The lyrics (on the verses anyway) have bite and humor.
…here comes the but…I don’t like the saminess of the themes- I wish the new girls would open up their subject range. Or maybe I need to open my hating Gen X ears but it feels like the same topic all the time (it’s sex or sexiness or p-power or baddest bitchness and that’s okay but…diversify).
But-but this was fun.
This is number 6 in my No Repeats series which is my one woman listening party on the blog, where I listen and react to new (or new to me) music; I am a music lover and this is just me trying to stay in tune. Opinions may differ, and that’s okay.
…but what if mermaids sunned here, because there’s a pool there for them to splash around in, and it’s far enough away from everything that they can play without fear of being discovered…and now that we come, we humans, on morning excursions, to stretch our legs, fish, and sun ourselves, maybe the mermaids come out only at night…
For above-ground earth creatures such as ourselves, the open sky is kind of unavoidable, and if you live in the Caribbean as I do, there’s usually plenty of moving clouds in those skies.
We might not have known as children a cumulonimbus from a nimbostratus, still might not as adults actually; but we knew and know that the darker heavier unbroken clouds portended rain, and the ones that were lighter and made smaller shapes against the unerring blue signaled sunny days and play. Sometimes that play even involved contemplating those clouds, noting that this one was in the shape of a baby goat, that one a fluffy puppy, and over there, hares leapfrogging. Like I imagine an etch-a-sketch works, those shapes never stayed. In Nope, Jordan Peele’s latest, it is the unmoving cloud that finally clues our UFO skygazers in to the nature of the danger they face.
I don’t do a lot of movie reviews here on the blog – certainly compared to book reviews – but after seeing wrong take after wrong (of the negative or lukewarm variety), I had to tag in.
Though I’ve only seen Nope once, I said after that single viewing that it was my second favourite Jordan Peele film after Get Out. True, I have not seen the third of his films, his second, Us, but this is more than just ranking by default. Nope is an all caps YEP.
The “slow” first act is one of my favourite parts. The routines of horse life settling me in to the space I need to be. The images of not one but two Black men Keith David (who does not get mentioned nearly enough in reviews I’ve seen) and Daniel Kaluuya (who plays his son) on horseback in a setting from which the lore (cowboy movie after cowboy movie) has all but erased Black horsemen despite the reality (Smithsonian: one in four cowboys were Black) added depth of meaning for me as a Black person.
The silent character-and-plot-building stir both curiousity and genuine interest. I use silent deliberately because Daniel’s OJ (Otis Jr.) is not an effusive guy by any stretch and yet in that first sequence we see how much he loves working with horses, respects and loves his dad, whom he loses in a freak ‘accident’, forcing him to step in to shoes his nature hasn’t really prepared him to fill. To do what his father does, or did, well, he needs the other half of the equation, his sister, played by Keke Palmer, who is built for the charismatic, outward facing, almost aggressively verbal (i.e. she talks a lot!) Emerald. Emerald is a shade of green by the way, and Keke’s Emerald wears many shades of it in this film, reinforcing that nothing is by accident in a Jordan Peele film.
Let’s talk about the freak accident for a minute. OJ and his dad hear…something…(props to the sound design in this film), and before either knows what, OJ’s dad has slumped dead from a penny through the brain – shown not told – and the horse has a bloodied key in its backside. That a big animal would have a small injury and not rear up, as I’ve seen suggested the horse should have, is not baffling to me (we are biggish animals and sometimes we don’t even notice our small injuries). Also, a Black family accepting but not quite believing the official narrative (debris from a passing plane, which OJ admits quietly to his sister he never quite bought, because someone you trust is who you would whisper that to if you were not one to talk up and push back which we’ve seen OJ is not), well, it all tracks with me. What doesn’t track is any notion that they were incurious about it – especially OJ who was there, and who is grieving the loss of his father even as he tries to carry on, ineptly as we’ll discover, the horse ranch that his father built. It’s important to remember here that Peele is writing from the point of view of a Black man in America, even if his films are ‘genre’ films that can be appreciated by all.
It should’ve been clear from Get Out that race is important to Peele thematically. In Nope, he makes a key visual motif of the first moving picture captured and how it erased the name of the rider, a Black man, who is OJ and Emerald’s fictional great, great, great grandfather (fictional not because the rider isn’t real but because this is a movie and OJ and Emerald aren’t, but Black erasure in Hollywood surely is and that’s the point).
Peele is known for his symbolism and metaphors; you can enjoy his films without reading all that much in to it, but the reading is there if you want. Nothing is quite as it seems nor necessarily means what it seems to mean. I also believe that character point of view is important in his work. It certainly is in that Gordie segment and that damned over dissected, in my view, standing shoe. The flashback sequence with the TV chimp Gordie rampaging on the set and killing his human co-stars is, not surprisingly, the sequence that horror fans seem to have glommed on to, though many I’ve seen have questioned what this has to do with the main story. In this sequence, which we see in full when Adult Jupe (Steven Yeun) spaces out in that office scene with his wife, who seems to ground him, Gordie spares Jupe. Jupe is an Asian kid adopted in to a white family on a TV show. Sidebar, this has been described as a 90s style sitcom but it feels more like the 80s sitcoms that were so popular when I was growing up – Different Strokes, Webster; happy cross cultural adoptions generally, interspecies even, such as Alf. In any case, we see the rampage largely as Jupe experiences it including, I believe, the illusion of the shoe standing on edge. If in terror situations we fixate on someone or something, that shoe could be Jupe’s sort of dissociative way of processing what happened to him – a way of pushing the terror away. Something we’ve seen he is prone to do. Adult Jupe, who now runs a Western-themed amusement park that capitalizes on his childhood fame, talks about the SNL sketch rather than the incident itself when asked about the Gordy onset rampage by Emerald, after her discovery of the room of related memorabilia from which he profits. Jupe is stunted not just by his childhood stardom – which we’ve seen in real life can be a thing with former child stars – but by the rampage that he survived and in so doing decided he was special and/or had some special bond with Gordie the chimp. There’s no denying that the chimp saw some kinship, note the fistbump and the not killing him, perhaps sensing that they were both in their own way being exploited for their otherness. But Jupe thinks he can replicate that special bond-ability to the creature in the sky and similarly capitalize on it. And, just, Nope.
The plot and thematic connection is this traumatized man trying to create spectacle by coraling a wild creature, though he knows better than most the peril of that path. He and his fated customers are all eaten (in a truly horrific scene) by what is essentially a wild animal in the sky. Meanwhie, it is a man who is the opposite of spectacle, OJ, and who understands that you don’t tame these wild beasts so much as make a pact with them, who realizes that you should not look the thing in the eye (something we know can make animals, even your pet dog, irritable; something we saw spook the horse onset in the first act) – no, Jupe did not look Gordie in the eye (he was fixated on the shoe for most of the rampage and there was always something between them even when Gordie approached and they were looking at each other).
The other part that seems to confound is the in-universe cinematographer (played by Michael Wincott) exposing himself to the creature in order to get the perfect shot, as if he hasn’t been shown (literally) to be both odd and obsessed with animal imagery and getting the perfect shot. His most direct parallel to me is Quint from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, the experienced but odd (perhaps due to both trauma and obsession) shark hunter. I don’t remember how but I do remember that Quint dies hunting the shark, and I’m inclined to believe that he had a similar lack of self-preservation in service to the hunt. If the ride-a-long electronics store guy nursing a broken heart and a lack of boundaries (because he’s lonely, right?) Angel (played by an enjoyable Brandon Perea) is any kind of avatar for the audience, it is explicitly in his reaction to oddities like Quint-too (actually, Antlers Holst) who helps them troubleshoot how to capture the creature on film while being weird as fuck the whole time. They’ve got a good enough shot but there is always a better shot to be had, at all costs, even his life. Yes, I think he’s that obsessed.
Consider this quote from actual Nope cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema who served as his own camera operator, while shooting with a shoulder-mounted IMAX camera, which, I understand is not light (though he says, not as heavy as people might think): “I live by the philosophy that as cinematographers, it’s not our job to make things convenient; it’s our job make the difficult and the inconvenient doable so that we can achieve shots that are extra special. …In the end, the most visceral cinema is very much about intimacy, about being in the middle of things. For me, it’s important to get in there, get closer, go further, be it and live it.”
Is it really so hard to understand the motivations of an Antlers Holst?
I mean, I could have done without TMZ motorcycle guy (mostly because I reject TMZ) but even I can understand what his arrival does as an obstacle to the carefully timed plan that adds to the tension, and that it makes sense for the spectacle-obsessed who seem to be everywhere to appear here at the most inconvenient time; I mean it’s what they do, and it reinforces the theme of our obsession with spectacle at the exclusion of all else, including real human connection.
And real human connection is this movie’s main selling point for me. Like how the movie satisfyingly integrates Angel, not as a type but as a person in need of connection, into the group. In the same way that something feels off about Jupe because of his trauma and act, Nope creates an arc in which we see the siblings move through disconnect to literally eye-to-eye contact, “I see you, I got you”. Some say the pay off wasn’t earned. I disagree. Yes, there is irritation between them from the jump but there is also affection, and yes her being there only makes rawer the abrasions but it also means that they are there being with each other, re-learning each other. We get the sense that that hasn’t been the case since the trauma of Emerald’s childhood, losing her horse to her dad’s ambitions, and certainly not since his death (yes, she’s there, barely, for the presentations, but she didn’t even know OJ had been selling off the horses to Jupe, and she would get what a big deal that is even if he plans to buy them back). Here they are together, clashing (duh, siblings) but also sharing intimate moments (as they try to suss out what they’re dealing with). Even revisiting their childhood with only one extended piece of dialogue, really, between them (probably the realest thing about sibling relationships in which apologies come with a gesture, if at all). Their worry for each other when placed in danger is real and palpable, as is their joy – those hand slaps. The moment of him making a decision that gives her a chance feels very earned after all of that admittedly quiet and some what subtextual build-up. And no I don’t think her feeding the giant big boy to the creature while getting the snap of a lifetime and its demise was part of the plan – I think that was Emerald innovating after the plan went fubar. We’ve seen OJ during the plan wowing the others by innovating on the fly, so we know intuition is in play. As far as she knew, her brother had sacrificed himself so that she could survive, and survive she did – with a bonus. Of course, I could be wrong about all of this – as wrong as every critic I’m responding to with this piece. But what matters to me here is the character work. I love what both Daniel and Keke do with their roles together and apart – he’s got embodying and making a character interesting without needing to be verbose, or even verbal, down (though we’ve seen he can do that in Judas and the Black Messiah); and Keke, though she likes being a jill-of-all-trades, and probably had to be in colourist Hollywood, shows she has the range to add shades to a character that could easily be one-note but isn’t. For anyone who thinks Daniel’s acting was dull in this, explain why his quiet and firm delivery of “nope” in that truck was one of the movie moments that got a big reaction in my theatre – yes, the night and the hovering danger, but, also the character build to that point and the pitch perfect delivery.
Other questions, I do think scarred girl is there all the time, another part of the memorabilia Jupe monetizes; it’s a “creepy cowboy theme park” that’s its purpose and this corralling of Jean Jacket, the thing in the sky, by feeding it horses is just the newest spectacle (one, frankly, that the people who see it probably don’t think is real because we know the magician hasn’t really cut the girl in half); different directors use text on screen in different ways (see Scorcese’s The Irishman for the death cards that come with each character introduction) and here Peele is using them as title cards for each chapter or act, and, yes, he names them for the horses/creatures featured in each section and if I saw it again, I could probably find some thematic reason why they work as well; you know who else cameod in this film, 80s TV star Donna Mills but you don’t see me crying about her being underutilized; and about the not-an-alien evolved enough to shapeshift (I think you mean an animal who knows how to camouflage itself like many animals do instinctively) not being able to tell that the thing it ate at the end was a plastic inflatable, I have only to say, your dog that you buy all that premium food for, left to its own devices, will eat its own shit (it’s an animal, it does animal things; like all animals, including us, it’s both smart and stupid).
