No matter the circumstance, black men walk through life with swag In their new movies, Denzel Washington, Chadwick Boseman and Rob Morgan walk like brothers with a certain attitude

Something in the way three black men move in their current movie roles is evocative not only of the characters they play but also of the times in which these men each lived.

As soon as Denzel Washington walks on-screen in the eponymous role of Roman J. Israel, Esq., it is clear the two-time Oscar-winning actor is exploring new terrain as an actor. Gone is his soulful strut, which has taken its place alongside Marilyn Monroe’s wiggle, Charlie Chaplin’s waddle and John Wayne’s saunter as one of Hollywood’s most recognizable gaits.

Denzel Washington stars in Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Glen Wilson

Instead, in his new movie, Washington walks as if he’s a tightly wound rubber ball who, nevertheless, doesn’t bounce very high, instead rolling through life with harried purpose, often uphill.

In the movie, Washington comes to grips with the internal and external forces he’s been battling to an anonymous and noble draw, just as so many people in real life do.

In movies such as 42 and Get on Up, a James Brown biopic, Chadwick Boseman has used different walks to portray very different men. As Jackie Robinson in 42, Boseman used his walk to portray a great athlete burdened by the pressure of breaking major league baseball’s color line. As Brown, he glided more than walked, a high-flying bird circling his own sun.

Now, as Thurgood Marshall in Marshall, Boseman walks with open and confident strides as the crusading civil rights lawyer who would later become the nation’s first black Supreme Court justice. I’m eager to see how Boseman will walk in Black Panther, a 2018 superhero movie based in Africa. If the teaser trailer is any indication, the Black Panther will walk a little like James Brown. Black superheroes have soul, and they are superbad.

And as Hap Jackson in Mudbound, Rob Morgan walks as if his soul and spirit dance, despite the bone-breaking work he does to support his family in the 1940s American South. And he stands tall, as if he can see a better day for his family and his people.

In Hollywood, actors of all races root their characters in how they move, how they walk. But in much of black America, our men turn everyday walking into a kind of performance art.

During the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. walked with the serenity of a man who could hear the waters parting as he sought to lead his people to the promised land.

Twenty years later, a young Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls walked on to NBA basketball courts as if it were Friday night and he carried two weeks’ pay in his back pocket and the prettiest woman on the South Side of Chicago waiting for him back home.

And a generation after that, Barack Hussein Obama, the nation’s first black president, walked into the White House as if the majestic horns of John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” or Earth, Wind & Fire’s “In the Stone,” fanfares for an uncommon man, heralded his arrival.

When I was a child growing up in Philly, I learned that there was nothing pedestrian about the way black men walked. Instead, each man’s gait revealed a journey, whether it was from the street corners, the factory floors or the cotton fields.

Today, too many young black men walk as if they wear chains around their ankles, tottering back and forth, with no particular place to go. We’d do well to understand the sorrow and disaffection revealed in the way they walk.

In their current movies, Washington, Boseman and Morgan explore the inner and outer space of their characters’ lives. They take us to places we know. They take us to foreign places. They take us to places we’d like to be: a bite of the good life, a sip of forbidden water, the embrace of a good woman.

They ask us to walk with them and see what they see, feel what they feel. We do. And we are better for the journey.

Daily Dose: 11/8/17 Drake is coming to take over Hollywood

Hey, gang, it’s another TV day, so if you’re into that, tune in to Outside the Lines at 1 p.m. EST on ESPN. We’ll be talking about this story by Brian Windhorst on how LeBron James has taken on Michael Jordan’s role in the eyes of the NBA.

The president has been in Asia, and so far, so decent. He’s weathered one relatively embarrassing revelation about his proclivity for McDonald’s, the first lady has endured some embarrassment at the hands of a Korean pop star and, oh, yeah, the Democrats cleaned up Tuesday night on Election Day. We’re not just talking about at the top of every ticket, either: a transgender woman in Virginia, an openly lesbian mayor in Seattle, the first Sikh mayor in Hoboken, New Jersey. The victories are symbolic and also important.

Los Angeles has a ton of cars. So what do you do in a place where you need to get around quickly? Well, there’s public transportation, but also the far more baller option: helicopters. The problem is that helicopters are all sorts of loud and dangerous, so they don’t really make for a good commuting option. (Speak for yourself.) As a result, NASA and Uber are teaming up to create a new flying car that will basically serve as a transportation replacement for the chopper. This is an actual good idea that feels like more than just sci-fi fantasy.

