You won’t find a more glamorous pair of spies than Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Alfred Hitchcock’s NOTORIOUS… except maybe in other films that feature Cary Grant as a spy! The Master of Suspense once again goes full speed ahead in bringing this exciting espionage caper to the screen loaded with the usual “Hitchcock Touches”, and […]
Alexander Korda’s Arabian Nights fantasy THE THIEF OF BAGDAD has stood the test of time as one of filmdom’s most beloved classics. A remake of Douglas Fairbanks Sr.’s 1924 silent classic, Korda and company added some elements of their own, including Indian teen star Sabu as the title character, and some innovative Special Effects. In […]
Let’s be honest — as was the case with last year’s Wonder Woman (in fact probably to an even greater degree), Black Panther was a cultural phenomenon before it was even released, and in future it will be examined as such. As something more than a movie. As something that resonated within, and reverberated throughout, the zeitgeist. Its trajectory in that regard is largely unwritten to this point, but can be predicted with a fair amount of certainty : near-universal praise will come first, followed by the inevitable backlash, followed by an almost apologetic, “ya know, maybe we were too hard on this thing that we loved at first” sort of acceptance. If we could just skip all that, and take it as a given, it would save us all a lot of time and effort — but it’s on the way, so tune in or out of all that as you see fit. My concerns here are considerably more prosaic : to talk about the movie as what it began “life” as, to wit — “just” a movie.
For what it’s worth (which may not be much), I’m tempted to agree, to an extent, with those who are pointing out that simply seeing this flick is in no way an act of “resistance” in and of itself : after all, if the fact that the first thing that runs in theaters before the film starts is a commercial for Lexus cars featuring Chadwick Boseman in full Panther gear isn’t enough to clue you in to the reality that, at the end of the day, this is much more about profits than it is about politics, then the product placement within the film itself should do the job — and at the end of the day, one of the largest corporations in the world, founded by noted racist Walt Disney, is still the one making all the money off it. If, then, shelling out ten or fifteen bucks to watch Black Panther is an inherently defiant or dissident act (and I’m not saying it is), then it’s a highly commodified and co-opted one.
All that being said, when a film is released out into the world, particularly a film with as much fanfare attached to it as this one, there are gonna be ripples that emanate out from it — and among the millions of kids, in particular, who watch this flick, the seeds of an interest in African culture are sure to be sown, and the more they follow the metaphorical stalks that grow and flower from those seeds, the more they’ll discover things like historical resistance to colonialism, exploitation, capitalism, and the like. So while Black Panther may not be a radical (or even a particularly political) work in and of itself, it may inspire some radicalism in the future — one can only hope, at any rate.
But that’s pure speculation at this point, so let’s talk about what we know for certain.
One thing anyone who follows this site, or my work anywhere else, absolutely knows is that I’m no fan of Marvel Studios product in general. Unlike, apparently, most people, I find the overwhelming majority of Marvel flicks to be hopelessly redundant, formulaic, lowest-common denominator fare directed in a flat and lifeless “house style” with no particular visual flair, no particularly standout performances, no particular vision to do anything but get audiences keyed up for the next one. They exist as a self-perpetuating celluloid organism, one with no distinct personality but a lot of business sense and promotional muscle. This has been going on for so long, and with so much box office success, that I went into flick essentially expecting more of the same — sure, I knew it had a predominantly-black cast, and was set in Africa (albeit in a fictitious country), but that doesn’t mean that director Ryan Coogler was going to break the mold in any appreciable way. Hell, it doesn’t even mean that he would be allowed to do so. Happily, my pessimism was turned on its ear almost from word the word “go” here.
