Saturday, February 17, 2018

Black Panther

Celebrated director Ryan Coogler brings his Hollywood A-list gravitas to bear in the latest Marvel Universe entry, Black Panther. Despite the less-than-nuanced decision to release the film, which features a predominately black cast, during Black History Month, Disney Studio's assured blockbuster offers much to appreciate and to ponder, whether inside or outside of the African diaspora. Chadwick Boseman plays Prince T'Challa, who ascends to the throne of the fictional nation of Wakanda after his father is killed in a terrorist attack on the United Nations (depicted in Captain America: Winter Soldier). T'Challa, like his noble forebears, is also a costumed superhero, Black Panther, whose abilities are derived from a rare mineral found only in his country and coveted by mercenaries around the world. T'Challa's nemesis is an erstwhile American soldier of fortune named, most unsubtly, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who claims Wakandan roots and wants to liberate oppressed people in the U.S. and elsewhere using Wakanda's miraculous technology and weaponry. This richly textured, exquisitely designed and expansive film boasts an international cast (Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman, Letitia Wright) and delivers all of the bang and bad-assery fans expect from a Marvel Universe picture while posing provocative questions about national identity and kinship, isolationism, security and community.

Monday, February 12, 2018


I feel I'm experiencing traumatic stress associated with processing the callousness of the DT administration. I'm raw, like my nerves have been rubbed all over with a scouring pad. When I watch a program like the first season of Broadchurch, before you know it I'm feeling flinty and pissed, wanting someone, anyone, to be punished. My condition isn't helped by the superbness of David Tennant and Olivia Colman, who voice obstinateness and resoluteness, respectively, like few actors I know. Colman, whose diction I find captivating, was MVP in The Night Manager (won the Golden Globe), and Tennant, well, is Tennant: Classically trained. Indefatigable. Probably the most loved Dr. Who of all time (pardon the pun). The Brits really have a way of peeling off the layers of community sin and this series is a prime example. The last episode of Season 1 was unrelenting in its depiction of human distress and nearly unbearable grief and regret. And yet, the image of memorial pyres burning along the southern coast of England gave me chills.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Phantom Thread

Paul Thomas Anderson's films are not to be enjoyed as much as endured. That is not to say they aren't well made; Anderson is an auteur of the first order. (His is a fiercely creative imagination.) It's that his subject matter is often bleak, people behaving badly, irrationally, brutally, talking past each other and quite often past the audience too. Such is the case with Phantom Thread, reportedly the last picture the film's star Daniel Day-Lewis will make. 'Tis a pity that the celebrated actor will not be signing off with a more powerful role or substantial piece. Still, Day-Lewis, Anderson and the film are nominated for Oscars. Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a British dressmaker for the aristocracy who seduces and then abuses a young woman (Vicky Krieps), who though his model and lover turns out to be more than a match for Woodcock's monstrous behavior. The film is beautifully designed and filmed and plays with viewers' perceptions and expectations. While one might expect a famous couturier to be turning out some knock out frocks, Woodcock's creations, to my eye, are boxy and cranky and unbecoming to the women who commission his work. In fact, he's touted as a genius but he's actually more of a fussy martinet who is coddled by his severely pinched sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), and haunted by his dead mother, whose wedding dress he made at the age of seven. Anderson, who also wrote the screenplay, once again welcomes audiences into a world of supremely unlikable people and it's excruciating.


  Director Danny Boyle's hummably insightful morality tale, Yesterday, is a sure starmaker for amiable Hamish Patel, who plays ...