#Adulting: Stop Underestimating Us

One of the industries millennials are accused of killing is Movie Theaters. It got so bad at one point that AMC Theaters proposed allowing texting in theaters (then decided against it). The movie industry was convinced millennials simply weren’t interested in movies, because of their attention spans. But the truth was, millennials (and other audiences) weren’t interested in movies, because of the content, i.e. the movies themselves.

If the past year in movies is any consolation, what audiences wanted were people who looked like them, sounded like them, lived like them–new stories about lives that are all too relatable yet often ignored. With one caveat–these stories must be told well.

I bring this up because even with the box-office successes of Marvel’s Black Panther, Disney’s A Wrinkle in TimeLove, Simon, and Ocean’s 8, there were still headlines with implicit surprise at how well Pixar’s The Incredibles 2 did, for an animated short.

(Photo Credit Buzzfeed)

While the previous four films finally touch on human experiences that are constantly ignored in media and politics (i.e. Being black, being a black girl, being LGBT, being a woman, respectively) maybe not flawlessly but still well done, The Incredibles 2, at first glance, doesn’t typically go outside the box in that regard. But it does specifically answer the question of “What would get millennials back to the movie theater?” (this, of course, is assuming millennials had left the theater, which, they didn’t by the way)

Unlike the present climate of reboots, remakes, and revivals, The Incredibles 2 (which picks up right where the first left off) had been originally planned for release a few years after its 2004 original, The Incredibles. But a few years turned into a few more then a few more then even more, until that initial two to three years became fourteen. Even though animated films take a few years to create, fourteen or even more than ten is never the magic number; especially when the same studio was able to create two more Cars films and a previously unplanned Finding Nemo sequel during that same period. The stall in the process was not due to the process itself (as the actors in the clip before the film may suggest), but rather to the company underestimating the level of interest among the key audience at the time (despite the fact that the 2004 had a decent opening at the box office).

It just happens to be coincidental that the key audience (children during 2004) for the first Incredibles film, eagerly waiting and waiting for the sequel, happen to fall within the “millennial” age group now. Not only did millennials show up and show out for the Incredibles sequel fourteen years later, they did so in droves. Why? Because the first movie was incredible (pun intended) is a good guess. But why the surprise at the turn out? Another industry, specifically movies, refused to listen to its consumers–really listen to what they’re clammering for and not just their supposed buying power; another audience was, once again millennials, was underestimated.

According to the Buzzfeed article about its box office numbers for opening weekend, only 28% of the tickets bought were children’s price. This means about 70% (give or take) were adult tickets–maybe millennials by themselves, maybe millennials with kids (the oldest millennial is around thirty-seven years old). The premiere weekend was the most successful animated feature opening in recent American history.

I could hope that this movie is the final nail in the coffin of the “Millennials Are Killing Movie Theaters” accusation (and had noted a similar sentiment in the podcast I produce), the final nail in the “Movie Theaters are dying” argument, that the movie industry will recognize that their only purpose is to release good movies–movies that inspire, movies that display stories audiences haven’t seen before (on the big screen or ever), movies that reflect their audiences back on the screen in front of them. It’s a simple enough job to just create worthwhile, well-told stories…yet I’d be surprised if these trends are enough to persuade the industry. Oh well.

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What I’m Listening To: WBUR/New York Times’s Modern Love. It’s not a typical podcast; each episode is an actor reciting an essay from The New York Times  Modern Love column, then the host asking the writer of the essay for more details or context. My favorite, so far, is Constance Wu reading an essay titled, “Marry A Man Who Loves His Mother.”

What I’m Reading: So many great YA Novel to movie adaptations are coming! In preparation, I just finished Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star. If you’ve read the book, you’ll understand my nervousness for the upcoming movie adaptation (since the book was more angst than romance, in my opinion). But since Yara Shahidi’s in, I may have to bite the bullet.

What I’m Watching: (See post above) Also Freeform’sThe Bold Type is back! I really love this show because it feels like a modern Sex and the City meets The Devil Wears Prada but with LGBT and POC characters as well.

(Photo Credit Wikipedia)

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#Adulting: Women and Their Stories

Happy Women’s History Month!

It was a smooth transition from Black History Month (2018 Black Panther) to Women’s History Month (2018 A Wrinkle in Time), in terms of American cinema, so be sure to check out both films that incorporate women of a variety of ages, occupations, and, yes, nationalities.

The first day of the month also featured a pretty powerful crossover between Shonda Rhimes’s created shows, Scandal  and How To Get Away With Murder. The first half (the Scandal hour) is where Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) butt heads and acknowledge the levels of privilege (and even colorism) that exist within the black community, especially among black women. (The setting of a hair salon is important, trust me.)

 

The second half of the special (How To Get Away with Murder) shows Viola Davis orating one of the best monologues of her career as her character, Annalise Keating, presents to the Supreme Court about the disproportionately high rates of incarceration of people of color in America, as a “by-product” of the systemic and institutional racism that never went away with the passing of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the United States Constitution.

 

What a way to start Women’s History Month (which, yes, does include black women)!

On March 9, A Wrinkle in Time (2018) released into American theaters. Directed by the Queen Sugar-genius, Ava Duvernay, the movie is adapted from the 1962 book by Madeleine L’Engle, and stars women such as Oprah Winfrey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and newcomer, Storm Reid. I won’t review this book-to-movie adaptation (which I finished re-reading the morning I saw the movie) because I’m sure there is no shortage of reviews of this blockbuster film.