Now that he’s conquered the rap game, Drake is coming for Hollywood. This transition — or addition, if you will — seems like a natural fit, considering that his close friends all seem to be people who in some way are movie stars. But we’re not just talking about him suddenly starring in movies. Aubrey Graham is looking to disrupt by creating, something he should know well as a child actor turned rapper. It might seem like a fame grab to the uninitiated, but I’m actually as interested in this as I am anything else he does.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been hanging out at Bloomberg News all morning. The man hired to represent the league’s 32 owners has been under quite a bit of scrutiny recently, considering all the fallout from pregame protests that have come back to haunt him. Some people think he could be out soon, but apparently the checks are still clearing. So far, he’s claimed that people come to the stadium to have fun, not to view protests, just to give you an idea of how it’s going. You can watch here.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you can’t wait for Black Panther to finally hit next February, you’re not alone. We’ve got quite a few very fun teasers, and it’ll be interesting to see how this plays over the holiday season with the movie not even being released yet. But here’s another sit-down with the star, Chadwick Boseman.

Snack Time: I have little sympathy for accidents that befall people who hunt animals. Yes, they are unfortunate, but ultimately, that’s the game, right? Well, one dude in France learned the hard way and paid the ultimate price.

Dessert: There’s a new movie coming out about my former employer The Washington Post. Looks like a fun one.

Daily Dose: 10/16/17 Marvel unveils new ‘Black Panther’ trailer

  • What up, gang? Hope your weekends went well.

The new trailer for Black Panther is pretty incredible. As a matter of course, this film is already one of the most hyped of 2018, and with each new piece of footage that drops, the streets get even more needy. Chadwick Boseman and company set the internet on fire on Monday, yours truly included. Here are the details, but let me just say this: the handshake. THE DAP GAME. I’m going to be using that handshake until I die. And aside from the unabashed blackness of this film and its cast, it looks like a genuinely great film to come.

The fallout from Harvey Weinstein’s ouster has been widespread. Aside from all the big-name Hollywood stars we’ve heard come out with stories of sexual harassment and assault, a more populist social media movement to highlight the problems has been sparked on social media. The #MeToo hashtag has been a way for women to note that they have been victims, thus pointing out exactly how widespread this issue is. Actress Alyssa Milano was one of the first to share it, and countless others have since joined in to share their pain.

My sister is a vegan. For lack of a better term, it’s a whole thing. Because if you’re willing to eat every meal inside your house, or have the money to be perusing random eateries at all hours of the day looking for things to eat, that life ain’t easy. But, as time goes on, the eating-out option tends to grow in variety and availability. Meaning, if you really wanted to find a vegan spot to spend most of your time and energy, you certainly could. That said, vegan joints are still a tad quirky. This story interviewing vegan restaurant workers about vegans is hilarious.

The NBA starts Tuesday. In case you missed it, it was quite the offseason in these streets, meaning that Tuesday’s game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics is going to be nothing short of fantastic. More personally, I’m excited that my Washington Wizards are back on the court, having had an offseason with little to no drama, outside of an injury. The Golden State Warriors are obviously the Vegas favorite to win the championship, but you never know, y’all. The Spurs are outchea trying to sign a contract extension for LaMarcus Aldridge, so it’s a whole new world.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Look, some criminals are stupid, while others just choose to use their talents for unorthodox things, which not many of us can necessarily appreciate. One such individual is this guy in Texas, who for the better part of a decade was hijacking fajita deliveries from a restaurant. What a dude.

Snack Time: So, Jussie Smollett appeared as Langston Hughes in the movie Marshall. Apparently he liked the role so much that they’re making an entire other movie with the same cast.

Dessert: Do you need a life coach? The Rock should do just fine.

‘Marshall’ turns Thurgood into the contemporary hero Americans want, but ignores the one he was Not enough of the real NAACP lawyer shows up in Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal

Marshall, the new film from director Reginald Hudlin about the late Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, comes from a production company called Super Hero Films.

It’s an appropriate moniker, given that the star of Marshall is Chadwick Boseman — or, as he’s sure to be known after February, Black Panther. But it’s also appropriate given the way Marshall presents the man once known as “Mr. Civil Rights” as a swashbuckling, arrogant, almost devil-may-care superhero attorney barnstorming the country in pursuit of justice and equality.

Written by Connecticut attorney Michael Koskoff and his son, Joseph, Marshall is not the story of the first black Supreme Court justice’s entire life. The movie takes place decades before Marshall was ever nominated to the court. Instead, Marshall provides a snapshot of young Thurgood through the course of the Connecticut trial of Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), a black chauffeur who was arrested in 1940 for the rape, kidnapping and attempted murder of his white boss, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson).

Marshall, at the time an attorney in the NAACP’s civil rights division and seven years out of Howard University School of Law, travels to Connecticut to defend Spell. When the white judge presiding over the case refuses to let Marshall be the lead lawyer on the case, Marshall enlists a local Jewish attorney, Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), as the puppet for his legal ventriloquism. Marshall feeds Friedman his strategy, arguments and ideas and sits on his hands as he watches Friedman clumsily make his way through them.

Hudlin ends the film with an image of Marshall after he’s pulled into a train station in the Deep South. A mischievous smile creeping across his face, he grabs a paper cup to get a drink of water from a whites-only water fountain. Marshall tips his hat to an older black gentleman who’s watching, clearly astonished, and continues on his way.

