Winter Film Awards 2019-Albert Fry Jr.-An Interview

The Eighth Annual Winter Film Awards begins in two days, on February 14th, in New York City, running for 10 days, showcasing 89 films from 32 countries around the world. I spoke with director and actor, Albert Fry Jr., about his short film, A Bitter Reckoning, which follows a small town sheriff interviewing a man about his ailing father’s recent suicide.

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Walter Howard: Where did the idea for A Bitter Reckoning come from?

Albert Fry Jr: Well, there were three aspects that inspired it. The main one was my own father who did not commit suicide, did not talk about it, but just in my experience in watching him in his last few years, months, weeks, and especially the last six days of hospice care I spent with him, and just wondering what he was feeling, what he was going through, as he declined in health, and another big part of that, what I see as my own mortality being mirrored back to me, and I started thinking about myself, and what I’d do in his place. Would I want to take matters into my own hands? He ended up, not a great situation, he ended up in a healthcare facility, and two things, I felt like at one point, he reached a point where physically he couldn’t do anything about where he was at. He was stuck there, and second, his mind started going also, so cognitively he wasn’t able to make decisions, and so that’s what kind of inspired it. And another thing, I’d read about people who have resistance to pain medications, and I wondered what would happen in this situation where they’re failing in health, but they also can’t get relief through pain medications, or from the traditional way of assisted suicide. So I wanted to set up more of a situation of urgency. A situation where he was in pain, he couldn’t get relief, he really wants to end this situation that he’s in.

WH: You co-directed with Amber LeRae Earls. Was that always the plan for this film?

AF: It was. That’s one of the big challenges for me. Trying to act in and direct my own films. I find it very challenging. This film is important enough to me that I wanted some help. Amber Earls was my co-director. I enlisted her with the main purpose of having eyes on me, and helping direct me and my own performance.

WH: When did she enter the project? At which point in the process?

AF: Fairly later on. She came in maybe two weeks before we started shooting. Actually, I was looking for a unit production manager, and I had one who became busy with some other work, and was going to have to step down from that position, so I actually enlisted her first as a UPM. But I also asked her about this idea of being my co-director, and I was talking with a couple people about the position, and she was one of about three I was talking to. She was open to it. I knew some of her work. I was a fan of her work that I’d seen, and I knew that she could be an effective director.

WH: How did you first meet her?

AF: I met her, let me think here, it’s been about, maybe four or five years ago, at an audition for one of her projects she was producing, and I went in to audition for that project. Didn’t get the part (laughs), but that’s where I met her.

WH: You filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and you opened the film with some impressive aerial shots over the river, the woods, how did you achieve these shots?

AF: Actually those shots weren’t in Albuquerque. I was trying to create a setting that could be any Smalltown, U.S.A. New Mexico has a very, you know, its own distinct southwest style, and so I was trying to stay away from southwest style houses, or landscaping, or anything that would signal southwest. We found this nice house in a part of Albuquerque that was older Victorian, which is a little bit different than most of the city. The park worked well, because it didn’t have any houses around that had this southwestern architecture. We do have a river here. The Rio Grande runs through here, and there’s a lot of nice trees around it. I wanted to film, I wanted to get some footage of that, but the timing just wasn’t right. I tried to line up a drone pilot to film along the river for me, and I wanted to catch the Autumn leaves. Also Autumn was important for me. The river was important, and Autumn colors. I wanted both of those. By the time we got out there for some footage, it was too windy, and the next time we got out there, it was too late. We lost a lot of the color. We’d gotten our first frost and everything just started dropping. So those two shots, I found on Shutterstock, and that river’s actually outside of Morristown, New Jersey. I found that, and then the closeup of the town, I don’t even know where that is. It’s just described as-

WH: Smalltown, U.S.A.

AF: U.S.A, exactly. It came together, and it had the look I wanted. It blended okay with the park scene in the end. We lucked out. We actually got our first frost here the night before that scene. The leaves just started to drop. You see the sidewalk covered with leaves when the Sheriff pulls up. Someone asked me if we set the leaves up. No, I was just happy they fell down. A couple more days and they all would have been gone. The timing was perfect on that, and everything matched up pretty well.

WH: What did Smalltown, U.S.A lend to this story you tell in the film?

AF: I think what I was hoping is that anybody could relate to it. I don’t want anyone taken out of the story, because of locale. I wanted anybody to think, okay, this could be my hometown. This could be a situation in my own family. I was afraid if it looked too southwest, it would take people out of that. Maybe your mind would go to the architecture or the setting more than something they could all relate to.

WH: The structure of the film’s intriguing. You have two character in a room, working backwards through the story. One character has a clear picture of what’s happened. The other has an idea. When did you decide to tell the story in this way?

AF: I thought it would be interesting to do it in a flashback form probably because I wanted to build this relationship between Lester and the Sheriff. The Sheriff has his own thing going on too, and I always give backstory to my characters, and his backstory was that his Father had also died, and he watched his Father go through a similar thing that Lester’s father was going through. Now his mother’s going through the same thing. His mother’s just about at the point where she needs to go in to hospice care, and he knows that. I wanted the dynamic of the two, wondering what is going on in the Sheriff’s mind. I think a normal situation, and I had a good forensic adviser, a friend of mine, who’s a retired Sheriff’s deputy, 25 years in the Sheriff’s department, who’s also an actor, I talked to him about this and he said in a normal situation, they would haul Lester down to the office, and hold the interrogation, so why did the Sheriff come to his house? And he came on a Sunday. It’s because the Sheriff has something going on too. He maybe suspects some hospital foul play, and maybe even Lester pulled the trigger himself, he doesn’t know. Originally, when I wrote the first draft, it was just the interview between the Sheriff and Lester. That’s all it was. I went back and added the flashbacks to show what happened. That’s where all the action was. I just thought it would be an interesting way to tell the story.

WH: You talked about your inspiration, your personal reasons for writing the story. Empathy struck me as the main theme of the film. It’s centered around a horrific situation. The characters are asked to put empathy into action. What interested you about this idea?

AF: I’ve thought a lot about this whole assisted suicide, end of life. I’m a proponent of assisted suicide, and that’s part of it. There’s so many different aspects to that too. It’s not just cut and dry. A lot of people have different thoughts. A lot of it can depend on the people and the situation. I wanted to create something a little different. There have been a lot of films done on the Dr. Kevorkian style. Hook up a machine, pump them full of drugs until they overdose. I didn’t want to go that route. I wanted something a little different. The title A Bitter Reckoning, what is a bitter reckoning? A reckoning is Lester trying to reconcile his feelings, his father wants Lester to help him with this, but Lester can’t do it at first. There’s a fine line between that and murder. He doesn’t want to pull the trigger. The reckoning he comes to is okay, I have to help my father do this, but it’s a bitter reckoning because it’s not something he wants to do. He comes to understand his father’s ready.

WH: The Sheriff, you mentioned coming up with a backstory for him, you see him visit his mother in the end. Is he inspired by Lester? Maybe just a reminder not take their time for granted. What do you see happening in his character?

AF: I think in his character, he’s already gone through this with his father, and actually, his backstory is my backstory. I watched my father go through this. That’s what inspired all this. I watched my father end up in a healthcare facility. Have no control over what’s happening. It wasn’t nice watching the last few weeks, few months. My father was a very strong, hard worker his whole life. To watch him end up in that place was very hard. That’s now the Sheriff’s backstory. And my mother’s health also started failing. In fact, she was also in hospice care, and she actually just passed away on me Christmas Eve. I was with her too. Her last days. That was his backstory. I think that’s what makes him empathetic towards Lester and make the decision not to prosecute it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

The Future of Marvel Comics in Film: An Interview with Peeler

Since Marvel Studios was purchased by Disney for $4 billion nearly 8 years ago, their lineup of superhero blockbusters have dominated the movie theater box-office. They consistently receive strong reviews, big earnings, and please the Comic-con crowd. I, a card-carrying hater, though I do feel that the Marvel films are fine, have been less impressed by the company’s output. The following is a conversation with Edward Graham Peeler Jr., a comic book expert, passionate fan, and fellow blogger. You can follow his blog at, or his video reviews on youtube. We discussed the upcoming slate of Marvel films, and their projected plan for the future:

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Me: Marvel has a good thing going. They keep churning out the hits. There doesn’t seem to be any Marvel fatigue at all, which makes me skeptical about the apparent “Star Wars fatigue” that was suggested after the disappointment of Solo. Marvel is certainly set for the next few years, but then, their first and second generation cornerstones, Iron Man and Captain America, for example, are likely gone. What’s their next phase after Avengers finishes? How do they keep from taking a step back? Or have they reached their peak?

Edward: It all depends on whether or not Chris Evans, Robert Downey, and Chris Helmsworth want to keep making Avengers movies.  They might be tired and want to move on but they seem to really enjoy making Marvel films and their making good money doing them.  Hopefully, they’ll stick around for a little while longer and we’ll have more adventures with Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. I’m not sure exactly what they are going to do after Infinity War part 2.  What I would like to see is them starting to integrate the X-men and Deadpool into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s something I’ve always wanted so see: the X-men and the Avengers working together; specifically Wolverine as an Avenger.  Also, I hear a Black Widow movie is in the works which I’m looking forward to. The only thing I’m really worried about is the Captain Marvel movie, and Carol Danvers being integrated into the MCU. Carol Danvers is a superhero that has had multiple identities in the comics.  Her best incarnation was Miss Marvel and she’s occasionally gone by the identities Warbird and Binary. The past couple years she’s been going by Captain Marvel. The Marvel version of Captain Marvel was originally an alien Kree soldier named Jenus Mar-vel, who had these high tech arm bands that granted him cosmic powers, and he became a space-faring superhero that also helped out on earth, who is best known for being dead.  Miss Marvel was a spin-off character of the original Captain Marvel. She was a soldier who was abducted by the Kree, experimented on, and granted super powers. In my personal opinion she was great character when she was Miss Marvel. She was badass, confident, sexy, and one of the top-tier Avenger characters. She was one of the team leaders and she was a skilled, no non-sense tactician. Then they turned her into Captain Marvel.  The stated reason for turning her into Captain Marvel was to make her into a legacy hero. Legacy heroes are characters where the superhero identity is a mantle shared by many different people over generations. A recent example is when Batman allegedly died (he actually was sent back in time), and Dick Grayson, the original Robin, became Batman. He had actually not been Robin for years and had been going as Nightwing and Tim Drake was Robin.  While he was Batman, Bruce Wayne’s biological son, Damian Wayne, became Robin. Likewise when Barry Allen, the second Flash died, Kid Flash became the Flash. And there is a related character named Impulse who became Kid Flash. So those are all good examples of legacy heroes, and the stated reason for Miss Marvel becoming Captain Marvel was to be that, to honor the legacy and allow Carol to take center stage. The real reason for her becoming Captain Marvel was bullshit third wave feminism politics.  In recent years, with the distraction and success of Marvel’s movies, T.V, and other franchises, the comics have started to suck. Their editor in chief at the time, Axel Alonso, has allowed this invasion of really bad, ultra-liberal activist writers to invade the company and start writing the books. These people are less concerned with writing good stories and giving the fans what they want, and instead pushing their agenda or cause and making fools of themselves on twitter. As far as I can tell they hired a bunch of assholes who don’t even really like comics like Nick Spencer who turned Captain America into a Nazi.  They also decided to do a dumb convoluted story-line, where Thor no longer became worthy of his hammer, Mjolnir, and Jane Foster, a character so loved by fans that she was written out of the MCU in Thor Ragnarok, becomes the new Thor, also known as Lady Thor. And she became this miserable, man hating, “I’m better than you”, sort of character. Lady Thor died of cancer (which makes absolutely no sense but whatever) and it’s the first time I’ve found myself actually rooting for cancer, and in my real life I have many loved ones who’ve suffered from cancer. Yeah, thanks Marvel. Anyway, the moment Carol Danvers became Captain Marvel she transformed into this miserable character that is everything wrong with this direction Marvel’s been going in.  The argument for changing her into Captain Marvel was along the lines of “Why can’t she be Captain Marvel? CUS SHE’S A WOMAN?! SHE CAN’T TAKE CENTER STAGE?!” and “Oh, her original outfit is so sexist! God forbid she wear a one-piece bathing suit as her outfit! God forbid she be sexy!” and of course “It’s time!” She immediately turned into this authoritarian, ultra-feminist, bull dike lesbian, man hating monster and everyone hates her. Marvel’s sales have been down as long as they keep pushing this crap because the fans hate it and the people that are pushing this crap don’t actually read comics. And Marvel comics has been trying to make this new Captain Marvel into Marvel’s flagship character, the character that is the symbol of the company. Traditionally the flagship character is Spider-man and for awhile during the height of X-men’s popularity, it was Wolverine, both of which are insanely popular and beloved characters.  So all efforts to make Captain Marvel the flagship have fallen flat on their face since that’s a determination made by fan response not executive decision, but Marvel editorial keeps trying to push her as the character we SHOULD be reading. And then Kevin Feige announced that Captain Marvel was going to be the most important character in the MCU going forward. Naturally hearing this, a chill went down my body. Now Kevin’s been very good at making movies that both the fans and general audiences love, partially by staying away from politics; especially crazy extremist crap that the comics have gotten into. So my instinct says to trust him and see what he does. He’s done a good job so far and shown a lot of common sense so far, so I think we should wait and see. Another point of concern was some comments Brie Larson, the actress who will be playing Captain Marvel said. She said in response to criticisms of A Wrinkle In Time (your favorite movie ☺)  that “she doesn’t want to hear what white men think about the movie.” She wants to hear from women and girls and what the movie means to them. Because yeah, it’s not like I didn’t grow up with and love that book. Why should I have an opinion on a film based on a book I like <?<. So that’s disconcerting and may suggest their going in a bad direction with Captain Marvel. But we’ll have to wait and see the movie to find out. Hopefully the movie will be good and I’m worrying about nothing. I mean I waited until The Last Jedi to start hating Star Wars. I will give the films a chance so long as they are consistently good. I don’t have much of an opinion of Brie Larson. I liked her in Kong: Skull Island, so that’s something nice I can say about her. As long as they don’t make Captain Marvel a feminist nightmare, they can avoid taking steps back. Their movies are running strong. I think Marvel’s doing great film wise. If they do run into their peak, it will be Infinity War Part 2.  Hopefully they’ll be making awesome comic book movies for many years to come.

