A&E

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, a Transitional Movie on Life, Legacy, and Loss

T’Challa Memorial (Courtesy of Terence Fairclothvia Flickr)

By Bridget Norton 

Spoilers Ahead!

The newest edition to the Marvel universe, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” was an action-filled tearjerker that did a good job with the cards it was dealt. With the death of Chadwick Boseman, the outcome of this movie was unknown. While the recasting of T’challa (Boseman) was discussed, I am relieved that director Ryan Coogler decided against going in this direction. Instead, he created a thematic exploration of life, legacy, family and loss that was executed with raw emotion and strikingly beautiful scenery. 

The movie began with Shuri trying desperately to save her brother, T’challa, but her brother passes before she is able to. Their mother, Ramonda, consequently takes on the ruling power of Wakanda, making a powerful stand against world powers who aim to take control of Vibranium resources now that Wakanda’s protector, the Black Panther, is dead. However, a U.S. mining vessel detects Vibranium on the sea floor before being dispatched by mysterious blue creatures with sirenic and Aquaman-like powers. 

While the majority of the world believes it was an attack made by the Wakandans, the leader of these new mysterious peoples reveals himself to Ramonda and Shuri. He is Namor, the leader of an underwater civilization with mezo-american roots named Talokan. They too have access to Vibranium and wish to keep their existence a secret. He bids the Wakandans to bring him the scientist, a student at MIT named Riri Williams, who built the functional Vibranium detector so another one can not be built and expose Talokan. However, the Wakandans take Williams back to their country to protect her. This act, and the necessity to keep Talokan a secret, is the driving source of conflict between the two civilizations. 

The movie was phenomenal overall, but did leave behind a few questions and critiques. SMCM student Tristian Doak could not help but question why the people of Talokan did not reveal themselves sooner. “Like why show yourselves now?” He was confused because, while the stake of exposure through a search for Vibranium materials is a threat, surely some exploration or questioning would be done after some of their citizens were dissolved in the blip? 

Additionally, it feels like the true might of Wakanda and their technological strength was underplayed. The overwhelming combination of loss, mourning and the unprecedented power that proved to be a worthy rival would be detrimental to a Nation’s sense of security and confidence, but the Wakanda presented in the past seemed to be more advanced than the version of the nation we see in this movie. 

Finally, while watching, I would consistently question the reason these two civilizations were fighting throughout the run time. I understand that Namor is upset at the exposure of Vibranium and the possible discovery of his home, but the discussion that ends the fighting between the two civilizations feels like it could have happened sooner, making the run time drag the slightest bit. However, by no means does this mean the movie was not worth watching– the emotional execution, humorous quips and gorgeous setting, staples of the first movie, were only expanded in this sequel. 

The best part of this movie is the actors themselves. The draw of emotions from the real life loss of a cast member and friend gave a deeper layer of reality and connection to the audience. Letitia Wright was able to execute the shift of Shuri’s character in the face of grief and anger, sharply contrasting her portrayal in the first film due to the effects of traumatic events. The character in the two movies never felt like different people. Wright gives a perfect example of how quickly a person can be forced to grow up.

Angela Bassett was astonishingly commanding as Queen Ramonda.The execution of grief over T’challa’s death and the fear of losing another child was perfectly balanced with the strength necessary to be the ruler of a powerful nation. She was able to show the internal turmoil of balancing being a mother to a nation and children. This absolute force of emotion was executed to perfection, and it would be a travesty should Bassett not receive an Oscar for her performance.  

Another strong point was that this movie played as a flawless transition for the Marvel Universe. The introduction of Riri Williams, Ironheart, sets up the announced Marvel show “Ironheart’.” Additionally, Williams’ introduction comes at a perfect time after the loss of Tony Stark in “Avengers: Endgame.” She has a sharp sense of humor and astonishing technological intellect, drawing similarity to the late genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. 

SMCM Freshman Grace Jewitt had a further opinion on the trend of constant introduction of new characters, saying that “some introductions are cool but a fuller sense is needed.” She hopes for a movie in the near future that does not contain a new central character, and instead connects all of these disassembled plots: a new era Avengers movie. 