The scene exposes how Marshall is more of an exercise in reflecting contemporary black attitudes about race and rebellion than it is connected to the way Marshall enacted that rebellion in his life as an NAACP lawyer, solicitor general under Lyndon Johnson, and then as a member of the Supremes. It’s certainly ahistorical. The real Marshall was a skilled politician, which made him an effective courtroom lawyer. He was charmingly persuasive, according to those who knew him, able to persuade white Southerners to do his bidding even against the wishes of fire-breathing racist sheriffs.

“He wasn’t an activist or a protester. He was a lawyer,” Marshall’s NAACP colleague, attorney Jack Greenberg, said in a 1999 documentary that asserts Marshall always followed the rules of the segregated South during his many trips there.

In any fictive portrait based on true life, a certain amount of interpretation is expected. But Marshall fundamentally changes our understanding of Marshall as a person and a real-life superhero. Thanks to accounts from family, colleagues and biographers such as Juan Williams, we know Marshall was smart, strategic and conscious of preserving his life and safety so that he could live to fight another day.

Hudlin superimposes modern conceptions of black heroism onto a period courtroom drama. He’s not the first to do so, of course. Both the 2016 adaptation of Roots and the now-canceled WGN series Underground told historical stories calibrated for a modern audience that wants and deserves to see black characters exhibit agency over their fates. Combined with the decision to cast the dark-skinned Boseman and Keesha Sharp as Marshall and his wife, Buster, Hudlin’s choices feel reactive to the colorism and racism in modern Hollywood. That choice ends up flattening an aspect of Marshall that certainly had an effect on his life: his privilege as a light-skinned, wavy-haired lawyer who grew up as the middle-class son of a Baltimore woman with a graduate degree from Columbia and a father who worked as a railway porter.

If ever there was a couple who fit the profile of the black bourgeoisie, it was Thurgood and Buster Marshall. Casting Boseman and Sharp may be a way to thumb one’s nose at the screwed-up obsession with skin tone that pervaded the black elite in the early 20th century and continues to block opportunities in modern-day Hollywood, but it also erases part of our understanding of how Marshall moved through the world.

Marshall possessed a terrific legal mind and used it to hold the country accountable to its founding ideals. He was a pioneer for daring to think that equality could be achieved by challenging the country’s institutions, but he also expressed a deep reverence for and faith in them. He would have been seen by whites in the South as a Northern agitator, and he knew it — the real Thurgood slept with his clothes on in case a lynch mob decided to confront him in the middle of the night. Altering Marshall so much in a movie meant to celebrate him ends up cheapening the gesture. It’s like making a biopic about Barack Obama and turning him into Jesse Jackson. He just wasn’t that type of dude.

It wouldn’t matter so much that Boseman’s Marshall strays so far from the real man if it wasn’t for the fact that Marshall tends to exist now mostly as a Black History Month factoid (even though multiple biographies have been written about his life and work).

Thurgood, a 2011 HBO movie starring Laurence Fishburne, goes too far in the opposite direction. Clips of Fishburne show a stiff and overly reverential character better suited for a museum video re-enactment or a Saturday Night Live sketch.

I sound like the story of Thurgood Marshall is a Goldilocks conundrum. Fishburne-as-Marshall was too stiff. Boseman-as-Marshall was too loose. Maybe a third attempt will get it just right.

Every time I see a film by a black director or that stars black people and I love it unreservedly, I experience a mélange of awe, reverence and respect that comes from witnessing an amazing work of art. And then comes the wave of relief.

Because the stakes are so high — every so-called “black film” must succeed to secure another! — you feel some kind of way about having to type all the reasons a film doesn’t work, knowing that those words have consequences but still need to be expressed. In short, it’s the feeling of “I don’t know if I like this, but I need it to win.”

I hate this feeling. If ever there was a selfish reason for wishing the film industry would hurry up and achieve racial and gender parity, this is it.


Hudlin’s directorial oeuvre is squarely commercial. His gaze is unfussy, with few stylistic flourishes, likely influenced by his past 15 years directing episodic television. His last movie was Wifey, a TV movie starring Tami Roman. His last feature was the 2002 romantic comedy Serving Sara, starring Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley, but he’s probably best known for Boomerang, House Party and The Ladies Man. Thus it’s no surprise that Hudlin directs Marshall as a crowd-pleaser, but the nuances of Marshall’s life get lost.

What’s disappointing about the way Marshall is translated for the big screen is that real-life heroes come in a variety of forms. They’re complicated. They’re not saintly, nor are they all hot-headed crusaders. And that’s OK.

One of the most admirable aspects of Loving was that it was a historical drama with the patience to tell the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, portrayed by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, as the quiet, country people they were. They seem as unlikely a pair to make civil rights history in the film as they were when they lived. But Loving came from the Focus Features division of NBCUniversal, a production house known for unconventional work. Marshall is not an art house film, and I don’t think it needed to be to tell Marshall’s story. Hidden Figures was another historical drama meant for wide consumption. It’s not perfect, but Hidden Figures was so full of charm that it overcame the white saviorism added to Kevin Costner’s character, which didn’t exist in Margot Lee Shetterly’s book.

