Anyone else ready for this year to be over? I know I certainly am. After facing a global pandemic, an economic recession, police brutality, and all of the migraines that come with elections and Facebook arguments, 2020 is a year I am very ready to say good riddance to. And even though I predicted in my Top 10 Movies of 2019 list that 2020 was going to be a “long, pulsating, cancer-sized headache,” I never expected it to grow into the tumorous size as large as it has. This year was so God-awful, depressing, and mind-numbingly frustrating that I’m legitimately happy that Joe Biden won the Presidency. How miserable does your year have to be where you’re actually excited that the oldest carpet-bagger in existence is taking over the White House from the orange idiot that has more Twitter flags that an InfoWars fan page?
But I don’t want to mull around politics too much, especially since so many people are already doing more than enough of that for me on Parler. Instead I want to end 2020 reflecting on better times, namely the 2010s and all of the amazing movies that came with it. Since I couldn’t do my Top 10 movies of the year as I usually do, I wanted to instead do a roundup of my favorite movies from the decade and break down why they are so special to me. So strap yourselves in and join me on this fun detour to the past, where wearing masks wasn’t a thing, the end times weren’t upon us, and theaters were filled with cinemagoers that were just as excited for the movies as you were. From top to bottom, here are 10 of my favorite films of the decade.
A friend of mine shared a mantra with me recently that 2020 shouldn’t be the year where we dwell on what we’ve lost, but rather appreciate what we may have taken for granted. I feel that way about my year-end lists. Year after year, I offer a handful of sarcastic remarks about Top 10 lists and how trivial they are in summarizing the year in review. I will never ever ever say another bad thing about Top 10 lists ever again, because in addition to my social life, peace of mind, and general sanity, my Top 10 movies was yet another thing I had to say goodbye to in 2020 because I legitimately did not have enough movies to fill my Top 10.
I know, shocker. Hundreds of canceled premieres and rescheduled movie releases, you’d think something would pop up from all of the Netflix and chilling I’ve been doing this year. Sure, I could populate my list with the few blockbuster movies I caught earlier in the year, including The Call Of The Wild,Sonic The Hedgehog, and Bad Boys For Life (which actually wasn’t that bad for a threequel that nobody asked for). Unfortunately, I am a stickler when it comes to my lists, and I don’t rank a movie unless it truly deserves it, even if it’s during a pandemic.
Although many films were shelved this year due to theaters closing and movie releases being postponed, 2020 wasn’t completely barren. The remake of the horror classic The Invisible Man, for instance, ingeniously updated its material for the 21st-century with a feminist message that felt neither preachy nor on-the-nose, and Leigh Whannell offered some genuine scares through his brilliant use of framing and sleight-of-hand. Elizabeth Moss, likewise, offered a very impassioned performance that felt like she was experiencing a nightmare scenario from “The Handmaiden’s Tale.” Hell, even off-camera she still might have been.
Another film that was released in theaters before they were shut down was Pixar’s first fantasy adventure Onward, which tells the story of a pair of elven brothers venturing out to revive their father to share one last day with him. If Soul didn’t come out in December, I would have said Onward was the best animated film of 2020 and still think it’s a serious contender for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards next year (whenever that’s supposed to take place). It was nice to see Tom Holland and Chris Pratt share the screen again, especially after their triumphant return in last year’s Avengers Endgame.
But that wouldn’t be the last time I would see dear ol’ Tom as he would later return to my living room in the grim and eerie crime thriller The Devil All The Time. This phenomenal film directed by Antonio Campos featured Tom Holland in an all-star cast including Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgard, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Mia Wasikowska and several others as its characters pursue their versions of peace and enlightenment through extremely harrowing and violent methods. The film is based on a 2011 novel by Donald Ray Pollock, but the film is so haunting and deeply disturbing that it feels like it was penned by Stephen King.
Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated science-fiction thriller Tenet released in theaters that same month to positive response but with sadly dismal box office numbers (again, thanks a lot coronavirus). And sure, while Tenet’s upside-down premise is literally and figuratively backwards and more confusing than a Darren Aronofsky picture, the visual effects were dazzling and had my jaw dropping more than a few times throughout the picture. I enjoyed getting to experience the fun of summer moviegoing again with Tenet, even though it was well into September and it wasn’t so much summer as it was a suffocating, masked-up fall.
Two war movies especially impressed me this year for very different reasons. The Outpost was a gritty and teeth-grinding retelling of the Battle of Kamdesh in 2009, and this pulse-pounding war epic was so high-octane and heart-racing that no other action thriller this year could match it (partially because the movie was so brilliant, partially because there were no action thrillers released this year). Special praise goes to filmmaker Rod Lurie, who hasn’t directed a high-profile production like this since 2011’s Straw Dogs remake, and Caleb Landry Jones for his heartfelt and soul-bearing performance as real-life specialist Ty Carter. If he doesn’t get nominated for Best Supporting Actor, next year’s already-delayed Oscars deserve to be boycotted.
The other war drama released this year was Spike Lee’s thought-provoking and moving war epic Da 5 Bloods, which shows its five black soldiers fighting two wars both in Vietnam and back in America. Spike Lee once again delivers a stylish and visually dazzling picture filled with emotion and gravitas, while Delroy Lindo provides a career-best performance as a veteran struggling with grief, regret, and PTSD. This movie is especially notable because it features Chadwick Boseman in one of his last film appearances before his tragic passing in August. He’ll be known to many as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and King T’Challa, a.k.a. the Black Panther. But for me, Stormin’ Norman will be one of his last great performances that I will admire deeply right alongside the others.
And amazingly enough, this year was also a great year for documentaries as well. Not only did The Social Dilemma give a brilliant breakdown on the many detriments of social media and Good Trouble gave an affectionate tribute to the late John Lewis’ civil rights history, but “Tiger King” gave us all a hilariously bizarre inside look at the life of tiger conservation and the very strange people and conspiracies surrounding that industry. I gotta say, when I heard the name “Joe Exotic” in 2016 before he announced his run for Oklahoma governor, I thought I would never hear his name again. 2020 showed me otherwise.
But of all of the movies streaming this year, my favorite undoubtedly goes to the historical courtroom drama The Trial of the Chicago 7, which shows Academy Award-winning writer Aaron Sorkin take a stab at the director’s chair in a brilliant and mesmerizing fashion. Sorkin directs an amazing all-star cast that includes Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, John Carroll Lynch, Jeremy Strong, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Mark Rylance, Frank Langella, Michael Keaton, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as an assortment of real-life figures that emerged during the Vietnam War protests in 1968. The movie isn’t just brilliant because of its smart writing, witty dialogue, modern parallels to current events, and great exercise of character development: the movie is also just plain entertaining. The fact that the movie can juggle so many tones of humorous, serious, and historical all at once and pull them all off so magnificently shows Sorkin’s potential as a director in his own right. If I were doing a formal Top 10 list as usual this year, The Trial of the Chicago 7 would be my number one hands down.
Other movies, of course, are trickling in through the streaming services this holiday season, whether it’s Soul with Disney+ or Wonder Woman 1984 with HBO Max. But really, the movies are changing in drastic ways right now to adjust to the time we’re living in, just like the rest of the world is. Hopefully next year will deliver some resemblance of normalcy and return to movie theaters, miles away from my couch and refrigerator.
It’s finally official: Spider-Man 3 will adapt the iconic Spider-Verse storyline for the big screen.
Details about the highly-anticipated sequel to Spider-Man: Far From Home has been shrouded in secrecy. Up until now, we’ve only known a handful of details. For one thing, Tom Holland is obviously reprising his role as the amazing wall-crawler, who has been recently exposed after J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) revealed his identity to the world in the last movie. Jon Watts will return to direct after the wildly successful previous two installments. And the film will feature an appearance from Marvel’s own sorcerer supreme, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch).
Fans have been suspecting that Spider-Man 3 was adapting the “Spider-Verse” storyline ever since Jamie Foxx was rumored to join the project in October. Originally portraying the electrifying villain Electro in 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, fans’ heads went dizzy with theories since that film was separate from Holland’s Marvel Cinematic Universe,
But earlier today, Colliderreported several other veteran Spider-Man actors that would be joining the project. For one thing, Alfred Molina is returning to play the multi-armed supervillain Doctor Octopus, a role he hasn’t revisited since his stunning debut in 2002’s Spider-Man 2. Kristen Dunst is reportedly reprising her role as Mary Jane Watson from that same franchise. And here’s the real kicker: Andrew Garfield is returning to portray Peter Parker from The Amazing Spider-Man.
These are exciting developments for several reasons. For one thing, we’ll finally see the conclusion to Andrew Garfield’s storyline that unfortunately ended on a cliffhanger. For another thing, we’re seeing Alfred Molina and Kristen Dunst in iconic roles we haven’t seen them in for several years now. But more importantly, Tom Holland’s epic trilogy conclusion will feature him partnering up with the spectacular Spider-Men that came before him!!! If you aren’t at least intrigued at the possibilities of these team-ups, you need to check your pulse.
What’s even more exciting is that with these casting announcements, we’re finally closer than ever to seeing the Sinster Six realized for the big screen. For those of you that don’t know, Sony has been trying to get a Sinister Six movie off of the ground for several years, ever since they rebooted the Spider-Man film franchise in 2012. But with Molina and Foxx returning, not only do they have villains from previous Spider-Man movies entering the picture, but also villains that are currently in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Shocker, Chameleon, Vulture, Scorpion, and Mysterio. That doesn’t even get into other villains that still may be able to bring into the fold, such as Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Rhys Ifans’ Lizard, Tom Hardy’s Venom, Jared Leto’s Morbius — even Woody Harrelson’s Carnage is a possibility.
Of course, a lot of this swirling casting news leaves more questions than answers on the exact premise of the film and what to expect from it. But by and large, Spider-Man 3 is quickly shaping up to look like a live-action Spider-Verse movie. A few details remaining uncertain, such as Tobey Maguire potentially joining as the Raimi films’ Spider-Man, as well Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales possibly making their own appearances. But for now, this is more than exciting enough news to digest on its own. It really raises eyebrows on the possibilities of the third Spider-Man movie and which directions it can go from here.
What do you web-heads think? Are you excited for a live-action Spider-Verse movie, or do you wish they just kept Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the friendly neighborhood? Comment below, let me know.
In a year where not a whole lot of movie news has been circulating the rounds, one big piece of casting news has closed out the year with a bang: the Metal Gear Solid live-action movie has found its Solid Snake.
For the past several years, Columbia Pictures has been trying to get a live-action Metal Gear Solid movie off of the ground and adapt Hideo Kojima’s award-winning espionage video game franchise to the big screen. Although the studio has secured a screenwriter in The Girl In The Spider’s Web scribe Jay Basu and a director in Kong: Skull Island’s Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the larger question of who would play the movie’s titular hero remained largely unanswered.
Now thanks to Deadline, we know that Golden Globe-nominated actor Oscar Isaac will be putting on the iconic bandana and sneak around FOXHOUND bases as Solid Snake. You’ve seen Oscar Isaac in more than a few films in recent years. Not only has he played Poe Dameron in the most recent Star Wars movies and the titular villain in X-Men: Apocalypse, but he’s also played in indie releases such as Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year, and Ex Machina. More recently he’s starred in the 2018 horror film Annihilation, the upcoming sci-fi epic Dune, and is even in talks to portray the Moon Knight in Marvel’s upcoming Disney+ series. No matter what he acts in, Oscar Isaac always brings 110% to every role that he portrays. The fact he’s taking on Solid Snake brings so much excitement to the project.
The only question is can he pull off Solid Snake in the right way? He does have the chiseled, rough-around-the-edges look that the character has, but his voice isn’t as deep as David Hayter’s iconic performance in the video games. Then again though, Ryan Reynolds’ voice is also vastly different from Nolan North’s, and he pulled off Deadpool perfectly for his 2016 live-action film. We’ll have to wait and see what Isaac brings to the role, but for now, knowing that they’re investing so much talent into this portrayal shows how much effort the studio is putting in to get this live-action adaptation right for the big screen.
What do you think? Are you excited to see Oscar Isaac become Solid Snake, or do you think this casting news could have kept you waiting? Comment below and let me know.
For the first time in my young life, I will be voting for a Democrat for President of the United States. This is unusual for me because in my eight years of voting, I’ve typically aligned with the conservative side of the ballot. In my first election in 2012, I voted for Mitt Romney for President. If I were old enough in 2008, I would have voted for John McCain. In 2013 and 2014, I voted for Ted Cruz and John Cornyn for the Senate. Even in 2016 where I cast a protest vote against both of the candidates, I voted for a Republican-majority congress because I believed Hilary Clinton was going to win and that she needed to be held accountable. I won’t be making that mistake again this year as I vote for Joe Biden and all Democrats up and down the ballot.
Several things fuel my change of position, most of which are of consequence from the past few years. But when asked why I’m endorsing Joe Biden, it would be all too easy to simply put up the Will Smith meme and point to all of the ugliness and incompetence of Donald Trump, not to mention reductive and overly-generalized. Besides, I want elections to be about supporting the better candidate, not voting for the lesser evil.
But there are several reasons why Joe Biden appeals to me. For one thing, I don’t think anybody left or right of the political aisle can question his character. Throughout his 40-year career in politics, Joe Biden has a well-documented history of working with Republicans and drafting bipartisan legislation that would later become law. Some progressives see this as a flaw and hypocrisy of the former vice president, with some even half-joking that Biden should have ran in the Republican primary this year.
While there are definitely some establishment issues with Joe, the ability to work with people you disagree with is a quality we’ve been sorely missing from political leadership in the past four years. That’s one of the reasons why President Barack Obama selected Joe as his vice president, and that worked to his benefit when Joe collaborated with House Republicans on spending bills, tax relief, infrastructure, and the crushing debt ceiling in 2011. In 2009, Obama remarked that the best thing about Joe is that “he really forces people to think and defend their positions; to look at things from every angle.” I agree with the former president and will even add that is something all Americans should aspire to do anyway.
But character isn’t the only thing that’s important in this election: policy is. So, what legislation has Biden successfully passed during his 40-year career? One of his crowning achievements is passing the Violence Against Women Act alongside Utah senator Orrin Hatch in 1994, which helped law enforcement respond to rising domestic violence cases in the United States. Since the law was passed in 1994, domestic violence has dropped by 64% until 2010, according to the Department of Justice. Many legal experts cite the VAWA as one of the most effective tools at bringing visibility to the issue, and Joe Biden no doubt had a big hand in seeing that legislation signed into law.
That leaves the larger question of what he would do as President? The biggest priority, of course, is filling the Supreme Court vacancy, which Joe Biden would no doubt fill with an equality-centric nominee the late RBG would be proud of (that is, if Republicans don’t shotgun Amy Comey Barrett through confirmation first). He would raise taxes for those making over $400,000 a year, create a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. That doesn’t even get into a handful of other priorities he would focus on, such as eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding farmworker protections, implementing a voluntary assault weapon buyback program, creating a national police brutality database, and much, much more.
But of all of the things that appeal to me for a Joe Biden presidency, perhaps one of the most important to me is that he would restore the reputation of the White House. Throughout his 40-year career, Biden has maintained decency and empathy to all he interacted with, regardless of whether or not he agreed with them.
When Donald Trump and his wife were diagnosed with COVID-19, Biden did not relish in his diagnosis and prayed for a swift and speedy recovery for the President.
After his daughter was shot and killed during the Parkland shooting in 2018, Fred Guttenberg said his off-camera conversations with Joe helped him re-centralize his life through his grief. Joe was able to relate easily since he also went through losing his wife and daughter from a car accident in 1972.
When George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Biden personally spoke with Floyd’s family and “shared in their woe” as attorney Ben Crump put it. He later delivered kind remarks at Floyd’s funeral.
When he encountered a child with a stuttering issue at one of his rallies, Biden offered words of encouragement and gave him his phone number to personally give advice on how he got through his own stuttering when he was younger.
And in 2015 shortly after his son Beau died of brain cancer, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham called him the nicest person he’s ever met in politics, saying he’s as good a man as God has ever created. “If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you’ve got a problem,” Graham said to HuffPost.
Compare that to the egregiousness, selfishness, and egotism of Donald Trump, who is so harsh, self-absorbed, and abrasive that he makes sandpaper feel more comfortable. I can’t go over all of his failings as President in this piece alone. If I attempted to, it would take over the rest of the content on my website twice over.
What I will say is that when the President wasn’t busy attacking liberals, journalists, women, immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims, the disabled, veterans, the LGBT community, and Never-Trump Republicans on Twitter, Trump has failed spectacularly at nearly every Presidential test he’s been given. Sure, Biden may lack ambition or perspective on a handful of issues, but Trump has consistently proven himself to be emphatically worse, sometimes to an almost comedic standard.
