ON BLACK PANTHER AND THE WEALTH OF NATIONS

 

(studio press)

By: Tim cogshell

The narrative of Black Panther, its general entertainment values – which are significant – and its representations of Black folks in the contemporary zeitgeist all matter deeply and have generated for the film and its makers extraordinary reviews and acclaim.  I’ve written about the movie here:  http://cinegods.com/film-review-black-panther/. 

But it’s MONEY that I’m thinking about at the moment. 

A most significant moment in the history of Hollywood filmmaking.

There are practical matters of finance associated with the success of the Black Panther film, the first in the Marvel Universe to generate real wealth (as Chris Rock would call it) that will accrue to a good many Black people for decades to come. As of this writing Black Panther is officially the highest grossing February release ever and it achieved the fifth best opening weekend all time.

Indeed Black Panther has already made a lot of Black folks rich, but will be making them wealthy over time – which is even better.

Wealth – meaning millions of dollars that have already flowed to many Black folks via the film’s substantial budget (200 million) and the healthy salaries already paid to a cast of notable professionals; director, writers, producers, stars and many exceptional designers and craftspeople. Several having academy award nominations already in their credits – none of them cheap. I dare say more money has been paid to Black actors, directors, writers and producers on Black Panther than on any other film in the history of Hollywood.

I just pulled that out of my ass – yet somehow I’m pretty sure it’s true.

For the first time a Hollywood enterprise will make Black men and women rich – and perhaps powerful – in the same ways that big-budget action laden superhero flicks have made so many White male stars and directors and writers very rich – independently wealthy – such that they never had to work for anyone or do anything that they didn’t want to do – ever again.

This will be true for a number of people associated with Black Panther and more than ever before will be Black people. Consider this – how many Brown or Black folks became rich off of the many films and billions of Pounds Sterling, and dollars, generated by the Harry Potter series of films?

If your answer is none, you just pulled that out of your ass – but you’re probably right.

Black Panther, and all the associated income that will flow from its sequels and merchandising for many Christmas’ and Halloweens to come; from action figures to likeness of the characters (ergo the stars), on all manner of properly licensed items will make Ryan Coogler, Chadwick Boseman, Lupita NyOng’o, Michael B. Jordan and Danai Gurira as rich as Jon Favreau,  Robert Downey, Jr., the Chris who played Captain America and the other Chris who played Captain Kirk. Not to mention as rich as Ryan Reynolds, who got to play The Green Lantern and Deadpool before he got a superhero right – and got crazy-paid both times.

And don’t get me started how many White guys Batman has made rich. Prince is the only brotha every to get a nickel out of that franchise. 

The filmmakers of Black Panther will be rich and eventually wealthy – and – powerful filmmakers.

Ryan Coogler, who, with Fruitvale Station, Creed and Black Panther, has written and directed three critically acclaimed hits each more successful than the last, should own this town. He should get card blanche’ to do – frankly – whatever the fuck he wants to do.

Like Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson received the power to do whatever they want to do when they had three major hits in a row. Thus pop-star Harry Styles is in Dunkirk and that  nutty ending is in The Phantom Thread – because Nolan and PTA can do whatever the fuck the want to do. Card blanche’. Which is what Coogler should have – now.

So…  for the first time a good deal, if not most, of the wealth and power-capital generated from a big budget, studio produced and marketed, major motion picture will accrue to a bunch of Black people and that’s a seminal moment in Hollywood.

This wealth and stature will be felt and leveraged well beyond the more visible “creators” of Black Panther; the writers and director and glamorous stars. The film’s Production Designers and Wardrobe Designers and Composer, all Black, all earning “A” list incomes for their work on the movie, will earn substantial residual incomes for that work for decades to come.  And their rates just went up. They will be among the best paid in their respective fields because of their work on this movie. And that matters.

As an aside, Black Panther’s cinematographer is Rachel Morrison, a female person who happens not to be African American.  By happenstance, this year she is also the first woman to be nominated for an Oscar in her field for her work on Mudbound. Henceforth Ms. Morrison will be making Roger Deakins money. If she wins the Oscar she’ll make more than Roger – cuz – at the writing of the piece Mr. Deakins has yet to win an Academy Award. Though he is nominated this year as well for his work on Dunkirk and something else I can’t remember at the moment. No matter I hope the “girl” wins. Roger will be fine, he’s been making millions of dollars per-film he’s DP’d for 40 years without the statute. For Racheal it will translate into money and work that may make her as rich as Roger Deakins someday – and she’ll have an Academy Award.

