Nota Bene: On Being a Black Nerd

From Lawrence Ware’s “Black Panther and the Revenge of the Black Nerds,” where he talks about what the release of a blockbuster adaptation of the Black Panther comic series means:

Now I know that to be a black nerd is by no means anomalous; there are millions of people who look like me and grew up loving comic books. Yet despite our numbers, we were underground for a long time. But now, there appears to be a widening cultural appreciation for what black people have always known: There are many ways to be black in America. The 44th president helped.

Barack Obama meant a lot to black nerds. Jordan Peele, the director of “Get Out,” told NPR back in 2012, “Up until Obama, it was basically Urkel and the black guy from ‘Revenge of the Nerds.’” President Obama showed us that to be black and nerdy could actually be an expression of black cool, what the author Rebecca Walker who compiled a series of essays on that topic, defines as audacity, resistance and authenticity in the face of white supremacy.

Reader’s Corner: Best Graphic Novel of the Year

Every year, the good folks at Publishers Weekly ask all of us lucky writers who review comics for them to put our votes in for what we thought were the best books of the year. The results came out this week in their Annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll.

The winner was Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters. Some of the runners-up were:

  • Everything is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell
  • The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
  • My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

Screening Room: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

So there’s another Thor movie out, and this one’s a blast.

Thor: Ragnarok opens tonight. My review is at PopMatters:

It says something when one of a movie’s main attractions is Cate Blanchett slinking around in a slinky black unitard and a halo of horns saying things such as “Kneel before me!” and it doesn’t quite capture your attention. That’s just the kind of ride that Thor: Ragnarok is. This is a “Damn the torpedoes!” operation. One imagines Marvel turning the keys of the studio over to director Taika Waititi, and saying to him, “There’s a couple hundred million on the kitchen counter, have fun. Oh, and make it seem like it’s the last movie we’re ever going to make”…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: Summer Movies, the Oscars, and ‘Wonder Woman’

My article “Wonder Woman was Fine but It Shouldn’t Win an Oscar” is now available at Eyes Wide Open:

The summer movie season is undergoing the usual August agita. That’s when industry watchers and studio execs wring their hands over what’s going wrong with the business. Traditionally, the swelter of summer was when people turned off their brains, went to the multiplex, bought tubs of popcorn, and luxuriated in the air conditioning while watching Michael Bay blow things up with subwoofer-shredding thunderousness. That’s less and less the case, and the empty-seat summer of 2017 is an object lesson in what has gone wrong. There are a few reasons for this…

Screening Room: ‘Ghost in the Shell’

The Scarlett Johansson live-action remake of the classic 1995 anime Ghost in the Shell hit DVD and Blu-ray this week. My review is at PopMatters:

For a movie ostensibly about uniqueness and what makes us human, Ghost in the Shell doesn’t make a strong argument for either. This is a story in which the technology fascinates and the people bore. Sense memories of other movies proliferate until you forget quite what it was you were watching in the first place. That’s the sort of thing bound to happen when the star (Scarlett Johansson) is playing a role she can sleepwalk through and the story was only groundbreaking when first filmed over 20 years ago…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2’

The summer movie season is already started, thanks to The Fate of the Furious. But now it gets going in style, with the sequel to James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy hitting theaters next Friday.

My review is at Film Journal International:

The anticipation couldn’t be higher for Gunn’s sequel, a movie that depends on being nimble on its feet. Those expectations are met, and then some, in a bigger, bolder outing that locks the audience in from a credits sequence in which Baby Groot (a computer-modulated Vin Diesel) boogies ever so cutely to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” while barely avoiding being squished by the multi-tentacled monster fighting the Guardians in the background. The choice of starting a summer blockbuster by focusing on the teeny dancing sentient tree instead of the monster battle with jet packs and lasers taking place mostly off-screen might seem odd to some. But, as is said later on in, Baby Groot is just “too adorable to kill”…

Here’s a trailer: