A Hero Among Us

Here’s an interesting factoid in the midst of a global pandemic and what seems to be the second American Civil War.

Twitter this weekend announced the most liked and retweeted tweet in its history.

Relax, it’s not political and has nothing to do with COVID-19.

A change for Chairy?

But in less than a day this tweet received 5.6 million likes and 2.9 million retweets (and at the time of this posting has grown past 6.9 million likes and 3 million retweets).

To give you an idea of how much that is, the previous record holder received a mere 4.3 million likes and 1.7 million retweets.

And it was this Nelson Mandela quote from former Pres. Barack Obama:

That was back on Aug., 12, 2017 right after white supremacist neo-Nazis marched in the streets of Charlottesville, VA as one of their compatriots drove a car into a group of people peacefully protesting against them, killing an innocent young woman and injuring many more.

The nation was reeling from the sheer horror and gall of it, even more so when three days later our current POTUS famously weighed in, telling a spray of reporters, and in turn in the world, there were very fine people on both sides.

Seems like the right time to dig up this evergreen meme

Which just goes to show that a single tweet can only do so much, even with the imprimatur of Obama AND Mandela.

Still, limited and cesspool-y as Twitter can be, it is a temperature measure of something in the country and the world at any given point in time.  Much like an overtly popular song or movie or TV show, it is a touchstone to what society was feeling or thinking or needing (Note: Or NOT feeling or needing or even thinking) in that moment, particularly when it receives such an overwhelming response.

This definitely makes sense for 2020 #wap #imnoprude #evenifitmakesmeblush

In that sense, it tells us perhaps more than we want to know or care to remember about who we were and perhaps still are.

Yes this is still not political, despite what you might think I’m implying about our current Tweeter-in-Chief.

See if you don’t agree as we shine a light on our new, record-holding tweet, which I suspect will own that mantle for quite some time to come.

It went out early Friday night and was the last one from the account of the late actor and activist Chadwick Boseman.

There are many ways to look at this tweet, the most important being a much loved artist lost his life far too early and far too cruelly, and the sheer pain of it for both him, his family and his many loved ones, which clearly includes many millions of fans from all over the world.

Still, many famous people die far too young from hideous diseases and other hurtful circumstances.  Beautiful as life can be, we all eventually learn tragedy can be right around the corner, and often when we least expect it.

But here, at the end of August 2020 there was something about Mr. Boseman’s death that was an instant kick in the teeth to the world, particularly in the United States.

A King

In the midst of a global pandemic and the powerful, exponentially growing international Black Lives matter movement, how can it be that the man we best know as King T’Challa, the immortal and all powerful leader of the most advanced society in the Universe (Note: Who also happens to be Black), in one of the highest grossing and most popular films of all time, Black Panther, be….gone?????

What is the universe trying to tell us about OUR hopes and dreams, anyway?

Nothing good, you might preemptively decide to believe.

Tempting as it might be to go down that deep dark hole to hell (Note: Certainly I have more than once, twice, okay a dozen times in the last two weeks), it’s hard to not recognize that the very phrasing of this tweet from those who were the closest to Chadwick Boseman delivers the real message in the announcement and holds the true key as to its “popularity.”

A real-life superhero

In a world where death and hopelessness is now literally just around the corner for so many of us if we don’t play our cards right, here is an activist who happened to be an actor leaving us a true road map in how to continue on with the fight.

There is nothing easy about stage III and stage IV cancer.  It eats through your insides and spits them right out.  And sometimes the treatments do a lot worse.

And yet somehow this young actor found the wherewithal to keep starring in major movies (Note:  Also no easy feat and occasionally, if you don’t play your cards right, nearly as poisonous) on and off all…through it?

You can’t help but wonder, was it so much the power he learned from bringing life to such iconic heroes as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, music icon James Brown, and major league baseball trailblazer Jackie Robinson, or the power he managed to tap inside of himself that brought them to life for us?

He could do it all

And if he could tap all of that power in the darkest of times, what does that say about what is possible for any of us in our current, seemingly darkest hours, if we could even do, say, a fraction of that?

In short, what would/did the Black Panther do? #WWBPD

Sure, perhaps this is carrying the metaphor a bit far.  After all, I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Boseman.  To me he was just a really fine actor with triple threat star power – quiet strength, simple honesty and, well, sexy as hell.

Not to mention he got me to see a superhero film not one, not twice but THREE times!

Me emerging from Avengers: Endgame

Nevertheless record holders become record holders for a reason.

The sad yet powerful announcement of Mr. Boseman’s death ironically tore such a gigantic hole in our collective consciences at this particularly awful moment in American history for the way in which it managed to both celebrate his life and lay our humanity bare.

You will be missed #wakandaforever

It made many of us think there could be a universal kind of heroism residing in each and every one of us if circumstances force us to tap into it.

