wrinkled white hand dismissively. “It’s just been hyped up by the media. You’ll see. I voted for him. Obamacare just needs to go.”

Again, I nodded, trying to be understanding.

But then there was the woman from Folsom who sidled up to me at a bar in downtown Sacramento. “My cousin is gay. Marry who you want. My uncle is black. I’m all for Black Lives Matter.” She stared into her drink and continued, imploringly. “I really don’t think he’s racist. I don’t think he’s going to do all of those things he said.”

I didn’t nod.

For days, I feel like I’ve been listening to people recite a Trumped up version of, “I’m not racist. Some of my best friends are black.” Who are you trying to convince with that mess? Certainly not me.
(Source)

***

By all means, let’s discuss this “white working class” that’s full of “rural resentment,” but if we’re going to tell it, we need to make it plain.

Because where I’m from, these degenerates were called overseers and slave patrols. What they are really saying, what they’ve always been saying, is, “Don’t group us with the Negroes just because we’re working class; we’re still white and we are owed all the rights, privileges and power therein.”

...Yes, they are angry. But they aren’t angry because they’re poor; they’re angry because they are white and poor—and that’s not the American dream. And they will starve and they will waste away and they will die before acknowledging that the world owes them nothing simply because they were born into a world where whiteness is supposed to equal power.

We can’t negotiate with that level of white self-destructiveness.

We can’t bargain with it.

We can’t appease it.

We can’t seek common ground with it.

We fight it and hope to come out on the other side.
(Source)

***

I have no interest in seeing this country heal. And I refuse to come together.

Understand: If this were just about politics, I’d never say something like that. No, I’d do what you’re supposed to when the candidate you favored is defeated. Suck it up.

But my anger is not about any given policy of the new president. No, it is about him, about the election of a fundamentally unsound, unserious and unfit man, a misogynist who brags about sexual assault, a bigot cheered to victory by the Ku Klux Klan. I have no idea how to “heal” woman hating and no desire to “come together” with the Klan.

I am similarly impatient with those who say we must give the new president a chance to lead and hope for his success.

Is that what Republicans did for Barack Obama when they gathered on the night of his inauguration and plotted a conspiracy of obstructionism to cripple his presidency? Is it what Donald Trump did when he spent years questioning the veracity of an ordinary birth certificate?

...Forgive me — or don’t; I really don’t care — if that remains a deal breaker for me. I refuse to participate in this process of organized amnesia, to cooperate in normalizing a man who stands for everything America should not.
(Source)

Jon Stewart recently stated that we shouldn't treat Trump voters like a monolith.  Sure.  Okay.  But every single person who voted for Trump...is a person who voted for Trump. Remember, kids, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Impact trumps intent - pun intended.  Every bit of damage he wreaks is on their hands, and we will not be so forgiving or forgetful.  We will remind you of this fuck-up every day that he's in office.

You think a girl being choked with her own hijab cares that in your heart of hearts, you swear you're not a bigot?  To date, over 700 hate crimes have been reported since the election - you think any of the victims care that you only wanted to fix the economy by electing a man facing 400 lawsuits, who's filed for bankruptcy several times, who just paid a settlement for $25 million on a fraud case, and who owes $650 million in taxes?

People who are feeling bad about voting for Trump need to feel bad. They don't get run from this now that they've lost the respect and affection of relatives, and are being shunned by former friends.

POC often hear the claim that we blame White people for everything and never take responsibility for anything.  We don't blame White people. We blame White supremacy, as well we should.
Every single hardship that people of color face in this country is either caused or exacerbated by the brute force of white supremacy. But the “white working class” that cries about being abandoned doesn’t pretend to care about racial equity. Its members want the right to be as oppressive as their wealthier white masters—they just want to do it with more money in their pockets. And this nation is more comfortable with this impotent white rage than with the justifiable rage of black, Latinx and indigenous people that has burst to the fore once again.

...This is what we are seeing with “white working class” Trump voters. They hope that by voting against justice—by denying the urgency of racial equity in education and health care and housing and employment needed to shatter the framework of a country built on the subjugation and murders of black, Latinx and indigenous people—that they will be more closely aligned with the wealthy white people they yearn to be. They hope that by deporting immigrants from this country—something that Democrats know a thing or two about as well—they won’t have to face job competition and their own mediocrity.
(Source)
Poor White people who vote against their interests generation after generation - while throwing the rest of us under the bus - don't get to cry foul. Fuck their "rural resentment".  They are a basket of deplorables.  And we have got to stop handling them with cookies and kiddie gloves when what they really need is a switch.

Heads up, White people; our new President-elect has exactly the sort of temperament that could easily start a fresh new war.  Guess whose kids will be shipped off to fight it?  Here's a hint: not his.

10.24.2016

The Bar Loves #DarkMatter


So this past week I finally gave into my curiosity and started watching Canadian SyFy show Dark Matter on Netflix (they just released Season 2).

