ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: Come On, Get Happy

We used to have record albums (the old man yelled at the cloud). LPs, they were called, for long play. When bands made LPs they did something called sequencing, which was putting their songs in a specific order intended to bring the listener for a journey. You weren’t supposed to skip around the LP, and there was no way to shuffle the songs, so you would drop the needle at the beginning and listen through until the end. It feels archaic today, the idea of sitting down and listening to an album in full (and getting up to flip it over in the middle!), so archaic that it has become retrohip, and even Hot Topic sells vinyl LPs. But I think that with the heyday of the LP and the heyday of albums behind us, we have also lost the heyday of sequencing.

Good sequencing would build over the course of an album side, getting up to a crescendo of intensity and pace, and then perhaps pulling it back for a sonic palate cleanser. Think about Rubber Soul, by The Beatles (UK version) – side one ends with Michelle, with its French cabaret feel, and side two opens with a blast of zany country as Ringo sings What Goes On. That creates the space needed for the band to go in a totally different direction with Girl, which has a Greek folk sound. By putting the Ringo country song in between these two European love songs The Beatles create an experience for us that transcends the individual songs.

In 2018 Marvel Studios has accomplished a major feat of cinematic sequencing. Opening the year with Black Panther they got us revved up, excited, triumphant. Then came Avengers: Infinity War, which ends on one of the all-time down notes (for post-Beneath the Planet of the Apes blockbusters, anyway). But that isn’t the finale – the album isn’t over – and so they’ve wisely programmed Ant-Man and the Wasp right afterwards, giving us a small breather, a little bit of space before leaping back into the fray next year.

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BLACK PANTHER vs The Guy Who Is Ignoring Trump

Did you see the New York Times story about the guy who is staying ignorant of all Donald Trump related news? It’s so crazy that I half think it’s a hoax; the premise is that on November 8 this former Nike executive was so traumatized by Trump’s win that he decided he would ignore ALL news about Trump, going so far as to wear white noise headphones when at the coffee shop.

Let’s assume this is not a hoax. We can approach this guy from a few perspectives. The least helpful perspective is the one where we clown him and say bad things about him. Slightly more helpful is the perspective where we note that a wealthy white guy has the privilege to just ignore the horrors Trump is visiting upon our nation. But that’s only helpful if we turn it inwards – what are WE ignoring in the world thanks to our privilege of living in industrialized nations? Recognizing where this guy is wrong is useless unless we take that recognition and internalize it.

But maybe the most interesting (for me, a nerd) perspective is the Wakandan one.

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I Watched The Greatest Movies Of All Time On Pan And Scan VHS

Alex Garland’s excellent Annihilation is hitting Netflix everywhere except the United States today. In these United States we got the pleasure of seeing this beautiful and challenging scifi film on the big screen… well, those of us who bothered to see it, anyway. In three weeks of release the movie has made about $26 million, less than what Black Panther is making this weekend.

This is sad, and there are a lot of reasons why the movie didn’t do well – not least among them being Paramount’s cold feet and unwillingness to spend more money to push the movie hard – but anyone who watched this film knew it was never going to click with mass audiences. And that’s okay.

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BLACK PANTHER: Tradition in Turmoil

“Tradition!”

So sang Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof, and his cry also echoes across the plains of Wakanda in Black Panther, a movie so rich with complex themes that pulling out one or two of them for discussion is daunting and feels like a disservice to the whole. But the tension between tradition and modernity is one of the driving forces behind the film, and in the space between these two forces is where director Ryan Coogler finds a way to the future.

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