Ragnarok, more MCU, Phase 3 films

save Asgard!

Thor.RagnarokI’ve now gotten to the part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe where the release dates and the chronology of the movies – or most of the films – diverge. And the various TV shows, none of which I ever saw save for a handful of SHIELD eps, fit in there as well. Fortunately, I’m going to mostly ignore those facts. The titles in italics I saw in July 2020.

Captain America: Civil War (2016). When I used to read comic books, the creative teams often developed fights among the superheroes. Sometimes it’d be a brief misunderstanding. Occasionally, it’d be a more elaborate brawl. Too often, though, the motivation seemed sketchy. Not here.

The Hero Registration Act, designed to limit the actions of superheroes, was embraced by Tony Stark/Iron Man, but Steve Rogers/Captain America balks. I found this film surprisingly emotional, especially with the big reveal. Why it’s a Captain America movie, I don’t know, since most of the combatants were Avengers, but whatever.

Doctor Strange (2016 ) -it was an origin that took too long to get going. And it felt formulaic. But I did like the weird dimensional stuff, walking on the sides of buildings.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017). Apparently, this takes place before Avengers: Age of Ultron, not that it particularly matters. Odd that despite the massive amount of comic book violence, the story was much more interesting to me than the first Guardians. Part of that is Kurt Russell as Ego, whose presence makes the Star-Lord character feel less of a Han Solo wannabe. I also like Sly Stallone’s appearance and the curious character of Mantis. And Baby Groot is cuter.

Heck, even when the music was too much on the nose – Fathers and Sons by Cat Stevens, really? – I found it touching. Speaking of music, it also featured my favorite Fleetwood Mac song ever, The Chain.

Dorky high school kid

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – There was a movie called The Birdman starring Michael Keaton as an actor pigeon-holed as someone who had played a superhero. I didn’t love it, though it reviewed well. Yet I projected that character onto his playing the Vulture in THIS movie, and it worked, especially his threat to Peter while the young man was on a date.

I’m starting to warm up to Tom Holland as this version of the web-slinger. His classmates are appealing, though incredibly patient with Peter. And while he’s hanging out with Tony Stark, he still feels like your friendly neighborhood dude.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – Despite the serious theme – save Asgard! – this turned out to be a very funny film, with great action to boot. Even Doctor Strange was fun in a cameo. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is as stubborn as the Thunder God. Hela (Cate Blanchette) appears invincible. The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) is very Goldblumesque. Did I mention the Hulk?

I take it that director Taika Waititi deserves some of the credit. Clearly, the best Thor film.

Black Panther (2018) – I saw it when it came out before I was aware of the events of Captain America: Civil War. This actually makes the accomplishments of this film more impressive. Because the real star of Black Panther is Wakanda itself.

Well, those last two Avengers films and a couple of others will have to wait until next time.

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.”

My Oscar picks don’t include Roma

In the Best Documentary Feature category, I expectedwanted Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (re: Fred Rogers) and Three Identical Strangers

Roma_theatrical_posterWhen Roma came to the Spectrum Theatre, I said to my wife, “We need to see that film.” The weekend we were finally available, it had just left.

Yes, I suppose I could see it online, but I know I won’t. Currently, I have movies I’ve recorded weeks ago. I can’t find the block of time to watch them as they were meant to be viewed, i.e., in one sitting, without interruptions.

Roma was actually the second film in that category this year. In the summer, we both wanted to see First Reformed; alas, it didn’t happen. Links to my reviews, but only the first appearance on the list.

I saw it – *.

Best Picture

*Black Panther – my second pick
*BlacKkKlansman – my first pick, my wife’s second pick
*#Bohemian Rhapsody – at this moment, still playing here – finally saw
*The Favourite – NOT my favorite
*Green Book – my wife’s first pick; some critics want to make the contest a redo of When the Oscars Chose Driving Miss Daisy Over Do the Right Thing; meh
Roma
*A Star Is Born – the problem with this movie is that it was done thrice before
*Vice – a very divisive film

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
*Olivia Colman, The Favourite
*Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
*Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? – my pick

Best Actor – I would have bet money on Ethan Hawke in First Reformed getting nominated

*Christian Bale, Vice – he was REALLY good Dick Cheney
*Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
*#Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody – I suspect if I see this, this will win out
*Viggo Mortensen, Green Book – never felt like a starring role

