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the (triumphant?) return of halloween movie fest.

My sweet, sweet Halloween Movie Fest. How I’ve missed you. You were once an annual rite of fall, but I’ve left you neglected. I’ve watched the films, but left their glories unsung. It’s an injustice I can’t let stand any longer. This year, if you’ll have me, I return to your cold, dead embrace.

That’s right, my friends, for the first time since 2017, Halloween Movie Fest returns – and it’s going to look a lot different than ever before! After so many years, HMF grew stale, maybe even a bit boring. It lacked the life it once had – and not in a fun, undead way – so this year I’m bringing an entirely new format to the proceedings.

I started Halloween Movie Fest in 2009 because I wanted to remedy my lack of experience with horror films. I was a scaredy-cat, which is fine, but as a self-proclaimed film super-fan (#99), I was missing out on far too much – including some of the consensus greatest films ever made! So, I decided to watch 11 horror (and horror-ish) movies in 11 days. I loved it, and it did exactly what I’d hoped, lighting a spark of appreciation for horror that would grow considerably in the years that followed.

I’ve tried to hold to that same spirit since. I always begin HMF the way I did that first year, doing research to curate a list of films I’d be watching for the first time (a list which is always supplemented by returning favorites). The goal was to find new films to love, and to share them with you; taking myself into weird, dark, interesting, and underappreciated corners of the film landscape. I wanted to go places I’d never have gone otherwise. And it’s worked. I’ve seen so many great movies I never would have seen, and gone down rabbit holes I never would’ve discovered. I saw for myself how great horror can be, and it totally changed my viewing habits year-round.

This year, instead of researching and curating a single month-ish long list of films for me to watch, I’m going to curate a bunch of smaller lists instead. My hope is you can use them to do a Halloween Movie Fest of your own. It feels like a fitting way to enjoy the fruits of my labor (of love), and to share that with you. I would’ve loved to have these lists back in 2009, so maybe someone out there wants them in 2020.

There will be all sorts of lists, and each one will have a theme, i.e. ‘Five Horror Fairytales,’ ‘Horror Films for Trump’s America,’ etc. I’ll even do a ‘Halloween Movie Fest for Scaredy Cats,’ for the horror-phobic folks out there.

Anyway, I hope the lists bring you as much enjoyment as making them has brought me.

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james blake covers frank ocean.

I know I’ve said it repeatedly over the last six months, but in times like this, we should grab onto all the good and beautiful things we can find, then hold them close.

For me, James Blake covering Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed” is definitely one of those things. [Fun fact: Blake co-produced, arranged, and played on the original version.]

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this ‘dune’ trailer is everything i needed today! [trailer park.]

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

How beautiful does this movie look?! It’s even better than I’d hoped the first Dune trailer might be, and I had high hopes!

Villeneuve’s genius is on full display. It’s visually and tonally perfect [at least compared to how I imagined it], and the trailer is overflowing with delightful glimpses to tease the book’s fans, without giving everything away to newcomers.

I know, I know, we’ve all been burned before. Even with a brilliant director and an amazing trailer, there’s still a chance this movie sucks, but I’m all in! I’m choosing unbridled optimism that this is going to be amazing. After all, fear is the mind killer.

Now, back to watch the trailer again five more times.

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phoebe bridgers is the hero i need right now, or, check out these phoebe bridgers videos

I’ve been running around in circles, 
     pretending to be myself 
          why would somebody do this on purpose, 
               when they could do something else?

drowning out the morning birds,
     with the same three songs over and over
          I wish I wrote it,
               but I didn’t,
                    so I learn the words, 
                         hum along ‘til the feeling’s gone forever
took a tour to see the stars, 
     but they weren’t out tonight, 
          so I wished hard on a Chinese satellite
I want to believe,
     instead I look at the sky and I feel nothing

          you know I hate to be alone, 
               I want to be wrong

Phoebe Bridgers – “Chinese Satellite”

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I’m pretty sure everyone is already in love with Phoebe Bridgers, right? So there’s no reason for me to wax on about how brilliant she is? And I’d be preaching to the choir if I raved about her sophomore album, Punisher, going on and on about how perfect it is in every aspect and facet, right? Right?!