The shortcomings that separate Marshall from Hidden Figures and Loving are the same ones that give it the feeling of a TV movie. Aside from focusing on one specific area of Marshall’s life rather than the whole of it, Marshall does little to escape or subvert some of the most irritating biopic tropes.

For instance, the screenwriters jam Boseman’s mouth full of exposition about his accomplishments rather than demonstrating them. He rattles them off to Friedman in the form of a verbal resume.

The movie includes a nightclub scene that functions as little more than a non sequitur to shout, “HEY, THURGOOD MARSHALL WAS FRIENDS WITH ZORA NEALE HURSTON AND LANGSTON HUGHES. DID YOU KNOW ZORA AND LANGSTON HAD AN ICY RELATIONSHIP? BECAUSE WE DID!”

The three aren’t around long enough to discuss anything substantive. Their interaction doesn’t serve as foreshadowing for some other part of the movie. They’re just there because they all lived in Harlem. It’s little more than fat to be trimmed in a nearly two-hour movie.

But the most obvious weak point may lie in the flashbacks to the interactions between Strubing and Spell, which are filled with so much melodrama that they’d be perfectly at home on Lifetime. It’s not that those tropes don’t have their place. It’s just not on a screen that’s 30 feet high.

Boseman, as watchable as ever, makes Marshall a winking, confident wisecracker with a disarming smile. He’s full of smarts and bravado, communicating the real off-hours aspects of Marshall’s ribald sense of humor.

In the future, though, I hope screenwriters and filmmakers have more faith in the capacity of audiences to appreciate all kinds of heroes. As tempting as it is to superimpose modern politics onto historical figures, it can be more edifying to simply let them breathe so that we can appreciate their efforts within the context of their own times. Such context allows us to more fully understand the cost of their struggles and celebrate them all the more for winning.

The new Thurgood ‘Marshall’ movie is a thrilling What-Had-Happened-Was Superstar Chadwick Boseman and director Reggie Hudlin talk colorism and the black film renaissance

Chadwick Boseman remembers the exact moment when he understood why the work he was doing — not just the grabbing of marquees, not just working alongside Hollywood’s top talent, not just surprising critics with how easily he melts into a role of some of the world’s most famous men — was cemented.

He was on the set of Draft Day, a 2014 sports drama about the Cleveland Browns and its general manager (Kevin Costner) who wants to turn around his consistently losing team with a hot draft pick. “When you’re doing a car shot,” Boseman says, leaning in and slightly pushing back the sleeves of his sharp, black bomber, “you’re following the lead car.” He said they stopped in front of the projects. “I get out of the car, and somebody says, ‘Yo, that’s that dude from that baseball movie outside, right?!’ Everybody in the projects came outside, and they were like, ‘Hey, hey, hey! I got your movie on DVD in the house!’ The DVD hadn’t come out yet. They were like, ‘It didn’t come out yet? Oh, no, no. We didn’t mean it that way. But look — I saw it.’ ” He says that’s what it’s all about. “You want people to appreciate what you’ve been doing.”

This week, Boseman’s latest film, Marshall, opens. Once again, the actor takes on a role of a historical, powerful-in-his-field man. He’s portrayed baseball and civil rights icon Jackie Robinson and the influential James Brown. Now he’s legendary lawyer and eventual Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall.

It’s an interesting casting, to be sure. Part of Marshall’s story is rooted in his light skin. It was a privilege. Marshall himself was the highest of yellows, and his skin color — on the verge of passable — was unmissable. Boseman, on the other hand is decidedly black, with striking chocolate skin — and that factor almost prevented him from even going after the role.

It’s an interesting casting, to be sure. Part of Marshall’s story is rooted in his light skin. It was a privilege.

Reginald Hudlin, the film’s director, said it’s been a hot topic, even among his close circle. “I’ve had friends who admitted to me, ‘I went in going I don’t know if this casting works.’ And they also have admitted, within 20 seconds, that concern was gone, it had never occurred to them. Because Chadwick’s performance is the exact spirit of Thurgood Marshall. He said that people who have clerked under Marshall, who knew him intimately, are more than satisfied. They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, how did you capture all those little nuances of his personality? You guys nailed it.’ To have that affirmed by people who have firsthand knowledge is a huge relief.”


But Marshall isn’t a biopic. It’s a dissection of one of the best legal minds in American history. And as he has done in his previous biographical work, you stop wondering about the actor at all, let alone the shade of his skin. “If this was a cradle-to-grave story about Marshall, obviously we would have to deal with his complexion,” said Boseman, who is also credited as a producer on the film. “Right now, we’re dealing with one case. He’s walking into this courtroom as a black man. He’s not a black man passing as a white man. He didn’t try to pass as a white man. He showed up as the black attorney, right? He showed up as a black man and got gagged for being black, right?”