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Me: Speaking of Captain Marvel; the studio’s first female stand alone super hero movie. Does it feel at all like Marvel is finally chasing DC in something, i.e Wonder Woman? Not that there’s no room for more female super heroes, but how does Captain Marvel break away and become its own thing? How does it separate itself from other Marvel movies for that matter?

Edward: Eh, they might be trying to copy Wonder Woman, but Carol Danvers is (or more like WAS) an awesome character in her own right, so there’s every reason to make a movie about her.  I just wish they were calling her Miss Marvel, because that was her best incarnation. Wonder Woman and Miss Marvel have very superficial similarities. They both have super strength, stamina, and flight.  But their personalities are totally different as are their origins and what the characters stand for. Diana Prince comes from a warrior race of amazons, and she is a kind, wise immortal character that people look up to in the same way they look up to Superman. Carol Danvers is a soldier who was abducted by aliens and given powers. She has a very tactical military mindset and accepted her new life as a super hero. Prior to becoming Captain Marvel, her motivation was to become the world’s greatest superhero, and she was always good and beloved as an awesome Avenger, but she was never the greatest hero in the world.  And as I mentioned above the moment she became Captain Marvel, she has become an awful third wave feminist, and a symbol of everything wrong with the far left, activist culture, and the current direction of Marvel’s comics right now. Now Wonder Woman is the greatest female superhero of all time and a feminist icon. So it could be Marvel is attempting to replicate that and that’s why Captain Marvel is getting a movie right now in that awful costume, in this awful incarnation, with Brie Larson in the role….I don’t know.  I don’t want to get into conspiracy theories right now. The problem is people love Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman IS one of the world’s greatest superheroes and she IS an extremely positive symbol of femininity. Carol Danvers has never been that. When she was good she was always a great superhero, but never the best. In her current form, the comic book writers want her to be a positive feminist role model and instead she’s an awful person that nobody likes. So if their goal is to copy DC’s success with Wonder Woman, that’s a terrible idea.  First of all, why would you want to copy the DCEU in anything? If the goal is: she’s a major Avengers character and we want to introduce her into the MCU, then it’s a good idea. What they should do is, just make a movie based off of her Miss Marvel era persona (with this modern crappy outfit). Just tell a story about a cool superhero; who HAPPENS to be a woman. They should not make a big deal about that. That need to keep politics out of it or at least stay away from extreme liberalism. A little bit of girl power is fine as is modest liberal values of acceptance.  As long as she doesn’t use the terms “safe space” and “CIS gendered pig” I think we’ll be fine. As for separating itself from Marvel’s other films, well, she does have powers comparable to Superman and Wonder Woman, namely flight, super strength, and stamina. Meaning she can fly and punch monsters and have a look and feel that is kind of what people think of when they think of a superhero. In many ways she can be Marvel’s typical superhero character, because none of their other characters that we see in the MCU are like that. They all  have their own look that feel unique to them.  Captain Marvel can be the character that puts on a cape, flies, and punches monsters like a more traditional superhero. Also, I think this movie is supposed to take place in the 80s, so it should have a nice period piece 80s feel.

Me: How do you see Disney’s acquiring X-men affecting that franchise, since you’re happy with their handling of Marvel but not Star Wars.

Edward: I think what we are going to see with X-men is they are going to slowly start integrating them, Deadpool, and the Fantastic Four into the MCU.  That’s what I’m really looking forward too. They might even play on the concept of the Multiverse that was set up in Dr. Strange and allow the X-men from the Fox movies to directly crossover into the MCU.  There’s no guarantee it will go down that way, and there are continuity and story telling problems that can easily crop up if they do it that way. If they did though that might be awesome, because I like the X-men movies enough that I would love it if just already established X-men were able to interact with the Avengers and other characters of the MCU.  As much as I love Tom Holland’s Spider-man and the direction they have been taking Spider-man in the MCU, I really love the Sam Raimi Spider-man movies and I would have loved if Toby’s Spider-man could have been the one to be an Avenger. It all worked out in the end, and Tom Holland’s Spider-man is the best and my new favorite, but I think that trilogy is not only great, we would not have this Renaissance of comic book movies we are experiencing now if it had not been for Sam Raimi’s Spider-man films, the X-men movies, and Blade.   So it would nice if we could do that with the X-men films and Deadpool. I want Hugh Jackman as an Avenger dammit! ☺ So we’ll see what they come up with. I love the direction Disney is taking Marvel in. I hate and detest the direction Disney has taken Star Wars. Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson, and, at this point, J.J. Abrams needs to go. I wish Kevin Feige could direct all of these franchises. I wish he was in charge of Marvel, the Fox Marvel films, Star Wars, Aliens, and the Terminator franchise, but he’s not a movie producing robot.  I don’t want to break Kevin. Kevin is doing a great job where he’s at. Star Wars needs someone like him running Lucas film, someone who is respectful of the fans and gives them what they want, but also has a vision and plan and keeps everyone focused and on task. Someone who allows his directors to be creative, but doesn’t let them go off the rails. Kevin rubbed Joss Whedon and Edgar Wright the wrong way because he had to. He had to be the bad guy that wouldn’t let them do whatever they wanted and they left Marvel as a result.  And those are really talented people that make great films, but he had to rein them in. And hopefully they’ll come back in some capacity eventually. Besides Whedon has talked about how sometimes you have to “kill your darlings” to save you’re your film. He understands that sometimes you have to rein in creative people in order to make the movie work, all though the process does seem like it gets frustrating. Meanwhile at Warner Bros. you had Zack Snyder given cart blanche to do whatever stupid thing he wanted for his god awful DC movies, complete with him publicly complaining about how he doesn’t like it when a studio gives him direction because “it’s not cool and not fun.”  I was happy to see him leave DC, although I wish it had been on better circumstances, given the fact that he left due to personal tragedy. And then they brought in Jeff Johns who is a comic book writer, not a producer. And he means well, but he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he’s still working on his comics. He’s torn in a million directions and I doubt he has the control over the films that Warner Bros. says he does. And then you have Kathleen Kennedy who I had never heard of before until The Last Jedi, who used to get coffee for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and apparently that makes her a producer, and means she can claim that she was responsible for how awesome classic movies like Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Back To The Future turned out.  And when put in the hot seat to run a film studio, she completely shits the bed 3 years into running this franchise. She focuses more on identity politics and virtue signaling, instead of telling a story or steering a franchise in a good direction. When she has disagreements with directors, she fires them instead of working with them as we saw with Lord and Miller and Colin Trevorrow. She wastes millions of dollars on reshoots, and has already cost Disney millions, probably billions at this point, on poor ticket sales and unsold merchandise. Disney needs someone like Kevin to run Star Wars, someone with his temperament, vision and discipline to get Star Wars back on track. At the very least they need someone passionate about Star Wars and who understands the franchise.  Fans really want Dave Filoni to take over, given his work on the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons. I would definitely support that decision and come back to the theater if he were in charge. And they need to keep George Lucas in the loop. Apologize profusely to him and bring him on as an advisor. And get him a nice fruit basket.

Me: Coming to the film that holds several franchises in its grasp, Avengers: Infinity Wars, there were many deaths obviously. I was upset, because I feel like the end makes it clear that many of these characters will be coming back, which I feel undermines most of the film. Do you see any of the deaths in Infinity Wars as sticking? Who comes back and who stays dead if anybody?

Edward: Part of the reason I loved Avenger’s Infinity War was, it was very faithful to the spirit of the comic it’s based on.  It does do it’s own thing; the battle for the Infinite Gems went down very differently in the comics, but they were just about as bleak.  If Infinity War Part 2 is completely faithful to the comics, everybody’s coming back to life because that’s how it went down in the comics.  In the comics, when the heroes fail to stop Thanos, the gods and cosmic beings of the Marvel Universe intervene…..and Thanos easily beats them.  Then, Death and Mephisto betray Thanos, and try to grab the gauntlet for themselves. Thanos kicks their ass. The Silver Surfer and Adam Warlock try their last ditch effort to stop him, and it doesn’t work.  So finally, Eternity, the living embodiment of the Marvel Universe, an entity that appears as a humanoid, but is composed of space and galaxies itself, has had enough, so he tries to crush Thanos. Thanos not only defeats him, but takes his place!  All the universe becomes Thanos and his face is seen in the stars themselves. Things look bad, but it’s soon revealed that Thanos’ consciousness is controlling the universe, but his body and the gauntlet are now a motionless vegetable lying on the ground.  An insane and mutilated Nebula seizes the opportunity, and takes the gauntlet away from Thanos. This forces Thanos back into his body, but now the surviving heroes have a new problem: an all powerful pissed off Nebula. So instead of killing Thanos, Adam Warlock actually convinces Thanos to join the heroes, claiming that Thanos really wanted the heroes to stop him, and the only reason why he did any of this is because of his own personal misery causing him to lash out and fixate on Death. The heroes and Thanos band together, defeat Nebula, and Adam Warlock takes the gauntlet. Warlock undoes everything that Thanos did, including killing half the universe and flies off into space to find away to be a good and logical god of the universe and his story is continued in the Infinite Watch. If they do it exactly like the comics, that’s what’s going to happen. I think whatever they do will be in keeping with the spirit of that story, but the details along the way will be different. I think it all depends on who wants to renew their contract in the real world; whoever is played by an actor who wants to come back for future movies and T.V will be brought back to life.  Those that don’t, I see it kind of like Goku asking Gohan not to bring him back with the Dragon Balls after the Cell Saga. That or only characters killed by Thanos assembling the gauntlet and snapping his fingers will come back, but characters like Heimdal and Loki, who were physically killed by Thanos and his forces are not coming back; either because whoever gets the gauntlet at the end of the story doesn’t know about them, or they don’t know how to bring some people back. Doing some research for one of my role-playing games where I actually brought MCU Thanos into the mix, I learned the Infinite gems are actually sentient and highly manipulative; only someone powerful enough or smart enough to manipulate the gems can get them to work.  That’s why the pink kree girl from Guardians Of The Galaxy couldn’t just pick the power gem up and it caused her to explode. So there’s a number of different ways it could go down. Chris Helmsworth did say that part 2 is far more shocking and amazing than part 1 in his opinion and I can’t wait.

Me: How does Marvel’s second Spiderman movie proceed, apart from what we know happens in Avengers?

Edward: That’s a very good question.  That all depends on Sony. Whether or not Sony decides to do their own Spider-man films AGAIN!  WITHOUT Marvel! Because that worked so well the last two times they tried it. It depends on whether or not they pull a Fox and sell all of their franchises to Disney.  Most importantly it depends on whether or not Sony pictures completely and utterly implodes for being a garbage film company, that makes nothing but trash! It’s bad enough that in recent years, they’ve given us a shitty, unfunny Ghostbusters remake, that your sexist if you don’t like it, the Emoji Movie, Pixels, Jack And Jill, and a million other shitty Adam Sandler movies, and tons more crap that nobody likes, but as for the Spider-man front, how about that solo Venom trailer?  Hot garbage my friend. Hot garbage. I thought Tom Hardy was done doing shitty rolls after staring in Mad Max Fury Road. Prior to that, I thought a voodoo witch doctor was putting a hex on him causing him to star as unsatisfying villains that ruin franchises. It happened with Shinzon, in Star Trek Nemesis, and it happened with Bane, in The Dark Knight Rises. I can see that after a long hiatus, Papa Shango from the WWE is back at work, ruining Tom’s career. I don’t understand Sony or Warner Bros. obsession with solo villain outings that don’t even include the hero the villain is supposed to fight.  FYI, that character Tom is playing is nothing like the Venom from the comics. I don’t know who this doofus is, but he’s not Eddie Brock. And Venom never used his symbiote to shoot out tentacles to do wacky stuff while he was on a motorcycle. And I don’t know anybody who’s wants that garbage movie. There were more people excited for Solo, than Venom. In fact there are plenty of people, many of which who are dissatisfied with Star Wars that were still excited about the Obi-Wan stand alone movie and are pissed off that that and all other Star Wars spin offs have been placed on hold. But nobody is talking about Venom.  I think Spider-man will come back to life in Infinity War Part 2, if either Sony sells back Spider-man (or all their properties like Fox) back to Marvel, or at least agree to work with Marvel to make a sequel, and maybe some in-universe spin-offs. If not then the reason he was killed off in Infinity War Part 1 was to end Spider-man’s story prematurely to give the character a dramatic send off and allow Sony to keep hitting their head against the wall like a bunch of retards trying to hump a doorknob with their own crappy Spider-man films. But if all goes well, Homecoming 2 will probably focus on Spider-man being resurrected at the end of Infinity War Part 2,and then having to deal with the Sinister Six; with Vulture and Mac Gargan, the future Scorpion, pulling the team together.  That way Sony can finally get their Sinister Six boner and actually have it be good, instead of a dumb villain standalone film like they were trying to do.

Me: Who do you see dying in the second part of Infinity Wars?

