BLACK PANTHER** Raise Your Awareness. Lower Your Expectations


THERE CAN BE no question of the sociological significance of this movie. Despite the best intentions of Sidney Poitier and the Huxtable Family, the Black cinema narrative is one that has co-joined them with drug dealers, crooks, police captains and slaves. Along comes the fantasy country of Wakanda that’s far more developed than any other country; that’s led by a strong, just, fearless (and attractive) king; and where everybody else is gorgeous and gorgeously attired. More than this, the women are robustly powerful. They kick ass.

Take that Trump!

If for so long, the (now ascendant, populist) White American narrative of Blacks is one that couldn’t quite get their mental picture out of the rut of slavery, civil rights and “why are they complaining?”, there has always been that reassuring Black fantasy that “Once we were kings”

So kudos on the producers (who took a $200m risk), kudos to the writers, to Marvel etc. for countering the narrative…and boldly going where no movie (that’s not Blaxploitation) has gone before. Here’s an image of the Black person as beautiful and imbued with a deep aura of power and honor.

What a pity that the vehicle for this historical recasting of image is such crap.

Here the characters are as leaden as the language.
The story, riffing on a highly relevant theme of loyalty (Is it owed to the person or the institution?) works itself into a fretted family drama (now becoming a Marvel trope) that’s silly and childish.
There is an interesting question posed: if Wakanda has all this magic power, why doesn’t it use its power to liberate all Black people? But this isn’t Black Power. It’s Black Panther. And like the crew of Star Trek, the mission is to avoid interference.
The action is certainly very kinetic…balletic even. But it never reaches the level of the adrenalin rush you expect from, say, a good car chase.

This movie is a great and necessary crowd pleaser. It’s wonderful to have such a big-ticket event pull together so much strong Black (and female) talent (not only the cast and director, but also the production designer, cinematographer, costume designer etc). And let’s hope that this embryonic renaissance of visible, celebrated Black talent will blossom

“Black Panther” represents a clear cultural shift. But as a work of cinema, it’s just not a very good one.

 

BLACK PANTHER. Dir: Ryan Coogler (“Creed: The Rocky Legacy”). With: Chadwick Boseman (“Marshall”) Michael B Jordan (“Creed: The Rocky Legacy”) Lupita Nyong’o (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) Danai Guira (“Treme”) Martin Freeman (“Sherlock) Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”). Written by: Coogler + Joe Robert Cole (“Amber Lake”). Production Designer: Hannah Beachler (“Moonlight”). Cinematographer: Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”). Costume Designer: Ruth E Carter (“Selma”)

 

 

Advertisements

GET OUT****Something New This Way Comes


“GET OUT” – SCARY…hypnotic- makes for mesmerizing viewing. It’s one of those movies whose clever writing and meticulous direction seduces you away from what seems like an everyday, ordinary boy/girl romance into a world so bizarre you view it through unblinking, horrified eyes.

Writer/first time Director Jordan Peele signals from the very start that things aren’t going to end well. The movie begins at night with a black young man who has lost his way and has found himself in a dimly lit, tree-lined, affluent (for that, read, white) neighborhood. When a car arrives and slowly begins to trail him, you’d be right to be apprehensive.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya from “Sicario”) and Rose (the all-American Allison Williams) are the young, happy, flirtatious couple. They’re off for him to meet her folks (in their large, elegant, isolated home). She reassures him that the fact that he’s black (she’s white) is no biggie. Dr. and Mrs. Armitage (Bradley Whitfield and Katherine Keener), her parents, voted twice for Obama and would have voted for him again. They’re welcoming enough, though he’s a bit unnerved by the (all black) staff, who greet him with broad smiles and dull vacant eyes. A slightly deranged brother (Caleb Jones) turns up and wants to wrestle; and the following day, a queue of limos arrive, bearing their wealthy white passengers. It’s the Armitage’s annual get together, which Rose claims to have forgotten about.

Chris, much to his consternation, is clearly the centre of attention (and is constantly reassured of the guests’ liberal creds: one guest boasts of having met Tiger Woods, another is fascinated by just how strong and firm he is; one asks him whether it’s better to be black ‘these days’). And we’ve clearly journeyed not just from city to country, but to the world of “Rosemary’s Baby”.

Soon enough, the initial slow drip of warning signs becomes a waterfall. These aren’t simply super rich white folks self consciously aware of a black man in their midst. There’s something amiss. Nothing here feels right. Get out now. Run. As he tries to figure out just what’s amiss, he isn’t even aware that one of those creepy white folks has ‘won’ him in a Bingo game. Just what do you do with a young, strong, black man? What the host (a neurologist) wants to do to him….that beggars description.

This is a movie with a B-movie format cleverly concealing A-movie insights. It strips away (bloodily) the well-heeled veneer of polite, white, some of my best friends are black, liberalism to reveal a darkness (a mix of hate confused with the envy of the black ‘super masculine menial’) far deeper than mere prejudice or hypocrisy. And, along with the always surprising, never clichéd score from first timer, Michael Abels, Director Peele keeps you suspended between laughter, outrage and shock horror. It’s a difficult balancing act that he pulls off with aplomb.

Daniel Kaluuya brings an engaging sympathetic performance. He’s without question, the good guy. But his Chris wasn’t markedly different from his character in “Sicario”. Allison Williams’ performance however is one to take note of. Her Jeckyll and Hyde character is a treat.

More than this, there’s something of historical significance at work here. It’s a first time outing for three new black movie talents: the director, the composer and the special effects artist. Not too long ago we were treated to the brilliance of another black directorial newcomer: Barry Jenkins of “Moonlight”. This is a good trend. Peele and Jenkins along with the likes of Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) and Julia Ducournau (“Raw”) begin to feel like a trend. May we be entering into a new (brash, young, challenging, not yet given over to commercial annihilation) era of filmmaking?

GET OUT. Dir: Jason Peele. Writer: Jason Peele. With: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitfield, Katherine Keener. Composer: Michael Abels. Cinematography: Toby Oliver