Watching the moon in the sky last night, how beautiful it was and how impossible it would be to capture that beauty, I couldn’t help remembering how beautifully shot this film is. Its shots of the night sky made said sky seem both magnificent and menacing. And Peele’s directorial choices, the scene of the blood and rain and likely other viscera being shit down, literally, on the house but first experienced from inside through sound and fear before allowing us to actually see it, are assured and effective. Is it a perfect horror film, no, but it’s a damn good sci-fantasy-action-drama.
I’ll end with this other ridiculous question I saw, why reveal the creature’s true form near the end? What a glorious reveal by the way – and that’s the answer. Jaws laid the template; it’s the unseen that gets your blood pumping and hopefully when they do the reveal, you’re so hot you’re not seeing something molded of rubber or fiberglass or even created on a computer but the stuff the movie has primed you to believe is your worst nightmare. Why would you reveal it earlier? Especially when you’re playing with the language of sci-fi and psyching us out with its typical UFO form only to give us something with creature design so angelic we can barely stand to look at it. But do, because, after all, this is spectacle.
Re-sharing because a certain award winning fantasy writer told me after reading it “wow; you are such an evocative writer” and I’m still taking that in. Also because I didn’t really push or even read it for a long time after publication because a lot was going on at the time. But I do want you to read it and I do appreciate being invited to write in the Caribbean Sky Islands universe because at the time the commission came I was struggling to write again and this lit a fire under me (in part because I like experimenting with genre and this world had a whole fantasy Bible and lots of creative potential). I also appreciate Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters publishing it – they are a great platform with high standards and quality and entertaining output. Re-sharing also because tonight the moon is giving me Ixie and Izzy and I feel like.
No I am not an NBA great (just a fan) and I did my morning workout so I am not decrepit (no matter what I write after this nor what my body says #dontlistentothatbitch)
But yesterday morning I was walking up a road with a little hill and a young woman (don’t know her age but I’d say teen to young adult) walked past, crossing the road I was going up. And I started to race her. Pushed up that hill more quickly than I might normally, just because, and when I got to the top, little sis was way at the other end of the road turning towards the second, bigger hill and I was aghast because she was literally strolling and I was lit-er-rally pushing it. Context: I walk a lot and it’s not unusual for me to give myself little motivational boosts (I mean, I’ll race a car…in my head). But sis was cooking me without even trying. Her obliviousness and effortlessness became a taunt. I switched in to third gear, dragged my unwilling body up that second hill faster than it wanted to go, turned the corner and there was no sight of her. Was she Houdiness? I raced to the next dip and there she was, not disappeared just so far ahead she might as well be….still strolling.
Father Time is undefeated (I’m not going to do my usual thing of switchng of genders on these deities because Mother Time would never be so cruel as to leave my body lagging behind my mind when I need them both, come on now)
One of the reasons I try to walk a lot and work out (dance, aerobics, yoga) on top of that is because I believe working out will help with my health issues, my mood, my writing, my energy and on that morning, it was all proven to be a lie. And little sis don’t even know. She Allen Iversoned me, killed me and stepped over the corpse.
Do you have a desert island movie? Don’t think too hard about the practicalities. Just, if you were stuck on a desert island indefinitely and could somehow still watch a movie but only one movie forever and ever, or until whenever you were rescued, which movie would it be?
Mine has always been Grease. Ever since I saw it as a child. I remember the circumstances under which I was able to see it, though it would be coming up on local TV way past my bedtime and we didn’t own a TV. It was not my first movie nor even the first movie I remember going to see – that would be Jaws at Deluxe, still young enough to be carried into the theatre in my mother’s arms. But I was still in primary school and my sister and I were both eager to see it. This would change but we were able on the night it was to be shown to beg to be able to not only stay up late but watch it at the house of a neighbour who did have a TV. My sister though has never had the late night gene and she made it only as far as the start of the movie so that I had to tell her about the movie the following day (it wouldn’t be the last time) – is that when a story teller was born? Because I remember telling her every detail. To this day I remember most of the songs word for word – “Hopelessly Devoted” was among my favourites back. then.
