Star Trek Discovery Gay Characters

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get personal, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: how Star Trek: Discovery, and series star Anthony Rapp, feel more necessary than ever following the allegations against Kevin Spacey.)

Lt. Stamets of the starship Discovery has taken on a bolder meaning in recent weeks.

The actor behind the Star Trek: Discovery character, Anthony Rapp, revealed that Kevin Spacey once tried to sexually coerce him when Rapp was just 14 years old. Learning about the act of sexual misconduct was shocking enough on its own, but what made things even more shocking was Spacey’s initial statement about why he did it. To paraphrase his statement, he acted this way because he was drunk and in the closet.

It’s important to note that Rapp, who is gay, is playing a gay man in a relationship on television at a time when an actor like Spacey has sought to use what is supposed to be a brave moment — coming out — as a way to deflect from his predatory relationships. This poses a threat to strides the LGBT community has made across the board towards inclusion and positive representation, and exposes people once again to the stereotypes that being LGBT is synonymous with being a sexual predator. Thankfully, it’s Rapp’s own presence in Star Trek: Discovery, as well as his relationship with Wilson Cruz’s Dr. Culber that illustrates for viewers that whatever Spacey believes about being gay is absolutely untrue.

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Why TV Revivals Need to Stop

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get personal, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: why TV shows keep coming back from the dead and why this needs to stop.)

TV show reboots and revivals have been around for decades. Just look at Leave it to Beaver, the 1950s black-and-white sitcom that was resurrected in the ‘80s as — wait for it — The New Leave It to Beaver. There’s The Odd Couple and The Twilight Zone; even the cartoon classic Tom and Jerry came back 74 years after its original creation.

So we can’t pretend that younger generations have any kind of monopoly on the concept of a television revival. But over the last couple of years, we have seen an especially high concentration of sometimes long-dead series announcing their return, to the point that sometimes it feels like everything new is just an old story reimagined.

And sure, fans tend to welcome these reunions rabidly. How can we help ourselves? Look at Arrested Development, which according to film critic and podcast host Tom O’Keefe “probably kicked off this recent spate of revivals.” Its return after a short-lived first run was hugely anticipated — but also hugely disappointing. Yet even after that fourth season, Netflix is releasing a fifth in 2018, and fans are already cautiously optimistic.

Are we gluttons for punishment, or do we just not know when to stop?

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lady bird 3

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get personal, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: how the new film Lady Bird helped one writer salvage his relationship with his mother.)

Greta Gerwig‘s new movie, Lady Bird, opens in theaters tomorrow. It’s a stunning piece of work, beautifully felt, ambitious both in its scope and intimacy, with striking performances from Saorsie Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. Also, the film may have saved my relationship with my own mother. But we’ll get there. In a moment. Because our personal connections with the movies require context. They require as to sort through our baggage. And I have baggage to spare.

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MoviePass cancellation

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: MoviePass’s latest terms of service updates are ridiculous.)

What is going on with MoviePass? Since the service dropped its price to $9.95 per month earlier this summer, subscriptions have skyrocketed. But the company didn’t anticipate the level of demand they’d experience, and that’s resulted in an inundation of requests – far more than they were prepared to process. In many cases, new subscribers have had to wait for long periods of times – sometimes months – to receive their cards in the mail. And now the service has updated their terms of service to reflect a few new changes that impact current subscribers.

Consider this a public service announcement: if you cancel your subscription, you now have to wait nine months before you’ll be allowed to resubscribe again. And get this: if you walk out of more than one movie a month, your service could get suspended.
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regal movie theaters

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: why Regal’s new plan for dynamic movie ticket prices is a great idea.)

The Regal Cinemas movie theater chain is planning to test a dynamic pricing concept in movie theaters. Does this mean that they will charge less for tickets to indie films and more for big blockbusters? No. What Regal will be experimenting with is “a pricing model that drives incremental revenue in peak periods and incremental attendance in non-peak periods.” So what does that mean exactly? Let’s take a look.

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a ghost story

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: how a powerful 2017 film helped one writer grapple with tragedy. This post contains spoilers for A Ghost Story.)

People watch movies for all kinds of reasons. For entertainment, for work, just to kill some time. Sometimes, though, the magic of a great movie can work as comfort for pains big and small, like a cinematic salve for what ails you. Whether you’re fighting the flu or missing a loved one, the right movie can do wonders. A funny comedy, a mindless action movie, an all-time favorite – my personal go-to films in these situations run the gamut from Broadcast News to Slugs, and they never fail to get my mind and spirit back on track.

