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This Alleged Joker Alternate Ending Is Both Hilarious and Cringe

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Actor Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck / Joker in upcoming Joker movie from DC
Ah, Joker, the gift that just refuses to stop giving. Love it, hate it, or just don’t care enough to feel something about it, the film is one of the biggest of 2019, and with all the controversy around it, the fact that it made so much money at the box office with a small budget makes it an overwhelming success. But according to an interview with Kevin Smith, the ending of the film could have been much different.

In a recent episode of Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast, the notable director and professional nerd shared a little insider knowledge he got from “somebody who works in the business” about an alternate ending to Joker that we were thankfully spared from.

As reported on /Film, the sequence, as described by Smith, went as follows:

“The final scene still happened in the mental hospital, but instead of killing the psychiatrist, Fleck laughs to himself after telling the story. The doctor would have asked why he was laughing, to which Arthur would have said, ‘I was just thinking of something funny.’

Suddenly, the film would flash back to the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, this time at the hands of Arthur Fleck. As usual, Bruce Wayne is left crying next to his dead parents. But as Arthur walks away from the scene of the crime, he would stop, look back, shrug, and shoot Bruce Wayne. Cut to credits.”

Can I get a Sideshow Bob shudder gif, please?

Personally, I think one of the weakest links in the Joker chain was that Arthur became the leader of clown Antifa, and his clown Antifa riot ended up killing the Waynes. Joker being, in some form, being responsible for the death of Batman’s parents isn’t something new, as it was done in the 1989 film, and honestly, it felt a little bit much then, so taking this out of Joker is actually a good decision, in my eyes.

I prefer the idea of Batman’s existence creating his rogues’ gallery, rather than the idea that his foil is a man 30+ years older who “created” him. Batman creating the Joker is more interesting than the reverse.

Also the “looking back and shrugging” I can see so perfectly in this script that I can feel the douche chills in my body. I think if that had actually happened in the movie, I would have laughed so loudly in the worst way.

I have sat through Joker once more since my first viewing, and while I still deeply dislike 90% of the film, the ten percent I do enjoy makes me wish that we could get movies that care this much about the backstory of literally any other character in the Batman roster.

Even Clayface.

(via /Film, image: Warner Bros.)

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14 days ago
There are like six different Clayfaces with at least twelve and half wildly different origin stories. If we are doomed to Batman Villain Origins Cinematic Universe, endless Clayface movies *would* actually be preferable to endless Joker movies because there is more depth there to mine.
Louisville, Kentucky
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Santa

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

The elves have thrown off their shackles.

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23 days ago
This was the plot of Noelle
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White Christmas, Blackface, and Minstrel Shows

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the minstrel number form white christmas

If you ask me what movie I put on first thing in December to get in the holiday spirit I’ll tell you right away that it’s White Christmas. The 1954 musical is a classic for a host of reasons: the sparkling dialogue, the incredible dances with Vera Ellen, the comedy of Danny Kaye, the fantastic costumes by Edith Head, and the indelible voices of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.

White Christmas exemplifies the best of classic Hollywood…but it’s also an interesting sort of rosetta stone for some of the worst tendencies of Hollywood’s golden age when it came to race: that rather than be inclusive of in anyway interrogate America’s racism, they just ignore it completely even when the now-classic songs have racists history. White Christmas ties directly into Hollywood’s checkered history with blackface, minstrel shows and the complicated legacy of one of America’s greatest songwriters: Irving Berlin.

I’m not going to mine for outrage and call White Christmas a racist movie. Explicitly and textually it’s not racist…but that’s only because there are no black people in it aside from one bartender in the club car in the “Snow” scene. The movie on its face has the same problems as most films of its era: it was made by white people for a white audience and carried with it the inherent racism of Hollywood and its time. And one of those people was the greatest American songwriter in history, Irving Berlin.

