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Marvel chooses Ava DuVernay as director for Black Panther movie & she turns them down

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UPDATE 05.07.15:

Following weeks of speculation and excitement on social media “Selma” director Ava DuVernay has confirmed that she has passed on the director’s spot for Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ project. Speaking to Essence magazine DuVernay confirmed “I’m not signing on to direct Black Panther. I think I’ll just say we had different ideas about what the story would be. Marvel has a certain way of doing things, and I think they’re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me. I loved meeting Chadwick (Boseman who will play Black Panther) and the writers and all the Marvel execs….in the end it comes down to story and we just didn’t see eye to eye. “Better for me to realize that now than cite creative differences later”.

The confirmation will come as a disappointment to fans of the director and Marvel who had high hopes for DuVernay’s take on Marvel’s first black superhero. It’s rumoured the character will make his first appearance in the upcoming “Captain America-Civil War” which is currently filming and due for release next spring.

 

The Age of the Black Superhero?

Written By Olu Alemoru
Freelance Journalist
April 2015

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Depending on your point of view feisty Fast and Furious actress Michelle Rodriguez may or may not have put her foot in her mouth not so long ago admonishing “minority” thesps for “stealing white Michelle-Rodriguez1people’s superheroes.” The instant backlash brought an apology and explanation exhorting black creatives to come up with our own superhero mythologies.

Historically, we did. Outside the mainstream Marvel/DC duopoly, the modern day black superhero movement was given a boost by the likes of Dawud Anyabwile, creator with his brothers of the 90’s Brotherman Comics Series (which is being re-launched this month as a graphic novel via crowdfunding site Indiegogo) and the late Dwayne McDuffie, writer/producer on the animated Justice League series and co-founder of pioneering minority-owned and operated comic book company Milestone Media.
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But maybe that kooky Rodriguez lass is on to something!

While the second Avengers, “The Age of Ultron,” looks set to crush all comers this summer, last October Marvel announced the big budget feature debut of Black Panther (with Chadwick Boseman portraying the King of Wakanda). Boseman’s – who starred as Jackie Robinson in “42” and James Brown in “Get On Up” – Panther will take his bow in “Captain America: Civil War” before his big solo outing slated for November 2017.

MICHAEL-B-JORDAN_HUMAN-TORCBut if you can’t wait for that then later this year the Disney-owned entertainment behemoth and Netflix will unveil Luke Cage (starring American television actor Mike Colter) as a recurring character in “Marvel’s A.K.A Jessica Jones,” before spinning him off in his own series in 2016. Throw in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as DC’s mooted anti-hero “Black Adam,” the re-imagining of characters like The Human Torch (Michael B Jordan) in “The Fantastic Four” and Heimdall (Idris Elba) in “Thor” (with the yelping fanboy backlash) and one might conclude we’re on the cusp of a black Superhero age?

Naturally, a call through to Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige or one of his executive team might answer the question definitively, but a reporter’s dogged phone and email attempts through a Disney senior PR didn’t bear fruit.

However, surveying the eye-catching slate of properties Marvel Studios announced last November running through to 2019, Q.E.D., one might say. BlackAdamDriven by the creative deconstruction of the Marvel and DC’s comic universes (or political correctness/white liberal guilt/publicity stunts say the yelpers) it seems that things are shaking up in the fantasy world – super heroine Carol Danvers, a.k.a “Captain Marvel,” makes her debut on July 6, 2018 – and make no mistake.

Sheena C. Howard, an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Rider University, Mercer County, New Jersey and the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con Eisner Award Winner (known as the “Oscar” of Comics) agreed. Howard, who is gay, became the first black woman to win the award. “I think major companies are realizing that they can diversify classic characters, without completely alienating their historical target market (White males),” she replied via email. “This is simply maximizing their profits and the rewards of this diversity are much greater than the costs. I do not think the same Avenger audience will be flocking to the theatres to see the Black Panther movie. There will be some overlap, but there will also be some new faces in those seats. The comics industry has tapped into a new fan base, which includes women and racial minorities.”

However, seasoned Hollywood artist/animator and Creative-Art Director at Brice Productions, Jerry Lee Brice, begged to differ. “No, I don’t think this is a special age for any race of character in the commercial marketplace, but (it is) a good time to introduce new superheroes that reflect the diversity that the latest U.S. census shows that we have,” he stated. “As a black American, I do enjoy and welcome the opportunity to see superheroes that look like me.”

Brice also took on the fanboy backlash, arguing that it was “just a reflection of our nation’s difficult relationship with race.”

He added: “So I don’t think much about what fanboys like or dislike, really, because I understand that in the commercial marketplace, once you expand the dynamics of the team, you increase the audience for that title, and as long as the characters are fictional, whatever the race or sex they are does not matter as much as the writing.”

Echoing the bottom line ethos of Hollywood when it comes to such cultural matters, Dr. David Huxley, a Senior Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University’s School of Art, kind of hedges his bets on whether we’re in for a new Superhero age.