***Some Spoilers***

See the gorgeous sista to the far right?  Her name is Nyx and she's portrayed by English actress Melanie Liburd.  She was my main reason for checking it out, but I quickly realized she doesn't arrive until Season 2.

10.16.2016

John Wick (2015)

Don't fuck with the code

I didn't bother to watch this until I learned a sequel's scheduled to drop in February, 2017.  And the main reason I didn't bother was that I don't look at Keanu Reeves and think "actor."  Don't get me wrong; I grew up in the Age of Keanu.  He was young and he was pretty, and I was a huge fan.  He's not young and pretty anymore (though he's looking really great lately).

Off-screen, Reeves is very charismatic and fun to watch (ironic, right?).  And now that he's older and been through the hellish training camps of The Matrix films, he's developed a certain enigmatic maturity which has me intrigued all over again.

It's like he's Keanu 2.0.

***Spoilers***

On paper, John Wick appears tired and uninspired.  Someone pisses off a retired hitman who goes on a killing spree to get his revenge.  We've seen that before.  Except, with John Wick, it's so much more.

The writers didn't just give us a gloomy revenge flick; they created a whole universe which had me asking all kinds of questions and genuinely looking forward to the sequel.

John Wick introduces its viewers to a society of assassins, with its strict code, its own language, its own currency, and in a manner of speaking, its own "temple".  There's an establishment known as the Continental Hotel, where a man named Charon stands as concierge, tending the needs of his visitors.  The rules are strict and to the point: assassins cannot conduct business on Continental grounds, as management does not take too kindly to it.

10.12.2016

At the Bar with Karlton Clay

Previously

The Bar Loves Karma, the Web Series

In addition to owning his own production company, Karlton Clay is a writer, director, and showrunner from Georgia, and a part of the independent webseries movement there.  He is also a member of the esteemed Black Filmmakers group on Facebook.

Karlton! Welcome to the Bar!!! What are you sippin’ on?

Right now, I am sippin' on some WATER! I need to drink more! LOL!

You are an independent artist, so there may be some folks in attendance who don’t know you. If you would, please give us a little background.

I was born and raised in Augusta, GA, and I still live here now.

10.05.2016

Open Mic Night: #LukeCage


Because you know we had to do it.

This is an open thread, so feel free to talk about what you want pertaining to the show.  I'll start: my favorite scene is when Cottonmouth throws Tone off a building.




My second favorite scene is Jidenna's performance of "Long Live the Chief."  In fact, he needs to just go ahead and make this the song's new official video.



What about y'all?

9.18.2016

Toxic Masculinity: The Convo Continues

So there's a bit of writing currently making its round that I felt would be appropriate at the Bar:
"When I was a freshman, my sister was in eighth grade. There was a boy in two of her periods who would ask her out every single day. (Third and seventh period, if I remember correctly.) All day during third and seventh she would repeatedly tell him no. She didn’t beat around the bush, she didn’t lie and say she was taken – she just said no.

One day, in third period, after being rejected several times, he said; “I have a gun in my locker. If you don’t say yes, I am going to shoot you in seventh.”

She refused again, but right after class she went to the principal’s office and told them what happened. They searched his locker and there was a gun in his backpack.

When he was arrested, some of my sister’s friends (some female, even) told her that she was selfish for saying no so many times. That because of her, the entire school was in jeopardy. That it wouldn’t have killed her to say yes and give it a try, but because she was so mean to him, he lost his temper. Many of her male friends said it was 'girls like her' that made all women seem like cock-teases.

Wouldn’t have killed her to say yes? If a man is willing to shoot someone for saying no, what happens to the poor soul who says yes? What happens the first time they disagree? What happens the first time she says she doesn’t want to have sex? That she isn’t in the mood? When they break up?

9.11.2016

The Bar Pops Pink Champagne for Star Trek

See Also

"Star Trek", by Abagond

Since I blog mostly on the weekends now, I struggle to pick topics (since there are so many things to talk about).  The 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise seemed a no-brainer.

The Original Series

Star Trek: The Original Series first aired back in 1966 on September 8th, same as my younger brother's day.  Side note, I know some of you are like, "Um...K?  You've never mentioned having a brother.  We've heard and seen all about your sisters, but not your brother, K."  I just met him for the first time back in May, y'all.  But that's another topic for another day.

Back to TOS...one of my fondest early childhood memories was watching this show with my father back in our old (and admittedly ratchet) apartment in Austin, Texas.  My father's fandom was what made the experience memorable, not so much the show.

Despite my love for the iconic Spock and the goddess Uhura, I don't really watch TOS anymore (for obvious reasons).  It's just far too dated for my taste, and unlike many Trekkies, I don't like Kirk.  He served his purpose introducing us to the Star Trek universe, but that's pretty much about it.

The Next Generation

I remember exactly where I was when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted.  I was with my father and older sisters in Institute, West Virginia.  There had been slight confusion; we knew there would be Star Trek on that night but when we heard new music and saw the words "The Next Generation" my father practically exploded with glee.