I will note how much I appreciated Reid’s portrayal of Meg Murray. In these first few months of 2018, we’ve been blessed with creations that show what it’s like to be a black child who has lost a parent through maybe losing their way (*Black Panther spoiler* Erik Killmonger), to an institutional system that was always against them (How To Get Away with Murder, Nate Lahey), or to progress but forgetting the effects on the family left behind (A Wrinkle in Time, Meg Murray).  In A Wrinkle in Time, there were two moments that particularly struck me (spoilers ahead):

Storm Reid plays Meg Murry in ‘A Wrinkle In Time.’ Photo Credit

 

When asked by her principal what would happen if her father did come back, Meg said quietly, “Everything would make sense again,” which shows how big an effect the presence of one person has on our lives, especially when their absence is clearly noted by all members of the community and the media that depict families that are whole, that convey See? This is what a family looks like. This is what happiness looks like.

The second moment is towards the end of the movie when Meg admits in a loud and clear voice, “You know, most days I hate myself.” But then goes on to say she can get past it because she knows that her family, especially her brother, Charles Wallace, loves her in spite of (and sometimes because of) her faults.

It was a jarring yet cathartic moment to see someone admit that their faults, especially in a time (and culture) where women are supposed to love everything about themselves and radiate this positive self-esteem every hour of everyday. And the moment debunked the popular notion that you can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself wholly first. What nonsense! Sometimes the path to loving yourself is reinforced by someone else showing their unconditional love for you by example.

A common theme among these stories of women is the combination of strength and love, something the world often forgets can exist (and should exist) in tandem.

(Also, what would Women’s History Month be if I didn’t thank my mother for displaying both those qualities seemingly effortlessly? So thanks, Mom!)

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What I’m Listening To: Black Panther: The Music from and Inspired By curated by Kendrick Lamar. I’m the first to admit that I’m not terribly well-versed in hip-hop. That said, you can definitely find something to love on this album (if not every track) because Lamar does a fantastic job with the collaborations, connecting the music and even the lyrics with the sound design and plot and characters from the movie. (My favorite tracks are “Bloody Waters,” “Opps,” “Redemption,” and of course,” and “All the Stars” (because I’m just a little bit basic and the lyric “Corrupt a man’s heart with a gift/ That’s how you find who you dealing with” just hits too hard).

What I’m Reading: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (see post above) and the second novel by The Martian-author Andy Weir, Artemis.

Artemis is fitting for Women’s History Month since the protagonist is a Saudi Arabian-national woman by the name of Jazz Bashara. Like Mark Watney, Jazz is quick-witted, brilliant in STEM brainstorming, and sarcastic. Unlike Mark, Jazz lives on a society on the moon called Artemis and she is slightly problematic. (I have to admit though, The Martian is funnier, and Weir’s shot at writing a woman seems, at times, misinformed.)

 

What I’m Watching: A Wrinkle in Time (2018),  Marvel’s Black Panther (2018) (yes, more than once, can you blame me?), and Netflix’s Jessica Jones Season Two.

#Adulting: Black History Month

February’s been a whirlwind of activities for me (including the second episode of my podcast miniseries–Killing the Industry: Dinner Dates). The most important? Celebrating Black History.

I’ve been a bit passive in the past when celebrating Black History Month, because school has always been a great reminder of projects and events. This year, however, I’ve had to be more proactive about enriching my melanin education. Here’s how I’ve attempted to do so:

  1. Checking Out Social Media Posts- ex. Naturally Political on Facebook. For those who know me, I’m not a huge fan of Facebook, but the Naturally Political Page has been posting a new site of African American history everyday this month, including but not limited to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History to smaller-known (but still as important) sites in Arkansas. (Full disclosure: I know one of the moderators and therefore, privy to amount of careful research she puts into each posting.)
  2. 2. Checking Out Events IRL- ex. An Evening with Ruth E. Carter. This outing was like killing two birds with one stone since a) the event was a Q&A with Marvel’s Black Panther (2018) costume designer Ruth E. Carter, and b) the event was held in the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. In addition to pumping me up for such a highly-anticipated superhero movie by hearing of Carter’s creative influences (from specific Ethiopian tribes to Japanese designers such as Issey Miyake to afro-futurism and royalty elements transmuted through the uses of black and purple), I also had the chance to view parts of museum’s artwork at night.

 

3.Checking Out Interests with a Twist- ex. Marvel’s Black Panther opening-day screening. During Carter’s talk (and perhaps you already knew this), she mentioned that Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther had been added to Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War (2016) sort of last minute, but the character made a big impact.When tickets first went on sale for Black Panther, they nearly sold out. Prior to the screening, I’d felt mildly prepared–I’d attended the talk with the Carter, read a few of the recent Black Panther comics, etc. But after the movie…

 

(If you haven’t seen it yet, you really, really should.)

Even though February is winding down, I appreciate its placement as the second month of the year. Because it feels like it’s not the only month to celebrate Black History, but more like a great introduction to celebrate it the rest of year.

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What I’m Listening To: “Finesse Remix” Featuring Cardi B. by Bruno Mars. In addition to Cardi B’s spin on the song, I’m in love with this music video. It’s a tribute to the 90’s comedy-sketch show, In Living Color, where comedic greats like Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier, T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh (remember her? she played Raven’s mom on That’s So Raven), and Jim Carrey got started. Also, the song is just catchy, right?

What I’m Reading: Marvel’s Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Books Two and Three by Ta-nehisi Coates.

What I’m Watching: Marvel’s Black Panther (2018) (of course), but PBS has some spectacular documentaries playing this month, like Stanley Nelson’s documentary on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tell Them We Are Rising.

Also, I know I’m super late, but I finally saw Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017). Those Oscar and Golden Globe nominations are well-deserved.