Do we even need to go over the exhaustive list of Trump’s scandals? He’s so corrupt that he has Richard Nixon’s jaw dropping from his grave (hey, at least he had the good sense to resign once impeachment proceedings were filed against him).
Simply put, there’s no point over the past four years where Trump has risen, nay, even attempted to reach, a tenth of the magnanimous expectations of the White House. Not once.
Look guys, it’s been an exhaustive four years — more exhausting than any other President I’ve experienced in my lifetime, and I’ve lived through three prior to Trump. And we are once again edging toward this unfortunate “lesser-evil” scenario that Trump and Hillary were caught up in 2016.
But not only do I believe Joe Biden is the lesser evil by a clear mile in this election — I believe he’s also the greater good. His entire career demonstrates the decency, civility, and respect that the White House deserves. He doesn’t demonize his opponents the same way Trump or Hillary does, and unlike both predecessors, he’s interested in working with colleagues of all different faiths, beliefs, and political affiliations.
That’s what we need in a President right now during the divisive time that we’re in. Not a President for just Democrats or Republicans — a President for America.
For every great moment that happens at the Academy Awards, there are 15 terrible moments that follow them. That’s why when Argo won Best Picture in 2013, Ben Affleck was still snubbed a Best Director nomination. That’s why when Moonlight won Best Picture in 2017, it was robbed of its Oscar-winning moment when La La Land was accidentally announced the winner. And while Spotlight, The Revenant, andMad Max: Fury Road were all racking up Oscars left and right in 2016, black talent was still missing from all four of the best acting categories regardless. There were several awful moments the Academy Awards have brought us over the past several years. Here are 10 of the worst that happened this decade.
A new villain will quite literally conquer the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Ant-Man 3.
After Ant-Man and the Wasp opened to warm reception and solid box office numbers in 2018, Deadline just announced a surprise casting decision that may or may not shake the foundations of the MCU. Jonathan Majors will reportedly become the Marvel big baddie known as Kang the Conqueror in the upcoming bug-sized sequel.
This news is surprising for a few reasons. For one thing, this is the first major role that Jonathan Majors will be portraying. For the past few years, Jonathan has been cast in a variety of supporting roles for indie projects ranging from Hostiles in 2017 to White Boy Rick in 2018 to The Last Black Man in San Francisco last year. His most recognizable role is probably as Delroy Lindo’s son David in the Spike Lee Vietnam war epic Da 5 Bloods.
But what’s even more surprising is the role Majors will be portraying. First debuting in 1963, Kang the Conqueror is a time-traveling super villain who has frequently fought both the Avengers and Fantastic Four. Besides having the ability to travel through time, Kang can also project holograms, create force fields, and manipulate energy beams against his enemies. He’s a very powerful villain and easily one of the most intimidating foes the Marvel heroes have ever gone up against.
I’m excited to hear that Majors has been cast as Kang the Conqueror. Physically he fits the part to near perfection, and I’m excited to see how playing a villain may potentially catapult his career forward. My biggest problem with Kang isn’t with who’s portraying him: it’s who’s movie he’s debuting in. While Ant-Man and Kang have had a few skirmishes here or there in the comics, they’ve had nothing to the level where he warrants appearing as a key antagonist in his own movie. With his level of ability and raw power, his villainy fits better in an Avengers movie, or even in the “Loki” miniseries he was long rumored for. But how does he fit in with Ant-Man, exactly? Kang dwarfs Ant-Man in just about every way imaginable. You might as well make Thanos the villain for Ant-Man 3.
Granted, Loki was the main antagonist in Thor before he was cast as the big baddie in 2012’s The Avengers. But even Loki doesn’t compare to Kang’s intimidating presence. But at least Kang makes more sense in the “Loki” miniseries, because Loki would feel challenged by Kang’s skill and manipulation and ultimately grow as a result of that conflict. Plus with the time travel element, that would have worked well with reversing Loki’s death from Avengers: Infinity War (spoiler alert). But Ant-Man feels too, er, small for him. It feels like he might be wasting his potential rather than building up to something bigger and better in the MCU.
What do you think? Are you excited to see Kang conquer the quantum realm, or did you want him to save his evil plans for The Avengers 5 or “Loki”? Comment below, let me know.