“They didn’t say,” Boseman stops to laugh, “ ‘We’re going to gag you because you’re light-skinned-ded.’ ”

Marshall, at its best, is an examination of Marshall’s brilliance. It’s an up-close, deep dive into how Marshall changed the course of American history. “Everything is a risk,” Boseman said. “No matter what movie you do, it’s a risk. … It’s also a risk, if you look like the person, to play the role because then there’s the pressure of doing certain things a certain way.”

The court case used to examine Marshall’s legal savvy is relatively unknown — a black man in Connecticut (Sterling K. Brown) is accused of raping a white woman (Kate Hudson) — and Marshall is stripped of his voice. He’s told by a racist judge that he can’t speak in the courtroom. He couldn’t speak on behalf of his client at all. Instead, he had to employ Sam Friedman, an insurance lawyer who is a white Jewish man (Josh Gad), and teach him how to try this case. There’s a tone of Mighty Whitey here, to be sure, intermingled with a lesson on the importance of allies. Timely.

That said, it’s Boseman’s film. And not for nothing, he absolutely nails it. In four short years, the Howard University-educated Boseman has positioned himself as a force. He’s a box-office draw, and at the top of next year he leads the highly anticipated Black Panther, which surely will change the course of Hollywood, or at least continue to challenge the notion that films with predominantly black casts don’t travel internationally.

Not that Boseman isn’t up for the challenge. He’s the black man — sometimes he’s by himself — gracing Vanity Fair-like magazine gatefold layouts representing the next biggest thing in Hollywood. His representation is undeniable. And he understands his worth.


This film feels very much like 2017. It takes place in December 1940, a time when the NAACP was concentrating on its litigation in the South, suing over voting rights and equal pay for black teachers and segregation in higher education. But in the North, issues abounded as well — in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for example, there was a 1933 law that banned racial discrimination in public places, and it went unenforced in 1940. Marshall was 32 years old at the time and just beginning the work that would change the lives of black Americans for generations to come.

That notion of public discrimination is tested constantly — turn to any current news headline or cable TV news lower third for quick proof. And Marshall the movie sometimes feels like a thrilling, current-day, true-life drama. Often, when we talk about the historic work the NAACP did with Marshall as its chief legal brain trust, we think about the work done south of the Mason-Dixon line. But this case is set in a conservative white Connecticut town — away from the hard-and-fast Jim Crow laws that crippled black folks who lived in American Southern states.

“That was very much our intent. ‘Why did you choose this case? Why didn’t you do him as a Supreme Court justice? How come you didn’t do Brown v. Board of Education? Those are all worthy stories, stories that the public thinks they know — ‘Oh, I learned about Brown in fifth grade. I got that.’ You don’t got this,” Hudlin said. “You don’t know this case, you don’t know the outcome of this case, which gives me the chance to be true to genre. Because I think genre is what saves these movies from being medicine movies, which I despise. You want to make a movie that works if it wasn’t Thurgood Marshall. If Joe Blow was against the odds in this legal case, does the movie still work?”

It does. “This crime has all these broader implications, economic implications, for black folk. And for the institution of the NAACP. The truth is messy. Everyone comes into the case with their own particular set of -isms,” Hudlin said. “The challenge is, do you respect the process of the legal system to get to uncomfortable truths? And do you have enough personal integrity to acknowledge uncomfortable truths as they emerge, that don’t fit your preconceived notions? That’s how America works, you know?”


This film premieres right at the start of Hollywood’s award season preseason. In the fourth quarter of each year, we’ve come to expect the year’s best to be presented, or some of the year’s most generously budgeted films to hit the big screen.

But Marshall, perhaps, carries a bigger weight. It feels like a tipoff of a major moment for black creatives both behind and in front of the camera. This is the first time we’ve seen so many black directors working on films of this magnitude and at this level. Coming soon after this film are projects by directors Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle In Time) and Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), and Gina Prince-Bythewood is writing and directing Spider-Man spinoff Silver & Black. And the list goes on.

“He showed up as a black man and got gagged for being black. They didn’t say, ‘We’re going to gag you because you’re light-skinned-ded.’ ” — Chadwick Boseman

“I would say like three, maybe four years ago … in separate moments … we’ve talked about what’s been happening over the past few years. And I remember leaving several of those conversations, and we said, ‘Let’s not say it publicly, but we’re in the renaissance,’ ” Boseman says. “Let’s not say it publicly, because if we say it, then people will think we’re happy with it. That we’re satisfied with that. So let’s not ever actually say it. I think now we’re at a point where there’s no point in not saying it, because it’s obvious that this is a different moment.”

This is a huge moment, but it comes with questions — plenty of them.