Edward: Thor is going to die heroically.  Probably going to get turned into glass and shattered.  Iron Man is going to die tragically. Probably going to get his head ripped off by a female doppelganger of Thanos.  Black Widow, Hawkeye, Rocket, and Okoye will probably be defeated, but not killed. They are but insects to Thanos, and hardly worth swatting aside.  Captain America is going to die heroically, making a defiant stand against Thanos and with all of his comrades dead and defeated, he’s just going to march up to Thanos, stare him down, and say “As long as one man stands against you, you can’t possibly win!”  To which Thanos will reply, “Surely you jest.” Then when Adam Warlock and possibly Rocket Raccoon and maybe the Silver Surfer make their move to get the gauntlet, while Thanos is distracted, Thanos will figure out what’s going on and turn his attention to them while casually backhanding Captain America and snapping his neck.  In the end, Adam Warlock and the Hulk will live. Adam Warlock we haven’t even seen yet. He’s just been alluded to at the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2. But it will be Adam who carries out both his and the dead Dr. Strange’s plan, that ultimately defeats Thanos. He also will confront Thanos on a personal level that disarms Thanos to his very core, possibly changing his mind about what he’s doing and confront his own demons instead of being one.  But to do this, the Hulk will physically be the one to stop Thanos. Banner watching his friends die, will either, through the pain of loss Goku/Gohan style or sheer will, finally bring the Hulk back out, as either the Savage Hulk or the Smart Hulk, also known as the Professor. Using those personas, Hulk will physically hand Thanos his ass. But if Thanos is to be killed, or if there is no other hope of stopping him, Nebula will save the day. She will either kill Thanos, or strip him of the gauntlet, defeating him and his ambition.  She might just kill him and finish her journey as a hero or she might seize this new found power and become a new threat the heroes have to stop and maybe even side with Thanos to bring her down. One way or the other, I think she will use the gems to heal her body physically and completely, so she can cast aside her cybernetic implants and probably give herself a rocking head of black hair.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-



The Future of DC Comics in Film: An Interview with Peeler

What is there to say about Edward Graham Peeler Jr? The man lives and breathes Comic-con culture. From Buffy to Captain Marvel, Jabba the Hut to Jar Jar, I can always count on Peeler for a hot take, encyclopedic knowledge, or a rage-based rant on everything wrong with a film. You can follow his blog at, or his video reviews on youtube. I took an opportunity to discuss the upcoming slate of DC films, their handling of their own comic book franchises, and projected plan for the future:

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Me: DC released 2 big trailers at comic con this year. One being Aquaman- their sole release of the year- and the other being Shazam which took me by surprise. I feel like a lot is riding on Aquaman seeing as Wonder Woman has been the only real success of this universe DC is trying to build. What were your thoughts on the trailer? 

Edward: I feel like I need to preface this answer with a little back-story.  As a comic book fan and as someone who likes DC’s comics, I have been boycotting the DCEU.  Without going too much into it, around the time Man Of Steel came out, the comics sucked. They were doing this really stupid reboot that nobody liked called the New 52, that DC will still claim was a HUGE success regardless of the fact that they have completely undone that entire storyline, and brought us back to the classic comics, which for the most part are good again.  Now their other media at the time was still pretty good: good video games, good direct to DVD stuff; things like that. And the trailer for Man Of Steel looked amazing, so I went into it expecting a great movie. And I absolutely hated it. Man Of Steel set a standard going forward with these movies that said to me “We don’t care about the integrity of these characters and what they’re supposed to be about.  We don’t care about an intelligent or engaging storyline. We don’t care about likeable characters. Hell, we don’t care about doing a competent and entertaining blockbuster. We just want to throw a bunch of dumb pretty visuals at you and get your money. And you should give us your money because we’re Warner Bros. and we know better than you.” And I’m like, NOPE. I knew if this is the foot their going to start this universe off on, everything down the line they follow through with is going to suck.  So I vowed I’m not going to watch any of these. So I’ve just been sitting on the sidelines watching DC and Warner Bros embarrass themselves every year. I successfully avoided Batman V. Superman, but I watched and read many reviews, and talked to many friends who confirmed it was trash. I know about all the stupid plot points of that film and agree, they’re garbage. I was celebrating my birthday with my best friend Josh, and we decided to get drunk, and have bad movie night, and that’s how I saw Suicide Squad (I made him sit through Yoga Hoosiers.)  And yeah, Suicide Squad was also retarded, just style over substance. The only thing it had going for it was Margo Robbie’s sexy ass and her chemistry with Will Smith. The scenes where the two of them are plotting and scheming were the few bright spots of the film. I recently saw Focus which stars the two of them, and they are amazing in that film together. Of course it’s a much better film in general. I also liked Diablo breaking the Enchantress’s illusion. His strength of will and awareness of who and what he is, was a rare good character moment in a film where a government agent shoots her own people in the head because she’s too lazy to ask them to leave the room.  Everyone tells me Wonder Woman is the greatest film of all time and I refuse to see it because even if it is good and Gal Gadot is amazing in it, I have no interest in this garbage universe. And I’ve heard plenty of people criticize the film too. Best I can tell it’s a 7 out of 10, good but not great. I think a lot of people are praising it because if you don’t praise a product about Wonder Woman, the greatest female super hero of all time, then you’re anti-feminist. And to that I say, whatever. Lieutenant Ripley is the greatest female movie super hero of all time as far as I’m concerned and she’s been around since the 80s. The crappy Wonder Woman tv pilot from a couple years back is proof that just because Wonder Woman is in a story doesn’t mean it’s good.  However, I will say Gal Gadot does appear to be doing a decent job with the character. When it comes to performances, action, and raw beauty, she is an excellent incarnation of the character. It’s a shame she’s in the worst version of the DC Universe to date. And Justice League, I sat back, avoided it, and laughed and celebrated when it bombed. Like BVS, I watched and read many reviews and listened to word of mouth. I know about every stupid thing they did. It’s trash and everybody knows. Not to belabor this but one of DC and Warner Bros. problems is an abject refusal to copy the Marvel formula for building a cinematic universe. If they had literally just copy and pasted everything Marvel has done, these would be good movies and they would actually be competition for Marvel.  There is no helping this studio. The DCEU sucks. We all know it. I don’t know why they bother. What they should do is scrap this entire garbage universe and hire a guy like Kevin Feige, who loves the comics, to manage a new series of DC films. But they’re so stupid, they’re going to have to fall on their face a few more times before that happens. Aquaman and Shazam are not going to save them at all. But I’ve rambled enough. What did I actually think of the trailers?


The Aquaman trailer is very brightly colored, with a lot of stuff happening all over the place.  Warner Bros. is still trying to convince me that Jason Momoa (who seems like a very nice person) is an awesome cross between Conan the Barbarian and The Little Mermaid.  I am not impressed. Warner Bros. is notorious, especially in this franchise, for amazing looking trailers that promote a garbage film. It looks like they are trying to present an awesome sci-fi adventure film that I just have got to see.  They’re trying really hard to push that narrative, which is smart. They even have Black Manta as the bad guy, one of Aquaman’s most iconic villains. The problem is, even if it is good, it’s just another Wonder Woman, a good film in a garbage universe I have no interest in visiting.  On top of that, this is just sad. Warner Bros. is and has been banking that an Aquaman movie is going to save this franchise, a character that NO ONE, NOT EVEN COMIC BOOK FANS, care about. As a fan, I can attest that Aquaman is actually a great character. He has a lot of cool powers like super strength and water control.  Over time he has been turned into a warrior king and a major contributor to the Justice League with many awesome adventures and his own supporting characters under his belt. There was even a period where he lost his arm and it was replaced by an unbreakable harpoon that he could launch and entangle his enemies with as well as use like a drill.  He’s a great character, but in the public consciousness he’s still the idiot in orange whose only powers is to swim and talk to fish from the Super Friends. All the cool stuff I just mentioned has been a tremendous effort in the comics to get him away from the original image and it still hasn’t worked, not even in the comics. In the above mentioned God-awful New 52, their approach to rebooting Aquaman was having some doofy idiot approach Aquaman, the fucking king of Atlantis and an established world saving hero, and make fun of him as a reference to the Super Friends all the while the comic insisting that “Aquaman is actually really cool”.  Well if he was there would be no reason to remind the reader of that, and to be fair, better writers in the past have just used the character, cheesy history and all, and not beaten the audience over the head like the above example. He has his fans who adore the character, but even among his fans, it’s hard to find people that will adamantly defend the character, and talk him up, especially when comparing him to his fellow league members; even non-comic fans can’t shut up about how awesome the Big 3 are (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) and he’s even out-shined by major second stringers such as the Flash and Green Lantern. I think most people would agree that even Hawkman outshines Aquaman on several points.  The point is he has never escaped the shadow of his underwhelming earlier incarnations, and all Warner Bros. has attempted, is hiring an actor know for playing barbarian characters and has gotten Jason’s fan base interested in the project so they can see him do what he does in every show he’s in. And even if this does take off, great DC. That means the only two characters in your universe anybody wants to see is Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Once again what DC should be doing and is not doing is treating Aquaman like Marvel treated the Guardians of the Galaxy and Antman, as lesser known, underappreciated characters and we’re going to take a risk on even bothering to make a project on them. That way they can get people to take a chance on the character, be surprised by the quality of the film, and fall in love with the character.  They’re not doing that. They’re banking on the Aquaman movie being great and we’re going to just love everybody’s least favorite Justice League character. I predict this movie is going to be like another Green Lantern movie, where there’s going to be a lot of cool, in-concept, CGI crap all over the movie, that is actually a reference to stuff from the comics that when executed comes across as uninteresting and boring. It was a bad idea to invest so much in this film in the first place, but every decision Warner Bros. has made post-The Dark Knight has been a mistake, and they abjectly refuse to learn from any of their failures.


As for Shazam, their trying to make this movie their Deadpool.  Which is funny because they were also trying to make Suicide Squad their Deadpool, and that worked out so well <.<.  So the deal with Shazam (or Captain Marvel as he’s supposed to be called. It’s a long story of legal battles with Marvel Comics.  Don’t ask.) is that he’s supposed to be a nice little kid named Billy Batson whose been enchanted by a wizard whose actually named Shazam, and the magic of Shazam enables Billy to turn into a superhero with powers comparable to Superman.  He’s almost as strong as Superman and can actually handle him in a fight especially since the source of his powers is magic which is one of Superman’s weaknesses. He can be a funny character, because he is child-like and as a result can come across as silly, but he’s also a really good kid with a strong sense of right and wrong, and often times an unwillingness to compromise due to his maturity.  So he’s a legitimate superhero who can go on adventures and fight the same world ending crap Superman fights. It doesn’t look like they’re going in that direction with this movie. They’re just focusing on comedy and focusing on one aspect of the character: he’s a kid who turns into a superhero. Look how silly that idea is. That’s the movie. The movie looks legitimately dumb going by the trailer.  I’m not paying 10 bucks to see a dummy in a superhero outfit dance around in a shallow attempt to make me laugh. And again if this is their breakout movie, that’s pathetic. It means the only character in this universe people are going to come out and see is a character their playing solely as a joke. “What about Deadpool?” I hear you say. Well Deadpool is not solely a comedic character. He’s hilarious, but he’s also a badass, and there’s plenty of serious drama and even romance in his books, and both movies reflect that well.  For this movie to work it can’t just be comedy. The DC Captain Marvel needs to go on adventures and fight villains and reflect the adventurous feel of his book to work. If they do this right, the film should feel like Spider-man Homecoming, equal parts comedy, drama, and superhero adventure. I think their just going for dumb comedy which I have no interest in seeing. It’s a step up from Aquaman and it might actually be funny, I’ll give it that. But again if the best they can do is Shazam, that’s pathetic in terms of getting people to see this mess of universe they’ve created.  

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Me: I felt like DC, with these two films, was conspicuously addressing their reputation for dark fare, showcasing a lighter side, especially with Shazam. 

Edward: Yeah, their trying to lighten themselves up and be more like Marvel.  It’s just their doing it in such a clunky fashion, without understanding why Marvel works.  Everything DC and Warner Bros. does reeks of desperation. They should have started out copying Marvel, and it’s a little too late to save this garbage universe they’ve made.  Also, they should have been light hearted TO BEGIN WITH, instead of trying to make everyone of their characters Batman. The DC Universe is inherently cheesy and that’s part of the reason why it’s awesome.  If they had embraced that from the get-go, their movies would be charming and redeemable.

Me: Next year sees three big releases from DC: Shazam, The Joker, and Wonder Woman 1984. Wonder Woman 1984 sounds exciting. We can probably project that being a success, but what are you expecting from the second entry?

Edward: I’m honestly not sure.  It could be an opportunity either for a great sequel, or for DC to shit the bed again.  I think either outcome is possible. If it’s good, what Warner Bros. should do is declare all DCEU movies, except the two Wonder Woman movies, as non-canon. Make Wonder Woman their Iron Man, and start fresh, slowly introducing better versions of Superman, Batman, and other characters into a new better DC cinematic universe.  And if they were to do that, I might actually see both Wonder Woman movies.

Me: I really believe the best super hero movies have some compelling story line for the hero outside of his suit; inner demons, the burden of being super, what have you. In Wonder Woman, we had the romance between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. Now that he’s gone, what do they do with her character?

Edward: *shrug* I’m not sure.  I’d have to care about the Wonder Woman movie to adequately explore that.  They could do something that has been explored in fantasy and horror before with elves and vampires, where she’s still partially in mourning for him as an immortal who is in love with an ordinary human destined to die.  Some of the best drama in the Highlander series comes from the idea of being in love with mortal women, leading to pain, because of the woman’s inevitable death while the immortal lives on. Connor McCloud still mourns Heather centuries after her passing.  They could do something similar to that with Wonder Woman, and maybe compare it to Captain America’s plight in the Avengers movies, since he’s still waiting for that dance with Peggy that he’s never going to get. I’d focus on action. Cheetah’s fun. She’s a mutant cat-woman, mad scientist. Good old science fiction camp character. Has nothing to do with Greek mythology so there is a nice contrast between her and Wonder Woman. I’d introduce more characters too, show that Wonder Woman has adapted with the times and is doing the best she can to move on.  I think that might be interesting. I might actually even watch it this time.

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Me: Another big release for 2019 is a Joker origin film. I’m highly skeptical about just the premise, since I think the joker is more interesting as an enigma.

