*** There are no spoilers about the overall plot of the movie, as in, I’m not giving away what happens to the main characters, but there are spoilers about certain aspects of the movie, because I couldn’t do hot takes without questioning some of the decisions that were made along the way.
1) A lot of Black people worked on this movie. I haven’t looked it up, but I just know they did because the hair in this movie is the best animated depiction of our textures I have ever seen!!! And the conversational beats are right. You cannot get that rhythm of a Black barbershop or that cadence of two old Black women chatting unless you are intimately familiar with the culture. Good job!
2) Props to Pixar for making Dortohea Williams a boss saxophone player as opposed to the usual Black Female Singer fronting a band. I hope more little Black girls pick up the saxophone…as opposed to the clarinet. Also, gotta mention the little girl who was a boss on the trombone. I’ve only met one female trombone player in my entire life, and I love that.
3) While we’re on gender…if you open the door for a conversation, you have to handle that conversation correctly. The world-building sets up the point, very clearly, that these souls have no gender, and yet 22 is “she” when they talk about them. It’s not something to hate the movie for, but it’s something to think about, because we are having these conversations with non-binary people about ways to make the public more receptive to they/them pronouns, and this was one of the only perfect instances I’ve ever seen in media, but Pixar dropped the ball. 22 is explicitly stated to be genderless, so why gender them? You could argue that 22 picked a white woman’s voice so she/her “makes sense” but voices have no gender, 22 can do many voices, and we don’t know who 22 will actually be once they’re born. There are far more reasons to use they/them which outweigh the one debatable reason to use she/her.
4) While we’re on opening the door…I understand the comedic effect of giving 22 a middle-aged white woman voice, a Karen if you will. They went for the slight wink-nudge-takedown because we’re in the middle of the White Women are Annoying zeitgeist and they decided to ride that wave. However, there was literally one moment of payoff, a set up for one joke, but we spend the rest of the movie with that white woman’s voice coming out of a Black man’s mouth. It didn’t make me hate the movie, but it just irked me a little because none of the plot would have been lost by having that voice be a young boy or an old Black woman or simply not pointing out that 22 has the voice of a 40-year-old white woman. It’s like Get Out, the animated version. I don’t really need a white woman riding around inside of a Black man for a whole movie.
5) Nothing I love about the movie is negated by the last two points I made, but they were casting and story decisions I wish hadn’t been made. Those two decisions don’t progress or affect the plot in any way while unnecessarily pulling you out of the movie to wonder why they went the path of least consideration as opposed to taking the more thoughtful, responsible route.
6) The little unborn souls are cute. Pixar never fails to make young tiny things adorable.
7) I love everything about the plot. I absolutely love the double-sided nature of The Zone, where such a thin line separates passion and obsession. I love what Soul has to say about purpose and life. I love the idea that a lot of our personality traits are baked in from birth, because I have literally been grumpy my entire life. I’m always teetering on the edge of Emotional Calamity, and Soul is that rare movie that made me breathe and feel better about everything. The flashbacks Joe saw of his life when we first meet 22 — the mundane, the rejection, the lack of fulfillment — is how I typically see my life. The flashbacks Joe saw of his life when he was playing piano — the people he touched, the joys he experienced, the lasting impact he made — is how I never look at my life, but how I’m going to try looking at my life going forward.
8) Cast Phylicia Rashad and Angela Bassett in more animated films. I can recognize their respective voices anywhere and they instantly elevate any project.
Hot Takes: Black Widow
This isn’t Natasha’s story the way most origin stories would be.
I don’t want to give spoilers in case you don’t want them, so we got three parts here.
The Good / Random (No Spoilers)
1. This is a good ass origin story! They’re so formulaic in superhero movies, but this isn’t that.
Captain Marvel – accidentally gets superpowers, learns how to use them, kicks butt.
Spiderman – accidentally gets superpowers, learns how to use them, kicks butt.
Captain America – intentionally gets superpowers, learns how to use them, kicks butt.
Iron Man – spends a bunch of money making superpowers, learns how to use them, kicks butt.
Black Widow – a child trafficker gets tracked down by two of his former slaves/spies/assassins.