“My bigger-picture analysis is that there are 20-year cycles,” said Hudlin. “You have this explosion in the 1970s with the blaxploitation movement, which created a set of stars and a set of icons so powerful they still resonate today. You can say Shaft, you can say Superfly, you can say Foxy Brown, and those things still mean things to people 40 years later.” He said that then there was a five- or 10-year period, a kind of collapsing, where basically in the ’80s you have Eddie Murphy and Prince. They don’t have folks really able to make movies. “Then, in the ’90s, there was that explosion of Spike Lee, and myself, and John Singleton. Those films were different from the movies of the ’70s. More personal, you know?”

He said blacks were telling their own stories, and there were greater production values. “And then like a 10-year period, a shutdown, and really you have Tyler Perry. And now this new wave, right? And when you look at all three of these periods, the thing is, the movies get bigger, they get more varied in their subject matter, and the production value keeps increasing. When you look at the bounty of black images, of black filmmakers working in film and television — no. We’ve never had it this good. We’ve never had material this rich, and to me, the outstanding question is, when does it no longer become a cycle and becomes a fixture and part of the entertainment landscape?”

As they say on social media, that’s a question that needs an answer.

‘Black Panther’ teaser trailer is serving looks Marvel blessed us during the NBA Finals, and it’s visually stunning

We were sitting around a table, casually discussing whatever we had to catch up as a group of friends. We weren’t all facing the television, so one person said, “Shut up, the Black Panther teaser is on.” Another friend continued, not realizing that this wasn’t just the first time he’d seen it, but the first time anyone had. “Look, I’ll address that after this ends,” he was told again. We all stared.

I don’t really remember if it was between the first two quarters of the game or somewhere in the second, because it felt like time stopped. At the point where Chadwick Boseman is executing whatever midair flip in slow motion he was doing, my body naturally stood up from the table and gravitated toward the television that was hanging on a wall in the bar. By the time it was done I turned around to look at the squad, and we all had the same looks on our faces.

“Holy s—, that was incredible.”

Black Panther was real and happening, and it looked amazing. The game instantly became a secondary conversation to what we’d just witnessed from the Marvel Universe. What I enjoyed so much about it was that it appealed to everyone, off the break. Of course, there are serious megafans of the comics who will have various things to deconstruct and dislike, but coming out of the gate, the clear distinctions were great.

For one, Wakanda is clearly not some Third World wasteland. Its technological advancements are clearly on par with most things in that universe, which is dope. This is the capital city, and vibranium, the mineral that the nation has major reserves of, allows it to stay on the cusp of what’s modern. Also, look. At. That. Ship. The last thing we wanted was a bunch of souped-up tribesmen to further create disastrous stereotypes in the superhero world.

Here are some of our favorite still shots.

Wait till y’all see me at the function next spring rocking this joint until Future’s “Mask Off” comes on. Then I’m turning all the way up.

This is a look goal if I’ve ever seen one. Lupita Nyong’o, no stranger to action movies, is not here for your nonsense.

When you’re trying to address the congregation but someone’s phone keeps going off.

Oh, that’s my phone? Do something. That’s what I thought.

When you waited all weekend to get fly for your little friend at school and they were home sick that day.


Meanwhile, the shade being thrown is predictable and, in many cases, very funny. What folks act like when this movie comes out is going to be serious. Nobody in America is ready for the squad cosplay that the film could bring to the theaters and premieres. It’ll be the blackest big-budget superhero movie. Not to mention it’s actually about a fictional African place. Believe that folks will be deep at the box office. And it comes out during Black History Month? Sheeeeeeee … just kidding. That doesn’t matter at all.

In all seriousness, that moment Friday night was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. My phone was blowing up with texts, and my whole TL was taken over by Wakanda jokes and the like. We don’t need that Coming to America remake. Black Panther, from the looks of it, will do just fine. This is dope, though.

This is a full shot-by-shot breakdown of the teaser trailer with story analysis. It’s with director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.

How ‘Black Lightning’ director Salim Akil co-created the show and why The buzzy ‘Black Lightning’ is a reflection of director Salim Akil’s family values

Audiences have of course always loved a good hero, but with projects such as Netflix’s Luke Cage and Disney’s Black Panther garnering ratings, massive hype and viral hashtags such as #BlackPantherSoLit, black superheroes are enjoying a true renaissance on screen. On May 17, The CW Network rolled out the first trailer for its new show Black Lightning, and once again it was clear from the response on social media that fans can’t wait to see DC Comics’ first African-American hero on TV. By midnight Thursday, the trailer had more than 392,000 views.

Introduced as a comic in 1977, Black Lightning follows Jefferson Pierce, a former Olympian turned principal in the “Suicide Slum” section of the fictional city of Metropolis. Though he was born a metahuman and has several superhuman abilities, Pierce suppresses his powers in a bid to keep his family safe. When his neighborhood is overrun by crime, however, Pierce begins to embrace his destiny to help clean up the streets and protect those he loves most. The show, which has no exact premiere date, stars Cress Williams (Prison Break, Hart of Dixie, Living Single), China Anne McClain (House of Payne, NCIS, Descendants 2) and Nafessa Williams (Code Black, Twin Peaks, Burning Sands).

