Black Panther

By Rena Liu

Black Panther is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Directed by Ryan Coogler, the movie stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, or Black Panther, and follows T’Challa’s journey as he is crowned king of Wakanda despite many obstacles. The film is largely set in Wakanda, a fictional African country that is the most technologically advanced in the world.

In 1992, Wesley Snipes showed interest in working on a Black Panther film, but the movie was postponed for more than twenty-five years. Black Panther was announced in 2014, and by 2016, the film’s cast had been chosen. The movie became the first Marvel movie in history with a predominantly African-American cast and is the ninth highest grossing film of all time. [1]

Black Panther was widely praised for its authentic depiction of African culture, action-packed scenes, and meaningful screenplay. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone wrote, “There aren’t many superhero films that blow you away with thunderous effects and also tackle ethnic and gender issues, crush racial stereotypes, celebrate women and condemn Trump-era notions of exclusionism.” [2]

The acclaim was common among moviegoers and critics. The film received a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 8.3 out of 10. Metacritic gave the film a score of 88 out of 100, signalling “universal acclaim”. The movie was nominated several times and has won numerous awards for its screenplay, costume design, production, and sound. This year, it was nominated for seven Oscars and won for Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score.

Overall, Black Panther is an epic tale that balances traditions with modernity and regales its audience with humour, action, and powerful themes while showcasing a culture that is often underrepresented in the movie industry. It may not have been the best film out of all the nominees, but it did deserve the three Oscars that it received.

Bohemian Rhapsody

By Nicole Peri Kologlu

The legendary rock band, Queen, makes a terrific return to pop culture as Bohemian Rhapsody is welcomed into theatres. An impeccable tribute to the immortal Freddie Mercury, and the marvelous innovations Queen brought to the music industry, Bohemian Rhapsody gained both critical acclaim and nostalgia in many hearts.

The film begins with the since-passed lead singer, Freddie Mercury, changing the history of a small band named Smile, which featured future-Queen members Roger Taylor and Brian May. As Mercury joins the band alongside bass player John Deacon, Smile evolves under the Mercury’s stereotype-crushing wings to become Queen, the marvelous band music listeners know and love today. Producing a completely new sound, and taking advantage of Mercury’s passion for classics and opera, Queen’s evolution into the biggest band to emerge from the rock-opera genre is highlighted by the film.

Perhaps the reason why this movie is so precious in many fans’ eyes, both old and new, is because of the attention to authenticity. Even though it is not an accurate timeline of the history of Queen (unlike in the movie, Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS after the Live Aid concert), the effort, emotion, and detail put into this film don’t go unnoticed. Especially with Roger Taylor and Brian May on the set of this movie, it is natural that this movie holds emotional value. With many major scenes mirroring the image of the original events, up to and including the Pepsi cups on the piano during the Live Aid concert, the support it gained was well-deserved.

Despite the excitement among fans, Bohemian Rhapsody failed to resonate among critics, with complaints focusing on a lack of depth, subtlety, and a disregard for the truth in favour of sensation. With only 61% on Rotten Tomatoes [3] and 49% from Metacritic [4], Bohemian Rhapsody ranks among the least critically-acclaimed Golden Globe and Academy Award nominees of all time. Despite an underwhelming critical reception, it was able to conquer thousands of fans dedicated to Queen, with a score of 7.9 User Score from Metacritic [4], and 87% Audience Score from Rotten Tomatoes [4]. Bohemian Rhapsody may not be the greatest telling of Queen’s journey, but it is more than sufficient as a nostalgic homage to the legendary rock band.

 

Green Book

By Angela Pang

As the winner of Best Picture at the Oscars this year, Green Book has faced much backlash from both fans and notable critics in the film community. The lowest-rated Oscar winner in over a decade, its meager 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes seems to be a reflection of the industry’s dissatisfaction with its take on racial issues.

The film, a biographical comedy based on the story of African-American pianist Don Shirley, captures the relationship between Shirley and his white driver, Tony Lip, as they embark on a concert tour in the Deep South. The two are forced to confront issues of racism and discrimination along the way and must reconcile their differences to keep their tour on track. Admittedly, the film uses a good combination of witty jokes and heartfelt moments, and viewers will certainly walk away feeling lighthearted from Green Book’s portrayal of a genuine friendship. If you’re looking for a nostalgic, pleasant film for the family that touches on the subjects of race or class in a more digestible manner, this year’s Best Picture is the one for you.

However, there’s no denying that the film fails to portray an accurate picture of an issue as complex as systemic racism. Critics describe the film as a “white saviour” film, where prejudice becomes a simple problem for the white protagonist to “solve”. In a year where other films discussing race issues featured more actors of colour—see fellow nominees BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther—the film suddenly appears lazy and self-righteous. Reinforcing this, the family of Don Shirley has claimed that the movie is a “complete lie” and that the producers did not seek them out to provide context and accuracy to the story. [5]

All in all, the film might not have deserved Best Picture amongst the list of perhaps more meaningful nominated films, but it doesn’t mean that the entertaining Green Book does not provide an engaging and accessible perspective on racism in America.

 

A Star Is Born

By Marzan Hamid

A Star is Born is a musical-drama remake of the classic 1937 film of the same name, starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga as the leads. This shining movie is Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut and Lady Gaga’s acting debut. The movie follows Jackson Maine (Cooper), a famous musician struggling with substance abuse. One night after a concert, he heads to a drag bar and sees Ally (Lady Gaga) performing on stage. They converse, and the story begins. Ally shares her battles in surfacing in the competitive music industry and Jackson decides that he might be able to help her.

After this encounter, the film blossoms into a journey where Jackson pushes Ally into the spotlight. As her career develops, the two of them encounter deeply personal challenges filled with emotion and reconciliation. The film encapsulates relationships in their rawest and most distilled form, giving Cooper and Lady Gaga a chance to show off their acting chops. Their on-screen chemistry lights up the screen; the compelling duo provides a much-needed fresh dynamic amidst the dramatic storyline and adds tragedy to the film’s ending.

The “star” of the film is undeniably the soundtrack and music. Given the musical roots in both the plot and the cast, the film features Gaga singing solo complete songs on screen. Movie moments like these hold the audience on the edge of their seats with goosebumps running down their necks as Cooper similarly complements her voice with his own.

As a remake though, there is an inherent comparison to be made with the original. This film is a reminder that some stories are timeless and that with the right direction, editing, and acting, each re-iteration can be just as good—or even better—than the last. Compared to its competitors, A Star Is Born reveals the intimacy of personal relationships and carefully weaves in beautiful music to accentuate the emotional journey in the film. The film deservingly received a handful of nominations and is qualified enough to win them all.

 

Works Cited

[1] http://collider.com/black-panther-box-office-update/

[2] https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-reviews/black-panther-review-marvels-history-making-superhero-movies-a-masterpiece-198071/

[3] https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/bohemian_rhapsody

[4] https://www.metacritic.com/movie/bohemian-rhapsody

[5]https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/12/truth-about-green-book-viggo-mortensen-mahershala-ali