Irving Berlin, the composer of “White Christmas” and “God Bless America” was a Jewish, Russian immigrant who came to America when he was only a child. Raised the son of a synagogue cantor, Jewish music was a huge influence on his early life and music. He came up in the teens, garnering success as a songwriter and served in the army, writing songs for all-soldier revues during World War I (we’ll come back to that).

bing crosby danny kaye sing blue skies in white christmas

Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sing “Blue Skies”

One of Berlin’s first big hits and the second song we hear in White Christmas is “Blue Skies.” Originally composed for a forgotten Ziegfeld production called Besty, “Blue Skies” has one of the most complicated racial histories of any song out there. The way “Blue Skies” sounds, according to musical historians, was clearly “Jewish” to many listeners in the 20s, but it still became a hit. And it also became the first music ever used in a movie when it was sung by a Jewish character in blackface in The Jazz Singer.

The contrasts of The Jazz Singer and the first use of “Blue Skies” are emblematic of so much of how early and golden age Hollywood dealt with race. People who faced discrimination themselves – antisemitism in the case – still engaged in racist things, like blackface. I don’t know if Irving Berlin knew or felt that blackface was racist at the time, because The Jazz Singer wasn’t Irving Berlin’s first or last interaction with blackface and the larger minstrel tradition it arose from. And that’s what brings us back to White Christmas where this song and so many other are scrubbed of their racial and formerly racist context.

First, a detour. Minstrel shows and blackface arose first among white performers in the 1830s and involved those white performers painting their faces in caricatures of black slaves. They had their own tropes, stock characters, jokes, and musical language. Black performers eventually joined in these performances as well, and their versions often sought to subvert and mock the stereotypes in these shows.

While Minstrel shows themselves fell out of popularity in the 20th century, blackface persisted and so did the many tropes and stereotypes from those minstrel days, such as “Mamie” characters, or the visuals of a black or blackface character wearing white gloves (see: Mickey Mouse). We still live with minstrel relics in our culture – White Christmas being just one of them. The fading of these shows from the scene led some to be nostalgic for them, including a younger Irving Berlin.

the minstrel nuber in white christmas with clooney, crosby and kaye

Clooney, Kaye and Crosby look back fondly on the minstrel days they miss.

Now, back to White Christmas. Remember a few paragraphs back when I told you about Irving Berlin’s time in the army in WWI? Well, that was before he had ever heard of talking pictures or contemplated Al Jolson (who gets a shoutout in White Christmas) singing about a “Mamie” on screen, but blackface and minstrelry were part of his cultural vocabulary so much even then that he wrote several numbers for his all-soldier army revue that were either about or influenced by minstrel shows and one of those songs was “Mandy” and the so-called “Minstrel Number” that eventually made it into White Christmas nearly four decades later.

While “Mandy” is innocuous when taken alone, the number in White Christmas that proceeds it, when Crosby, Kaye, and Clooney sing of their longing for “The Minstrel days we miss” is more complicated taken in context. The three leads singing so fondly about shows that were just so funny seems quaint…until you realize they’re lamenting the loss of a racist, harmful artform that went out of style half a century before.

It was nostalgic racism in 1917, and maybe made more sense then, but just it’s just weird in 1953. If you don’t know what a minstrel show is, the song is perfectly fine…but if you do, its a very weird thing to hear in a musical that is otherwise pretty far removed from minstrelry. But that’s because White Christmas is a showcase for Berlin songs that were sort of stitched together from everywhere, including other far more problematic properties.

White Christmas is what we’d essentially call a jukebox musical nowadays. Most of the songs were not written for the movie, and it’s just a tour through decades of Irving Berlin’s music, including many songs he wrote when he was in the army because White Christmas is about a pair of WWII veterans. Many of the army related songs we hear in the show are from the same revue – called Yip Yip Yaphank – that “Mandy” comes from while others are repurposed from the 1943 movie Holiday Inn, where the song “White Christmas” was first heard on screen.

gee i wish i was back in the army in white christmas

One of many army-centric numbers repurposed for White Christmas.