In the future the CG effects in Black Panther will probably look laughably bad, as all CG effects are doomed to – eventually. Still the money spent to generate all the special effects, and everything else that went into making the first Marvel Superhero film to feature a Black lead – and a predominantly Black cast – will be providing significant income – wealth – to a lot of Black folks and women for decades.  Thus making the arrival of the Black Panther seminal in the history of a Hollywood in a number of ways above and below the title. This transfer of wealth from Hollywood coiffures to the bank accounts of Black folks and a lot of women – many of them Black women – is as notable an event associated with the movie industry as any in its history.

I’d put it up there with the additions of sound and color. No pun intended.

*** Black Panther generated $25 million in pre-sells and $300 million plus world wide over its opening holiday weekend becoming the highest grossing February release ever and the fifth best opening weekend all time.

FilmWeek’s 2017 Oscar preview from The Theatre at Ace Hotel

by FilmWeek

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KPCC’s FilmWeek critics and host Larry Mantle plus an audience of 1,000 gathered at the historic Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles for FilmWeek’s 2017 Oscar preview.LOUIS FELIX/KPCC

 

KPCC’s FilmWeek critics and host Larry Mantle plus an audience of 1,000 gathered at the historic Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles to discuss and debate the contenders for this year’s major Oscar categories. There were vigorous deliberations over “Moonlight” and “La La Land” in the Best Picture categories and almost no agreement on the Best Documentary Feature.

Who are you favoring for this year’s Academy Awards?

KPCC's FilmWeek critics and host Larry Mantle plus an audience of 1,000 gathered at the historic Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles for FilmWeek's 2017 Oscar preview.
KPCC’s FilmWeek critics and host Larry Mantle plus an audience of 1,000 gathered at the historic Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles for FilmWeek’s 2017 Oscar preview.LOUIS FELIX/KPCC

Critics:

Justin Chang, film critic for KPCC and the Los Angeles Times

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide

Christy Lemire, KPCC film critic and host of YouTube’s “What the Flick?”

Lael Loewenstein, KPCC film critic

Wade Major, KPCC film critic and host for IGN’s DigiGods.com

Amy Nicholson, KPCC film critic and chief film critic for MTV News

Peter Rainer, film critic for KPCC and the Christian Science Monitor

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and “Animation Magazine

 

 

 

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

Is it time to retire the term ‘black film’?

by Austin Cross and A Martínez | Take Two

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Still from the film “Moonlight.”DAVID BORNFRIEND

For the past two weekends, two films with black directors and mostly black casts have garnered considerable attention.

LISTEN HERE: Is it time to retire the term ‘black film’?

Boo! A Madea Halloween” and “Moonlight,” a coming of age tale of a young African American finding his identity as a gay man.

Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film cost about $20 million to make and has already brought in more than $56 million.

Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight,” shot on a shoestring budget, has been almost universally praised by critics and has earned more than $1.5 million playing in just four theaters over the past two weeks.

These successes have led some to wonder if black film is entering into a new chapter, and if the title “black film” ought to be retired for the term: “film.”

For answers, Take Two’s A Martinez spoke to Filmweek contributor Tim Cogshell.

Highlights

BY CALLING A FILM A BLACK FILM, DOES THAT CONFINE IT?

You know, it depends. If we say ‘French film,’ we understand that we’re probably talking about a film that is in the French language, but we’re probably also talking about a film that references French culture. I could say ‘a French film,’ and it might be made by an Algerian or a Moroccan, and it will be in the French language but it will very much not be about the French culture.

I think that what we have to do is to allow the notion of black film to evolve just like we have every other genre of film: German film, Japanese film, all those films can carry those monikers, but they’re all just films. They’re all cinema.

WHAT IF THE MOVIE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BLACK EXPERIENCE? SAY A BLACK FILMMAKER IS HIRED TO DIRECT A FILM ABOUT UNICORNS AND RAINBOWS?

Then you’re going to have yourself a film about unicorns and rainbows that is a black film. It’s gonna be a black film about unicorns and rainbows. And by the way, if it were a woman directing that film, then it would be a film about unicorns and rainbows that’s very female.

SO THE IDENTITY WILL ALWAYS BE THERE. MOONLIGHT DIRECTOR BARRY JENKINS WAS ASKED WHETHER HE SAW HIMSELF AS A BLACK FILMMAKER OR JUST A FILMMAKER. HIS RESPONSE WAS THAT THERE’S NO TIME WHEN BLACK CEASES TO BE A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC.

This is absolutely true. It’s true of us. Me, I’m a film critic, but I’m unequivocally a black film critic. My thoughts about film are filtered through my blackness because I’m black all day, every day.

ARE WE GOING TO START CLASSIFYING MOVIES DIFFERENTLY GOING FORWARD OR WILL THEY ALWAYS GO BACK TO THOSE LABELS?

