'Black Panther' Serves As A Model For Next-Generation Superhero Films

'Black Panther' Serves As A Model For Next-Generation Superhero Films

I went to go watch Black Panther twice in one week and you should too.
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BEWARE: SPOILER ALERTS FOR BLACK PANTHER AHEAD

I may have gone to see Black Panther twice in the span of one week after the film premiered in the Fox Theatres right here in Westwood. No, in fact, I definitely went twice, and I plan on at least seeing it in theaters one more time. And then buying it online the moment it becomes available.

Some critics, of all backgrounds and levels of expertise, have voiced how the film was “over-hyped” and how the best part was “just the music.” I highly disagree because Black Panther succeeded in what I believe it set out to accomplish: To craft and execute an innovative origin story, faithful to the comic books while integrating and subverting the action/adventure genre that has historically placed aside or minimized minorities.

A superhero’s cinematic origin story thrives when it maintains its simplicity and close-ties to the original comic books, and yet, it pays homage to its predecessors and challenges the established norms and standards. Black Panther ticks all of those boxes, and then some.

The film's characters related to the characters in the comics, and characters were not manufactured to serve a pointless plot. However, they evolved to display greater agency and purpose to the overall story. Significantly, Nakia is adapted from the comic books and is represented by a cooler, calmer character who does not retain the jealousy and immaturity she begins with in the comics.

Similarly, Erik “Killmonger” maintains his role as the primary “bad-guy” of the comic books. However, like most characters portrayed in the film by the brilliant cast, his character is shown as multi-dimensional — a ruthless killer and a young, orphaned boy who cried while cradling his father’s dead body in his arms because of a “greater purpose” invalidated into an excuse.

What really excited me were all the action genre and Avengers easter eggs that were a crucial part of why I so badly needed (and still need) to watch the film again. The fact that the final fight sequence between T’Challa and Killmonger occurs on a literal Underground railroad, the sneaky, well-appreciated reference to Back to the Future, and the intense Lion King vibes I was feeling also made me love the movie even more.

The first time I watched Black Panther I was highly confounded by a scene in which T’Challa, Nakia, and Okoye enter the underground Busan casino to intercept the predicted selling of Vibranium by Klaw. I was convinced I’d seen a similar set-up elsewhere, and when Martin Freeman’s character, Agent Ross, appeared at the gambling tables I knew exactly where. The scene echoed Skyfall in the construction of the casino, the underground nature, and the position of Ross as the exuberant agent who is usually present but is often played by a minority.

In this case, our James Bond was T’Challa, Ross was the unaware agent, and there was a drought of damsels-in-distress. Because, obviously, Nakia and Okoye could (and did) handle their own. The subversion of the scene secured the Wakandans as the ones in-charge and educated about the consequences respected the genre, and challenged perceptions of what that scene would have otherwise entailed.

Finally, although there is so much more I could say about the film, I was mesmerized by the composition of the film score that accompanied Black Panther all the way through to the credits. Kendrick Lamar altered what it means to compose and produce for film, and the overall sound production team smoothly drove the film through the music along with the vibrant imagery.

The first time I noticed this was when Killmonger takes the throne after supposedly defeating T’Challa in the ceremonial fight. The hip-hop influence mirrors Killmonger’s Oakland accent and swag, perfectly paired to set the mood for the unpredictable second half of the film. The African drumming and singing, then, transitioned the throne back to T’Challa when he, literally, comes back from the dead. The overall composition and integration of both styles of music allowed for layers in the film and convinced me of its desire to respect the comics and present a brand-new angle for action genre score.

I’m not gonna lie. I felt a burst of pride and loudly whooped in theaters when I saw the Oakland 1992 along with other hyped Bay Area people present. The severe rush of relatability and cinematic beauty reeled me in the first time I watched Black Panther.

To understand the deeper references and symbolism, to visually explore aspects of the world I missed before, and to be able to hang onto every word said, once more — that’s what drove me to the movies the second time. To re-watch what I believe marks the dawn of the next generation of superhero films and characters.

Cover Image Credit: flickr

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.
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When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...

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"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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