Marvel’s Black Panther rewrites film and cultural history, breathes new life into the superhero genre, I daresay reinvents it and breaks through all the glass ceilings. It is the first ever-black superhero film, written and directed by Ryan Coogler, and features an all-black cast, barring Andy Serkis and Morgan Freeman, including some of the hottest names in the industry like Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o. Why has it taken Hollywood so long to bring about this game-changing epic? The Marvel comic book character has been around since 1966, however it’s here now and it’s stupendous. Chadwick Boseman is T’Challa, successor to the throne of Wkanda, a technologically advanced and enlightened secret state in Africa. Hidden by massive forests, Wkanda should be a utopia but enemies are everywhere, bent on capturing its knowledge. T’Challa’s security force is female led by Okoye, and his inspiration and advisor is his young sister, a scientist. Coogler protégé Michael B. Jordan arrives to take the nation’s greatest resource and protection, the indestructible vibranium and make it available to the world – for cash. Other outlaws are making their claim forcing T’Challa into constant vigilance. The action sequences are nerve shredding; the visuals of the vast Wkandian landscape are spectacular, the art direction fresh and bold but best of all is the contagious celebratory sense of blackness. Black Panther has depth, complexity and meaning and its masterfully executed, and it is a helluva an adventure. A knockout!
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Before We Vanish is a nifty Japanese sci-fi thriller about an alien invasion of a small town and the growing threat to all humanity. A woman notices her husband’s sudden inability to walk or stand. He has reverted to childhood, and no longer cares about his job, family or values. He tells her he is no longer her husband but an alien learning to be human one-step at a time and asks for her understanding. He betrays her and robs her parents and her sister of their brains, thoughts and memories leaving only their mortal shells. A journalist has cottoned on to the alien invasion and the joint Japanese and U.S. investigation and launches his own before it’s too late. He hits the road with a pair of violent, deranged teenagers under alien power who hack, chop and shoot with no apparent reason. Alien soul snatchers intensify their gruesome work, small children, the elderly, no one is exempt. Empty human bodies pile up, martial law makes the citizens sitting ducks, and there is no sense of safety. Kurosawa’s authenticity and street level point of view adds to the chilling effects of this haywire world, but there is dark humour in the horror. Sometimes you’ll need to look away.
In Between is Arab-Israeli female director Mayaloun Hamoud’s feature debut In Between is a superb portrait of contemporary life in Tel Aviv for three single Palestinian roommates, a lawyer, a ne’er do well and a conservative Muslim, women who are caught on the razors edge of cultural, religious and patriarchal society. From seedy drug den clubs to a wealthy suburban home where little is tolerated to the warmth, security and connection of their tiny, messy apartment they want what they want- their own individuality and values. Their refusal to bow to male hierarchy, rejection of domineering men, revenge for rape and upholding one another is extreme; their journeys are heartbreaking, inspiring and relatable. The film belongs in the #MeToo universe representing cultures that are not necessarily friendly to women. Not to be missed. Mouna Hawa, Sana Jammelieh, Shaden Kanboura and Mahmoud Shalaby star in this deeply moving, challenging and ultimately rewarding. Unobstructed View
PBS presents another timely documentary on bad government concerning a little known event of 1920, The Bombing of Wall Street. Thirty-eight died when a dirty bomb exploded in front of J. P. Morgan’s offices, at Wall and Broad Streets in New York, the juxtaposition of business and government. Archival footage shows the dazed aftermath, a war zone reflecting the coming horror of another terrorist attack eight one years later and a few blocks away, 9/11. The government had just set up new security policies following WWI, sedition was a crime, there was growing fear of Communism in the power classes, while workers embraced anti-capitalism. The first ever US general strike had just taken place in Seattle and strikes became the norm, 200 a month across the country. Twenty-eight politicians were sent letter bombs. The Radical Division of the DOJ, headed by J. Edgar Hoover was set up to protect the wealthy business class, no doubt leading Hoover to a lifelong commitment to routing out Commies and decades of Red paranoia.
Charles Officer’s poignant documentary Unarmed Verses looks at the appropriation of a Toronto Community Housing project in Toronto’s Nymark and Leslie area through the eyes of a remarkable 12-year-old girl. Francine runs the household that includes her autistic and alcoholic uncle, her father, her grandmother and siblings. She is responsible for the housework and many family decisions and does it all with ease and authority. She reads literature generally beyond the realm of other 12 year olds, parsing it in detail its meaning and application to life. Francine is scared. Tridel and the city of North York are uprooting her and her family so construction can begin on a massive condo complex; she knows they can’t afford to move back. We watch her over several months as she grapples with life, and the systemic dislocation of the Villaways community. We watch her grow, write, record a song, reflect on bias in the community and fret over her family’s future. This is heartbreaking stuff. Unarmed Verses makes its world TV premiere Wednesday, February 21 at 9p.m. on TVO.
It was twenty years ago that Canada’s first Indigenous TV series North of 60 went off the air after six critically acclaimed seasons. But due to a mail in campaign by fans, it’s about to return. The original series will make its second debut Monday night on APTN. The show was a groundbreaker – the first to star Indigenous actors in lead roles, it was set on a reservation, and highlighted not only the daily dramas of life up north but also the larger cultural, social and political issues in the First Nations universe. One of the coolest aspects of North of 60 is that it launched careers of actors and directors we know well today. Its cast list is a who’s who of well-known actors – Nathaniel Arcand, Adam Beach, Tantoo Cardinal, Tom Jackson, Gordon Tootoosis, Michael Horse, Lorne Cardinal, Graham Greene and many more.
Tomorrow night at 6 p.m. Hollywood Suite flies us to London for the British Academy Film Awards show, better known as the BAFTAs. Big on pomp and glamour and even bigger on fun than the Oscars, Joanna Lumley’s hosting and that’s absolutely fabulous! And the nominees are: here http://www.bafta.org/film/awards/ee-british-academy-film-awards-in-2018