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But Punisher also means something specific and personal for me right now, playing no small part in my attempts to take care of myself in the midst of a particularly rough stretch of depression.

I know unguarded conversations with friends are vital right now; but I’m crushed by a two headed monster, birthed from the unholy union of my preexisting reluctance to weigh other people down, with the fact that I’m limited to video calls as my only means of conversation – the artificiality and distance of which make it impossible for me to feel genuinely connected with those on the other end.

But art is conversation, too. When I listen to an artist as she reveals the sore and broken and anxious places in her heart, it sneaks a little light into the darker corners of mine, and some fresh air into the spaces that feel suffocating.

It certainly doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t magically make depression go away. But it helps me feel a little less alone, and adds color to what is otherwise a palette of grays.

Even under the “best” circumstances, it’s not uncommon that an album helps me survive moments like this. This time around, it’s Punisher.

In that vein, I’ve been doing a bit of a Phoebe Bridgers YouTube deep dive, so I figured I’d share some wealth from my journey down the rabbit hole with you. Here are three short, very recent videos you should absolutely watch!

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First, her installment of the New York Times series, Diary of a Song, for ‘Kyoto.’

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Then, two songs from the new 50 on 50 series, in which she performs for an audience of 50 people at the LA Coliseum. They were recorded back in March before we’d realized the world was ending.

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five antiracist movies that break the mold. [five things.]

Movies about race are most often – like very, very, very often – biopics and/or fictionalized documents of historical events. Don’t get me wrong, I think films like Selma and 12 Years a Slave can be amazing and important [Steve McQueen forever!], but the films on this list are refreshingly divergent from the norm. From the powerful oscar-bait biopic to the toxic white savior narrative, these filmmakers have thrown away all those recipes that studios and filmmakers normally follow to make racially themed movies.

Each entry is a fresh, vital contribution to the larger cultural conversation. And speaking of conversations, the invitation to the RtM antiracist movie club is still open. It’s been amazing so far!

Every film on the list was made by people of color, and they all focus primarily on Black Americans. Any future lists will branch out into the experiences of other communities. With that said, on with the show!

Here are five mold-breaking antiracist movies that you should DEFINITELY watch.

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Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is the quintessential example of the mold shattering antiracist movie, so it should come as no surprise that he shows up on this list.

In his follow-up to BlacKkKlansman – which despite technically being a biopic, could have made this list in its own right – the director has delivered one of the Spike Lee-est Spike Lee Joints that ever Spike Leed. His stylized approach to filmmaking is used to great effect to tell an emotionally powerful story that tackles perennially relevant issues – like race, war, politics, family, mental illness, guilt and money – in a world where America used Black, Vietnamese, and poor White bodies as cannon fodder in pursuit of consolidating power and wealth for the American ruling class.

For my money, this is one of Lee’s best films, and Delroy Lindo should win all of the things.

Also, if you still haven’t seen Do the Right Thing, now would be a great a time to rectify that!

Update: Hours after this was originally posted, we all found out that Chadwick Boseman – who costarred in Da 5 Bloods, has died after a years-long battle with colon cancer. It felt right to come back and mourn a remarkable talent, and by all accounts I’ve seen, a good man. Rest in Power, Mr. Boseman. Wakanda Forever.

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Blindspotting

Oakland’s own Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal wrote and star in this powerful, remarkably singular piece of filmmaking. Set in today’s Oakland, Blindspotting tells a poignant story at the intersection of race, gentrification, criminal justice, and prejudice, and it does so with energy and humor, somehow managing to feel ebullient even as it tackles dark themes with gravity.

You’ve never seen anything like Blindspotting before. It’s the movie we didn’t know we needed [or wanted], but absolutely did. Watch it!

