Chadwick Boseman – Wakanda forever

learned to T’Challa

Chadwick BosemanI’ve been musing on why I found the death of Chadwick Boseman so affecting. Only recently I noted three films he starred in. “MARSHALL (2017) a biopic starring Chadwick Boseman as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall I had intended to see.” Ditto for the film GET ON UP (2014), about the Godfather of Soul James Brown that I had coincidentally recorded to the DVR last month.

I had started watching 42 (2013) the movie about Jackie Robinson. It was the day I was being discharged from the hospital after a health scare. I think I tried to stall my release time to finish watching it.

Cancer. As the Chicago Tribune noted, “The cancer was there when his character T’Challa visited the ancestors’ ‘astral plane’ in poignant scenes from the Oscar-nominated ‘Black Panther,’ there when he first became a producer on the action-thriller ’21 Bridges,’ and there last summer when he shot an adaptation of a play by his hero August Wilson…”

The South Carolinian died at the age of 43 of colon cancer, only a couple years older than my brother-in-law John when he died of the same damn disease in 2002. And while I knew of John’s struggle, most of us didn’t know Chadwick had been diagnosed at stage 3 in 2016. It was none of our business, but I’m always surprised when something can remain a secret in Hollywood.

A bit of Killmonger

I totally get this quote. Boseman said he “more easily identified with” Black Panther’s “antagonist, played by Michael B. Jordan, who had been cut off from his ancestral roots: ‘I was born with some Killmonger in me, and I have learned to T’Challa throughout my studies.'”

“‘It’s the place where you start. All African Americans, unless they have some direct connection, have been severed from that past. There are things that cannot be tracked. You were a product, sold. So it’s very difficult as an African American to connect at some points directly to Africa. I have made that part of my search in my life. So those things were already there when I got into the role.'”

In my review of Black Panther, which I LOVED, that Chadwick Boseman had the less showy part. That’s not meant as a knock on the actor. The “villain” often gets the juicier role.

Incidentally, the Howard University graduate noted on Stephen Colbert’s show his roots. DNA testing indicated that his ancestors were Krio people and Limba people from Sierra Leone, and the Yoruba people from Nigeria.

His unexpected death brought out tons of tributes. “Marvel Studios president and CCO Kevin Feige called Boseman’s death ‘absolutely devastating,'” and I would agree. “‘Each time he stepped on set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared on screen, he created something truly indelible.'” As a good friend of mine and I said when we departed last month, “Wakanda forever.”

Movie Review: 42

What Jackie Robinson went through was precisely why he’s honored every April 15, with every Major League player wearing #42.

Haven’t written a movie review lately because I haven’t been to the cinema since the Oscar-nominated short films four months ago. The last full-length film I saw, with the Daughter, was Wreck-It Ralph in February; the last non-animated full-length film I saw, with the Wife, was Silver Linings Playbook back in January.

One of the movies I most wanted to see was 42, based on the life of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. I remember watching the TV show The View back in April from a hospital bed and being annoyed that my doctor came in, to discharge me, no less. It was just at the point I wanted to listen to the interview of Chadwick Bosemen who played Jackie in the movie; at least I got to see Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers who brought him from the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945 to the Dodgers’ farm team in Montreal in 1946 to the big leagues on April 15, 1947i.

Finally, got a free Sunday afternoon, so I look at the Thursday preview section in the local newspaper and discover the movie has just left the Spectrum, my favorite venue. But it’s playing at the nearby Madison Theatre, so off the Wife and I go, leaving the Daughter with a child watcher.

This has never happened before – we are the ONLY people in the theater. The movie was supposed to start at 4:05; finally, the previews began at 4:10. (My goodness, we’re SO not seeing GrownUps 2.) This allowed more talking than we would normally do, mostly on her part. (Yes, Eddie Stanky was that guy’s name.)

Much of what you might have read about the film is true:
The baseball scenes seem very authentic. There is a specific incident involving Robinson and his teammate Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) in Cincinnati in particular that resonated; my daughter had given me a book a couple of years ago about that very story.
Boseman was very good as Jackie, sometimes conveying emotion just with a look in his eyes.
Nicole Beharie had the sufficient moxie to please the real Rachel Robinson, who is still alive.
The story, in a lot of ways is more about how others reacted to Jackie: Rickey; the black newspaper reporter Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) hired by Rickey to be his “Boswell;” the racist players and managers and crowds. In part, that’s a function of Ford being a bigger star than Boseman. It’s also true that because Jackie had to control his temper in that first year in the big leagues, one didn’t get to hear too much of Jackie’s real thoughts during the first year in the formerly white major leagues.
* Yes, if there were Lifetime movie stations for sports, this might fit in; I don’t mean that pejoratively.

On the other hand, I did note some who said that it was too much about Robinson’s ordeal and not enough about the man; I reject that criticism in that what he went through was precisely why he’s honored every April 15, with every Major League player wearing #42. I also don’t accept the notion that it should have been about a period wider than 1945 to 1947. A film about his later political involvement is a different movie.

Finally, I was only mildly distracted by the number of TV actors I recognized: Chris Meloni from one of those Law & Order shows as manager Leo Durocher; T.R. Knight and James Pickens Jr. from Grey’s Anatomy as a Dodgers executive and a Florida man showing Jackie some hospitality, respectively; and John C. McGinley from Scrubs as Red Barber. Didn’t recognize, though, Max Gail from Barney Miller.

All in all, I recommend the film 42. A solid triple – I mean, three out of four stars. More than that, I might show this to the Daughter when it shows up on DVD, which I imagine will be soon.

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