While studios continuously mine their archives for profitable content, the driving forces behind Black Lightning are Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, the husband-and-wife team responsible for such hits as The CW and BET’s The Game, The CW’s Girlfriends and BET’s Being Mary Jane. After leaving BET and signing a development deal with Warner Bros. in 2015, the Akils took a year off to search for their next project. During a meeting with Peter Roth, the studio’s president and chief content officer, Salim Akil floated the idea of adapting one of Milestone Media’s comics for the screen. While that didn’t pan out, Roth proposed a different idea: Black Lightning.

“I was somewhat familiar with Black Lightning, so I played it cool — but I wanted to jump out of the chair.”

“They said, ‘We had this thing we were holding for you guys called Black Lightning,’ ” Salim Akil said in February at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. “I was somewhat familiar with Black Lightning, so I played it cool — but I wanted to jump out of the chair.”

The Akils were soon on board, but it wasn’t just the prospect of working on a comic that attracted them to the project. Salim Akil, the father of two boys, fell in love with the character. “I want to reintroduce the black male to television in a certain way,” he said. “What I loved about the character is that he’s married and he has two daughters and is connected to the community. That was right up my alley. That gave me the opportunity to go hard on some of the things I wanted to talk about.”

The dedicated family man continued, “To me, the most amazing aspect of [the story] is that he’s a principal, and a father, and he’s a man who’s in love with his wife. They’re separated, but the only reason they’re separated is because of his powers and the way his powers affect him as a man.”

Although Salim Akil rarely participates in interviews, the director penned an open letter to his 12-year-old son on The Hollywood Reporter after the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. In the letter, he reflected on the burden that black people, and in particular black men, face in society. While he took America to task for its “unquenched desire to control [black people],” which “began hundreds of years ago when your relatives were brought here across the Middle Passage to be sold,” Salim Akil also gave his son some defiant and valuable advice.

“If you’re trying to dumb … down to be acceptable, then you’ve dismissed and let go of your power.”

“You were made black on purpose,” he explained, echoing his production company’s motto. “God did that, so I want you to dance in the end zone, dunk the ball with beautiful creativity, become a police officer or a fireman, celebrate when you pass the bar exam, finish your medical residency, ride with your top down and play your music loud, wear your pants low on your hips or tie your neck up with a Windsor knot, find a woman like Diamond Reynolds and marry her quick. What I’m asking you to do, son, is after the tears dry, live. Live life ‘by any means necessary!’ ”

The letter also mirrors Salim Akil’s advice to black creatives in Hollywood.

“The perception is that if you’re too black, you’re not going to make it, but that perception is there so you don’t claim what is viable in the world,” he said on that February evening. “I think it’s time to claim the idea that when you go into these rooms, the expertise is you. If you’re trying to dumb that down to be acceptable, then you’ve dismissed and let go of your power.”

With Mara and Salim Akil at the helm of Black Lightning, it looks like audiences are in for a smart, unapologetically black hero who is perfect for these arduous times.

The producers of ‘Get Out’ are back with ‘Sleight,’ about a superhero magician The indie film is a small-budget alternative to the superhero genre’s other bloated offerings

Maybe it doesn’t take a production budget north of $100 million to crank out a superhero film these days.

It does help to have a bit of imagination, though.

Take away the bluster, arrogance and moral certitude of Tony Stark and you’ve got Bo, a teenage scientific genius living in a low-income neighborhood of Los Angeles, far from the monied paradise of Stark’s Malibu lair.

Bo (Jacob Latimore) is the unlikely hero of Sleight, the latest offering from Blumhouse, the sci-fi and horror production house famous for Jordan Peele’s runaway debut, Get Out. Co-written by J.D. Dillard and Alex Theurer, Sleight tells the story of Bo, a young, uber-talented street magician with a college scholarship. He’s forced to decline it, though, and turns to selling drugs to support himself and his younger sister Tina (Storm Reid) after both of their parents die. Bo doesn’t really have the disposition for the more violent aspects of drug-dealing, however, and concocts a plan to sell off a kilo of cocaine and finally vault himself and Tina into a better life.

Unfortunately for Bo, his plan gets upended when he finds himself on his supplier Angelo’s (Dulé Hill) bad side, a situation that’s only exacerbated by the involvement of a rival coke slinger. Pushed to the brink, Bo seeks the counsel of his mentor and high school teacher to figure out how to get more power from the mysterious, festering scar high on his left arm. It turns out that Bo has fashioned a contraption that allows him to transform into something of a bionic man. It was a convenient device for mind-bending magic tricks, but Bo must figure out a way to defend himself from Angelo’s lethally violent tactics.