Also, can we all agree to offer up thanks to whatever gods gave us Daveed Diggs?

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Queen & Slim

Like Blindspotting, Queen and Slim is a truly unique film. Writer Lena Waithe and director Melina Matsoukas collaborated to tell a heartbreakingly beautiful story that not only transcends the all too common lazy, paint-by-numbers movies about race, but transcends the majority of film of any sort.

It’s a love on the run road movie where literally everything works: the visual style, the characterization, the tension, the performances, the humor, the dialogue, the locatedness in the cultural conversation, etc. etc. etc.

Seriously, friends, can you just watch all the movies on this list?

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Dear White People

Dear White People is a razor-sharp comedy that feels like a series of powerful, Black-led conversations on race distilled into a movie. It provides a clear-eyed glimpse into some of the microaggressions, appropriation, power dynamics, and other bullshit Black people have to deal with every single day, challenging the unchecked beliefs, assumptions, and blind spots that keep white people participating in and feeding racism. Also, it’s not as heavy as the above films.

The movie has since been adapted into a Netflix show, which is still running at the time of this writing.

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Get Out

Okay, okay, okay, I know everyone’s already seen this one, but how could I leave Get Out off this list?!

So, you know, watch Get Out again.

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Important endnote: In the week between deciding to write this post and publishing it, another Black man has been shot by police without cause. Four. Fucking. Bullets. In. His. Back. And three more bullets that missed.

It’s horrifying how unsurprising that is. To be honest, it may have been more surprising if the cops had gone two weeks without shooting a Black person on video. That’s how fucking bad this is! Can you imagine how much worse things were before cell phone recordings? Before police violence was a central part of the national consciousness? It’s been said again and again, but this is how they act when they know everyone’s watching!

Black bodies continue to be lynched, and not just without legal recourse, but by “law enforcement” itself. Meanwhile, a huge part of the population, along with much of the media, blame the victim nearly every time. It’s a horrifying symptom of the terminal disease of racism, a disease genetically grafted into America’s DNA from the beginning.

So, while education and cultural exegesis can be helpful [I love both dearly], they’re useless if they don’t lead to tangible work to replace racist policies with antiracist ones. Watching antiracist movies doesn’t change anything, but things like this help me keep fighting, and I believe it can help us fight smarter, and with more empathy and understanding. But we can never allow it to take the place of the actual fight, or else all we’re doing is assuaging our guilt while we change absolutely nothing.]]

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‘steven universe’ is beautiful in its queerness, here are some articles written from queer perspectives.

One of the most important things about Steven Universe – both on a broader cultural level and a deep personal level for many – is what it means to people in the LGBTQIA+ communities, as well as other communities underrepresented in the myopic mainstream cultural lens.

SU was created and run by a nonbinary, bisexual genius; it tells stories (including the overarching narrative) written from queer perspectives; it normalizes queer characters while also making them visible to kids; and it depicts queer joy when all too often queer characters are written as exclusively tragic, suffering figures.

As a cisgender, heterosexual man, that’s not my story to tell, but I believe it would be unforgivable to leave the beautiful queerness of Steven Universe unsung. So, I’m linking to essays/articles/posts by people with a personal connection to this aspect of the show. Every single one of these links is well worth your time, and if you want to find more, they don’t even represent the tip of the content iceberg.

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“Steven Universe” Is the Queerest Cartoon on Television – “The show is also boundary-breaking for the way it portrays queerness; in fact, it may stand as the most progressive cartoon on TV in terms of queer representation.” 

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Steven Universe is the glaad-award winning kids show i wish i had growing up – “I love the normalcy Steven Universe applies to LGBTQ+ topics. The show treats queerness and gender fluidity as completely normal and okay—because they are! And children need to know that.”