A year ago, I visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York for the first time in my life. The experience, of course, was emotional for everybody inside that museum. Names and faces filled out the walls like memorials too small to fully encapsulate and appreciate the lives that were drastically cut short. Remnants of the attack were scattered around the museum as if it were ground zero. Harrowing video and audio clips looped over and over again, capturing the horror of the day in vivid, haunting detail. It was a powerful experience, and it stays with you long after you’ve left the museum.
Yet I had a different reaction from others at the museum. I could see veterans crying, visibly shaken by how this horrible event continues to haunt the country they love to this very day. I watched families mourn for the loved ones they missed on the walls, children confused by the sadness surrounding them.
Yet despite all of the grieving around me, I didn’t cry inside the museum. Not once. I was actually a little disturbed at myself, to be quite honest. Somebody even questioned me about my reaction, asking me why I wasn’t overcome with emotion like everyone else was around me?
I WAS overcome with emotion; just not in the outward, visible way others were. I have a tendency to internalize my feelings and thoughts, and while everyone was saddened and consumed by everything that we had lost, I was instead focused on what this catastrophic event has meant to us all these years and what it will mean to us going forward.
And every time I looked at the names, the faces, the clothes, the debris, and the videos, a heartbreaking thought crossed my mind that devastates me every time I think about it:
The terrorists won.
Before you react, let me clarify what I mean by that. Before and after the attack, Al-Qaeda clearly stated that their intentions were to weaken the United States for their actions against Iraq and Saudi Arabia. They aimed for targets that were symbolic and significant to our nation. The Pentagon for its strength. The Capitol Building for its democracy. The Twin Towers for its prosperity.
Sure, part of their goal was to hurt America deeply and profoundly; wound it so much to the point where it collapsed to the ground in loss and despair. But it wasn’t just that. After all, we are a formidable force to be reckoned with. Destroying the United States, therefore, was an unrealistic goal, despite how much they may have wanted to.
No, their goal was much more specific — much more intentional. What, you may ask? And the answer is simple: they wanted to cripple us, and they utilized the most potent tools at their disposal to do it. Those tools weren’t knives. They weren’t box cutters. They weren’t even the airplanes themselves.
No, their goal was to cripple us using fear. Using anger. Using hatred. These are potent weapons, because their effects last much longer after their use.
For a time, their attack failed and their cause was lost. America was united in its grief and came together stronger than ever, rebuilding our world and striving towards a better one tomorrow. But somewhere along the way, we lost that unity and that sense of respect and decency. We let fear takeover. Our anger festered and grew. And the seeds of hatred spread so deep that it tore away at our roots, weakening us much more than it ever had before.
The terrorists won.
And they’ve been winning ever since.
I’ve been replaying that moment in the museum over and over again in my head, strategizing how we may overcome our shortcomings and make sure our enemies lose, this time for good. A year later, I still don’t have the answers. I fear I will be old and gray before those solutions present themselves.
I know this much: we cannot win using the enemy’s weapons. Every time we give in to our primal instincts, we lessen ourselves as a country and weaken the foundations that made us so great in the first place.
Instead of fear, we should turn to understanding.
Instead of anger, we should turn to patience.
Instead of hatred, we should turn to love.
And instead of isolation, we should turn to unity in the founding principles that made this country great and rely on them like a bedrock. We need those foundations now more than ever.
It’s been three days now and I’m still not over the death of Chadwick Boseman. Like Heath Ledger in 2008 or Robin Williams in 2014, Chadwick’s death came from left field out of nowhere, surprising everyone with a colon cancer diagnosis he received even before his debut as Black Panther in the 2016 superhero epic Captain America: Civil War. Even today, the world feels lesser without him in it. I myself still struggle knowing that we’ll never see T’Challa again on the big screen, despite his triumphant return in last year’s Avengers: Endgame.
Out of all of the things 2020 has taken from us, I didn’t think Chadwick would be one of them. Yet, here we are. As we try to process this tragedy and work towards moving forward together, let’s reflect on the lessons that we’ve learned from Chadwick and what his example has grown to mean with comic book and movie fans everywhere.
The only thing that’s more forgotten than a soldier of war is a black soldier. Spike Lee’s Vietnam war epic Da 5 Bloods observes this truth with sobering reality and honesty, taking you through the plight of five black soldiers who went through hell in Vietnam only to trade it for another hell when they came back home to America. Several movies have been done about the Vietnam war now, from Apocalypse Now to Born on the Fourth of July. Yet I’ve never seen a movie quite like Da 5 Bloods.
