I’ve seen so many reviews of this film that center around the ‘feel good’ politics of Black Panther. I’ve seen the fantasy politics of Black Panther listed, as well as the spoiler alerts tying the film into the Marvel Universe. There’s the record breaking box office numbers, as well as the stories of the many groups of young African American children going to see this film. And others who see it are wearing traditional African garb. In short, it’s a phenomenon…a ‘thing’.
And the film has been well received. Of the films in the superhero universe, this one is a cut above the rest. The plot centers around the rise to the throne of T’Challa, who is the new king in the fictional African country of Wakanda. Wakanda has hidden its amazing and superior technology from the outside world, and this is the central debate later in the film. Should they share this knowledge, or continue to keep it hidden…?
Without too many spoilers, the film is driven by the rise to the throne of the new king, played by Chadwick Boseman. The Black Panther’s super powers include not only superior intellect, but his strength which is derived from the special formula that is given to the king to drink. And then there’s the technology, similar to James Bond’s, where he dons a special suit made of the miraculous fictional metal mined only in Wakanda known as Vibranium. The Vibranium makes him impervious to bullets and other weapons of dastardly origins.
But in my estimation, the thing that sets this superhero apart is the fact he is touted as a man with a heart. His father talks to him from beyond the grave, telling him, “You are a good man, and that is something that may bring trouble for you”, which is a wise thing to tell your son, if you only have a few moments with him in the afterlife. The film centers not entirely on the concept of this superhero saving people and thwarting dastardly deeds, but also working to help others, to find himself and to find his true love.
In other words, it may depict the life of an ordinary man in an extraordinary world, or the reverse of this. That is the debate in history: Are great and exceptional men made so by the times they live in, or is greatness thrust upon them due to the circumstances in which they find themselves? We think of our Founding Fathers and the greatest Presidents and leaders of the Civil Rights era. These men all had great hearts, and although most had their share of flaws, they were able to rise above and to grasp the moment and meet the occasion to prevail.
In this film, T’Challa may or may not be the one who is the strongest fighter, but he is the one who is the ablest, the wisest, and the one who will prevail. This is the takeaway that is most heartening for any of the superhero films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Perhaps, in the end, at least according to the laws of this fictional universe, not the strongest but the wisest will be the one who prevails. It’s a good lesson in life.
Here’s a round-up of some of the leading stories found in the 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies magazine on Flipboard. The last two summers have proven to be relatively slow for finding little gems of movies or seeing big Hollywood blockbusters. The Cinematic Comic-Book Universe keeps churning them out, and we see lots of films coming out of China and overseas. The latest hit has an unusual looking “radish” monster baby (see the picture on Flipboard) and it’s breaking all kinds of box-office records in the all-important Chinese movie market. Here’s what we found in July:
*Citizen Kane: No 1 in BBC Poll: Greatest American film….? My book has a list of top 100 and Citizen Kane is not included. It’s a great film, and like so many great films, it’s an acquired taste. It’s not just me….many man on the street interviews have yielded this opinion of Citizen Kane. Insiders and critics like it. I do agree with most of the top 10 picks which are as follows:
1. Citizen Kane
2. The Godfather
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
5 The Searchers
6. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans-Murnau,
7. Singing in the Rain
10 The Godfather Part II
As lists go, it’s not a bad one. Five out of ten isn’t bad, just no cigar! And it’s not inclusive if you are talking about strictly American films. The Wizard of Oz should be in any respectable top 10 List.
Hitchcock & Kubrick are problematic if you are speaking about American films. Hitchcock was born in England and Kubrick worked exclusively in England…ToKill a Mockingbird is a uniquely American film also and one would have to put it in the top ten rankings if you are going to parse the definition at all.
Probably you would include An American in Paris and It’s a Wonderful Life if you are talking about Americana. I would put Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Stagecoach or The Westerner with Gary Cooper over The Searchers.
It’s a very subjective thing to pick a list of strictly American films, and even harder for the Brits to decide!
**Primer to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe: In this informative article, the first 25 pages recap and address the history of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Rail against it if you are a critic or purist, but the comic book genre is here to stay. This is a good look at the continuing saga of the Cinematic Universe.
Starting in 2008, Phase One included: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers from 2012.
Beginning in 2013 with Iron Man 3,Phase Two includes Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, Age of Ultron and the current 2015Ant-Man.