Playing against type as Angelo, Hill is rather unconvincing as a hardened drug kingpin demanding his squad amputate the hand of a rival coke merchant with a meat cleaver. Aside from its use establishing Angelo as frightening, I’m not convinced that scene was even necessary.

Dulé Hill plays Angelo, a drug dealer in “Sleight.”

Alex Hyner

Sleight suffers from the lack of specifics that turn an intriguing idea into a film with a protagonist with whom we could become heavily emotionally invested. Instead, Dillard and Theurer whoosh through a series of generalities to get us to the good stuff. We know Bo lives in the ’hood, somewhere in Los Angeles, but we don’t know where. He talks about “getting out,” but not much beyond that. We know he had a scholarship for college, but not what school or for what field of study, though physics seems like a good guess. His girlfriend, Holly (Seychelle Gabriel), is in community college, but we don’t know where or what she’s studying. The result is a bland, underdeveloped portrait of Los Angeles, a city that requires a keen eye to pop, especially because so many films are set there.

The result is a bland, underdeveloped portrait of Los Angeles.

Because Sleight is a small indie that doesn’t have the luxury of wowing audiences with a ton of computer-generated imagery or other special effects, drawing out the small details of Bo’s life and making them feel special becomes much more important. Films don’t have to be expensive to be impactful; the dividends of a script that’s deliberate and considered can be massive. Sleight bears the mark of a screenplay that feels like it was dashed off in a few days.

The value in Sleight is demonstrating that films don’t necessarily need big budgets to be entertaining, even when they’re about superheroes. I just wish the creators had taken a little more time to fully enliven the world around their extraordinary protagonist.

Sleight is in theaters now.

Pots & pans: It’s about time it was Oscars-so-black Hollywood finally might be understanding that anyone’s story can be an American story

Sunday’s Academy Awards show from Hollywood is likely to present zingers about President Donald Trump.

But if the 45th president is showered with ridicule at the Oscars, Hollywood artists and corporate bigwigs also must confront a truth they might find hard to handle. Since its birth, the nation’s film industry has sold the world pernicious notions and stereotypes about everyone from African-American maids to Asian-American houseboys. And, in our nation of strangers, those notions and stereotypes have made it easier for generations of American politicians, including Trump, to demonize, diminish and denounce people defined as the other, especially people of color.

But Hollywood can atone for its past and present sins by recognizing the normality of being something other than an ostensibly straight young white man. Hollywood can cast actors of color even when there isn’t anything about the role that dictates the part be played by someone who is African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American or Native American. Further, Hollywood can embrace the idea that many people’s lives, their aspirations for decency and goodness, are rooted in their faiths, including Islam. Hollywood can embrace that anyone’s story can be an American story and that all well-told stories are universal.

Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that agitprop replace artistry and profits as the movie industry’s primary motivations: that Hollywood start making movies where disabled, transgender, undocumented Islamic immigrants of color over 60 start saving the world from invading space aliens. Though such plots wouldn’t be any more preposterous than films that feature white children saving the world or white men over 60, what my son calls kick-ass geezers, saving the day and getting the girl (a woman half the geezer’s age), too.

What I do advocate is that Hollywood take advantage of the abundance of talent at its disposal. Mahershala Ali (supporting actor nomination for Moonlight) and Ruth Negga (best actress nomination for Loving) should be future stars. Viola Davis (supporting actress nomination for Fences), Naomie Harris (supporting actress nomination for Moonlight) and Octavia Spencer (supporting actress nomination for Hidden Figures) should be brighter Hollywood stars than they are. By the way, Dev Patel, 26 and leading-man handsome, is the seventh member of a Hollywood minority group (an Indian from England) to garner a 2017 Oscar nod in an acting category: best supporting actor for Lion.

Further, today’s young black male film actors shouldn’t have to compete to be the next Denzel Washington: Hollywood’s black leading man of his generation, a baton Washington (best actor nomination for Fences) grasped from Sidney Poitier, who turns 90 today.

Rather, actors from Idris Alba to Chadwick Boseman should be able to go as far as their varied talents can take them, just as white actors such as Chris Evans, Chris Pratt and Chris Pine will. And it’s about time that an actress of color becomes the enduring Hollywood leading lady that Lena Horne, Rita Moreno and France Nuyen couldn’t be, the enduring Hollywood leading lady Halle Berry, Joan Chen and Jennifer Lopez almost were.

With 2017 best picture nominees Moonlight, Hidden Figures and Fences featuring largely black casts, Hollywood sees new evidence that such films can excite and satisfy diverse audiences. More top quality films featuring people of color should follow.

But if Hollywood steps up its pace of integrating the world’s fantasy life through its films, American communities of color need to reward the effort by going to see the good movies activists say we crave. The black community and others did that with Academy Award-nominated Hidden Figures, which grossed more than $100 million. But we didn’t do that for Queen of Katwe, a taut and sweet little movie that featured dynamic and endearing performances by David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o. It grossed a little over $10 million.

Sad. Let’s do better.