“Marvel, when challenged about the lack of black Superheroes in the 1960s and 70s, answered that the titles they’d tried, like Luke Cage, just weren’t successful enough,” said the graphic novel and comic book specialist. “I suspect the same commercial imperatives remain – if Black Panther is popular in the Avengers he’ll get his own franchise – just as with comics it’s the numbers that are the bottom line [and] I suspect that as long as it’s not seen as tokenism there is no reason why this couldn’t be the right time. Hollywood has enough successful black actors to make it work.”
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ONES TO WATCH

A futuristic Nigerian Superhero (no, not this author – yet), a feisty turn-of-the-century gender-bending inventor and an android with a secret past.

Since time waits for no man or woman, talented black creatives are taking full advantage of mainstream crowdfunding hubs, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, or forming their own studio entities with their own moolah.

Here are three that are worthy of attention:-
1. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/44069577/exo-the-legend-of-wale-williams-part-one
2. http://reelrepublic.com/EJ-Whitaker-Coming-Soon.html
3. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/473463284/cannon-busters-the-animated-series-pilot/description

Chadwick Boseman Rising Star

By Leslie Byron Pitt
25.11.14

 

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Chadwick Boseman already has two iconic African-American parts under his belt and with his upcoming role as Black Panther in the upcoming Marvel features; Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther, Boseman looks set to become one of his generations top African-American leading men.

The talented Boseman was born in 1977, in Anderson, South Carolina to Nurse Carolyn, and furniture businessman Leroy Boseman. A graduate of T.L Hanna High School in 1995, Boseman later graduated from Howard University in Washington D.C with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in directing, before attending the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England.

Before embarking on a television career, Boseman worked as a stage actor, performing in a number of stage productions as well as writing and directing his own work. One of his most notable stage roles is the 2002 play Urban Transitions: Loose Blossoms. Written by Ron Milner, Urban Transitions is an edgy drama in which the fast and loose income from drug running, slowly inflects a newly suburban African American family. His performance earned him an award from AUDELCO, a committee which strives to stimulate interest and support in performing arts within black communities. From a writing point of view, his most notable work, was his third play, Deep Azure, a hip-hop theatre production, in which a black, anorexic woman’s fiancé is shot by a black police officer. The play, which is loosely based on an actual shooting was nominated for a Jeff Award in 2006.

It was 2003 in which Boseman gained his break on television with a variety of TV episodes, including Third Watch, ER and Law and Order. Around this time, as well as starring film shorts, Boseman made sure to keep hold of his behind the scene passions. He wrote and directed the 18 minute short Blood over a Broken Pawn (2008), which deals with a traumatized coffee shop owner stumbling into a dangerous situation with a chess master after an altercation with an innocent child.

From 2008 Boseman found himself in more prominent roles, including considerable appearances in the taut mini-series Persons Unknown, created by Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie, and Drama series Lincoln Heights, in which he plays injured Iraq War veteran, Nate. The shadow of war also followed Boseman in a leading role as a troubled veteran alongside Troy Kittles (Olympus has Fallen) in 2012’s The Kill Hole. During this time, Boseman found himself in episodes of hit shows such as Fringe, Justified and Castle.

In 2013 Boseman made the jump into movies, performing as one of Baseball’s most famous stars; Jackie Robinson, in the biographical feature 42. The film, written by Academy Award winner; Brian chadwickbosemanHelgeland became the best premiere for a Baseball film in Hollywood History with a $27.3 million opening weekend. Despite only being released theatrically in the U.S and Canada, the film grossed a total of $95 Million and surpassed its $40 Million budget. 42 has been well received by audiences and critics alike, with Boseman’s performance has the stoic, yet heroic Robinson garnered high praise. 42 gained high praise when it was endorsed by the first lady, Michelle Obama at a screening and film workshop, which Boseman also took part in, at the White House. Mrs Obama was quoted to have said that “We believe everybody needs to see this movie.” the kind of praise that many hope more black movies will achieve in the future.

In 2014 Boseman has turned that praise into Oscar Buzz with his most electrifying performance to date. Get On Up; the celebratory biopic of James Brown, has had nothing but superlatives placed on the 37 year old’s performance as Brown. John Patterson (Guardian) described the display as chadwick-boseman-as-james-brown“volcanic”, while Tim Robey (Daily Telegraph) states that the performance holds a “wicked attitude”. In my own review of the film for kushfilms.com: I considered Boseman’s poise and understanding of Brown as a persona is just too strong to ignore. It’s a performance is so powerful that you can see the cast running off the energy it creates.

In an article for the Guardian, it had been stated that there was pressure on the director; Tate Taylor, to place a rapper in the main role. Such a cynical commercial ploy was quickly nixed by Taylor, who could only see Boseman in the part, based on a hunch. Boseman himself considered the role to be too big a role for an up and coming actor, and almost dismissed it based on the fact he had just played Jackie Robinson. To find out that after accepting the role, Bosemon had only 6 weeks to learn the various moves of Brown before principal photography, only makes the performance even more impressive.