And just in the nick of time, too.

Chadwick Boseman as James Brown, in Get on Up  (“Welcome to America” scene)

Not So Green with Envy: An Oscars Post Mortem

Oscars 2019 proved that you don’t need a host to produce a watchable awards show but you do need at least a handful charismatic stars, inspiring musical moments, unexpected wins and, of course, heartfelt speeches.

This year’s show featured all of the above and often did it quite well – sometimes a little too well.

There was something ultimately schizophrenic about the show, the choices and the moments the evening offered.  It was as if the members of the Academy were so unsure of what they truly loved this year in cinema that they decided to people please and pick almost everyone from as many films as it could.

See: Green Book

Green Book took home the top prize of best picture while its director, Peter Farrelly, was not even nominated in his category.  Roma won Alfonso Cuaron best director and cinematographer but his movie was passed over for best film.  (Note: It did win foreign film, meaning it’s only the best if…you don’t speak English?).

Spike Lee won his first competitive Oscar trophy ever for co-writing BlackKklansman but was passed over in the director category, as was his film for best picture.

But he did give us one of the best shots from the whole show

Glenn Close, who had already won almost everything during this awards season, became the first actress to be nominated SEVEN times for acting Oscars without a win.   Olivia Colman won best actress for The Favourite in a bit of an upset over the heavily favored Ms. Close (The Wife), while Rami Malek swept in as best actor winner for bringing beloved Queen front man Freddie Mercury back to life onscreen in Bohemian Rhapsody.

We know Glenny.

Though interestingly, neither of the two top actor winners appeared in the movies awarded either best film, director or screenplay, either original or adapted.

Rounding out, or perhaps butter knifing around the gold, Black Panther, the biggest box-office hit nominated, took top prizes for score, production and costume design; A Star Is Born (the second biggest b.o. juggernaut) won best song; and Regina King was bestowed best supporting actress honors for If Beale Street Could Talk.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with spreading the wealth around.  But by the time Green Book was announced as best picture, veteran Oscar watchers couldn’t help but recall that time almost thirty years ago when another middle-of-the-road road movie about race, Driving Miss Daisy, won the best picture prize despite the Academy denying its director, Bruce Beresford, even a nomination in his category.

One supposes it is better for voters to widely disperse the joy rather than to ignore artists like Mr. Lee, whose more cutting edge film on race in 1989, Do The Right Thing, failed to gain either a best picture or director nomination and was subsequently overlooked in one of the few categories it was even nominated for – best original screenplay.  It took three decades but in 2019 the Academy managed to give Mr. Lee just a bit of his competitive due while still denying yet another of his masterpiece movies about race a win in favor of yet another rival film that chose the safer, more benign Driving Miss Daisy-ish route.

Look! They are in a car! How genius!

Whether that compromise was enough (Note: Um, no..) and others got too much (Note: Uh, hella yes..) is for each of us to say this week and then forever hold our pieces because that’s about how long the conversation will remain relevant to anyone given what’s in the zeitgeist these days.

What will hang around a bit longer is the memory of Melissa McCarthy entering the stage in a comic riff on The Favourite’s Queen dragging a train strewn with stuffed bunny rabbits, one of which somehow became situated on her hand and helped her to open an envelope.

Personally, I marveled at the age-defying beauty of actors like Angela Bassett and Paul Rudd, who will respectively turn 61 and 50 this year.  As Rosemary Woodhouse once said about her intimate evening with the Devil: IT CAN’T BE!

But like.. HOW?!

Even better was the opening musical number where the remaining members of Queen, aided greatly by Adam Lambert as its fill-in front man, gave us a soaring song in tribute to Freddie Mercury, whose larger than life image looked on from above.

Equally riveting in a totally different way was when Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performed a stripped down version of their film’s mega-hit (and now Oscar winner) “Shallow” and managed to turn the Dolby Theatre stage into a master class pairing of artistry and intimacy.

Um… his wife was 5ft away. #icant #THEHEAT

It was also fun to watch Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph goof it up in an elongated comic bit early on and actually prove you can still be fresh and funny on any awards stage.  Ditto Awkwafina and John Mulaney presenting best-animated short.

Was any of this indelibly memorable?  Not exactly, but it was fun and watchable. This may or may not translate into a ratings boost from the all-time low numbers of last year’s Oscar broadcast, which is pretty much all the Academy and network seems to care about at this point anyway.

Welp, there it is.

That and no doubt the fact that in giving Universal’s Green Book this year’s best picture Oscar over Netflix’s Roma, both could breathe a huge collective sigh of relief for denying the streaming giant any more of the industry gold it had already managed to swipe right out from under their collective noses.

Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose (BlacKkKlansman soundtrack) – “Too Late To Turn Back Now”