The idea to make a movie based on the song “White Christmas” itself, which already had been featured in a movie, might have been a cash grab that came from the fact that the song became such a touchstone for soldiers serving in World War II (Bing Crosby talks about how singing it for the troops was a deeply emotional experience, one that’s recaptured in the film). But I like to think it also might have to do with the fact that, while White Christmas isn’t a really racist film…Holiday Inn certainly is.

Holiday Inn stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and is about a hotel that’s only open on Holidays (which seems dumb) and they start scraping the barrel for holiday songs really fast. The worst offender by far though it the super-racist “Abraham” number which is about Lincoln freeing the slaves. The number is not only performed by Bing Crosby in blackface (along with the band and dancers), there’s a section where the Mamie character (that’s her actual character name!) sings a verse to her kids…in the kitchen. A song where white people in blackface and a black family that’s kept in the kitchen praise a white man for freeing the “darkies?” It’s appalling to watch now.

This song, like other racially icky songs, is actually used in White Christmas in a non-racist way. We actually hear “Abraham” only in an instrumental version as Vera Ellen dances her tail off. The racist parts of it aren’t there. The same is true of the minstrel number, which has only the slightest hint of minstrel or blackface imagery in the caricatures we see on some of the backdrops. The same goes for “Blue Skies” which is just a brief song we here in a montage. Much of what was problematic has been removed from these songs – except their history.

vera ella and john brascia in white christmas

The “Abraham” number in White Christmas is purely a dance break.

White Christmas might as well be called White-washed Christmas because it does sweep so many elements of its songs that were used in racist ways in the past under the rug. But is that okay? Having “Blue Skies,” “Mandy” and “Abraham” in the film as they are is certainly better than the way they were presented in other movies and shows; and without context, they’re fine songs. “Blue Skies” in particular only gained racist associations with blackface after it became popular. But the past use of these songs in associations with minstrelsy and blackface also can’t be erased.

I don’t think there’s an answer here, only a conversation. White Christmas is a classic movie that I love and its music is iconic in many ways. But it’s important to understand the cultural context of the movie and the music to see where it fits in a larger, longer story of American culture and race. The same goes for Irving Berlin himself, who was part of a larger American cultural tradition that was suffused with racism, and he did his part both to perpetuate and subvert it.

“White Christmas” – the song, is the most popular song of all time and it was written by a Jewish man during the summer in California. Every movie and song and piece of art has a story, it’s not always merry and bright. But it always matters.

(images: Paramount Pictures)

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37 days ago
This is a conversation I find fascinating. My mom loves White Christmas and its one of the ones I enjoy revisiting each year. Because of that and half-remembering it being nearly as good, my mom got a copy of Holiday Inn and it is such a teachable moment of a period in time. It’s interesting in how much it probably knowingly straddled that line in trying its best to divorce the context that made Holiday Inn made only several years before feel so racist. The camera in White Christmas makes what feels to a modern audience as a long lingering shot of the board announcing that the Minstrel Show/Mandy piece was a “Dress Rehearsal / No Makeup”. Based on other shots in the film it’s so lingering simply that Hollywood directors had a different count on how long audiences need to read words on the screen from modern times. But that shot and it’s odd feeling of being too long remains in the film as a teachable moment, a place and a reason to have this conversation, why it was important (and thus incredibly fortunate to posterity) that those songs in this particular film were “just a dress rehearsal”, that no one was in makeup. You can see the full production in all its black face cringe inducing “glory” in Holiday Inn if you wish. As much as White Christmas avoids the direct racism there’s still at least that one lingering shot to give a space for the conversation of changing mores over the decades and there’s a reason why no one actually misses the “Minstrel Shows of old” like the song suggests we might, because hopefully we better recognize how problematic they were.

(Which is a modern topic again today in the “cancellation” era drama. Do we sing about the stuff we cancel or do we embrace we canceled it for a reason or do we try for some sort of weird middle ground such as this where we leave room for the conversation so we don’t forget why we canceled it decades later?)
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Sucker bet (a thought experiment)

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Here is a thought experiment for our age.