Well, almost never. I’m a generally chipper guy (with a side of cynicism and a dash of indifference), but while the world at large seems more and more intent on beating us down these days, I can typically push forward and weather the storm unscathed. An exception was born over the past few years, though, and it’s only becoming more common. News of particularly horrific mass shootings just devastates me. A Parisian concert hall, an Orlando night club, a Lafayette movie theater – I grow simultaneously furious, numb, and helpless in my grief for lives cut down in moments of joy, and attempts to distract my thoughts with “entertainment” fail miserably.

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blade runner 2049 asian

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Blade Runner 2049 joins a sci-fi trend of using East Asian imagery to communicate globalization. But where are the Asian characters?)

The first thing you notice about Blade Runner 2049 is how stark it is. Opening in a desolate, grey field where Ryan Gosling‘s Officer K confronts Dave Bautista‘s Sapper Morton, the world of the Blade Runner sequel steadily unfolds into the cyberpunk mecca that we were first introduced to back in 1982.

It’s clear that director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins don’t want to ape the neon-drenched griminess of the original, instead delivering an oppressive urban labyrinth that parallels the dense claustrophobia of modern Hong Kong high rises. Only one-third of the way through the film do we see hints of a vibrant neonscape cutting through the smog and rain that covers the futuristic Los Angeles. And with that neon: holograms of dancing women in anime-inspired outfits, cute Hello Kitty-style machines, Chinese characters and Japanese kanji galore.

It amounts to a stunning, dissonant image in one of the most gorgeously shot movies of the year, and not an unfamiliar one: science-fiction movies have long borrowed East Asian imagery as a visual shorthand to portray a more globalized society. It has roots in none other than the original Blade Runner, which drew from the burgeoning Tokyo and Hong Kong metropolises of the time, as well as the rapid globalization in the ’80s. With the massive cultural influence that China, South Korea, and Japan wield today, it’s no huge leap to assume that in the near future, every city would be a cultural melting pot with East Asian influences run amok. But in Blade Runner 2049, it feels less like a nod to those influences so much as it feels like window dressing.

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Your Name Kimi No Na Wa

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: can a Hollywood remake accurately capture the essence of one of Japan’s biggest recent hits?)

The anime craze is continuing, and not even the highest grossing movie in Japan in more than a decade is immune to a Hollywood adaptation.

Your Name – a melancholic coming-of-age film that swept the Japanese box office in 2016, beating out Hollywood tentpoles like Rogue One and Captain America: Civil War – is being adapted into a live-action film by J.J. Abrams and Oscar-nominated Arrival screenwriter Eric Heisserer. While these names would be an impressive combination for any other film, there is the inevitable consternation that yet another beloved Japanese anime will be lost in translation.

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superman all american

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: how a recent Superman comic is bringing out the worst side of America…and revealing what this country is supposed to stand for.)

In Action Comics #987, Superman faces a simultaneous barrage of small and large-scale calamities that see him harried, flying faster than a speeding bullet from crisis to crisis. One of them is an AR-15-wielding white guy sporting an American flag bandanna who opens fire on a group of Spanish-speaking factory workers. At the very last microsecond, Supes flies in front of the workers, shielding them from the bullets. He then berates the gunman for attempted murder (can you imagine!) and when the would-be killer bleats out that the workers stole his job and ruined him, Superman spits back that he should take responsibility for his own life.

With an ungodly to-do list, Superman then jets off to stop a spiteful activist from burning down a mansion to give the 1% what for, leaving the gunman and the workers in the hands of the local police. Yes, Superman is both against the mass murder of innocent people and against the destruction of private property. Yet his sense of fairness doesn’t work for Fox contributor Todd Starnes, who has twisted the issue to make it seem like Superman protecting innocent people is a new, liberal conspiracy meant to give pro-immigration forces a powerful ally. In Starnes’ take, Superman should have flown all the of the Spanish-speaking workers back across the border to Mexico. Since he didn’t, Starnes’ rhetorically asks, “Remember when Superman stood for truth, justice, and the American way?”

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Editing in-flight movies

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Delta Airlines should provide uncut movies on their flights.

What’s the deal with airlines editing in-flight movies for content? (/end Jerry Seinfeld impression) But seriously, folks: I’ve recently taken a few trips across the country using Delta Airlines, and while their in-flight film selection is admittedly impressive, the glow of having a myriad of options at your fingertips immediately fades when you realize that each movie they offer comes with the following message beforehand: “This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen and edited for content.” The result? You aren’t truly watching the movies you think you’re watching.
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