Edward: Yeah, they keep doing this stupid crap, where they’re trying to make movies about villains!  It’s all Sony’s fault for trying to make a Sinister Six movie! Which was a terrible idea, and fortunately it never saw the light of day, but then Warner Bros. thought it would be a great idea, and that’s how we got Suicide Squad, and sure enough Suicide Squad sucks.  And of course Warner Bros. is retarded and never learns from their mistakes, so they’re trying to beat this dead horse again. Making movies about super villains is stupid for a variety of reasons. The biggest problem is, in comic books, villains serve to compliment the hero; they exist to be the nemesis of a particular hero or group of heroes.  They can be interesting characters in their own right, but we wouldn’t even know about them, or what makes them tick, if we hadn’t been reading the story of the hero they oppose. So it’s inherently stupid and misguided to make a stand alone adventure of a character that is, essentially, a supporting character of another character, especially if we haven’t even introduced that other character first.  That was what was dumb about Sinister Six. You want to make this movie about a team of Spider-man villains before you put them in a Spider-man movie. It doesn’t make sense. Likewise, in Suicide Squad it was stupid. You’ve got this team of villains, who are all villains of various heroes who we haven’t even seen on the big screen yet. It’s part of DC and Warner Bros.’ problem since day one; doing things out of order.  First they did Man Of Steel, which was about Superman. Then instead of doing a few more Superman movies to establish Luthor, and a few other villains, all the while doing a Batman and Wonder Woman movie (which is what Marvel would have done) they jump right into BVS, a big crossover movie featuring two heroes we haven’t seen in this continuity yet. We’re not given a standalone, to get to know them. No, we just throw them together.  And then the same thing with Suicide Squad. Let’s just introduce a bunch of Batman and the Flash villains without doing a Flash or a Batman movie. Hell, let’s introduce and focus on Harley Quinn, not only without doing a Batman standalone ,but also without properly introducing and focusing on the Joker, who we will also arbitrarily throw into this movie, without a set up in another film. Warner Bros. wants a cinematic universe without doing the hard work that Marvel has been doing for years to get where they are.  And now they’re going to make the same mistake again. We’re going to make a Joker movie without making a Batman standalone movie, where Batman deals with the Joker. These characters are dependent on you, the viewer, understanding that they are a supporting character of a completely different character that we’re not going to introduce first. It’s completely backwards and baffling, and just a stupid and confusing way to go about things in terms of getting viewers interested. The second problem is they are trying to make stand alone movies about bad guys.  Now of course that’s not impossible. Not every protagonist needs to be a good person. They are plenty of stories out there, that are from the point of view of villains, anti-heroes, or at the very least deeply flawed characters. But if you’re going to do that, you need to have a really good, smartly written script to make it work. The best stuff that deals with this kind of idea outside of comic book adaptations depends on this. The other problem is, if your main character is a bad guy, well, ok, what kind of movie are you going to end up making? And invariably the answer is either a horror movie or a super violent crime thriller.  And that’s at best. That’s the problem this dumb studio is invariable going to get itself into if it wants to go down this route. Again, stories with un-saintly protagonists are not new. Your story can come from any number of perspectives. But if your going to do something like this, it needs to be like a Quentin Tarantino film at his most raw. A Joker film in particular should be a really fucked up psychological thriller on par with Taxi Driver, if they expect it to be good. And I don’t think their ready to make that kind of a story. They don’t have the balls for that. They want kids to see their movies and buy their toys, and if you do a dark ass movie where the Joker is a blood and guts serial killer, parents aren’t going to take their kids to see your films.  They’re not going to get your Joker action figures if you cross that line. Also, these superhero films focus exclusively on the heroes saving the day. How can you do a movie about a villain any justice if you know without a doubt he’s going to get defeated? Where is the investment in this film if I know for a fact he’s going to lose? I mean just think about the motivation of these villains in a standalone film. The Sinister Six would spend their movie robbing banks and trying to kill Spider-man because that’s their motivation. That’s why they are a team. Spider-man villains tend to have cool science fiction powers and simple evil motivations; they rob banks. That’s what they do. You want a complex tortured sympathetic back story, go read about Magneto in X-men. Also, the Sinister Six specifically united, because they wanted to pool their resources and skills together to kill Spider-man, who beat them multiple times and stopped them from robbing banks.  A Joker movie would be about the Joker running around killing people and spreading chaos throughout Gotham City in a typical clown, psycho circus-y way, because he believes life is a giant monstrous joke. He would be doing that and trying to kill Batman. Those are the two forces that drive and motivate him. And any other headline villain would be similar. Luthor would be trying to kill Superman. Sabertooth would be trying to kill Wolverine. Apocalypse would be trying to take over the world. And if they are meant to be the protagonist than their has to be a possibility that they’ll win and get away with murdering the heroes and wantonly killing. It’s not impossible to do a story like this. I might even like it because I’m into all different types of stories. But that’s clearly not for everybody. So they’re not going to do that. They’re not going to have any teeth. The heroes will live and win the day. And so then, why even bother in the first place. The movie will be too tame to appeal to exploitation fans and the mainstream superhero fans are going to be confused as to why we’re watching a movie about a bad guy.  Your end result will be a pointless film that has no right to exist. And most importantly of all, it’s not going to save Warner Bros. They are desperately throwing whatever characters and properties DC has against a wall to see what sticks instead of just focusing on making a good film. It’s pathetic. Is it really so difficult to hire talented people and just let them make a good film for you? To just let your creators create, and not screw with them, because you need to have some idiot panicky marketing guy add his two cents to how a scene should be played out? If they keep this up, Warner Bros. will go down in history as a once great film company who completely ruined themselves, making bad Justice League movies.

Me: They are already breaking off to a degree from Suicide Squad anyways with Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker as mentioned.

Edward: Oh, dude, I don’t even know what that’s all about.  There’s suppose to be two different continuities for the Joker.  There’s going to be Jared Leto’s “Trying Too Hard” Joker from Suicide Squad, which is still the canon Joker of the DCEU, and then Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is supposed to be an alternate continuity, having nothing to do with the DCEU.  You know, just to confuse everybody. Aside from scrapping the DCEU, they need to just focus on making good superhero movies. Prove to me you can make a good Batman movie, before you do a Joker standalone movie. I will gladly watch the Joker standalone movie, if you guys give me one good Batman movie.  Truth be told, if they want a cinematic universe so badly, they should focus on making more good Lego movies and Godzilla/giant monster movies. That’s the only thing they’re making right now that is meant to have a shared universe, that I think is genuinely good.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-



Interview with Peeler: A Star Wars Discussion

A week after the release of Star Wars’ latest, and six months after the highly successful, while divisive episode 8, or The Last Jedi, here are some of the questions I had, answered by aficionado and hardcore Star Wars fan, Edward Peeler. You can check out his blog at or subscribe to his video reviews on youtube.

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Me: We spoke about how The Force Awakens stuck pretty closely to an old formula, echoing A New Hope essentially. We both agreed that we wanted to see some experimentation in The Last Jedi. How do you feel about what The Last Jedi did in terms of making its own path?

Peeler: Well, I think it did a little too much in making it’s own path. I think it kind of went off the rails. It feels like their making these movies with absolutely no plan in mind. J.J.
clearly had a direction he wanted to go in and then they just brought in Rian Johnson and let him do whatever he wanted with this one with complete and utter disregard to
everything J.J. had set up. It’s like they decided to handle the plot of a major blockbuster
cash cow franchise by doing one of those creative writing games where one person starts
a story and then another person writes the second part and someone completely different ends it. Those games are fun but not the kind of direction you need for a major film series like this. And Rian Johnson apparently hasn’t directed too many films. He did
Looper which everybody tells me is amazing, but to me looks like the most boring and
predictable time travel story I’ve ever seen, so I’ve never cared to watch it. He’s done
Brick which I’ve never heard of and a couple episodes of Breaking Bad including the
fly/contamination episode which admittedly was a good episode. But that’s it. So to
quote Mike Stoklasa of Red Letter Media, “They gave the 2nd film of this major franchise
to Just Some Guy.” Which is shocking. They let this guy do whatever he wanted
whether it made sense or not, whether it was satisfying or not. And it’s had a pretty poor
response from fans, including myself. Youtube is like on fire with Last Jedi hate. It’s
beautiful man. And the more Disney talks about it and tries to explain themselves, the
worse they look. And now J.J.’s coming out and saying if you don’t like the movie, well
that means you don’t like women. Which is bullshit. And we also have Simon Pegg
coming out and confirming that Rian Johnson completely ignored J.J.’s plans and did his
own thing but J.J.’s got to “support the party line” so he’s acting like it’s A-ok. My
personal experience I think echoes a lot of people. I had a good time watching it in the
theatre because it was Christmas time and I saw it with my Dad and it was a fun little
family event. I had an adult beverage. My theatre was offering a red drink if you
preferred the sith and I had A Blue Hope which I think was Dan Akroid Crystal head
vodka with a blue lightsaber straw in it. And so we watched it, and there were lasers and
explosions, so we’re having a good time and all the while I’m watching and asking “Where are you going with this? Where are you going with this?” And there were a lot of strange choices like the infamous “Leia Poppins” sequence, Admiral Holdo which was a character I absolutely detested, Luke drinking alien milk or possibly semen from an alien walrus, etc. The list goes on. I left theater having enjoyed myself, but when I started talking to my friends about it- in particular, my buddy Andy- I started thinking about it and I realized, I was not happy with what I saw. It actually gets worse the more you think about it. And I’ve noticed a lot of people saying similar things. It’s like the first stage of grief is denial and I’m noticing a lot of other people saying they initially enjoyed it but then it started falling apart for them. I think they were way too focused on “doing their own thing”. One of the early bad signs of this move actually predates the Force Awakens where J.J. announced the Expanded Universe, which is one of the major things Star Wars fans, myself included, adore, is no longer canon. I thought that was a terrible decision then, and it’s a worse one now. Disney wants the money from the fans of Star Wars without earning those fans’ trust and without respecting the material. They are also too lazy to hire an intern to skim Wookiepedia, so that they have a general outline of what the continuity of this series is. I think in an effort to do their own thing they have actually successfully killed the franchise. Nice job breaking its hero.
Me: Referencing Luke Skywalker’s dark story arc? So with the more surprising aspects of the film, you feel The Last Jedi was iconoclastic and undercut its old established momentum?

Peeler: They basically drove this car one-hundred miles an hour into a brick wall. I wasn’t too crazy about the mysteries set up in the Force Awakens but many other people were. I think you were in particular. I just kind of trusted that it would be good because I liked the Force Awakens and Rogue One. I love the Marvel Movies, and Disney in general was making me happy. My friend Josh introduced me to Gravity Falls recently and I’ve been digging that. They just bought EVERYTHING of value from 20th Century Fox, including The X-men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four, which as a comic book fan I’ve been anticipating for several years. I’m so happy about that deal; they’ve got Aliens so Ridley Scott can’t make anymore shitty Prometheus sequels. They’ve got Terminator. They’ve got so much good stuff. They could make Dodgeball 2 tomorrow and it would be awesome. And all of a sudden they just shit the bed with The Last Jedi. I did not see that coming. Whatever they were going to do, I figured it would be good so I didn’t speculate. I wanted to wait and see. And they just did nothing with it. Rey’s parents are nobody, so
that was pointless. Snoke’s a nobody, pointless. The Knights Of Ren are Sir Not-
Appearing-In-This-Film. And Luke Skywalker’s a bitch now. Just why even bother
making a Star Wars movie if you’re not going to do it right. I definitely feel the classic
characters got shafted in this film after the ABYSMAL treatment of Luke, Admiral
Akbar’s off screen death, and Chewie being reduced to a terrible running Porg gag, but
also what was the point in getting me invested in Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo if they’re not
going to get any decent development either? It doesn’t matter what generation of
character they were, they both got treated poorly.

Me:You were apathetic towards General Snoke before The Last Jedi. Were your feelings solidified after watching his demise?

Peeler: The best part about the movie for me was when he got his dumb ass sliced in half.  I’ve never been impressed with Snoke. And for the record, I’m super disappointed he wasn’t a giant.  I’m serious. I think they missed a unique opportunity to show a new unique alien species that we’ve never seen before.  He’s just a generic Sith lord. That’s it. He’s powerful and he can shoot lightening and whatever. Who gives a crap? And he’s old and CGI….because.  Why couldn’t you just put an old dude in a chair? Why not just put Andy Serkais as himself, for once, not in mo-cap gear, in a fucking chair? He was just in Black Panther as himself a week ago and he was fine…..all ten minutes of him which is a rant for another day.  Every Sith lord we’ve seen has got something going for them. The best of course is Vader. He’s the original big menacing bad guy played perfectly by David Prowse and James Earl Jones. Then you have Palpatine, who is deliciously evil and cunning and calculating played by Ian McDiarmid.  Maul’s got a cool look and badass martial arts by Ray Park. Dooku has the raw power of Christopher Lee. And even Grevious is an unsettling alien monster. And the Expanded Universe is ripe with kickass Sith with their own unique looks and personality, whether its Asajj Ventress from Clone Wars, Revan from Knights Of The Old Republic, The Grand Inquisitor from Rebels, and even Star Killer from Force Unleashed and Mara Jade (I think she started off as a Sith and then became a good guy).  Snoke just kind of blends in as a poor man’s Palpatine. I honestly don’t think there was anything there of value to begin with  but it’s the job of the writer, to make something. Word on the net is that Snoke was either supposed to be or people feel he should have been Darth Plagueis The Wise, the Sith lord who can allegedly create or restore life and whom it’s heavily hinted at in Revenge of the Sith was Palpatine’s master. Palpatine betrayed and killed him and became the new master of the Sith Order and then orchestrated his plan detailed in the prequels to take over the galaxy.  And honestly all the signs are there backing this up. He’s super old, he’s disfigured which suggests that Palpatine only thought he’d killed him but he survived. That would have been a more satisfying answer as opposed to nothing at all which is what we are given. It’s absolutely ridiculous that a Sith lord powerful enough to effortlessly bitch slap people with lightning and telekinesis without even getting up from his throne, powerful enough to link two separate people on other ends of the galaxy via a telepathic Skype, would need Rey to tell him anything about where Luke is hiding out.  A guy that powerful should be able to find him on his own. And second of all, he should be able to see an obvious betrayal happening right in front of his face. The only justification I can see for this (which I’m sure Rian Johnson or another mouth piece for Kathleen Kennedy will use at some point) is that the Jedi in the prequels were oblivious to a Sith lord right in front of their noses for years and Sith lords are kind of portrayed as stupid back stabbers that betray each other so regularly that their can only be two of them at any given time. But that bullshit falls apart with some simple logic: if the Sith are that retarded (which they are not supposed to be if you’ve played Knights Of The Old Republic or read the Sith novels) then how did they ever at any point in Galactic History become a force capable of taking over the Galaxy.  And also, if your mining the prequels to explain away your plot holes, your doing something wrong.

