Wakanda long ago, ‘Wakanda Forever’

Wakanda Forever is filled to the brim with striking wide shots like this. Images courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

7/10 Everyone in the world has been through a lot since Black Panther showed us a magical dream of uncolonized Africa in February 2018. Four years later in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, that dream is tainted by real-life tragedy among the cast, but seemingly untouched by the pandemic or even by the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. The film is grieving, but still escapist on a level I’d never have dreamed of if I hadn’t seen it.

One year after the sudden disease and death of King T’Challa, Wakanda faces threats from all sides. Queen Mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) holds power, but after the events of the first film, she does not have the heart-shaped herbs required to bless a new Black Panther, and the international trade T’Challa dreamed for never got off the runway because Ramonda refuses to trade vibranium, the nation’s near-magical space metal, for any price.

As world powers search for other sources of vibranium, they stumble onto the underwater kingdom of Talokan, and facing an uncertain future, Wakanda is suddenly confronted by a deep-sea version of its past – another nation powered by vibranium hiding from European colonialism, which also holds its king as super-powered champion and a manifestation of god. K’uk’ulkan, who also introduces himself as Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), is deeply paranoid of his kingdom being discovered, and demands the shaky Wakandan leadership either commit to an alliance or commit to a war.

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The bust-out of Warner Bros.

Industrial-scale film distribution dates back to before World War I. In the bad old days with no way to transmit information digitally, movies had to be physically carried from Southern California outward, a supply chain that wound its way across the developed world, staying at every town as long as tickets were selling, always taking around two years to reach the end of the line in New Zealand, where they were to be burned. As Tarantino fans will know, film stock in those days was flammable enough that it was dangerous to store, and there was a meaningful amount of silver in the reels, so the economic thing to do was just burn it somewhere safe and pocket the silver.

In their infancy, movies weren’t a centralizing cultural force or a revolutionary means of artistic expression, they were just picture shows. At best, they were cheap, mechanized stageplays. Burning them out for as much cash as they were worth wasn’t just something you did at the end of the line, it was the entire point. Marshall McLuhan wouldn’t coin the phrase “The medium is the message” until 1964, but back in the ‘20s, the medium was still very much the message, and that medium was always meant to be burnt off for scrap metal.

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Tunneling into the ruins of #metoo in ‘Barbarian’

Images courtesy 20th Century Studios.

7/10 Five years after The New York Times broke that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused of varying degrees of sexual misconduct by dozens of women who had come to him for employment and used his wealth, power and reputation to systematically cover it up, a story that took decades to report and which set off an international reckoning with sexual assault mostly under the banner of the #metoo movement, it’s difficult to see whether or not the world has really changed. The revelation of the scale of abuse, the horrifying realization of old sexist jokes was shocking, but the way the reporting played out made it seem unlikely that any real change could result. Barbarian bores into this anxiety, the knowledge of the scope of abuse and the creeping, back-of-your-head understanding that nothing is going to change.

476 Barbary St., Brightmoor, Detroit- Tess Marshall (Gerogina Campbell) arrives at her Airbnb to discover it double-booked and Keith Toshko (Bill Skarsgård) already settled in. They arrange to share the house, but the next day, Marshall discovers an underground lair with evidence of human captivity.

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Yearn and soar with ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’

Images courtesy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

9/10 Three Thousand Years of Longing is an epic psychedelic romance that makes you feel every second, not of its 108 minutes, but of its sweeping millennia.

Room 333 of the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul- At a fiction conference, esteemed narratologist Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) discovers the bauble she picked up at the Grand Bazaar contains a djinn (Idris Elba). Only able to return to the djinn afterlife after successfully granting three wishes, the djinn is desperate to please, but Binnie, an expert on historical fiction, is naturally wary of any “three wishes” pitch. To earn her trust, the djinn tells Binnie of his 3,000 years of captivity and longing.

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All the awful ‘Bodies’

A fairly common experience when looking through available media for posts about really bad movies is all of the imagery is indistinguishable. There’s an avalanche of multi-character wide shots for this movie that are all of them arguing about what they should do next and all feel interchangeable, I can’t even tell what plot point this is after. Images courtesy A24.

2/10 Bodies Bodies Bodies attempts to be insightful and fails, a movie that isn’t completely without merit, but is less interested in bringing its merits to the foreground than it is in having a good time despising itself and its characters.

In Bodies Bodies Bodies, a bunch of awful 20-somethings who all hate each other gather for a “hurricane party.” The night immediately disintegrates into a food fight of hostility, selfishness and weaponized therapy language.

Where media is often described as a love letter to its source material, Bodies Bodies Bodies is hate mail, a flaming turd not laid on a specific porch, but stuffed into the mailbox of Generation Z as a broad class. The core concept of this movie is so hateful and so uninteresting that there can be no constructive criticism, it’s impossible to imagine a good version of this movie. It simply should not have been made.

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