I get now that Grease is problematic as hell – do not change yourself to get the guy, be who you are… like Rizzo. But at that age, I was still playing skip rope games like “Queen of Hearts” which invited us girls to tell each other “the name of your sweetheart”. And Olivia Newton’s voice was so lovely; it really is one of the silkiest, most poignant performances of a song in cinema.
I loved musicals back then. Maybe from that point me writing a book like Musical Youth was inevitable.
Because Grease was a perfect musical, but Xanadu (an Olivia Newton John musical with Gene Kelly) was not, and I loved that too. And don’t get me started about our anticipation of Grease 2. We accept no slander – that was our first franchise.
In the past few years, I’ve been trying to make peace with so many of the people I grew up watching – locally and regionally, and because of American cultural penetration in the Caribbean region via film, TV, music and books etc – fading, taking a bit of my childhood with them. Olivia Newton John (RIP) is the latest.
But the good thing is I still have Grease as my desert island movie.
Whenever WordPress says my “stats are booming”, with August 5th in particular outpacing all other days going back over a month, I’m always curious which posts and why. So, though I did a What’s Trending on Jhohadli post covering the previous 30 days as recently as July 26th, here we go again. I’ll stick to a 7 day timespan.
One takeaway is the growing popularity of even back issues my independent and award winning CREATIVE SPACE art and culture column, and some kind of seasonal interest in my first book (school is not in session, so I’m not sure what accounts for that) – both are timely reminders to keep pushing; also glad to see that the new posts are hitting, and that my books haven’t got lost in the shuffle.
Appreciate the interest in what I do here, always.
It’s crazy how quickly Carnival finishes, especially for me, since (as hinted in my last CREATIVE SPACE art and culture column “That Carnival Feeling”) I didn’t start to catch the fever until near the end. I went to the concert honouring one of our aging calypso icons, Short Shirt, caught up with friends (as people almost always come home for Carnival), and caught some of the calypso and party monarch competitions on streaming (thank you, ABS TV), but I didn’t go out again until Watch Night.
Watch Night is the Emancipation Day Eve vigil/concert – Emancipation Day refers to the day enslaved people in the Caribbean were legally liberated, in Antigua and Barbuda which did not sign up for the “apprenticeship” period, that day was August 1st 1834 – for other then British colonies in the West Indies, it would be another four years of unpaid labour. And once I was out, I was out (always masked – COVID is still out there). Watch Night was Sunday, J’ouvert was Monday morning, of course, and then there was the two-day Carnival parade, and music sweet music…and at some point, music everywhere in the air, I caught that Carnival feeling. Carnival wasn’t its old self (more t-shirts than mas i.e. masquerades, i.e. costumes, likely due to a late start to planning given general uncertainty and safety concerns) – after being shelved for two years due to COVID – but it was nice to be outside and dancing in the streets again. This is our culture.
And then after lots and lots of walking and dancing and other nice things, Wednesday, it was back to work. Just so.
Carnival truly is a blip.
Thankfully, my office was my back porch, my local bookstore, and the beach, so I was able to hold on to that outside feeling, and in the midst of everything-everything, I got a bit of writing done which always feels good. Especially good since it was on a work in progress that has been stalled for a while.
I also finished reading a book. Yay!
With this one, Selected Poems by Lorna Goodison <— click the title to read my review, my appalling pace (2022 has not been a brisk reading year) has dropped to BELOW one book finished per month. It’s busy, and so I have been less able than I’d like to visit my happy place (reading) but I try to enjoy it when I do.
The art above (a guitar with a looping author signature and pen growing out of its neck projected on to the flag of my country Antigua and Barbuda) is by Charminae George, a young budding writer I ran in to recently at my local bookstore. We chatted for a bit as I tried to answer her writing-related questions, made reading recommendations, and showed an interest in her writing…she sent me this as “a small token of gratitude”. This is not small to me. Do you see what I’m seeing? It’s Musical Youth fan art. How dope is that?
Musical Youth is my fourth book – a Burt Award winning teen/young adult novel and Kirkus starred review top 100 indie book, by which I mean to say this book has been a blessing, and this fan art is absolutely one of my favourite keepsakes now.