Black Panther looks different, feels different, because it is different. Coogler and co-screenwriter Joe Robert Cole certainly capture the dynamism, the energy, the Afro-futurism that has been a part of King T’Challa’s backstory since Jack Kirby created the character and his world (nope, we don’t lay any credit at Stan Lee’s feet around these parts, but I’m not getting into the “whys and wherefores” of that right now because, shit, I don’t have all night), but advance it all considerably, absorbing the extra layers added onto the mythos by the likes of Don McGrregor, Billy Graham, Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin, and Ta-Nehisi Coates over the years, and coming out with something uniquely suited to cinema and very much of the “now.” There’s a hard-driving and kinetic sense of energy to this film that the so-called “MCU” has been missing since it inception, and if you’re among the small number of those who agree with my assessment that most of these flicks play out more like two-hour TV episodes than proper movies, you can relax : this is as bold, brash, and big as it gets. This is blockbuster fare not only in name, but in execution, with visual effects that amaze, sets that inspire awe, cinematography that commands attention, action that sizzles, a script that charges forward, and music that slicks that trajectory along. This is arresting cinema that doesn’t even give you the option to leave your seat.
But what of the acting, you ask? It ranges from good to great, and thankfully the great includes the key players : Chadwick Boseman is regal yet human, fallible, relatable in the film’s central role: Forest Whitaker embodies aged wisdom tinged with regret as high priest Zuri; Michael B. Jordan is the first truly formidable villain, crucially one with a compelling backstory and some entirely valid philosophical viewpoints, as Killmonger; Martin Freeman not only reprises, but considerably expands, his already-extant “MCU” role of CIA agent Everett K. Ross with heart, humor, and brains; Sterling K. Brown makes the most of limited but significant screen time as T’Challa’s late uncle, N’Jobu; Andy Serkis — as a human this time! — chews up the screen with dangerous charm as Ulysses Klaue (or “Klaw,” as the comics would have it). These guys are all tops, really. And yet —
It is the women that carry this film. Whether we’re talking about Lupita Nyong’o as T’Challa’s love interest Nakia, a determined, fiercely independent, and soulful force that isn’t just her partner’s “equal,” but his conscience; Danai Gurira as General Okoye, head warrioress of the Dora Milaje, who embodies martial discipline and loyalty with the controlled fury of a hurricane ready to strike at any moment; Angela Basset as Queen Mother Ramonda, a living embodiment of grace, stature, and tradition; or Letitia Wright as younger sister Shuri, part “Q” to T’Challa’s “Bond,” part grounding and humanizing influence, part Moon Girl-style intellectual prodigy — as in life, it is the women that both make this movie’s men what they are, while also being complete and fully-realized in and of themselves. African history is far less patriarchal than is commonly believed, and in Wakanda that proud matriarchal lineage is exemplified, modernized, magnified — and honored.
Most films reflect the moment. Others define the moment. Black Panther goes one further by creating the moment. It’s as near to flawless as big-budget blockbusters get and eschews the too-common-flaw that movies made on this scale have of dumbing things down to appeal to the masses. Coogler and company instead trust those same masses to be intelligent enough to meet them on their level, and to respond to being talked “up,” rather than “down,” to. By believing that the world was not just ready, but eager, for something that goes far beyond mere spectacle — something that challenges the intellect while speaking to the heart — they have woken what could very well be a sleeping giant.
Now, let’s just keep our fingers crossed they’ve spurred that giant to do something more than simply go out and buy luxury cars.
Y’all remember when I previewed Hell’s Kitty: Movie Preview, Review and Trailer Well, we got a bit more to see!
Actually, there is a terrifying music video to go a long with it!
ABOUT THE SONG – CHAINSAW KITTY
The writer / director Nicholas Tana (Sticky: A (Self) Love Story), who also appears in the film, worked closely with the Hell’s Kitty composer, Richard Albert (Losing Touch), to create music for the film that properly reflects the movie’s antagonist, Angel. Angel is a cute and loving cat with an evil, jealous side to her often onerous personality, both supernatural and schizophrenic. CHAINSAW KITTY, was written, performed, and recorded by Richard Albert(Losing Touch) with lyrics by Nicholas Tana (Sticky: A (Self) Love Story). The song was originally intended for a scene with Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), in which the cat’s claws turned into chain saws. Though that particular scene was never shot, the creators, Nicholas Tana, and producer Denise Acosta, loved the music enough to include it in another scene involving Ashley C. Williams (The Human Centipede) and Barbara Nedeljakova (Hostel), rocking out to it on all fours! *via press release
Here, you can see this awesomely terrifying video:
BTW: Puuurrchase this movie as soon as you can!