In 2016, Phase Three continues with Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 2017. Spider-Man and Thor: Ragnarok, also slated for release in 2017, and Avengers: Infinity War-Part I, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel in 2018. In 2019,Avengers: Infinity War-Part 2 and Inhumans will conclude Phase Three.
*Add as a caveat George Martin-creator of Game of Thrones- critique of the superhero genre, saying, “I am tired of this trope where the bad guy has the same powers as the hero. The Hulk fought the Abomination, who is just a bad Hulk. Spider-Man fights Venom, who is just a bad Spider-Man. Iron Man fights Ironmonger, a bad Iron Man.Yawn. I want more films where the hero and the villain have wildly different powers. That makes the action much more interesting.” Martin praised Ant-Man, as one of the best he’d seen since 2004’s Spider-Man 2.
**Ranking the “origin stories” of the Marvel Universe may provide background if you don’t really want to sit through 10 or 15 comic book movies. Read the moviefone article here….avclub.com
**Reviews:Southpaw, the boxing movie with Jake Gylenhall, has received mixed reviews; as had Paper Towns;Pixels from Adam Sandler was not received well (officially declared a dud!); Mr Holmes, the new Sherlock Holmes film with Ian MacKellan has generally garnered good reviews. Woody Allen’s new film, Irrational Man with Joacquin Phoenix and Emma Stone is receiving mixed reviews. Not surprising as those who are familiar with Woody’s work may see him going back to familiar ground over and over again.
*Global Box Office:Monster Hunt, out of China, is one of the highest grossing films made there. The Shrek 3 Director was at the helm. China’s state administraion of Print, Publishing, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT-SARFT) had imposed an annual blackout period of 6-8 weeks when imported quotas of films are barred from mainland in order to boost Chinese movies. The family fantasy epic, Monster Hunt may surpass Transformers 4 and become PRC/s (People’s Republic of China) 2nd biggest release in history. Jurassic World moves into the 3rd highest grossing film of all time-Passing Avengers. The sequel to Jurassic is already set for 2018. If you are wondering… Avatar is #2; Titanic still No 1 and still the oldest film on the list.
*From the Fem Flicks File: A new list of 50 Films from Female Directors (how’s that for Alliteration 101?) A list I can’t agree with (Ishtar…? – I love Elaine May, but please!). On the list, I spotted eight worth mentioning
The Hitch-hiker- Ida Lupino-1953
Seven Beauties– Lina Wertmuller- 1975
Desperately Seeking Susan– Susan Seidelman-1984
Big– Penny Marshall-1988
Wayne’s World-Penelope Spheeris-1992
My Brilliant Career– Joan Tewkesbury-1994
Billy Madison-Tamra Davis-1995
Clueless- Amy Heckerling- 1995. Sophia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow are two stand-outs, with Sophia Coppola not even on the list?! Bigelow is cited for her Strange Days in 1995. She became the first female director to win an Academy Award for Best Director with her Hurt Locker in 2008.
*Must read for all of those like me who love Mockingbird: A typed letter to Director Alan Pakula from the art director Henry Bumstead from To Kill a Mockingbird. His impressions of Monroeville and Harper Lee (Nell’s) extremely useful suggestions as to how the look and feel of the place should be portrayed onscreen. Most amusing when he recounts he’d never seen a collard green before!
*Good read on Kubrick: It spells out the reasons for his greatness as a director and an auteur. He was a photographer first and foremost-the look and the feel of his pictures is through the eyes of an artist framing a shot-as Hitchcock, as Wes Anderson, and so many artistic creators working in film today. The author of the piece, Mark Krasselt, is a Kubrick devotee, and some of the article goes long into the weeds discussing the genius and merits of the man, but to summarize, some of his trademarks such as Kubrick’s use of the Narrator are discussed in detail. Kubrick’s actors are stilted and styled as was Hitchcock’s. The character is seen as metaphor-remember Hitchcock’s famous statement-actors are cattle? Kubrick’s career is detailed at length. The arc of his development and how he came to be an independent auteur after the disappointment of Paths of Glory is one of the highlights. Plus he had an important backer at Warner Bros in Terry Semel-and he never made films again in the US! Always he worked out of his London studio, where he had more artistic control over the project as a whole. Stanley Kubrick is shown as a true auteur as we glean some insight into the “Kubrick experience”. From Mark Krasselt-tasteofcinema.com
*Coming in August:The Man from UNCLE; Ricki and the Flash with Meryl Streep; Best of Enemies, a documentary about the very real rivalry between pundits William F. Buckley and the liberal Gore Vidal, is recommended; American Ultra with Jesse Eisenberg looks funny and quirky-the plot is about a stoner, played by Eisenberg, turned government agent in a twist that hasn’t been done to death-opening August 21. The Revenant trailer looks interesting-two great actors in Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy are starring in this backwoods mountain movie about a man seeking revenge.