It’s an aspect of the writing and publishing life – people creating art in response to something I’ve created – that I did not anticipate, but I appreciate it. It’s like that extra frosting late season mango or guava or insert favourite fruit here that feels like a treat just for you.
This past week I also heard from another young writer – a former Wadadli Pen finalist who has worked in publishing and plans to pursue her Masters. She reached back to say thanks for the stepping stones programmes like Wadadli Pen created for people like her (again, unexpected and appreciated). One of those stepping stones was the next chapter contest related to my book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (organized by the Best of Books bookstore in 2008 when they made Dancing their summer read, complete with a street festival). I only bring that up because that next chapter was among the fan fic included in the now out of print second edition of the book. Having someone extend the world you created or write in response to it, was just some more of that sweet sweet frosting late season mango.
Over the last month (30 days), per site stats, the top 10, 1-10, not including the home page, is as follows:
CREATIVE SPACE #14 of 2022 – DO YOU KNOW THIS MAN? This is the last installment of my arts and culture column. It focussed on two figures in Antigua and Barbuda’s cultural history, one all but forgotten, one fading from lived memory and also not really well documented. The thing that makes me happiest about this piece trending is its contribution to the documentation of our culture (which has sort of become a mission of mine) but I had hoped it would stir more conversation than I have seen.
CREATIVE SPACE This is the main landing page of the column mentioned above. It’s where you’ll find the extended edition, with Extras, of the column when it is published, this and every other Wednesday in the Daily Observer newspaper.
BOOKS This should be higher, right? I am a #gyalfromOttosAntigua who once dreamed of becoming a published author (but more importantly hungered to tell my stories) and I have several times over. I’ve got Books (plural) and am still writing. Fingers crossed, there’ll be more to come and hopefully the audience for my books will only continue to grow.
About Who am I? You won’t find that out here necessarily (writing about yourself is the hardest thing and I do have to keep some of myself for myself) but it’s an overview to the writer-me which is what’s relevant here. And honestly that’s a big part of me because writing is how I process life, it is my passion …and it’s also how I try to pay the bills.
Antigua and Barbuda This one surprised me a little bit because I haven’t done a lot lately with the Antigua and Barbuda pages, where I share images and trivia related to the twin island nation I call home and which shows up as the setting of much of my work. But I suspect it’s the google algorithms working for me, when someone types “island with the best beaches in the Caribbean”… for instance.
June is #readCaribbean Month Post 22 Why was this one singled out for popularity among all the reading journalling I did for June, #readCaribbean month? Your guess is as good as mine but consider it the gateway to the whole series and this ‘genre’ in which I write, books by Caribbean authors that you should be reading.
Book Chat/Blogger on Books & Extras This is the landing page for my book reading series plus the page where I share lists related to other media – particularly film and music. It hasn’t really trended before, so thanks for the interest.
Appearances This is also a links page, this one leading to my (author) appearances page and links to the launch activities for my various books.
This is the main page for those interested in what I’ve been reading (not a lot this year, sorry) and what I think about them. All books read will be listed but there will only be links to reviews of books I either liked or have something to say about. If I didn’t like a book at all or didn’t finish it for whatever reason, I’ll list it but I won’t link to a review of it. Got it?
I’m gonna list as well the top 10 of the past week – if there are repeats of 30-day popular posts on the 7-day list, I’ll bold them above rather than repeat them below.
Blogger on Books IV – Closure Interesting that this anthology of Black British authors is trending this week. I wonder what’s up with that? I mean I welcome it but I wonder. After all this was one I read back in 2016-2017. I liked it and hope whoever’s discovering it in 2022 will too. Like I’ve been known to say, books aren’t bread, they don’t go stale.
CREATIVE SPACE 2021 All-yuh looking up back issues of my art and culture column? I love to see it.
Quickly and finally, my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel and only a top 5 from the 7-day list as (I could be wrong about this but I feel like) I’ve recently shared a list from the channel over a longer time fairly recently:
Thanks for the interest in what I do here whether it’s my books and writing journey, my column, or my book reviews and other blog content. Your views, likes, comments, and other engagement are all appreciated.