The part of Brown has generated a healthy amount of Oscar buzz for the young actor, but it’s his next role, that should help take him into the upper echelons of Hollywood’s movers and shakers. It has been recently announced in October, that Boseman has signed a five movie deal with Marvel to chadwick_boseman_black_pantplay Black Panther in his own feature film, and including a supporting role in Captain America 3: Civil War. The role marks a significant movement for the Marvel studio diversifying their movies towards other markets. Comic fans may know more about Panther than many of the laymen who paid their money to see The Avengers, but many felt the same about Ironman in 2008. Boseman has shown the ability to take a larger than life character and ran with it and the match-up could be a landmark point in the current successful comic book cycle.

The future does indeed look radiant with this handsome, young talent. Boseman’s upcoming prospects may allow him not only climb the Hollywood mountain as an actor, but possibly allow him to propose further projects with his name at the writing/directional helm. While such a statement can currently only be raised as an assumption, I must admit that the future of African American Film is sparkling a little brighter.

Film Review: Get On Up (James Brown Biopic)

 

Written By Leslie Pitt
06.11.14

 

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The musical biopic suffers from the similar issues that we’ve recently reserved for fantasy/sci-fi/comic movies. The film is released and a hardcore contingent will gripe at the “authenticity” of the piece. Are all the facts correct? Are they in the right place? For myself, the biopic doesn’t necessarily need to be “right” to be on point. I do need a musical biopic to get me invested into the work and spirit of the artist that’s being portrayed. It shouldn’t take too many liberties, but the biopic must be able to straddle both the history as well as the sense of entertainment that the performer themselves would give. Get on Up; the musical biopic of funk and RnB legend James Brown, struggles with the balance, but holds a lead performance who can happily carry the weight upon on his glossy, purple clothed shoulders.

As with many musical biopics, Get on Up suffers from common issues found within the sub-genre. The narrative arc obviously rises and falls with each convenient hit track. The ex-wife makes angry appearances. Aspects such as overspending and womanising are forced into signposted info dumps while we have to see the struggling artist, warm the soul of the one rich person who’s willing to give him a chance. We get the long suffering best friend who sticks by the artist and of course the winking nod of the other talented individual who sends the artist on their way, but can only be seen in one scene, because they’re equally as well known in real life and it’s not their movie (although Brendon Smith steals his scene as Little Richard). And yes, let me just say it now, when the artist hits rock bottom, drugs are of course involved.

I kept most of the above paragraph generic because, as we’ve seen in other musical biopics (Ray being the most notable), these elements seldom feel fresh. It’s not to say that these things didn’t happen to James Brown, but as with previous musical bios, such points are quite typically portrayed. We don’t expect such moments to surprise. Even the film’s offbeat approach to the narrative does little to hide the seams. At his lowest ebb, a stoned Brown joyrides a truck and brings it to a halt when the cops gain the upper hand. As Brown steps out of the car, he is shown as his childhood self. This is something that makes sense in the narrative, as one of the film’s themes is about Brown’s lost innocence, but feels too obvious as a motif.

None of this truly matters, however, as Chadwick Boseman’s star making performance, coupled with the downright funkiness of Brown’s musical material makes the film worth watching. I can honestly say, as a film fan who is not too interested in Awards, I’ll be disappointed if Boseman is not a frontrunner. His charm continuously pulls the film up from its bootstraps, while his mannerisms are note perfect. Boseman’s poise and understanding of Brown as a persona is just too strong to ignore. Now signed on as The Black Panther for the next wave of Marvel movies; this will make him well-known, but it’ll be Get on Up that will show the man’s formidable talents.

Director Tate Taylor does well to harness Boseman’s energy anyway he can. The musical sequences crackle, while the screenplays humour is well drawn out due to the display. The chemistry shared between Boseman and Nelsen Ellis as Bobby Byrd is also sizeable, although the cast as a whole all do well to feed off the central performance.

It becomes clear that Boseman’s portrayal is stronger than the screenplay’s, which does a good job broadening the appeal of Brown and sanitising a lot of his controversy. Taylor uses a novel choice of having Brown break the forth wall and address the audience. Yet without some of James’ wilder stories, the idea is only able to go so far. It’s interesting to compare this with not only Taylor Hackford Ray (2005), which, while very entertaining, brings similar issues with it, but also Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra (2013), which is far less hesitant in approaching its subject’s darker shades.

In the same way of the likes of Ray or Notorious (2009), Get on Up doesn’t tell the full warts and all story (then again with the producer’s being Brian Glazer and Mick Jagger, why would it?).

Despite this, it’s hard not to get whipped up in the infectious nature of Boseman’s portrayal of Brown. Get on Up is far from perfect, but it is an entertaining feature which should get, those who enjoy Brown to dust off their LP’s and younger watchers to look him up on Wikipedia. In essence, that’s all we need a biopic to do.

 


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