“Hell’s Kitty” will be available on VOD March 13th and on DVD March 27th!
Something You Should also know:
To kick of the movie release and to share their love for cats, the creators behind the film teamed with HOLLYSHORTS MONTHLY SCREENINGS and the TLC CHINESE THEATER recently hosted a premiere at the legendary theatre to raise money for FixNation.org. FixNation provides a free, full-time spay/neuter clinic with two full-time veterinarians capable of sterilizing as many as 100 cats per day. They also help hundreds of cats find suitable homes. For more info on the cause click here! http://fixnation.org/
Three British agents are murdered, and James Bond is sent overseas to investigate the doings of Dr. Kananga, despot of the Carribean island nation of San Monique in LIVE AND LET DIE. But wait… that’s not Sean Connery as 007, or even George Lazenby. It’s Roger Moore , making the first of his seven appearences as […]
(With the Oscars scheduled to be awarded on March 4th, I have decided to review at least one Oscar-nominated film a day. These films could be nominees or they could be winners. They could be from this year’s Oscars or they could be a previous year’s nominee! We’ll see how things play out. Today, I take a look at the 1988 best picture nominee, Working Girl!)
Welcome to the 80s!
Yes, Working Girl is definitely a film of its time. It’s a film that’s obsessed with big things: big dreams, big offices, big money, and big hair. It’s a movie where the heroes talk about hostile takeovers and where everyone’s dream is to eventually to be an executive on Wall Street. You know all of those people who claim that The Big Short is the greatest movie ever made? I can guarantee that the majority of them would totally hate every character in Working Girl. Working Girl is such a film of the past that it even features Alec Baldwin doing something other than bellowing at people. In fact, Baldwin’s actually sexy in Working Girl. It was strange to see him in this film and realize that he was the same actor who currently spends all of his time picking fights on twitter and defending James Toback.
Of course, Alec Baldwin has a relatively small role in Working Girl. He plays Mick Dugan, the type of blue-collar guy who gives his girlfriend lingerie for her birthday (“I just wish you would get me something that I could wear outside,” she says as she tries it on) and who then proceeds to cheat on her while she’s off at work. From the minute we first meet Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), we know that she deserves better than Mick.
Tess is a professional administrative assistant. She’s just turned 30 but she’s not ready to give up her dreams and settle for a life of fighting off coke-snorting executives and coming home to some guy like Mick. (Speaking of early performances from infamous actors, one of the coke-snorting executives is played by Kevin Spacey.) Tess has got a bachelor’s degree in Business. As she puts it, she has a “mind for business and a bod for sin.”
She’s also got a new boss, an up-and-coming executive named Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). It turns out that Katherine is 29 years old. (“I’ve never worked for someone younger than me before,” Tess says as Katherine gives her a condescending smile.) Katharine encourages Tess to think of her as being a mentor. If Tess has any ideas for investments, she should feel free to bring them to Katharine. Of course, when Tess does so, Katharine claims that her bosses shot the idea down. It’s only after Katharine breaks her leg in a skiing accident and is laid up in Europe that Tess discovers that Katharine has actually been stealing her ideas and not giving her any credit for them.