Me: You were also always apathetic towards Rey’s parentage as you mentioned. Do you believe Kylo when he says that her parents were these nobodies, or do you believe there’s more to that subplot? Do you care anymore about it or can it be salvaged in your eyes?

Peeler: I’m going to skip the first question for the moment and go directly to the second one. I don’t care anymore lol.  Again I didn’t care initially but apparently everybody else did.  And I was expecting SOME kind of explanation given how hard it was set up in the Force Awakens and it should have been addressed.  Not addressing it or claiming it was all bullshit is just bad story telling. Truth be told, there’s nothing wrong with her parents being nobody.  The galaxy is full of force sensitive people who have the potential to become Jedis and to me Rey was always just a role player playing the D20 Star Wars table top game who started play as a level 5 Jedi Guardian (which by the way is a class so powerful it will make a Paladin blush).  It also explains why she’s over-powered; sorry Finn. That’s what you get for leveling up as the Soldier Class. And poor Poe wanted to take the Dog-fighter Class from D20 Future but that’s a prestige class so he had to level up as a Fast Hero first and that’s why he sucks. That’s why all of them suck compared to Rey which is another problem with her lineage not being explained. Since the Force Awakens, the character has been accused of being a Mary Sue. These were concerns I mostly ignored and over looked since I liked the Force Awakens. But the fact of the matter is that in that movie, she’s a master of hand to hand combat, so techno-savy she can completely fix, fly, and expertly man the guns of the Millenium Falcon having never seen it before, is kind of a bitch to Finn when she first meets him for no reason, and can expertly use the Force and a lightsaber within approximately one day of learning she may have some connection to the Jedi.  In this movie she’s more powerful than Kylo Ren whose trained for years, beats up Luke Skywalker with a stick, and can break the ground and lift rocks with the force with absolute NO TRAINING. If that’s not a Mary Sue, I don’t know what is. That or the bitch is fudging her character sheet and gave herself 10 extra levels while everybody else is at 5 and gave herself 18s in all stats. Explaining that she’s the long lost child of Luke and Mara Jade or Han and Leia or Obi-Wan’s grand daughter or the reincarnation of Anakin Skywalker or Darth Revan would at least be a satisfying explanation as to where this unbridled power is coming from and I think it would have also made the fans who’ve been speculating for two years a little happier too.

Me: The biggest complaints I’m hearing, and you’ve addressed them slightly, have to do with Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill himself spoke about an uneasiness he felt towards this arc. What are your thoughts on The Last Jedi’s Luke Skywalker?

Peeler: The mishandling of Luke Skywalker is hands down the worst thing about this movie.  Sometimes the first reaction is the correct reaction and I 100% support Mark Hamil’s original criticism of the film.  The only reason he has “expressed regret” at his earlier comments is because Kathleen Kennedy told him to keep his mouth shut.  I have no respect for her whatsoever. To quote Mark himself “How does the most optimistic person in the entire galaxy just give up and stop being a hero?”  I don’t know, but I don’t buy it. I also agree that “This is not my Luke?” My Dad described Luke in this film as a pussy and coward. Not only do I agree, I think it’s worse than that.  You’re telling me Rian Johnson, that Luke Skywalker, the most optimistic man in universe who literally went through hell and back to bring his father back from the dark side, his father who was the 2nd most evil man in the galaxy and guilty of genocide, is also the same man who years later entertained the notion of MURDERING A CHILD, not just any child but his nephew and best friend’s son, because he MIGHT do something bad in the future?  This is the same guy? Bullshit! This is character assassination. I don’t know why Kathleen Kennedy doesn’t like Luke Skywalker but she’s in the wrong business if this is the best thing she can think to do with him. We’ve been waiting two years to see Luke back in action.  Actually longer than that. I’ve been waiting since like 1987 to see to see a new live action adventure with Luke Skywalker. I was 5 years old. Return Of The Jedi was my first and favorite Star Wars’ Film. I will never forget the heroic stand Luke made against the Emperor when tempted to cut down his father!  Looking at his father’s broken mechanical hand and then looking at his own cybernetic replacement. I will never forget as he threw down his lightsaber, looked the Emperor in the eye and said, “Never! I’ll never join the dark side. You failed your highness. I am a Jedi! Like My Father Before Me!” That’s a hero.  That’s Luke Skywalker. I don’t know who this homeless guy drinking space walrus semen is but it ain’t Luke Skywalker. Now I’m not saying Mark did a bad job. Mark Hamil was the best thing about this movie. Hands down the best actor and hands down the best performance in the movie. He was a professional and he performed their garbage script like a professional which is a damn shame because he didn’t get a chance to do anything cool in the movie.  He didn’t fight anybody. He didn’t use a lightsaber. He didn’t go on an adventure with Rey which would have made me love and appreciate both of them. Meanwhile, Harrison Ford got a chance to do everything he wanted to do. He got to shoot the bad guys, fly around the galaxy, be a cool dude, and finally kill off a character he’s been trying to kill of for years but do so in a cool dramatic way. Luke was too lazy to leave the fucking planet he was on.  And I’m sorry, but the moment he died and faded away at the end of the movie, I felt this sinking feeling in my chest and I realized that Star Wars had just literally died. To me it’s dead now.

A brief aside.  I’ve been watching the hell out of Ash Vs. Evil Dead recently and first of all, it’s an awesome show.  Go check it out! I had the pleasure of meeting Dana Delorenzo a couple months ago at Pensacon and she’s awesome.  I bring the show up because that’s how you properly do a legacy show. Bruce Cambell’s Ash Williams is just as awesome as he was in the movies, but also his supporting cast is just as awesome as him.  Dana Delorenzo, Ray Santiago, and Lucy Lawless play great characters that elevate Bruce’s performance and he elevates them. Their characters are so good that I don’t just tune in for Bruce, I tune in for them as well and fully accept them as heroes (or awesome villains) in this world.  The show is definitely a team effort and it shows. The Last Jedi does not do this. There is a genuine effort to make the classic characters look bad that makes everybody in the movie look bad. Classic characters don’t get anything to do. New characters have arcs that are either insulting or go nowhere and nobody develops.

Me: Reylo has somewhat of a weird cult following. Did The Last Jedi do enough to make you interested in their arc at least?

Peeler: As I said before, I did enjoy the movie while I was watching it the first time and well, yes.  I felt this was intriguing at the time. I definitely shipped Rey x Kylo Ren while I was in the theater.  I don’t know. Maybe it was Adam Driver’s sparkling abs, but yeah, I thought those scenes between the two of them were romantic and kind of sexy.  In the long run? No, because again, I don’t care anymore. But the real shame of it is, I feel this was a missed opportunity. Let’s ignore the obvious criticism that these two might be brother and sister (it was my speculation that they were Jaina and Jacen Solo from the real Expanded Universe).  I think what really should have happened is that after the fight with the praetorian guard, which I think is universally enjoyed even by people like me who didn’t like the movie, when Kylo asked Rey to join the First Order with him declaring that, ” she’s nobody but not to him. To him she’s special”……she should have joined him.  That would have been cool. That would have been compelling. That would have been unexpected. And they could have taken this series in a whole new direction that we’ve never seen before. Imagine, a Jedi and Sith Lord as not just lovers, but as the new king and queen of the Galactic Empire! Two people drawn to each other on the opposite sides of the spectrum of good and evil, learning from each other, compromising who they are in an effort to make a better galaxy one way or the other.  Maybe they could have focused on demilitarizing the First Order and turning it back into the Galactic Republic, building a new galaxy together but dealing with harsh opposition on all sides of the argument and completely outside (the Hutts, the Mandolorians, the Black Sun, the Yuuzhan Vong,etc) and struggling with the temptation to switch to either side of the force and perhaps never fully trusting each other. That would have been a great movie and it could have satisfied that bold new direction itch that they’ve been trying to scratch.  But you know, that’s a complicated and interesting high science fiction idea with no clear idea of who to blow up in the movie, so they’d never do it. At least this Brain Trust of a Star Wars team wouldn’t do it. So yeah, they just blew up the lightsaber. Rey stayed good. Kylo stayed bad. And my erection got bored. They killed any interesting romance for me before it got started. It’s a shame. I found Daisey Ridley very sexy in the Force Awakens and I could have written such lovely, nasty fan fiction about her and Kylo Ren. And just so you know there is plenty of great porn of Rey out there on the inter-webs if you know where to look.

Thanks again for having me here dude. Hope everybody enjoyed my rantings.  This is the Dreadpirate signing off.

-Walter Howard-





Winter Film Awards 2018-Lydia Fiore and Dana Marisa Schoenfeld: An Interview

The seventh annual Winter Film Awards starts later this month, February 22nd, in New York City, New York. I spoke with Lydia Fiore and Dana Marisa Schoenfeld about their short film, Swiped Right, which is competing in the festival. Lydia, amongst other roles, serves as producer, co-writer, and star of Swiped Right, while Dana, also balancing a number of jobs on the set, directs, co-writes, and stars in a supporting role in this film about two people-a woman and a man-who have given up on finding love, and resort to a meaningless hook up with each other through a dating site.


Me: I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about Bella Fiore Productions?

Lydia: There’s two production companies involved. My production company is Bella Fiore Productions and then Dana’s is Main Sequence Entertainment. The way Bella Fiore came about is I started the company in 2017-just last year-and I was involved with a film challenge at a school I was attending. I wanted to become a filmmaker. I had ideas for film, and so last February, I produced and starred in my first  film, a short film, called High Deny, and then a second film which became Swiped Right.

Me: Dana, if I could ask about Main Sequence?

Dana: Sure. I founded Main Sequence Entertainment in 2010 in Los Angeles, and then I moved the company to New York in 2016. Main Sequence has produced, I think around 8 short films, maybe 9, or been attached to other projects as well. Some I’ve financed on my own with the company. Others I get hired to direct or produce on other people’s project, but Main Sequence has produced East, which is an award winning  T.V pilot. Dead Drunk which is a short film that I’m going to make into a feature film. Sasha which is another short film that has won some awards, and I’m also going to make that into a feature. Then several others that I’ve either directed or produced or starred in.

Me: How did you two meet?

Lydia: We met through The Actor’s Green Room which is a school here in New York City that has film challenges that they run monthly. I started coming to the school doing interview workshops and acting classes, and that’s how I started attending the film challenges. I saw there was a woman who was extraordinarily talented, and I was like, “Oh, I want to work with her.” So when I came up with the idea of Swiped Right, I then approached Dana, and asked her to collaborate on this project.

Me: Dana, you’ve collaborated on scripts before. You’ve also worked solo. Are they two separate challenges? Do you prefer one over the other?

Dana: Oh, absolutely. I mean, both have their benefits. I love to collaborate with people, because it’s tough. Writing can be lonely. It does add a lot for me when I collaborate, but I enjoy both. It just depends on the project that I’m working on, and the people that I’m collaborating with.

Me: What was the collaboration between you and Lydia like?

Dana: It’s been great. Lydia’s had some really funny ideas. She’s very authentic in her approach to comedy. It was really fun to direct her and watch her step into this role which is very personal to her. Our collaboration on set was great. She was responsible for some of the logistics including the location. We both brought a lot of casting suggestions to the table, and we’ve pretty much been in agreement with these decisions.


Me: Lydia, you two are balancing a number of jobs on Swiped Right’s production. What was that during filming?

Lydia: It was exciting. It was definitely exciting because, you see, my background is I worked in fashion as a fashion executive, and ran a catalogue and website for a number of years, and so working on the film set was pretty much like my days working at my corporate job. I had to juggle many hats in my civilian life. Even the preparation before that, we would produce catalogues every week, and then I had the website running, selling merchandise every day. It was interesting though, I did like taking my producer’s hat off, when I had to act. You do need to separate yourself from the work that needed to be done on-set and then concentrate on where you were with the character. It was really nice because Dana ran such a tight set that I was able to do that. Then, the people that we brought in for the crew, everybody knew their job, and they knew it well. The set ran very smoothly.

Me: Dana, did you feel like you need to take off your director’s hat while acting, or is that something that never comes up?

Dana: It’s such an interesting thing, because I’m actually really getting used to both directing and acting, but it is a challenge, because there are, obviously, different skill sets, and to step into a role completely, you really don’t want to look at the scene from the director’s perspective. You really just want to get in the moment with your scene partner. So, it’s a challenge. I find that hiring people that I’ve worked with before, working with people I know and trust allows me to do the best I can taking off the director’s hat, but it is always sort of still there.

Me: Coming now to the film, dating can be an awkward, terrifying experience. Where did the idea for Swiped Right come from?

Lydia: The idea came from my experiences with online dating. I had a crazy date, and as I was telling my girlfriends at dinner one night about what transpired, I just looked at them, and I said, “Oh my god, this is a movie.” Once Dana and I started working together, Dana took that script and that original idea, and then transformed it into Swiped Right as we see it today.

Me: Were you interested in examining how the dating world changes with age, as your protagonists are both over forty?