You know, I think that they will always sort of go back to those same categories. What we need to expand is our understanding of what those categories mean. ‘Black film’ don’t necessarily mean Tyler Perry and Kevin Hart and “Boys in the Hood.” It can also mean Daughters of the Dust, wonderful Julie Dash’s movie. “Killer of Sheep,” by Charles Burnett. It might even mean a film that stars a white kid doing things in a white neighborhood that some black guy thought of.

Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview.

(Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.)

‘Loving’ inspires a DIY Film Festival of miscegenation films and shows you need to see…

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp   

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You don’t need to wait for the local art house to put on a themed film festival. Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC’s Filmweek and Alt Film Guide, and who blogs at CinemaInMind, is producing a series of DIY Film Festivals for Off-Ramp listeners to throw in the comfort of their own homes.

WATCH HERE:

 

LISTEN HERE:  ‘Loving’ inspires a DIY Film Festival of miscegenation films and shows you need to see

This DIY film festival is about miscegenation. Don’t know or remember what it means? Good.

Miscegenation is sex or marriage between people of different races — usually whites and blacks. It was illegal in much of the U.S. until the 60s, and was also either taboo or forbidden in cinema. This DIY festival, including a documentary, a short silent film, and even a few TV episodes, is inspired by Jeff Nichols’ new film “Loving,” which is about the 1967 miscegenation case that changed the law and the movies.

1. “The Loving Story” 2011

“Loving” was inspired by the HBO documentary, “The Loving Story,” which is the first film of our festival. Mildred and Richard Loving were an interracial couple who married in 1958, despite Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws.

 Richard and Mildred Loving in "The Loving Story," the 2011 documentary
Richard and Mildred Loving in “The Loving Story,” the 2011 documentaryTHE LOVING STORY

As good as the new narrative film is, the 2011 doc is better.

The Hays Code, the rules the movies were governed by, stated explicitly: “Miscegenation (sex-relationships between the white and black races) is forbidden.” When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Lovings, the 1930 Hays Code was replaced by the Classification and Rating System Administration. But before that, miscegenation was still fodder for Hollywood.

2. “What Happened in the Tunnel” (1903)

The earliest film to take on miscegenation may have been Edwin S. Porter’s very short 1903 film “What Happened in the Tunnel.”  It was considered funny in 1903, but the film probably contributed to the earliest rules on the miscegenation.

3. “Imitation of Life” (1934)

In the first “Imitation of Life,”  Fredi Washington plays Louise Beavers’ fair-skinned daughter who rejects her black heritage — and her mother — in favor of passing into the white world and landing a white husband. It barely made it past the censors, but today it’s in the National Film Registry, and Time called it one of “The 25 Most Important Films on Race.”

You might also want to check out Douglas Sirk’s 1959 “Imitation of Life,” which is still popular among African American women of a certain age.

4. “Pinky” (1949)

In “Pinky,” Jeanne Crain is a young woman who slips into passing as white almost by accident when she goes away to nursing school. She feels guilty, but yet so aware of what being white could mean to her life. Pinky doesn’t hate being black, she just wants what life being white could offer … including the white man who wants to marry her.

5. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” (1967)

Next on our list, Stanley Kramer’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” from 1967, in which a white girl falls in love with a black man, played by Sidney Poitier, and when the families meet for dinner, they hash it out earnestly. This film took a beating from the left and the right from the day it was released, as we saw in “The Butler,” when David Oyelowo’s young Black Panther disparages Sidney Poitier. It’s problematic for any number of reasons, but I defend its intention — fervently. Before the change in the movie code or the Loving decision, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” faced down the nations’ bigots.

6. “Movin’ with Nancy” (1967)

After the Loving case, the notion of miscegenation in film and television evolved. Soon we saw the first kiss on American prime time network TV when Kirk and Uhura kissed in a 1968 episode of “Star Trek.” The suits from the network resisted the interracial kiss — but the tepid peck made it to air and is said to be the first such kiss on network TV.

Or maybe it wasn’t:

The December 1967 episode of “Movin’ with Nancy” features a kiss between Nancy Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. more than a year before that “Star Trek” episode. The easy, friendly kiss comes at the very end of the photo session scene. A few years later,  in February of 1972, Sammy would go on plant the kiss that sealed the deal for anti-miscegenation attitudes in America once and for all.

Sammy Davis, Jr. kisses Carrol O'Connor on "All in the Family"
Sammy Davis, Jr. kisses Carrol O’Connor on “All in the Family”CBS

When Sammy kisses Archie Bunker, it was effectively the first kiss between a Protestant-white-male-bigot and a black-male-converted-Jew on American television.

It was on the cheek, and in many ways is reminiscent of that original kiss in Edwin S. Porter’s short silent film. Only this time it’s not racist and is actually funny. It left the nation a little stunned and ended the issue of miscegenation in American media — forever — although the state of Alabama would not repeal its miscegenation laws until the year 2000.

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/