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Steven Universe creator has done more for LGBTQ visibility than you might know – “We need to let children know that they belong in this world,” [Sugar] says. “You can’t wait to tell them that until after they grow up or the damage will be done. You have to tell them while they’re still children that they deserve love and that they deserve support and that people will be excited to hear their story. When you don’t show any children stories about LGBTQIA characters and then they grow up, they’re not going to tell their own stories because they’re gonna think that they’re inappropriate and they’re going to have a very good reason to think that because they’ve been told that through their entire childhood.”

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Steven Universe Is the Queerest Animated Show on TV – “What’s radical about Steven Universe, the brainchild of Adventure Time alum Rebecca Sugar, is not that it shatters gender boundaries. It glides over them as if they didn’t exist in the first place.”

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Steven Universe: 5 Ways This Kids Show Was Queer Before Its Lesbian Kiss – “Since its premiere in 2013 on Cartoon Network, the show has wielded zany comedy, drama, and visual metaphors to teach its children—and adult—viewers that identity isn’t chained to heteronormativity.”

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Steven Universe: The Movie Prepares The Queer Community For A Fight – “At the heart of Steven Universe is a theory of social change that values empathy and emotional intelligence over violent, direct action. It’s not that the show abhors violence. The characters match fist-for-fist, whip-for-whip, and sword-for-sword with their enemies all the time, and at one point organized militarily to protect the Earth. It’s that violence is rarely deemed a final answer for solving systemic problems, and only used when nonviolent approaches fail. We truly win, the show argues, when we emotionally connect with our enemies and convince them to abandon their endeavors.”

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Steven Universe creator says farewell, knowing her show made young LGBTQ viewers feel seen – “Sugar dealt with what were perceived to be ‘very difficult themes around youth television: mental health, issues of gender orientation, sexual orientation, trauma,’ Sorcher says. ‘And I think that she handled all of those issues with a grace and an elegance that made all the difference.”

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The Queer Ecology of Steven Universe – “Steven Universe offers a narrative of living with without resignation: living with failure, living with damage, and living with hope. Its queer ecological ethic demands action and imagines efforts that aren’t perfect and are still better than what we had before.”

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This one isn’t from a queer perspective, but I included it anyway:

How Steven Universe Taught Me to Embrace My Neurodivergent Identity – “This repeated theme of learning to accept our differences in how we look, think, and love as a strength, not a weakness, is why Steven Universe has become so popular, especially with members of the LGBTQ and neurodivergent communities. For kids, teens and adults who felt their identities to be a source of shame, Steven Universe provided not only a safe, colorful world which showed characters struggling with those same issues and growing from them, but also a thriving, passionate community of like-minded fans.

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‘the batman’ has a trailer!

As much as fanboys (aka man-babies) bitched and moaned, I was on board with the idea of Robert Pattinson as Batman from day one. Seriously, if you still think of Pattinson as nothing more than the sparkly guy from Twilight, then you’re clearly in the dark as a movie fan, He’s been consistently amazing ever since.

And after his work writing/directing the last two Planet of the Apes movies, I’m excited to see what Matt Reeves does with the character. I mean, the fact that all along he’s been saying the film is going to be a gritty, noir detective story is all I need to hear. Almost all of my favorite Batman stories are rooted more in the fact that he’s the world’s greatest detective, with a noir visual style. I mean, Batman: The Animated Series is noir as fuck, including making Batman’s investigative skills the focus, and that’s still the best onscreen Batman to date (fight me!).

This trailer only amplifies my hope that this will be great. Fingers crossed that movie theaters are a thing by the time this comes out!

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And speaking of Batman, some bonus trailers from the world of video games!

First, a WB Games Montreal trailer for a new Arkham series style game that I REEEEEEEEALLY hope is good. Those Arkham games are some of the best games ever made. Without Rocksteady – the makers of the original Arkham series – who knows what we’re going to get quality-wise. I’m hoping for the best on this one!

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And speaking of Rocksteady’s Arkham series, they revealed a new Suicide Squad game set in the same universe!! The movie won’t be out until at least 2022, so there is no gameplay footage yet, but my interest is most definitely piqued!

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