Dana: The idea came from Lydia, so I wasn’t really interested in exploring that world until she came to me with it. It seemed more important to bring back some of the romantic elements, because so often, both characters happen to be over forty, but it goes to online dating in general and just dating in modern society, the romance sometimes gets lost in the tech and the apps. The “this person’s hot and this person’s not.” There’s something kind of sad about the lack of modern day romance. When I was relating the script, I wanted to bring some of that to it, and although these characters are over forty, I think it’s really a film for everyone. I think that can happen when you’re 23 or 28 or 33. At any age, people can lose sight of the importance of romance and love. I wanted to bring that to the surface.

Lydia: Also, it’s really about two people who’ve given up on finding love. They’ve kept searching for it. They couldn’t find it, and then, they just said, “to heck with it.” We’re just going to go on the internet, and just look for sex, because they still want human contact or intimacy.

Dana: We normally think that’s a very male perspective, but I think in today’s world, it’s very female too. So we run into the danger of, if both sexes are only thinking about sex, what’s the next great love story? Where’s that?

Me: You end the film on an optimistic note. You’ve talked about wanting to bring in romance, was this the direction you wanted to go in from the start?

Dana: It actually came to me during the casting process. I wanted to work with Anthony Grasso. I’d seen his work at one of these short film screenings. When Lydia and I were discussing the role of Angelo, I brought his name up, and we decided to cast him. After a conversation with Anthony, and seeing his work, I really wanted to create a character that had a lot more depth. That was important to him, and it was important to us. I remember getting off the phone with him, and I had this revelation. It was a love story. Once I understood this film was a love story, it kind of opened everything up for me. To be able to write these very authentic characters, and I asked Lydia if I could do it, and she said, “ Go for it.” And that’s really how that came about. Initially, the intention was not to make it a love story-it was to be crude and Lydia’s idea of this raunchy date- but then it just turned into one. Also, I had worked with Stephanie Weppler a lot, and she’s a really talented actor and also comedian. When we decided to develop Anthony’s role, I wanted to give him somebody that he could open up to, to make him three dimensional, and I immediately thought of Stephanie, and that kind of brother-sister dynamic.

Me: Lydia, your character, Ava’s, two friends are very different personalities. Do you find friends and family can make dating more confusing at times?

Lydia: I don’t know if I’d say confusing, but they definitely have opinions, and everybody takes their experiences and puts their opinions in on you. You know, where I have the one friend who is in the happy marriage, and everything worked out for her romantically. I have another friend who is very sure of herself and who she is as a woman, and, you know, you’re getting those opinions from two different directions, and here you are trying to navigate and figure out yourself and where you are in your dating life. Then, you asked about family, family definitely has a lot of opinions about your dating life. Sometimes you don’t tell them anything.

Dana: I never talk about who I’m dating and when I’m dating with my family. I just prefer not to, but your friends, it’s hard not to. You trust your friends and respect their opinions.

Lydia: The other thing about this is what different people need. What one person needs is different than what another person might need, and then people have an opinion about that, whether positive or negative, but I agree with you Dana, you don’t introduce them to the family for a while.

Dana: If ever. Sometimes, I’m like wow, it’s a good thing I didn’t bring that one home.

Me: Finally, online dating is a big part of modern society, how do you feel it’s affected dating as a whole? I know you mentioned that it’s taken some of the romance out of the process.

Dana: Yeah, well it becomes so easy to swipe left, right? People just become pictures and not 3-dimensional human beings that bring their personalities and chemistry to dates. It becomes really easy, I think, to say no, when maybe you should say yes. So I think the dating sites that have done a lot for a number of people, a lot of people have gotten married and met the love of their life, I also think it runs the risk of making everything very shallow. So I say proceed with caution.

Lydia: It’s because you don’t have that visceral reaction to somebody. You know, all senses are on when you meet someone. So maybe they don’t photograph well, but maybe their voice is just so sexy, maybe they smell good to you. There are so many other things when you meet somebody that you can’t get from a picture, or even if they do a video. Everybody’s presenting their best quality in a way that, like Dana said, is just so superficial. I find it, going from a time  when you used to just meet people out and about at a bar or whatever to this, almost kind of lonely. You’re on your computer and swiping, and they might have written one thing that turns you off, and then that turns you off. Where when you meet somebody, that one thing might not be a deal breaker, but for some reason when it’s in print and online, it’s a deal breaker.

-Walter Howard-



Questions with DREADPIRATESITE: The Last Jedi

It is never too early for me to be thinking about the next Star Wars movie. Any guesses on when the first trailer will drop? I’m predicting it will come out with Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 which means a week before that May 5th release, people will be circulating a leaked version, if I’m correct. The point is that the powers that be over at Disney have centered there marketing campaign on a cloak and dagger-like operation of doling out info, and it works. They give people merely the subtitle of their film, The Last Jedi, and the internet blows up. So at this stage, any Star Wars discussion is going to be pure speculation. Nonetheless, I consulted with Edward Peeler, author behind the DreadPiratesite blog, and, I say this with affection, the nerdiest person I have ever met, about the numerous possibilities that lay open to the Star Wars franchise.

  1. The first film in the new trilogy stuck pretty close to the original’s formula. Where would you like to see the second installment kind of veer off and form its own formula?
    EP: Pretty much anywhere.  I don’t want to be a stick in the mud or a film snob.  I’m looking forward to the next film as much as anybody and I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it.  But if this movies is blatantly the Empire Strikes Back in a new package, I will be a little disappointed. The fans are there. The audience is there.  I think Rogue One is proof that there is room to experiment.  I would like to see a little more world hopping.  Maybe see some worlds from the Expanded Universe that have never been in a film yet or maybe something new and totally alien from what we’ve seen in Star Wars up till now.  A couple of years ago I picked up the original Knights Of The Old Republic Games and this year I picked up the Darth Forces/Jedi Academy games, so any references to those stories would be cool.  If there was a reference to Revan in one of the new movies I would totally fan boy out. Since I’m probably not going to see that, I would like to see Rey, Finn, Poe, Luke, and Chewie bopping from planet to planet, going on an adventure and following up on the plot from Force Awakens.  I don’t really care too much about some of the mysteries they’ve tried to establish.  I don’t really care about Rey’s parents.  Don’t really care about Snoke.  If they’re going to focus on that though I would hope that they continue to draw elements from Heir To The Empire and make this new trilogy about that.  I would confirm that Rey and Kylo are Han and Leia’s Jedi kids and either make this a newer version of that story or explain that those events did occur in Luke, Leia, and Hans’ history.  Either way it would be a great excuse to introduce Grand Admiral Thran into the movie universe and maybe even Mara Jade.
  2. 2. Do you have any ideas for locations that you would like to see featured in the Star Wars universe?
    EP: As I mentioned above anything from Knights Of The Old Republic games or the Dark Forces/Jedi Academy games.  That or stuff we’ve never seen before.  It’s a big universe out there and the Star Trek fan in me wants to see the Jedi do some exploration of strange new worlds.  And while I’m thinking about it, the nerdy whore in me would love to see them go to the Marvel Universe and the Star Trek Universe which they don’t have the rights to!  But it would be awesome!
  3. How much screen time are you anticipating Luke Skywalker getting in the Last Jedi? Do you see him following the Yoda or Obi-Wan character model at all?
    EP: He better have some screen time after that bullshit in the Force Awakens.  Easiest paycheck the man has ever received.  That’s the type of role modern day Bruce Willis lives for.  Show up for a day, do nothing, make millions of dollars, piss off Kevin Smith and Stallone!   I think he’s going to play a prominent role in this film.  He has to.  I think he will follow in the Yoda/Obi-Wan model.  I expect he will be mentoring Rey and teaching her about the force and how to be a Jedi.  I just hope he doesn’t completely follow down that path and wind up dead by the end of the film.  Not only is it because Luke is a beloved character and I don’t want to see him die but I think also at this point it would be cliché.  The Jedi master/mentor character always dies.  Han Solo died this last movie.  Do something different this time.  Throw us a curve ball and don’t kill the mentor character.  Also, if you kill off a character you can’t bring them back for other films and other adventures.  So hopefully he’ll stick around.
  4. The subtitle, The Last Jedi, is rather ominous. It sounds more like the last of a trilogy. Care to speculate on who the title is referring to?
    EP: I think it might refer to Rey.  I think she’s going to become a full Jedi after training with Luke.  This may also confirm my concerns above that they are going to kill Luke off.  Although it might refer to both of them.  At this point, Luke may be the last Jedi in existence until he trains Rey and then she will be the last.
  5. Is Kylo Ren being setup to for a future moment of redemption similar to Vader in Return of the Jedi?
    Yeah, probably.  It’s like Lucas said, “It’s like poetry.  It rhymes.”  They copied the first movie in plot and theme pretty hard so it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s where they went with Kylo.  It’s already been set up with him being a wayward son of Han and Leia.  Han literally died trying to bring his son back from the dark side, and as sympathetic Sith often do he may be experiencing regret or “conflict” with his past choices.  Also, I believe similar themes were explored in Heir To The Empire so the quest for the salvation of the Skywalker kids is probably going to be a big theme in these upcoming films.
  6. What would you like to see happen with Finn? He was seen more as comic relief in the first film.
    I want Finn to pop the fuck out of that coma in the first five minutes of the film and save everybody’s ass.  I thought he was a great fun new character in the Star Wars Universe.  He worked well with whoever he teamed up with whether it was Rey, Poe, BB8, or Han and Chewie.  He was a cool guy to go on adventure with and I want more of him.  I would love to see a possible romance explored with him and Rey or…..maybe him and Poe.  There is  a big push online to make those two a gay couple and although I’m not saying that’s necessarily where they should go, if the writing sells me on it, why not?  It would be a nice nod to Gene Roddenberry who went on record saying if he could have gotten away with making Kirk and Spock gay, he would have done it.  But whether Finn porks Rey or Poe or both, somebody should get laid in the Star Wars Universe.  I am in full agreement with Red Letter Media on this.  Star Wars needs more sex, more passion.  Lucas…..tried to give us a love story in the prequels and failed miserably.  We have never had anything comparable to Han and Leia’s relationship or even the triangle between them and Luke for a long time.  The closest thing we have gotten has been from the Expanded Universe.  Mara Jade and Luke, Revan and Bastila, Kit Fisto and Aayla Secura, all of their romances were explored in video games, novels, and comics.  And I’m sure I’m forgetting others.  Point is we don’t see enough romance in the movies only in other media which says to me it’s worth exploring.  One things for sure whether they make them gay or not, I do want to see more of the bromance between Finn and Poe.  Finn’s the Jay to Poe’s Silent Bob.  The Sam to his Frodo.  The Kirk to his Spock.  Finn and Poe versus the world man!!
  7. Poe Dameron? He didn’t feel as fleshed out as he should have been. Any thoughts on where to go with him?
    Bestest friend of, or boy-toy to, Finn, as noted above.  Aside from that Poe seems like a cool adventurer and ally that we should see more of.  I think we should see him more as a main character, running around, being a part of the team in this next movie and the character will blossom from there.  Beyond that Poe is a great character to explore the Rogue Squadron characters and series with.  We could see adventures specifically with him doing space combat missions in his x-wing with references to Wedge Antilles and the other Rogue Squadron characters.  X-wing and Rogue Squadron are beloved sub-franchise of Star Wars and it would cool to see them come full circle and maybe get their own movie.
  8. The death of Han Solo leaves a large void to be filled. I felt he was still the driving force in terms of charisma in The Force Awakens. Do you see anyone filling that void?
    Luke.  I have a feeling this is going to be Luke’s movie.  If not Luke, we might see more of Chewie.  For my money Chewbacca got the best development in Force Awakens.  When Han died I was right there with him angrily and mournfully blasting Kylo Ren.  He lost his best friend to his friend’s son who he helped raise like his own son.  Also, apparently he had some kind of romance with a Gollum alien with buttholes for eyes which is interesting.  Of course, I’ve always insisted that the Star Wars Holiday Special is canon so I’m just wondering whatever happened to Mala and Lumpy.
  9. Yoda was introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. A successful sequel needs a fresh character to fall in love with. Have you heard about anyone joining the cast that has you excited?
    I kind of try to put myself in sensory deprivation when it comes to new movies I’m excited about.  I like to be surprised.  I did this for Star Trek: Into Darkness and I enjoyed the movie more so because of it.  Apparently I was the only person who didn’t realize Khan was going to be in that movie so when he showed up I was surprised and thrilled. I’ve tried to stay away from learning too much about the new Star Wars movies.  So for me, I’m just going to wait and see and let the movie wow me.  It would be great to see characters from the Expanded Universe that have never had a movie before show up or more classic movie characters.  Or see something cool and totally new.  The one thing I’m really not excited about is Snoke.  He was ok but it feels like the movie really super wanted me to think he was the new awesome mysterious villain, but I haven’t taken the bait, largely because it was blatantly clear that’s what the movie was trying to do.  But who knows maybe they’ll make him awesome in this next film and I’ll think he’s the best ever.
  10. Finally, how do you feel about the tie-ins/spin-off films in between each installment? Did you like Rogue One and are you excited about young Han Solo?
    I love the tie-ins and spin-offs, and I’m excited for more.  I adored Rogue One as can seen in my review of it on my blog here at
    Read it.  Enjoy it.  Love it.
    To reiterate some points I made in that blog, as a fan of various franchises, it kind of annoys me that we have to wait years for a new installment in our favorite film franchise only for them to come out and they’re not that good.  Prime example was Ghostbuster 2016 but you could point to others as well.  The Terminator movies come to mind.  It’s frustrating because the audience is there for any number of properties but it feels like the only way you can get Hollywood to make a new movie for an old property is to reboot it.  For example, I liked Kong:  Skull Island but there’s always going to be a part of me that is annoyed that it’s yet another reboot.  And we’re getting tons of movies this year that are remakes and re-imaginings of properties that have come before.  Off the top of my head we have Power Rangers, a new Stephen King’s It, and a live action Ghost In The Shell.  Ghost In The Shell originally WAS A FUCKING MOVIE but it was an anime movie so apparently that doesn’t count.  Now I’m not saying these movies are going to be bad or that it’s bad that we are getting a bunch of reboots in this way.  What annoys me is that the reboot needs to be done in the first place because the audience is there.  It’s always been there.  There are people that love this stuff and will eat it up.  So why haven’t we had more movies in these franchise up until now?  Why hasn’t Hollywood been marketing to us?  So many opportunities and money has been lost by not taking advantage of the fact that many of these series have large and loyal fan-bases.  So personally I like the Marvel method.  I like the fact that Disney and Marvel make their movies like comic books.  They make them good, they have more than one a year, and they tie into each other.  And I like that they are doing this with Star Wars.  Now, like I said in my review a lot of people notably the Red Letter Media guys do not like this method and they seem to feel like it’s becoming a factory and that somehow diminishes the artist quality of filmmaking and these movies will become boring eventually.  I thoroughly disagree, especially since I’ve seen what the alternative is which is the Lucas Prequel era.  No thank you.  Also, I am a firm believer in the Harlem Renaissance method:  there is no reason why art and business can’t work hand in hand with each other.  If done right, you can have a great work of art and a great product at the same time.  The only issue is quality control.  Also, long running series and regular annual movie going experiences have proven to work time and time again.  All you have to do is take a look at the 80s slasher movies.  Every year in the 80s you would get a Nightmare on Elm Street or a
    Friday the 13th or a Halloween and it was something audiences grew to expect and look forward to.  We saw this again more recently with the Saw films.  Now in my personal opinion the Saw films should have never made it past the 3rd chapter but they kept right on trucking every couple of years with four more sequels.  We’re getting an 8th one this year.  Someone’s seeing these things.  Paranormal Activity has the same story.  It works, it’s a proven formula, and as a fan I love it.  Disney, as long as you make them good, keep the Star Wars movies coming.  Give me a Han Solo movie, a Poe Dameron adventure, a crossover with the Avengers that ties into Infinity War somehow. I’m down for it.  I’m excited.  Keep these great movies coming.