Best Director

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma – will win
*Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
*Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman – my clear favorite
*Adam McKay, Vice
*#Pawl Pawlikowski, Cold War – hasn’t played yet in Albany

Best Supporting Actress

*Amy Adams, Vice – she was very good
Marina de Tavira, Roma
*Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk – a tossup between her and Adams
*Emma Stone, The Favourite
*Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best Supporting Actor

*Mahershala Ali, Green Book – practically a leading role
*Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
*Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born – too small a part
*Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? – my favorite role
*Sam Rockwell, Vice

Best Original Screenplay – I was hoping for a nod for Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade or Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You

*The Favourite
First Reformed
*Green Book – my choice
Roma
*Vice

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – a Netflix film that I’ve never seen advertised in a theater around here
*BlacKkKlansman – since it won’t win Best Picture, this would be a nice consolation prize
*Can You Ever Forgive Me?
*If Beale Street Could Talk
*A Star Is Born

Best Original Song

*“All the Stars,” Black Panther
*“I’ll Fight,” RBG
*“The Place Where Lost Things Go,” Mary Poppins Returns – this DID make me a tad weepy, maybe perhaps
*“Shallow,” A Star Is Born – give Gaga SOMETHING
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

ballad of buster scruggs
A Netflix film that never played theatrically in Albany, NY

Best Original Score

*Black Panther – Ludwig Göransson evokes Africa, my #1 pick
*BlacKkKlansman – Terence Blanchard’s eclectic-sounds, my #1A pick
*If Beale Street Could Talk
*Isle of Dogs
*Mary Poppins Returns

Best Film Editing

*BlacKkKlansman -yes
*#Bohemian Rhapsody
*The Favourite
*Green Book
*Vice

Best Foreign Language Film

Capernaum (Lebanon)
*#Cold War (Poland) – opened this weekend in Albany
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
*#Shoplifters (Japan) – saw it this past weekend; worthwhile

Best Animated Feature

Incredibles 2
*Isle of Dogs – very quirky; liked it a lot, and it’s not a sequel
Mirai
*Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – at this writing, still playing

Best Documentary Feature – I wanted Won’t You Be My Neighbor? re: Fred Rogers and Three Identical Strangers

Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
*RBG – this was VERY good

Best Cinematography

*#Cold War
*The Favourite – actually, the movie was technically good
Never Look Away
Roma
*A Star Is Born

Best Production Design

*Black Panther – this WOWED me
*The Favourite
First Man
*Mary Poppins Returns
Roma

Best Visual Effects – saw none

Avengers: Infinity War/Christopher Robin/First Man/Ready Player One/Solo: A Star Wars Story

Best Costume Design

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
*Black Panther -yes
*The Favourite – would be worthy
*Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots

Best Makeup and Hair Styling

Border
Mary Queen of Scots
*Vice – this was very good makeup

Best Sound Mixing

*Black Panther – I never get the sound categories straight
*#Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
*A Star Is Born

Best Sound Editing

*Black Panther
*#Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place
Roma

That new Oscar awards plan is dumb; what IS “popular film”?

It’s a sloppy solution to a particular problem brought on by Hollywood losing its ability to make mass market films that are actually ‘good.’

Operation Red Sea It seems that half of the websites I read regularly have weighed in on how dumb the new Oscar awards are; see Ken Levine’s take, e.g.. As Dustbury put it, “This modifies the common complaint that “Hollywood is out of ideas”; it’s just that Hollywood is out of good ideas.

If you somehow missed it, W’s In & Out describes it: “The Motion Picture Association of America has announced plans to institute a new Oscar category for ‘Popular Film.’ The news was vague, with little insight into what it actually means, but the general thought is that it would be meant to honor big blockbuster franchise films and, theoretically, at least lure fans of those types of film into watching the broadcast.

“Never mind that the show is still one of the highest-rated broadcasts of the year and brought in 26.5 million viewers last year—the odd decision has been met with backlash, especially amongst people who view the broadcast because they love the pageantry and competition between actresses or those who, you know, consider film to be an actual art form and expect integrity from the medium’s most cherished prize. It’s a sloppy solution to a particular problem brought on by Hollywood losing its ability to make mass market films that are actually ‘good,’ and the changing landscape of live television.”

Which begs some other questions: “Popular Film” Oscars: What Movies Would Have Won Over the Past 20 Years? La La Land AND Moonlight fans both would have been happy a couple years back.