What is Tess to do? Well, she does what any of us would do. She passes herself off as an executive and presents her idea to Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) herself. Jack is impressed with the idea but he’s even more impressed with Tess. Of course, complicating things is that Jack was once in a relationship with Katharine and Katharine still thinks that she’s going to eventually marry Jack. And, of course, there’s the fact that Tess is lying about actually being an executive…
Working Girl is a frequently amusing film, elevated by performances of Melanie Griffith and, in the role of Tess’s best friend, Joan Cusack. Add to that, Harrison Ford is remarkable non-grouchy as Jack Trainer and Sigourney Weaver appears to be having the time of her life playing a villain. Even as I laughed at some of the lines, here was a part of me that wished that the film had a bit more bite. At times, Working Girl tries too hard to have it both ways, both satirizing and celebrating Wall Street culture. In the end, the film works best as a piece of wish-fulfillment. It’s a film that says that not only can you win success and Harrison Ford but you can get your bitchy boss fired too.
Despite being a rather slight (if likable) film, Working Girl was nominated for Best Picture of 1988. However, it lost to Rain Man.
Like all good people, I am currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics. Earlier this week, I asked some of my closest friends if they could recommend some good films about the Winter Games. Almost everyone who replied recommended that I check out Cool Runnings, a film from 1993.
So, I did.
And I’m glad that I did.
Cool Runnings is one of those sports movies that’s based on a true story, though I imagine it’s probably a very loose adaptation. Jamaica is a country with a long and proud Olympic history. Since the 1948 Summer Olympics, Jamaican athletes have won a total of 77 medals, the majority of them in individual and relay sprinting events. However, Jamaica didn’t compete in the Winter Olympics until 1988, when the Jamaican Bobsled Team made their debut. According to contemporary news reports, the Jamaicans were folk heroes at the ’88 Winter Games and other teams would frequently help them out by lending them equipment. Though the Jamaicans were never really a medal contender, they were personally popular and everyone was upset when their bobsled crashed during one of their qualifying runs.
That, of course, isn’t exactly the story that’s told in Cool Runnings. In Cool Runnings, the Jamaican bobsled team is ridiculed by all of the snobs on the other teams, with the Germans especially going out of their way to be condescending. Their first run is a disaster but their second run puts them into medal contention and causes people all over the world to spontaneously break into applause. It’s a sports film, after all. For a sports film to work, there has to be adversity before there can be victory. Cool Runnings does stick close enough to the real story that the Jamaicans do end up crashing their sled. However, in the film version, the team proudly carries their bobsled over the finish line while, again, people all around the world applaud. Even a woman with a Russian flag claps. And yes, it’s all pretty hokey but who cares? It made me cry.
It’s a well-done film, one that is unapologetically sentimental and all the better for it. Before I watched the film, I didn’t know anything about how the bobsled worked, beyond the fact that it involved four people and that everyone had to jump into the sled after launching it. But, ultimately, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know much about bobsledding. From the moment that film started, with scenes of aspiring Olympians running across sunny Jamaica, it had my attention.
When the film starts, Derice Bannock (Leon Robinson) is hoping to compete in the Summer Olympics but, at the qualifying trial, Derice and another runner, Yul Brenner (Malik Yorba), end up tripping over yet another runner, the likable and enthusiastic Junior Bevil (Rawle D. Lewis). Out of contention for the Summer Olympics, Derice decides to try to find a way to go to the Winter Olympics. Fortunately, there’s a former Olympic bobsledder, Irv Blitzer (John Candy), living nearby and Derice’s best friend, Sanka (Doug E. Doug) is a champion push cart racer.
The film follows Irv and the four Jamaicans on their unlikely journey to Canada. It’s a comedy with a dramatic heart. Yes, Sanka may need help getting his helmet over his hair (“Thanks, coach,” he says whenever Irv pounds down the helmet) but the film also takes the time to explore why it’s so important for these four to compete in the first place. It might be tempting to make fun of Yul Brenner when he talks about how he wants to live in Buckingham Palace but the film makes clear just how important this improbable dream is for Yul and everyone else. No one may give the Jamaican bobsled team a chance but Jamaica never stops believing in them.
It’s an incredibly sweet little movie, featuring likable performances and a heart-warming story. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good sports story.