You wake up to find your fairy godmother has overachieved: you're a new you, in a physically attractive, healthy body with no ailments and no older than 25 (giving you a reasonable propect of living to see the year 2100: making it to 2059 is pretty much a dead certainty).

The new you is also fabulously wealthy: you are the beneficial owner of a gigantic share portfolio which, your wealth management team assures you, is worth on the order of $100Bn, and sufficiently stable that even Trump's worst rage-tweeting never causes you to lose more than half a billion or so: even a repeat of the 2008 crisis will only cost you half an Apollo program.

Finally, you're outside the public eye. While your fellow multi-billionaires know you, your photo doesn't regularly appear in HELLO! magazine or Private Eye: you can walk the streets of Manhattan in reasonable safety without a bodyguard, if you so desire.

Now read on below the cut for the small print.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs takes on a whole new appearance from this angle.

Firstly: anthropogenic climate change will personally affect you in the years to come. (It may be the biggest threat to your survival.)

Secondly: the tensions generated by late-stage capitalism and rampant nationalist populism also affect you personally, insofar as billionaires as a class are getting the blame for all the world's ills whether or not they personally did anything blameworthy.

Let's add some more constraints.

Your wealth grows by 1% per annum, compounded, in the absence of Global Financial Crises.

Currently there is a 10% probability of another Global Financial Crisis in the next year, which will cut your wealth by 30%. For each year in which there is no GFC, the probability of a GFC in the next year rises by 2%. (So in a decade's time, if there's been no GFC, the probability is pushing 30%.) After a GFC the probability of a crash in the next yeear resets to 0% (before beginning to grow again after 5 years, as before). Meanwhile, your portfolio will recover at 2% per annum until it reaches its previous level, (or there's another GFC).

You can spend up to 1% of your portfolio per year on whatever you like, without consequences for the rest of the portfolio. Above that, for every additional dollar you liquidate, your investments lose another dollar. (Same recovery rules as for a GFC apply. If you try to liquidate all $100Bn overnight, you get at most $51Bn.)

(Note: I haven't made a spreadsheet model of this yet. Probably an omission one of you will address ...)

The head on a stick rule: in any year when your net wealth exceeds $5Bn, there is a 1% chance of a violent revolution that you cannot escape, and end up with your head on a stick. If there are two or more GFCs within a 10 year period, the probability of a revolution in the next year goes up to 2% per year. A third GFC doubles the probability of revolution, and so on: four GFCs within 40 years mean an 8% probability you'll be murdered.

Note: the planetary GNP is $75Tn or so. You're rich, but you're three orders of magnitude smaller than the global economy. You can't afford to go King Knut. You can't even afford to buy any one of Boeing, Airbus, BP, Shell, Exxon, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, or Google. Forget buying New Zealand: the annual GDP of even a relatively small island nation is around double your total capital, and you can't afford the mortgage. $100Bn does not make you omnipotent.

What is your optimum survival strategy?

Stuff I'm going to suggest is a really bad idea:

Paying Elon to build you a bolt-hole on Mars. Sure you can afford it within the next 20 years (if you live that long), but you will end up spending 75% of your extended life expectancy staring at the interior walls of a converted stainless steel fuel tank.

Paying faceless realtors to build you a bolt-hole in New Zealand. Sure you can afford a fully staffed bunker and a crew of gun-toting minions wearing collar bombs, but you will end up spending 75% of your extended life expectancy under house arrest, wondering when one of the minions is going to crack and decide torturing you to death is worth losing his head. And that's assuming the locals don't get irritated enough to pump carbon monoxide into your ventillation ducts.

Paying the US government to give you privileged status and carry on business as usual. Guillotines, tumbrils, you know the drill.