2. Where do spies be getting all this money? Natasha is an orphan. Did she just steal a few billion dollars and stash it somewhere to be spending on identities and jets and whatnot? It’s not like the Avengers draw a paycheck. Falcon could barely keep his little fishing boat in business.
3. Florence Pugh is hilarious and, no shade but shade, a better Black Widow than Scarlett. I’m so excited for her.
4. I want smaller Marvel movies. We have consistently leveled up the danger from saving a city to saving a country to saving a planet to saving the universe to now probably saving all of the dimensions of the universe. Where do you go after that? Let’s make it small. Black Widow is an exercise in taking the stakes down and I hope they keep moving in that direction. Every Marvel movie doesn’t need a huge scene culminating in hundreds of explosions where the universe is saved for another day. Let’s get the Marvel road trip buddy comedy, the Marvel bank heist, the Marvel family drama. Black Widow is a mashup of all three, and it’s done really well.
5. There are only like three men in the whole movie who have more than a minute of screentime and you love to see it.
6. For me, action scenes have a heightened sense of danger when it’s a bunch of regular people chasing each other in cars and kicking ass without flying through the sky or blasting out neon projectiles. In that way, Black Widow feels more like a Bond movie or a Bourne movie than a Marvel movie and I’m very much here for all of that.
The Annoying (Mild Spoilers)
7. Because these are real people who can DIE and those are my favorite kinds of action movies, it really takes me out of the film when these real, non-enhanced humans survive ridiculous things or put themselves in absolutely fatal situations with no regard to their own safety. If you can’t survive a gunshot, you’re not going to squat in the open door of a helicopter while it’s being sprayed with bullets — two bullet holes appeared on Yelena’s left and then three appeared on her right, but she’s right in the doorway getting hit by nothing? How many car crashes can Natasha not only walk away from but also fight an adversary immediately after? My dad has ten broken bones from a car crash he was in a couple of weeks ago, but she walking away from cars that rolled over? I don’t like that.
8. Atomic Blonde has some of the most realistic fight scenes I’ve ever seen in a female action movie and the fight choreographer talked about how they designed those scenes to accurately portray how a woman (or anyone with less muscle mass) would take advantage of their surroundings. Black Widow cannot pummel someone the way Captain America can because she’s not as strong. It doesn’t really matter though. It’s Marvel. We didn’t watch it for accuracy, and the fight scenes are all the same. However, when Natasha fights Yelena, they both utilize everything around them from dishes to curtains and it just made me wonder why they don’t always have Natasha fight that way.
9. Neither of these things would matter as much if the writers hadn’t made Yelena (hilariously) point out that Black Widow is a regular person compared to the other Avengers. If you’re going to highlight the fact that your cast is just humans who get shot, get broken bones, and then get ibuprofen, then you shouldn’t write action scenes for invincible heroes.
The Response to “It’s Too Late” Criticism (Mild Spoilers)
10. We watch movies about actual dead people all the time, so I don’t get what the big deal is. Tammy Faye Baker is so ridiculous she might as well have been written by Marvel and I’m gonna see that movie on opening night.
11. It’s right on time, but the marketing sucks, because it’s too focused on Natasha. Marvel has incorrectly assumed the public cares enough about Natasha to want this movie even though she’s dead, or that we like Scarlett enough to see this movie even though we know the resolution of the character. But Natasha and Yelena have the same origin story — it’s just as much Florence Pugh’s movie as it is Scarlett Johansson’s. This is the new Black Widow’s origin story, not the dead one’s.
Hot Takes: Zola
Taylour Paige is a star.
1. TS Madison needs more film roles, stat. I didn’t even know she could act (yes, she was basically just being TS Madison, but Julia Roberts built a whole career of just being Julia on screen).
2. Personal preference, but I don’t love indie movies where you feel like the director needs to constantly remind you that they’re in control of the vision and that you’re watching an indie movie. Zola is a good story on its own — that’s why the Twitter thread went viral in the first place. It doesn’t need a lot of “filmmaking” to make a watchable film, and yet Janicza Bravo made sure to remind us through long, broody driving shots and visual interjections of meaningless filler in no way integral to the plot, that she’s the boss and she’s making an indie movie. I don’t like that.