• Movie Trends: 3-D….Is it just an annoying fad…? Or is it part of the movie-going experience. We are going to see many specialized “gimmicks” to drive audiences into the movies. A wave of nostalgia for the good old days of movie palaces has already descended upon us.
• The League of Historic Theatres is a national organization dedicated to preserving the memory of old buildings housing defunct movie theatres. The League extends to old theatres and auditoriums, and includes drive-in movies too, a big part of the culture of the fifties and sixties.
Those of you from my Linked in Movie Group may remember my past history with unusual movie “experiences”. As a child I attended the Planet of the Apes “Ape-a-rama” where you got in free if you wore a Gorilla suit and the first 100 patrons got a free banana. It was an all day Planet of the Apes Marathon.
And my beloved Tampa Theatre screened William Castle’s “Thirteen Ghosts” on Halloween many years ago with the original introduction by Castle explaining the 3-D Ghost glasses (one side you could see the ghosts-the other was for non-believers!).
Tomorrow, I wander into the valley of the shadow with the Sing-a-long version of The Sound of Music. The movie means so much to me as it was the first real film experience I remember as a child. We went to the Palace theatre downtown, long defunct, and even got the program (which I scribbled on) and the little orange drinks shaped like oranges with the straws in the middle!
I digress. But the film means so much to so many people, there is one woman in the Guinness book who saw it every day for years when it ran in theatres, and this is truly something any self-respecting film buff should experience.
I’m looking forward to seeing you on the other side! Till then, dear readers. I’ll see you at the movies!
**Notes from Cannes: I thought we were through with movie awards shows for a while. The Oscars always manages to disappoint, but then, what can you expect from the BOOFS club? (That’s bunch of old farts). The statistics for the Oscars are clear. The Oscars have it at 94 % white, 76% male & average of 63 years old. Let’s hope they’ve made progress into the 21st Century over the pond and into France.
Cannes also premiered the new Mad Max movie, plus Woody Allen’s film, Irrational Man. The best buzz seems to be from a satire called The Lobster, a French crime thriller, The Conversation, and a same sex love story, Carol with Cate Blanchett.
**Women in Hollywood: The Empowered Strike Back! It seems to be the end of chick flicks and the new age of Fem Flicks. For instance, insiders were stunned that Pitch Perfect 2 beat out Mad Max at the box office this weekend. No one saw it coming.
I’ve been posting articles for over a year about the trends in Hollywood running towards women’s films. That means more powerful women like Meryl Streep are speaking out about sexism in Hollywood. And films like Frozen have catapulted into the top ten highest grossing films list because of girl power. Even the macho Mad Max movie was dominated by women.
The world is changing and we see it every week in the results from the box office in Hollywood. As the front office knows, numbers don’t lie.
*We are now living, as Gary Susman from Moviefone put it rather well, in the Cinematic Universe created by George Lucas. Lucas created the world of StarWars, and all that it entails. That includes the special effects from Lucas’s company Industrial Light & Magic, the THX sound system found in theatres, the Pixar movies that dominate the animation market, and the conversion from celluloid to digital that has revolutionized special effects and moviemaking for the past quarter century.
What is the Cinematic Universe? In the past, we had always suspended disbelief in order to immerse ourselves in the film makers process. But the world has expanded and we now have several fantastic realms that are continually explored and re-imagined by different directors and storylines. The comic book genre that has exploded, and the world of Harry Potter plus the Tolkien universe all make up the Cinematic Universe we experience at the movies. But it wouldn’t be the same without the input from one man with a unique vision who created the tools we use to delve into the creative realm of the filmmaker. George Lucas is the creator behind all of our Cinematic Universes.
*From Cannes, there was a film about the making of Le Mans featuring Steve McQueen, one of my favorite actors. And a wonderful documentary revealing some of the footage from interviews of Hitchcock by another legend, Francois Truffaut. Woody Allen admitted that working to create a new Amazon series was a huge mistake. (I could have told him that…It seems we know more about Woody’s quirky personality than he does!)