Why waste time knocking another writer’s immensely successful hustle when the target publicly decides to do it (somewhat) to himself? Ta-Nehisi Coates comes thisclose to admitting that he went a little bit Hollywood because Barack Obama’s 2018 campaign and presidency allowed the Howard University dropout to travel the Horatio Alger-Don King trail “from the unemployment office to the Oval Office.” One of his articles collected here, a select compilation of his Obama work for The Atlantic magazine, actually ends with his moving-on-up like George Jefferson and Weezie; that the scene ends a piece arguing that Malcolm X’s legacy lived in President Obama—the president who, in the beginning, apologized to a white police officer who arrested Harvard Africana Studies professor Henry Louis Gates for breaking into his own house, and, at the end, refused to pardon Marcus Garvey—makes it, in retrospect, even more puzzling and saddening. (Coates now admits his optimistic idea was “strained.” Really? You don’t say. :)) The honest-as-I-can-be new introductory essays are vitally important to understand the writer’s formulations as he was “swept away” by the Obamas while, not coincidentally, Michelle’s and Barack’s presence on the national stage “opened up” an elite white journalistic market to New Negroes who supposedly had new, innovative things to say. However, what makes this book and the superbly talented writer more than redeemable are its/his final two angry essays, “My President Was Black” and the epilogue, “The First White President.” Coates’ 2016 post-election night analysis of America contains immense socio-historical clarity. The pieces shake up the writer and the reader, allowing all to see the abandonment of Black America’s eight-year experiment with being adjective-less and to introduce in detail the insidious power of whiteness. (Taken together, the Trump-election duo pack a much better punch than his too-much-heralded 2015 single-essay work, “Between the World and Me.”) With The Donald now in charge whether people use his name or not, Coates’ years of literary sharecropping as forgotten as Friendster, and his white readers now fully understanding that they have never been, and are not now, innocent, the book’s end marks the beginning of a golden era of his writing.
There are now six “Spider-Man” films, and this fresh, lighthearted ’80s-teen-films-inspired romp is better than 1, 3, 4 and 5. (But not combined. And no “Spider-Man” film may ever be better than Tobey Maguire’s “Spider-Man 2,” and Marvel Films has seemingly made peace with that reality.) And don’t be surprised that your opinion of Spidey’s high-tech, 2017 costume might be determined by how old you are. As the villain, superhero movie veteran Michael Keaton brings the amount of gravitas this film sometimes wants and needs. After the identity-discovering shocks of “Homecoming”‘s final scenes, it’s clear Zendaya is not the only one who is no longer undercover. And be sure to stay to the very end of the credits like the well-trained Pavlovian Marvel Films dogs we now are…..(heehee 🙂 ).
DC finally found its superhero alchemist formula. In this particular case: take the best parts of 2011 Marvel Films’ “Captain America,” but make them five times better. Wrap in a Greek mythological mosaic photographed like a fable and, in the World War I scenes, very old war footage. Add a thrilling, fun, full story–a war film with great characters and dialogue. Don’t try to hide from the racial/sexual dynamics. Mix until it explodes on-screen. Then flip the bird to Marvel Films. 🙂
“Wonder Woman” is the equal of “The Dark Knight,” arguably the greatest Hollywood superhero film ever made. That’s the highest compliment I can give this film. If this fall’s “Justice League” is just three-quarters as good as “Wonder Woman,” DC will have represented itself well.