You can read more from Edward “Dreadpirate” Peeler at his site


Winter Film Awards 2017- Alex Hardy: An Interview

The sixth annual Winter Film Awards will start on Friday, February 23rd in New York City. The volunteer-led festival will showcase 88 films from around the world competing for 16 awards. I spoke with Alex Hardy, British filmmaker and actor, about his new short film, Soldier Bee. The film stars Shauna MacDonald as an Army vet who returns home from Iraq to contend with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Walter Howard: I saw that you’ve been an actor for a long time. What brought you to filmmaking, and specifically, directing?

Alex Hardy: I was in a T.V soap here in England, and I came out of Drama school and was lucky enough to go straight into T.V acting. I pretty soon realized that I couldn’t do just acting for my whole life, because it became a job. The writing wasn’t particularly good, because it’s a soap, and I didn’t really get any fulfillment from it. One of the directors there I was friendly with let me see how he planned each scene, and how he used the multi-cameras, and I just became really interested. I’d always written stuff before then, and it all just came to me. I took myself to film school when I was 28.

WH:  How does your new film, Soldier Bee, compare to your previous works in terms of size of production; cast, crew? You’ve done a 7-minute short as well as a 12-minute short documentary. Did it present any unique challenges?

AH: Well I’d done music promos, I’ve done documentaries. I did a short film, which kind of came out of nowhere. Basically, we were given 650 pounds, and we were told to make something out of this. I did a found footage film called Initiation, and it did really well at festivals. It got into BAFTA screenings, and I was really surprised. From that, I did music promos. All pretty low budget. Soldier Bee was the first film that we actually got a good amount of funding for. That led me to be able to work with Shauna MacDonald, who’s a brilliant actress, and just such a great crew. I guess the difference was we just had more things to play with. I’m not sure whether that’s necessarily a good thing, having more money. Sometimes when you have less money, you just make things work.

WH: I heard a director (Robert Rodriguez) say, “when you have less money than you need, it forces you to be more creative.”

AH: It does. I totally agree. You have to be more creative. The trouble is now though, that we watch so much big budget T.V. You look at Netflix, everything is big budget, that now, when you’re making films, you can tell straightaway, oh, that’s really indie. They haven’t got much. But you know, who cares? As long as the story that you’re trying to communicate works, and you get your theme across. And I know you can do that with no money. I’m shooting stuff at the moment. We’re testing out horror ideas. And we have nothing. We borrowed a camera.

WH: What do you find rewarding about the short film?

AH: The short film is really tough. I have about four feature films that I’m kind of writing at the moment. I find them so much easier. You have so much more time. So much more space. You don’t get many decent short films. I think you’re getting more of them now a days. What’s rewarding for me is seeing the beginning of the film and wrapping it up at the end. Having a conclusion. If you set something up and end it well, that’s super satisfying. I want to effect people. I want to move them.


WH: Often you’ll hear writers say that they create characters and then let the characters determine the story. I imagine that it’s different when creating a short film, and yours had such a definite arc. At the same time, it is a character driven piece. How did you approach expressing Jodie’s story?

AH: So, with music videos, you just kind of write the premise, totally non-character based. With Initiation, totally character based. I wanted to follow one guy, and I wanted to stay with him all the way through. That’s how I wanted to approach Soldier Bee, but actually Soldier Bee was about a male character to begin with. My story idea in the beginning was more horror based. It ended very dark. It was kind of a fantasy. Then I interviewed people with Post-traumatic stress, and I realized I might do them a disservice. I didn’t want to cheapen it I guess. Then I interviewed a female soldier with PTSD, and I hadn’t heard anything about female soldiers suffering from it. When I changed it to a female soldier, it was much more character based. I need to, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m an actor myself, I want to know everything about the character, and the character, as you said, leads the story. I got a girl called Lizzie involved, because I didn’t want it to be a male’s version of a female.  We wrote together, and bounced ideas back and forth. We wrote every possibility with this story. We had Jodie seeing herself in the hotel room. So, there were two Jodies. We had a split personality thing, and then we realized the strongest thing was just seeing this woman put herself in this weird situation and relive what’s happened to her. It was so much more interesting. I also wanted to leave it with hope. I wanted to make people’s eyes open to the fact that these people need help sometimes.

WH: You touched on this a bit. I was curious about your collaboration. Was it something you’ve done before? Writing with someone else?

AH: No. I hadn’t done it at all. It was good. It was really good. Lizzie was a friend of mine. She’s quite young. I met her at film school. I was 28 and she must have been only 18 at that point. The stuff that she was writing was so much better than all of the other people there. Her writing was just awesome. We stayed friends, and then, yeah, I hadn’t done it before, but it worked out really nicely. The main thing, she steered my ideas in the right direction, and hopefully made the lead character believable. More believable than if a guy had written it by himself.

WH: Did the character of Jodie change at all from the page to the screen?

AH: Shauna’s so professional. She took this character and made it her own. I underestimated how stressful it was going to be for her. For instance, when we were shooting the sex scene in the hotel room, I underestimated how intense that was going to be. I underestimated how long Shauna was going to have to stay in character. I underestimated the power of what that character was going through.

WH: In working with your actress, Shauna MacDonald, did you find it difficult conveying a character that I would say doesn’t understand herself, or her own motivations?

AH: Yeah. We talked. She did loads of research. I pointed her in the right direction of people we were talking to when we were writing it. But it is a hard one. The beauty of having an amazing actress-I’ve never worked with such a good professional actress-I just kind of had to lead her to research that I had been doing, and just leave her to it. When we were shooting it, I would offer very tiny little things to her, but in terms of working with such a great character, she did it. I mean it was amazing.

WH: There’s a sense of violence lingering in the picture with the daughter’s drawings, the character of Lars’ brutish demeanor, and then the buildup in the cross-narrative (or flashback, more precisely) of Jodie as a soldier. When violence finally materializes in our present-day narrative, it partly feels inevitable, but, at the same time, it is still very shocking. How did you go about determining the tone of your picture, and then maintaining it?

AH: I mean the tone is, I think that’s one of my strengths is keeping this tone going. It’s a strength, and an issue sometimes to be fair, because as I said, I underestimated how grueling this film would be to watch. Once I’d written out this horror idea, I knew exactly what tone I wanted. Obviously so much of that is helped with the director of photography. The colors and the tone and the odd shots, the way we stayed behind her and focusing on the hair. I wanted her to be disengaged with life. But I think everything helps the tone. It’s the colors, it’s the lighting, it’s the acting, the score.

WH: Early on, we see this theme of the soldier bee appear, innocuously at first with the lawn decoration, later becoming more sinister with the daughter’s drawings. You use a lot of yellow hues during the film, and there’s a fragmented mirror sequence that resembles a honeycomb. What connected this story for you to this precise theme, and, I would say, ominous conception of the soldier bee?

AH: I forgot to tell you this, the concept of this came, I was reading my niece’s book, she had a book about bees, and it talked about soldier bees. I read a little bit about them. I read that soldier bees would go rogue and attack their own and other hives. I thought that’s really interesting. I wonder, with PTSD, I wonder if it’s linkable to human activity. That’s actually where the story came from. That bee at the beginning, that lawn decoration was just so random. We saw it in the garden of the house we were shooting in and it had a nail driven through the heart of the bee. I was like, “We have to shoot that.” The yellow hue was the most important thing for me in the hotel room. We hid loads of light and it gave it a sort of ominous bit. Yellow, I read a bit about what colors do to you, and yellow is a danger color. It makes you uneasy. I had the idea for that and then the DP and the set designer followed through with it. They did a great job.

WH: There’s a degree to which your female characters are forced to come to terms with violence.

AH: Yes.

WH: Jodie, obviously, with her experience in Afghanistan. The daughter, with her mother’s wounds corresponding with puberty, and then the prostitute’s witnessing of Lars’ attack. What brought you to this idea?

AH: Once we got our idea, then Lizzie and I went back and forth, we just wrote it how it felt. One thing that I really wanted to make sure we were doing was not putting women in the same box as weak. Always playing love interests.

WH: Do you find it helpful to watch other films in the process of making your own? Are there any films you looked at?

AH:. Definitely. Not so much for the story or the tone, but definitely for the use of camera. I love looking at the use of camera. You know, how did they make me feel this? How did the camera move? The acting. What affects me. I looked at war films. I looked mainly at psychological films. Getting in a character’s head. There’s a specific film called Irreversible. Have you seen it?

WH: Gaspar Noe?

AH: Yeah, there’s a scene in there where a character bashes someone’s head in with a fire extinguisher.

WH: Pretty rough movie.

AH: It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, but I can’t watch it ever again. I did watch the scene where someone’s face got smashed in, and it’s just so colossally violent, but it fits the film. If we were going to have this violent scene, I needed to put people out of their comfort zone, and that’s what we did with the face smashing scene.

WH: Where did you film the Afghanistan sequence? What was that like?

AH: The Afghanistan sequence, we shot in a place called Bedford, which was a quarry. Luckily, we filmed in June, and, yeah, thankfully we had loads of sun. They shoot loads of stuff there. James Bond, I think Casino Royale. Actually, the best thing about that day was the very end. We were just kind of wrapping up. I looked up, and there was an Apache helicopter, I think it was an Apache helicopter, flying over our head. We just managed to put the camera together super quick, and just managed to get this shot of this helicopter flying over, and that’s made it into the film. A little bit of luck.

Winter Film Awards 2017-Amit Biswas: An Interview

The sixth annual Winter Film Awards will start on Friday, February 23rd in New York City. The volunteer-led festival will showcase 88 films from around the world competing for 16 awards. I spoke with one of its participants, filmmaker Amit Ranjan Biswas, competing in the feature film category, for this interview. Biswas, from Calcutta, has worked in a number of different art forms including dance, poetry, and theater. He is also a neuropsychiatrist, working with children, who moved to London, England. The film, Bridge, his debut feature film and a passion project, tells the story of two people, an elderly man (played by Soumitra Chatterjee, a veteran of Indian cinema who has worked in over 200 films including 14 with legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray) and a young woman (played by Sandhya Mridul), who head to the top of a bridge over the Ganges river to kill themselves. Instead, the two find new life as a bond slowly forms between them.

Walter Howard: Where did the film start? What was the first idea that led to the movie Bridge?

Amit Biswas: Okay. Well, as you probably know from my background, I worked with children with mental health difficulties. I worked with a similar kind of difficulty with people with hopelessness and helplessness every day. So, in fact, in that way, I have no shortage of stories, but I have a filmic vision that I wanted to say a few things that kind of… in a way that leads to a story, the mythology of man’s or hopeless people’s journey that starts and ends with hope. People finding meaning in their life. That was kind of my filmic vision. To do not just medical input or psychological input, but how human kindness and compassion and bonds between two people is everything and all about really. So, I was planning to make this movie for about the last seven years. This was the story I wanted to write. It kind of matches with the vision I wanted to create. I started the film in 2015. It was shot in 2015, but in 2014, started writing about it. Initial format was about the interactions between two people and how things change. That’s kind of the germination of the idea, but one thing I wanted to establish is, I’m very rooted in my culture in Bengal and in Calcutta and in India, in fact. So, the story has to be deeply rooted in my culture, but at the same time, it has to have the power to break boundaries.

WH: You brought up having a filmic vision. I saw that you’ve worked in a number of artistic mediums. How long have you been interested in exploring filmmaking, and expressing yourself through film?

AB: Sure. I had been trained since childhood, as you probably saw, as a classical dancer. After coming to the west, one of my ideas is to make bridges between the east and the west, and through dance it was possible. I kind of had collaborated with, you know, people with ballet, contemporary dance for art forms. But it has been very difficult, because another one of my professional journeys has been in medicine, and it has been very hard to continue dancing. Then I had to find another form, and another bigger canvas where I can actually put all the colors in, my psychological insight about life. My understanding of arts through dance and acting and medium. And I had been writing for a long time. Some of my plays had been quite successful in India. So, film was a bigger canvas where you can put all these things together. It’s about seven years back, I had started learning about film and filmmaking from the Raindance Independent Film School in London. Since then it’s almost a film a day for me to watch. I started making short films and documentaries based especially on mental health. But obviously, you don’t become a proper filmmaker unless you make a feature film. So, I had been making myself acquainted with art and science of filmmaking for a while, but the journey I think started while I was kind of making the bridge between science and art through putting things together about seven years back.