So it boils down to ... what is the best use of $100Bn over 80 years to mitigate the crisis situation we find ourselves in? (Your end goal should be to live to a ripe old age and die in bed, surrounded by your friends and family.)

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59 days ago
In this scenario, I’m increasingly thinking I’d lean towards liquidate with extreme prejudice. So what if you lose like 49% of the paper value in the process? Who’s keeping score? Do I need billions for my current life style, no? Keep in mind that keeping say a million or three for myself in the process is a rounding error in this exercise and drops you below the “head on a stick” concern threshold. More interestingly is how that paper loses its value in the process, because you can game that: cause some concern in the shares you dump as you dump some of them, especially companies with no climate awareness, sew discord among fellow investors that there is a reason you are quickly selling those shares and manufacturer doubt that they could survive coming crises. Try to gift shares in companies that are more aware and trying better ideas to charities without liquidating. The remaining question is what to do with cash above your “little rounding error” lifestyle project. Might also be a case of gift it to charity, I’m not sure, and figuring that out is a hard problem according to the Gates Foundation. As nice as it could be to live on passive income, find some way to get the money active and involved in some projects.
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67 days ago
In addition to living my Gentleman Driver lifestyle, I would support every anarchist/socialist representative at the local and regional level around the world.
Denver, CO
68 days ago

John Mulaney: Defender of Dogs, Hater of Your Stupid Scooters

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John Mulaney performs onstage

When it comes to loving your dog, John Mulaney is one of the best. He constantly is posting about his dog Petunia, shows how much he loves her, and she’s often been the focus of jokes in his sets. That doesn’t mean that she’s anything less than perfect in his eyes, though. So, when she almost died because of a rogue electric scooter user, Mulaney took to social media to tell us all of his hatred of the new trend.

Petunia Mulaney is honestly more important than John Mulaney. Yeah, I said it. My love for John himself runs deep, but sweet baby Petunia has taken our heart with her flat little snout and run with it. So, when John Mulaney went on Instagram to share that Petunia was almost run over by one of these scooters that have popped up in cities around the country and carry out his personal vendetta against them, I understood his John Wick-ish quest.

Twitter user @Nellanndee captured Mulaney’s stories (because, you know, Instagram), and they honestly make a lot of sense:

Sure, we’re trying to find eco-friendly alternatives to cars (though this may not be it), and we’re certainly into public transit solutions, but we also have to recognize that putting pedestrians in danger isn’t a great solution, either. Often, I’ve found myself fighting a biker off the sidewalk in New York because they didn’t feel like biking in the street, so imagine a dog on the sidewalk having to worry about additional vehicles.

So, when you really think about it, Mulaney is right. Scooters, while fun and helpful for transportation, can be dangerous, and the idea that you can just leave them anywhere is gross, but also his point is more against those who use them recklessly. So often, in big cities, we’re under attack from those on wheels because they have the basic understanding that if you have wheels, you go on the road, not on the sidewalk.

Mulaney using the near-death experience of Petunia to bring this issue to light is courageous and what we need. (I know I sound facetious, but also if something happened to Petunia, I would hunt down the culprit myself because that sweet baby deserves NOTHING but the world.) We, as humans, often just get angry and roll our eyes and continue in our ways, but I know I personally did not think about the potential of dogs and what would happen if one of these scooters hit an unsuspecting pup.

I mean, now I kind of want to see John Mulaney go full John Wick, because I think THAT could be the movie of the century, but alas, we’ll have to deal with him taking to Instagram to yell about the irresponsible nature of scooter users in Washington D.C. instead.

(image: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for NRDC)

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98 days ago
Welcome to the club, John. Adding “one almost killed Petunia Mulaney” to my curmudgeon’s list of grievances with the scooter companies.
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I Finally Watched Alien and It Blew Me Away—Also, Everyone Should Have Just Listened to Ripley

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Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton in Alien (1979)

This year was the 40-year anniversary of the 1979 movie Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, one of the iconic heroes of science-fiction. Being the fake-film-geek-girl I am, it was a movie I hadn’t seen until just recently, despite having watched the Alien vs. Predator movies and being familiar with the story through its place in the cultural zeitgeist. Going into the movie, I knew three things: Ripley is the sole survivor, the chest buster scene would happen, and of course, what the final Xenomorph would look like. I didn’t know anything.