In Da 5 Bloods, a group of veterans venture back to Vietnam to bury their fallen squad leader and recover treasure they left behind during the war. Their squad leader is Stormin’ Norman, powerfully portrayed by Chadick Boseman in his first major role since Black Panther. The rest of the Bloods include Otis (Clarke Peters), David (Jonathan Majors), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Paul (Delroy Lindo), who is the most devastated and haunted by Stormin’ Norman’s demise in Vietnam.
One of the immediate things you’ll notice about Da 5 Bloods is its creative direction. While Spike Lee is no stranger to displaying style and pizzazz in his movies whether it’s BlacKkKlansman, Malcolm X, or Do The Right Thing, Da 5 Bloods is noticeably less flashy than his other major projects. While his other films place an emphasis on color, music, and production design that visually pops from the screen, Da 5 Bloods is more grim, bleak, and dark, not just in its storytelling, but also in its visual design. Whether its scenes take place in the 1960s or the present day, the shading is so unrefined and gritty that it doesn’t even feel like a movie: it feels like real life and you’re simply witnessing these men’s experiences play out in front of you.
The cinematography and editing are equally essential when it comes to further realizing the film’s sense of character. One creative detail Spike Lee utilizes is the method of filming the movie’s two different eras. In the present day, Lee and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel capture the scenes on high-definition digital cameras, reflective of today’s technological achievements. But in 1960s Vietnam, Lee and Sigel switch to 16 mm film, making the picture frame smaller and more grainy. The result is a fuller, more immersive experience that vividly places you in the same period as the Bloods. Few films do this mesmerizing of a job with its cinematography, yet Spike and Sigel make it look serene, striking, and epic (although for some reason, Spike annoyingly decided not to de-age his 60-year-old actors in the Vietnam flashbacks).
The cast is just as exceptional as Spike’s sense of artistry. While John David Washington, Samuel Jackson, Don Cheadle, and Giancarlo Esposito were originally slated to portray the living Bloods, scheduling conflicts prevented them from joining the film, so Lee had to seek alternatives in Peters, Majors, Lewis, and Lindo. Scheduling conflicts may have been the best thing to happen to Spike for this movie, because this quartet feels organic and authentic in relationship to one another. It’s not often where a film brings together an ensemble cast and makes it feel this natural and fluid, yet these actors do such a great job at portraying their love and affection for one another that they can’t help but really feel like long-lost friends reuniting under tragic circumstances.
But of the four leads, Delroy Lindo easily shines the most. You’d recognize him as West Indian Archie from Lee’s Malcolm X. But unlike most of his other supporting roles, Lindo takes more of a leading presence in Da 5 Bloods, and he handles the pressure very well. There’s one moment in particular where he’s vividly expressing his pain, hurt, and anger, and he’s staring into the camera while he’s delivering a heart-wrenching monologue. In context, he’s obviously just talking to himself, but in the shot, it feels like he’s talking directly to you. “You” as in the white man. “You” as in the American. “You” who are unaffected by the issues that plague him and his loved ones every day. His passionate and convincing delivery feels so raw and honest that you can’t help but feel guilty by the time he delivers his last impactful line to the camera.
And of all of the elements that bind this beautifully-wrapped cinematic package together, the most essential is the themes Lee explores in his screenplay. While the script was originally written on spec by screenwriters Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, Spike rewrote it to include a black American perspective. The result is a spellbinding, rich, and dense narrative filled with many relevant themes to today’s society, including racism, police brutality, violence, war, mental health, poverty, generational wealth, greed, division: even Donald Trump’s election is provided with some commentary.
All of this leads to a grim reality we’re forced to face at the end of Da 5 Bloods: many of the battles Paul, Otis, David, Eddie, and Stormin’ Norman were a part of back then are still being fought to this day. We’ve entered five wars since Vietnam ended in 1975, one of which is still ongoing in Afghanistan. The Black Lives Matter movement is still fighting for the same civil rights that Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X died for in the 60s. Hell, there’s even been multiple teases to World War III in just this year alone. Yet in their misery and despair, Da 5 Bloods reminds us of another truth that perseveres: Bloods don’t die. They multiply. The Bloods never gave up fighting. Neither should we.