3. Taylour Paige is a star. Taylour Paige’s body is also a star. Additionally, Taylour Paige’s face is a star. That ballet training and that Debbie Allen instruction really came in handy because the way she moves is magnetic. She can just walk through the scene and command attention. Also, the way she can tell microstories with her face! The entire film is one big showcase for Taylour’s tiny facial expressions.
4. Riley Keough (Elvis Pressley’s granddaughter, for those who don’t know) successfully walks that tricky line between doing a Blaccent and doing “white girl who knows Black people” and I feel like she must have actually put in work and research to pull that off successfully where so many others fail miserably.
5. Colman Domingo’s vague African accent maybe not as successful? Also, I just looked him up to see where he was from (Philadelphia, dad is from Belize) and he’s gay. He has a whole husband and everything, so what a nice Pride Month bonus on the very last day.
6. Wow, what a surprising collection of ugly penises.
7. Greg from Succession is hilarious. I love that he’s basically playing Greg from Succession again, but the trailer park version. I wouldn’t mind if his whole career was various incarnations of Greg from Succession.
8. If I had never read the Twitter thread, I probably would have enjoyed the movie just a *smidge* more, because I was waiting for the next tweet/plotpoint to come in whenever the director was seemingly trying to fill time. I felt like she was writing an essay with a word requirement and she was trying to hit the threshold with empty space. If Zola needed to be an hour and ten minutes, then that’s what it needed to be.
9. Sex trafficking is scary. The biggest difference between the Twitter thread and this movie is the way Bravo more accurately depicts how terrifying it is to be pimped and to be under the control of a man who is using you for money. I don’t remember being afraid for any of the characters on Twitter. I was afraid for everyone involved while watching the movie.
10. If your pee looks like Sunny Delight, bitch drink some WATER.
Hot Takes: Luca
Vespas aren’t that great. And it do be a lot of assholes riding them.
1. Disney said, “Let’s make the gayest movie we can make that won’t be boycotted by Pat Robertson and One Million Moms.”
2. Disney also said, “Let’s make Call Me By Your Name but fishy, and let’s make The Shape of Water but the cartoon version.”
3. Disney also also said, “Let’s make a really good score!!!”
4. The big takeaway here is, if you’re different and everybody hates you, all you have to do is be good at some type of sporting event and you’ll have instant acceptance. I don’t know how you go from wanting to murder people to inviting them over for dinner, but whatever the trick is, somebody should’ve taught it to me in 7th grade as well.
5. Grandma is a boss. I bet she got some landmonster knocking the scales off that ol fishpussy every weekend.
6. If you win a triathlon as a relay with two other people against a little girl who is doing all three legs herself, should you really be bragging all the time about how great you are??? Somebody should’ve punched The Villain a long time ago.
7. One Arm Daddy kinda hot. I love when the gays are in charge of creative direction. If I was still writing Nifty Fanfic, I would definitely put Smart Hulk and One Arm Daddy in some smut together.
8. Vespas aren’t that great. And it do be a lot of assholes riding them.
9. So, we see in movies what we want to see, and if I take off the Pinkwash Lenses, there’s no queer coding in Luca, which is actually refreshing. A lot of times movies will have characters that we know are gay, without actually confirming they’re gay, so it’s like representation without representation. I hate that, because it’s pandering to an audience without actually giving that audience any content. Luca is just good storytelling about being an outsider, and watching it as someone who was an outsider at that age makes me want to tell gay jokes about it. This could also be a story about Black students integrating schools during segregation or poor kids being bussed to fancy districts or women enrolling at the Citadel.
10. There should be more movies pitched toward boys that show emotion in friendships and closeness between guys. Little boys can have feelings too, and I got misty thinking back to the little boy I was who wasn’t allowed to show any. Good job, Disney.
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99% of COVID deaths in the US are unvaccinated.
Take this Jim Crow era literacy test for Black people.
99% of COVID deaths in the US are unvaccinated.
Simone Biles and the Twisties.
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