**Spoilers for Alien in case anyone is late like me.**

Alien is a 1979 science-fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon. The film stars Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto.

We begin with the crew of the commercial space ship Nostromo being awakened from their stasis during a return trip to Earth. Our crew of redshirts is made up of Captain Dallas, Executive Officer Kane, Warrant Officer Ripley (the hero we don’t deserve), Navigator Lambert, Science Officer Ash, and two engineers, Parker and Brett (the true heroes of this story). After begin awoken, they realize that they are not actually in their own star system. That’s because the ship’s computer, Mother, had awoken them early because of a distress signal that they are required to investigate. Otherwise, they would have to forfeit their money.

They land on the moon LV-426 and end up taking damage from the atmosphere and rocky terrain. Parker and Brett repair the ship while Dallas, Kane, and Lambert head out to investigate the signal as Ash looks on from the ship. As they journey, Ripley deciphers part of the transmission and figures out that it isn’t a distress call; it’s a warning.

From this point on, shit gets crazy. The three outside crew members explore an alien ship, and Kane ends up finding a bunch of eggs. While he’s leaning over one, it opens, and a facehugger breaks through his helmet and attaches itself to his face. When the crew tries to bring Kane back aboard the Nostromo, Ripley, who is technically in command, says they can’t let them in because of the need for a 24-hour quarantine. If only they had listened. Ash overrules Ripley and lets them in, and because of that, the majority of the crew is doomed to death. The facehugger implants an alien baby inside of Kane, and it explodes from his chest during dinner (rude), and the rest is man vs. monster in its purest form.

Watching the film, it struck me that the only people with any sense at all are Parker (Yaphet Kotto), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) and Ripley. All three of them are uncomfortable with the situation. Parker (along with Brett) is already frustrated they are underpaid for their work and isn’t interested in sticking their necks out any more. Also, in the book, he agrees with Ripley about the quarantine. Lambert spends most of the trip outside saying that they should term back. She is instantly unnerved, but Dallas and Kane go forward. Not only is Ripley the one who decodes the message and tries to save everyone else, but she is the only one who is suspicious of Ash and paying attention.

When Ripley finally takes over following the death of Dallas, and finds out that Ash has been working with the company to return the alien to Earth; the crew is expendable. That’s when we find out that Ash is a robot, and I did not know that and I screamed. That was such a twist, and I had no idea that robots were a normal thing in the Alien franchise. It was so good, and his final line: “I can’t lie to you about your chances, but … you have my sympathies”? What a dick.

It makes sense that the three of them are the last ones to survive (before it becomes one), because they were the ones most going against the company line. Even Parker, who might have seemed crude at the beginning, dies because he’s trying to save Lambert, rather than just taking the shot when he the chance.

I’m not going to bring up Jones, because that cat would have survived them all without any help because he was by far the most capable.

There is something beautifully simplistic about Alien—the practical effects, the design of the alien, and how the tension just keeps ramping up. We spend so little time with the alien onscreen, but we do feel the terror because of its ability to just maneuver easily in the vents, not to mention the inky blackness of it blends into the darkness so that you can’t tell it’s there until it’s too late.

Alien and the character of Ellen Ripley helped change science fiction for the better, and I’m so glad that I finally get the hype. All the twists work out perfectly, and I can tell that watching it again, knowing all the secrets, will only make it more interesting.

Also, capitalism is bad.

When did you first see Alien? Which movie in the franchise is your favorite?

(image: Paramount)

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98 days ago
It’s funny how popular culture doesn’t spoil only the one twist, probably because it was utterly mundane in context of surrounding sci-fi films at release, but will surprise modern first time watchers.
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