(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: Black Panther.)
When Gone with the Wind premiered in 1939 in Atlanta, one of its stars wasn’t allowed to attend because Georgia law at the time prevented black people from entering whites-only movie theaters. Two months after being barred from seeing the launch of her own movie, Hattie McDaniel became the first black Oscar winner, accepting the award in a whites-only hotel in Los Angeles, allowed in the building only because David O. Selznick was powerful enough to ask a favor.
Gone with the Wind is the highest-grossing movie of all time adjusted for inflation. By every definition it is a blockbuster. Its depictions, its compromises of its own artists, and its legacy are all important background to consider now that, a little over 78 years later, Black Panther is about to roar onto screens.
No, Black Panther isn’t the first black superhero movie. No, it’s not the first blockbuster with a black director. But the sheer scope of its cast (including multiple Oscar winners who thankfully didn’t need favors to get into the room where they hoisted their statues) and the massive, mainstream cultural cache that comes with any Marvel movie make Black Panther an event on another level.
78 years between the two. Something to think about while we consider some other movies to double feature alongside T’Challa’s first solo adventure.
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Since 1989 the National Film Registry has preserved films in the Library of Congress that are determined to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” This year’s crop of additions has been announced and it’s a pretty varied group that seems to recognize lasting value of ‘new’ classics (The Exorcist, Grey Gardens, All the Presidents Men) and some of the achievements of people who passed this year (Airplane!, The Empire Strikes Back, The Pink Panther). Read the full list after the break. Read More »
Sitting opposite Ed Norton in an empty conference room in a skyrise, one can’t avoid thinking about the hyper-charged situations he’s glared down on film. Clad in a black shirt and noticeably relaxed, he takes a moment before responding to a question, pressing a small washer-like object into the table and letting it spring back. It allows a brief window to search for the chiseled Nazi skinhead who forced a thug to tooth a curb in American History X. And for the office drone who scaled barbwire fences late at night to steal the excess fat of women and absorbed grueling punches in Fight Club. And for the smack dealer in 25th Hour who walked man’s best friend by a World Trade Center-less horizon, as unprepared for a future in the clink as the U.S. was for its uncertain present.
Norton is obsessively drawn to characters whose scariest adversary is in the mirror. It doesn’t matter if the playing field is a study in madness or a testy, possibly concluded, stint in the Marvel Universe as Bruce Banner. His latest film, a thoughtful thriller entitled Leaves of Grass, puts a literal spin on his interest in duality. He plays formerly estranged, highly intelligent twins—one a respected and reserved philosophy professor, the other a shaggy distributor of hydroponic marijuana.
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