And, just out of idle curiosity, what HAVE been the most popular films in 2018? As of August 10, 2018 at noon EDT, according to Box Office Mojo, where I go for all my movie box office statistical needs (totals in millions):

1 Avengers: Infinity War (BV) $2,045.3 worldwide, $678.2 domestic (33.2%)
2 Black Panther (BV) $1,346.8 worldwide, $700.0 domestic (52.0%)
3 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Uni.) $1,264.5 worldwide, $407.3 domestic (32.2%)
4 Incredibles 2 (BV) $1,050.9 worldwide, $585.7 domestic (55.7%)
5 Deadpool 2 (Fox) $733.1 worldwide, $318.1 domestic (43.4%)

6 Ready Player One (WB) $582.0 worldwide, $137.0 (23.5%)
7 Operation Red Sea (WGUSA) $579.2 worldwide, $1.5 domestic (0.3%)
8 Detective Chinatown 2 (WB), $544.1 worldwide, $2.0 domestic (0.4%)
9 Ant-Man and the Wasp (BV) $430.1 worldwide, $198.7 domestic 46.2%
10 Rampage (2018) (WB) $426.2 worldwide, $99.3 domestic (23.3%)

I’m fascinated about items 7 and 8. Operation Red Sea (Chinese: 红海行动) is a 2018 Chinese action war film. Detective Chinatown 2 (Chinese: 唐人街探案 2) is a 2018 Chinese comedy-mystery buddy film. For the 25th Beijing College Student Film Festival, ORS won Best Film, and DC2 snagged Students’ Choice Award for Favorite Film.

There’s no guarantee Black Panther will win, if that’s the patronizing plan. Maybe it’ll be the sixth Mission: Impossible -Fallout, which is 13th on the box office list AND has a 97% positive ranking at Rotten Tomatoes. Or Operation Red Sea, or Deadpool 2. This new Oscar awards plan has been almost universally panned and I hope it is axed.

Movie review: Black Panther

Its actors, its costume design, its music, and countless other facets of the film are drawn from all over the continent and its diaspora.


Has ANYONE seen the movie Black Panther for the first time in a theater later than I? Taking off a day from work, I finally trekked out to the Regal Cinema in Colonie Center, near Albany on April 30, three days after the new Avengers movie, Infinity War opened.

I so seldom go to the mainline theaters that I had forgotten how many commercials there were, BEFORE the seven movie trailers, including for the aforementioned Avengers film.

Seeing it so late, after it had recorded $688 million domestically and $645 million overseas, I’m not sure what I’d add to what my friend Alan David Doane wrote: “Millions of African-Americans and others… found in the recent Black Panther film an inspirational culture in which they could see themselves and their own history.”

I will say that I spent time collecting articles that remained unread until after I saw the film. Check out a couple articles from Medium, 5 Lessons from Black Panther That Can Save Our Lives — and Transform Black Politics and Why ‘Black Panther’ Is a Defining Moment for Black America. From the latter: “Ryan Coogler’s film is a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries — Africa as a dream of our wholeness, greatness and self-realization.”

So naturally, when black people are feeling that, as Democracy for America put it, the flick is “a refreshing reminder of the power of representation in media,” some other folks feel somehow threatened. I mentioned this some weeks ago, and people seemed genuinely surprised; they don’t read enough right-wing literature.

I highly recommend reading The Tragedy of Erik Killmonger. The article contains major spoilers, none of which I will post here.

“Black Panther is a love letter to people of African descent all over the world. Its actors, its costume design, its music, and countless other facets of the film are drawn from all over the continent and its diaspora, in a science-fiction celebration of the imaginary country of Wakanda, a high-tech utopia that is a fictive manifestation of African potential unfettered by slavery and colonialism.

“But it is first and foremost an African American love letter, and as such it is consumed with The Void, the psychic and cultural wound caused by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the loss of life, culture, language, and history that could never be restored.”

The subtitle of the Atlantic article is: “The revolutionary ideals of Black Panther’s profound and complex villain have been twisted into a desire for hegemony.” That’s how certain people, certainly not I, chose to view it.

I am hoping that, even though it came out with a the non-prestige February release date, it gets some Oscar love. As others have noted, Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger (Creed), and the lead women, may have more screen charisma than Chadwick Boseman (42) as the title character, T’Challa.

Before Black Panther, I had seen only one Marvel Cinematic Universe movie since 2011, Ant-Man (2015). Seems that I probably need to catch up at some point.