WH: In that time, what have you found rewarding about filmmaking?

I believe it is probably one of the most important art forms that can not only move people, that can actually change society. One of my life visions is to bring awareness to the humane kind of things: compassion, kindness, as well as bring awareness to mental health difficulties. To create change in the self and society. So, I believe cinema is an extremely powerful medium. I feel that this is the modern mythology; modern storytelling. Cinematic storytelling is recreating myths that happened millions of years ago, with people sitting around a fire, and we are doing the same things in theaters sitting around strangers with larger than life figures talking to us; transporting us somewhere beyond our reality. In this way Joseph Campbell has been quite influential in my cinematic vision. His Hero’s Journey, heroes having a call. Kind of going through a circle, going deep down in the whale’s belly of difficulties, but coming out with the elixir of life. He’s dying. He’s resurrecting. That kind of Joseph Campbellian vision has influenced many filmmakers including me. That’s why film is a very powerful medium for me to work with. To say things I want to say and to move people. Transform people. It’s a transformative medium, I believe.

WH: Many people such as myself as an American, are familiar with Indian cinema mainly through Bollywood film. I have seen the Apu trilogy, but what’s something that you see that distinguishes East Indian cinema, or what’s something that you treasure?

AB: Bollywood has its own place. It’s not that I don’t see Bollywood films. I do see, but at the same time, I feel there is a very strong passion for arthouse cinema in India. And it started quite a while ago. You know Ray and Ghatak. And I kind of keep myself in that parallel space. Bollywood recreations and the films, the larger-than song and dance movies has its place, because in India, this is recreation. People go into movie theaters and feel transported by larger than life heroes, but perhaps I have to come to a place where it is realistic. It is down to earth. Not just we need to be happy and recreated about. Some Hollywood films are like that. It has its place and value. At the same time, I want to have a cinema, want to see a cinema that tells something about life and we transport ourselves. That is cinema for me.

WH: What was your visual approach for the film? You use a lot of straight-on shots and static camera. How did you go about visually expressing your story?

AB: Yeah, one of the things that was myself and Zoran Veljkovic (DP), we started the journey talking about the film before the script even finished. We knew that this is a process of healing. The base has to be right. We want to move through the film and the place that is right for these people to create healing in themselves and create a similar feeling within the audience. We planned the shots while we were shooting the film, but it has to be with the pain, and the pace, and the vision of the film itself. The Ganges is flowing and flowing and I kind of had to hold that in a way, because that’s the flowing of the life. You might have seen that I had a, the parson’s doing a puja in the Ganges with a lighted candle. That’s what the film demanded from me. That was kind of predetermined.

WH: The recurring motif with the candle, how did that materialize?

AB: The first shot was actually impromptu. What I did in the beginning of the film, the budget was tied and the time was tied, I took half of a day creating a space. A kind of scaffolding of connection within the cast and crew where this journey can take place. We did a very big meeting, talking about not only just the film. We put a candle in between. We had a full circle there together, and we talked about why we’re here. We talked about what is cinema. We talked about spirituality. Zoran said why not start with a shot focusing on the candle. The candle in the beginning and the candle in the middle is very much of a symbolic kind of thing. A symbolic archetypal presence I would say.

WH: Did you write with your actors in mind? You worked with Soumitra Chatterjee in theater.

AB: Yes. Absolutely. He is definitely the one I wanted to do my first film with. We collaborated on various levels. We connect very deeply. He’s kind of been my mentor. The inspiration for my film. I knew what I wanted to create. I saw him throughout my film. Not all of them were in my mind, but Mr. Chatterjee was.

WH: When we finally see Tanima break out of her shell, she covers herself in mud and then wades in the water. Where did this idea come from?

AB: Yes. We toyed with three possible endings. We thought about ending with the kid, because she lost a kid. Then I thought it has to be something more iconic. We toyed with this idea and everybody liked this. I had to go to this point where almost these two people died, and there really almost kind of first dead, but death is not the end. As I said, the Joseph Campbellian journey. There is a resurrection. And resurrection is a very important thing to me. I think for Jesus Christ’s life, his resurrection is more important than his death and crucifixion. So, he has to be resurrected. And the mud of life has to be washed away. And that’s hope. I wanted to have an archetypal scene in the end. There is the image of goddess Khali that comes a number of times, and Khali that represents darkness, that dark energy, but it represents both destruction and creation. Right hand has a sword, and left hand is kind of a blessing. I like this goddess and this darkness is not the end, and when the mud washes off we regain hope and blessings and fulfillment in life.

WH: The sun in the distance hanging over the Bridge is a striking image. Did you write the script with that image in mind or did it come afterwards?

AB: Yes, and that is important. The bridge was in my mind. The house this was shot in is my wife’s ancestral house. This is basically my in-laws’ house. I’ve kind of been there, walked around a number of times to conceptualize the rooms before even I started writing, partly because of the money and the budget. We had to use one location. This house is very near to the Ganges. It’s about 5 minutes. The bridge is a very iconic bridge, before Indian independence. It’s been there since British times. So, the bridge and the house were there from the beginning.

WH: You’ve said on your website that Bridge was made on a shoe string budget. Yet you’ve made a feature length film, canvasing past and present. What was that process like?

AB: The last seven years, I have been looking for money everywhere really. Both the East and the West. Independent cinema has a very limited kind of, people don’t want to finance and produce this kind of cinema. So, it has been a very difficult journey. In India, I couldn’t find money. In the west, it was difficult. So, end of the day, I tell myself, I have an inner calling. I have to make this, and I can’t just go into a deathbed saying what if. I had to break my pension fund. I had to self-finance. It was my retirement money, that I put in. But it was still not enough. I had to work and put money in. Bridge has come in stages. After the shooting had been done, for 28 days I had to wait until I got the money for editing. Post production like DI which was done in India. A lot of people came up and helped. I have been quite blessed.


You can find more information on Biswas’ website

-Walter Howard

Bond Girls: An Interview

James Bond made his silver screen debut in 1962 played by a then unknown Sean Connery. Connery became a benchmark in a franchise that continued with last year’s 24th entry, Spectre. The conventions of a Bond film are a never ending source of joy for many, but they can also be a source of eye rolls and head shakes for some. Perhaps the most popular convention of the Bond films is “Bond Girls.” I sat down with Emily Deering Crosby, a Ph.D. candidate in Communication and instructor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, to discuss “Bond Girls” and their function in these films.

The Bond Franchise is over fifty years old. It’s in its sixth decade. Outside of the Bond Franchise, in western culture, how has the representation of women changed over this time?

Emily Deering Crosby: You have some significant things happening in the 1960s where women were starting to recognize how media was portraying them in particular dehumanized ways- as props, as figures-never really a part of the plotline, but more so props to the male protagonist. And with more recognition of equal rights, gender representation, racial representation, you get a lot more diversity and you get the upswing of genres like Blaxploitation films, but with that comes recognizable backlash in some forms of representation. And women in media today, you see a lot more potential in T.V than you do in movies, because the movie industry is very much geared toward young white men, 18 to sometimes 25 or 34, so you see a lot of the highest grossing films fulfilling that need. So like this year the top films were Furious 7, the Age of Ultron, American Sniper, and so many of them are sequels. There just recycling these same narratives that really resonate with young men, because they’re the ones who are predominantly going to these movies. So it’s very consumer driven. You can think about it that way. There’s not as much room for women to star or write their own movies, produce their own movies, but you are seeing huge franchises that are changing that, like Hunger Games.

What stands out to you about the Bond Girls in what you’ve seen?

I find the camerawork of the Bond Franchise fascinating because it is routinely from the point of view of Bond, or pictures of Bond sexualizing the women. You never get the point of view of the Bond Girl, so she just becomes the object of our visual gaze. And more so in the earlier ones, I find the the issue of consent very interesting, because sometimes we get this notion of no means yes with women and Bond is so enchanting. That offers confusing narratives in regarding romantic exchange between men and women, especially when we have the powerful main character of James Bond who sort of represents the euro-centric or even anglocentric take what you want, it’s yours. You’re entitled to it.

That’s why I think the character of M in the most recent films has been fantastic, because she’s sort of an asexual female who’s a maternal figure but also a leader, so I think she offers a lot of complexity that we don’t get to see very much in film.

I can’t remember which film it was (Live and Let Die*), but there’s one with Roger Moore where he tricks a female character using a stacked deck in to sleeping with him. I don’t know if that would pass today.

Exactly. There’s kind of this notion that the Bond Girls were sort of all body, no brains. Kind of ditzy. When talking with a student who’s read the books, he actually said that he took a picture of a passage in Casino Royale. It was talking about Vesper and how she needs to stay with the pots and pans. She’s going to slow me down. It’s embarrassing that they would send a woman for a man’s job. And really hurtful and sexist remarks that hopefully you see don’t fly today. But there’s sometimes that engrained bias that why on earth would they send a woman to do a man’s job. And you see repercussions of that in the business world where people don’t take contract negotiations as seriously when a woman is sent to do it. Oh, they must not value me as a potential partner because they’ve sent a woman, when it’s in fact, they’ve sent their top person. It just happens to be a woman.

This is kind of a facetious question, but do you see anything in the Bond Girls beyond the superficial?

In the more recent installments with Daniel Craig, I see a lot more, but more so in the Vesper character the most because she’s a part of the narrative, and she’s not just the damsel in distress trope which we see in the two most recent ones Skyfall and Quantum of Solace. You see these ambiguously racialized women, whether they’re South American, Eastern European, it’s not very clear, but he has to save them because they’re beautiful, sexy. The character Moneypenny (Skyfall) is a little more complex because she is clearly a black women who has agency. Who has a role within the narrative, but still it’s not something that’s as developed as it could be. There’s a lot of potential in the recent ones, but still the audience knows what it’s getting with James Bond.

I remember my first experience watching a Bond film. It was Goldfinger. I remember there was a particularly suspenseful scene where you have your damsel in distress in a situation where I’m wondering how Bond can possibly save her, and he just doesn’t. He fails to save her and then moves on. I remember this being shocking to me. What is the appeal of this aspect of Bond?

I think in general, action films promote life as very expendable. It’s more shocking to us because we are so familiar with the damsel in distress notion that he’s going to have to save her and sometimes, he recognizes the sort of fleeting timeline of life and he just walks away from it. And I think that’s why sometimes James Bond is very relatable and likeable, because he’s a flawed guy. He has sort of a darkness to him. He’s ruthless.

I’d like to talk about a few specific Bond Girls: first Pussy Galore, a lesbian converted by Bond.

Of course. I think it hopefully shows our progress in regards to rights for the LGBT plus community. In regards to lesbians don’t just need a good man for them to arbitrarily change teams, but that it’s a larger issue than that. But you have to think, who benefits from that narrative? Potentially men watching the film who think, oh, all lesbians need is a man. They haven’t met the right man yet. Or lesbianism is okay as long as it serves men in a fetishized notion of sexual performance. I think that’s really tough. But they’re also constrained by their context of history. What year was that?


63. So you know that’s before even really the second wave of feminism and notions of LGBTQ rights even were on the docket. It’s just kind of a limitation of its time.

Halle Berry as Jinx in Die Another Day. She talks about the role as being empowering.

I think Halle Berry fills a very unique role just in contemporary pop culture where she’s able to diversify the visual of a movie where unfortunately, she’s black but not too black, and many scholars talk about how to traverse that very difficult line between racial representation and assimilation. And I do think there are empowering elements of her portrayal and I think it’s great that she herself found it empowering. But her famous scene walking out of the water is a great teaching tool in regarding the male gaze because I as an audience member may not have that perspective. But I’m encouraged to look at her first as this sexual being and then maybe as an empowered agent or empowered figure later.

Eva Green as Vesper in her introductory scene is sized up by Bond which we’re used to, but then she returns the favor.

It’s very reciprocal (her relationship with Bond) which you don’t see often because she introduced in a way where she’s his intellectual equal, or at least a sparring partner which shows nuance to her beyond just her looks. But then you argue, she’s the first women to be really an intellectual equal, is that why he falls in love with her? Is she only represented in respectful ways because he loves her where if he were to find her expendable, maybe we wouldn’t get to hear her speak?

How do you feel about the term Bond Girls?

I think historically girls is a term to dismiss women’s potential. It’s infantilizing, but when you look at 1990s feminism and the riot girl movement, you see the recycling of the term girl as a form of empowerment. So like rebel girl, guerilla girls, the way they’re taking a term that was historically used to dismiss women and reappropriating it into a powerful term. But historically girls has not been the best term for grown women.

What do you see happening with the names given to the female characters in Bond films? They are always at least exotic, and often pretty ridiculous. Anya Onatopp, Dr. Goodhead, Pussy Galore.

I think that shows the origins of the pornification of media. By pornification I mean how we can turn seemingly respectable, important figures into nothing more than fetishized objects for men. And even when Sheeler and Anderson in their 2013 book Woman President talk about the pornification of women in politics, where you’re taking some of the most powerful, arguably hardworking and educated women on the planet and really looking at them through the lens of porn and how ubiquitous it’s become. You know the porn industry is bigger the Amazon, bigger than google combined. It’s huge. So James Bond was the first franchise to introduce that in not so subtle ways.

Growing up watching Bond, I feel like I’ve allowed myself to be kind of a hypocrite watching these movies because there is a lot about Bond that I would despise in a real person, and yet there’s also a part of me that would like to be Bond. Is this something you’ve thought about at all, or examined?

Absolutely. I think that any cultural critic or media critic struggles with this notion of I understand there are so many problematic things about this narrative, but I also find it really entertaining. I do hope that the Bond Franchise is listening to contemporary issues in regarding representation and taking that into account.

-Walter Howard