Finally, the future of Wakanda is set up at the end of the movie when M’Baku, a consistent source of sage advice throughout the two Balck Panther Movies, is set to become the new ruler of Wakanda in lieu of Shuri. Additionally, in the end-credit scene it is revealed that T’challa had a son with Nakia, who was also a welcome character in this movie providing an interesting view into spywork conducted by Wakanda. The son is also named T’challa and his presence would spell a future for the Black Panther story. However, I do hope that Shuri will get a long run with the Black Panther mantle, as her personal growth tied to this power was well developed and it would be a waste to not expand it further. Overall, this movie is the perfect bridge between phases 4 and 5 of the Marvel Universe. It is exactly as Doak stated, “The new era of Marvel is upon us.” 

Harry Styles Continues his Acting Career in New Film, “My Policeman” 

By Riley Sandoval

Pop star Harry Styles has continued to dabble in acting with another lead role in the new Amazon Prime movie, “My Policeman.” This film follows the complicated love stories of three young people: Tom, Marion and Patrick. It is based off of the novel written by Bethen Roberts which is set in England in the 1990s, with flashbacks to their younger selves in the 1950s. Tom Burgess is a policeman who falls in love with a museum curator, Patrick Hazlewood. But because homosexuality was illegal, Tom marries a schoolteacher, Marion Taylor, who has suspicions that her husband is not being faithful. “My Policeman” tells a gut wrenching love story of internalized homophobia and social change. 

The storyline of “My Policeman” is beautifully crafted, like a puzzle the viewer pieces together every time there is a flash back to the main characters’ younger selves. While a bit confusing at first, the film does a wonderful job at revealing small details that have large impacts on the characters’ lives. It depicts a love that is both sweet and heart breaking between not only Tom and Marion, but especially between Tom and Patrick. The bittersweet love Tom has for both of his partners is reflected in the beige filter used throughout the film’s entirety. The muted colors can be interpreted to represent the sadness Tom feels through his confusion to figure out his identity, his disappointment in society, and his inability to be with the man he truly loves. SMCM student Cailin Snider said, “It made the film more realistic and less vibrant. It felt more personal and down to earth compared to other films I have seen.”

The love shared between Tom and Patrick, while charming, was also uncomfortable at times. In the build up of Tom and Patrick’s love for one another, moments that are supposed to be endearing, are quite the opposite, because they lacked clear consent. On several separate occasions within the movie, Patrick would not get Tom’s consent before moving forward with sexual acts. While understandable for the time period, it can be triggering for some. 

The actors in “My Policeman” all gave magnificent performances. Harry Styles is most notable in his role as the young Tom Burgess. Compared to other roles in “Dunkirk” and “Don’t Worry Darling,” his acting in this film was slightly better. With “Dunkirk” as his breakout role, and “Don’t Worry Darling” as a very complex character, the innocence, confusion, and genuineness of Tom’s character, seemed easier for Styles to play. His role as Jack Chambers in “Don’t Worry Darling” was very difficult for such a new actor, not only because he was surrounded by a star-studded cast, but also because the complexity of the character as both a loving husband and evil kidnapper, that resulted in some cringey moments. On the other hand, Styles’s acting in “My Policeman” showed no signs of hiccups or laughable moments, and allowed you to really feel for the character he was playing. Furthermore, the actors of the older versions of each character were able to flawlessly convey the same emotions as their younger counterparts, resulting in a seamless blend between the present day and past versions of the same character. 

It is difficult to explain the rollercoaster of emotions without spoiling, but “My Policeman” is a great and captivating film that will leave you feeling utterly heartbroken, and full of sorrow yet content at the same time. 

Current Study Music Failing? Try These Instead

Library (Courtesy of Catherine Wasilko)

By Morgan Babylon

There are several ways to study, with one of those methods being a soft approach with just a little background noise. Familiar music that one can remember by heart and classic beats allow for information to just soak into the brain. Each person has their own preference when it comes to how they choose to study, but if your current study music is failing you, here are some options that may pique your interest.

Freshmen “Meggie” Moran told The Point News that classic rock and classical music is the way to go when it comes to concentration music. One artist that Meggie recommends students to listen to is Gamazda. Gamazda is revered for her reconstruction of legendary bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tool, and Papa Roach. The bands that she covers have additionally given her positive feedback for her piano covers. Another artist that Moran recommends is the Brooklyn Duo. They are one of today’s most successful classical crossover ensembles who do piano crossovers with other instruments. Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, and many more have featured their music. Their music can be heard on Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube. 

Freshman Nicole Osborn believes that binaural beats made for focusing are what is best for studying and retaining information. According to Healthline, binaural beats decrease anxiety and boost concentration due to the high frequency hertz of 8 to 13 hertz. However, Lofi is another popular music choice for concentration. It is produced using low frequency to be used as background music and eliminate distractions according to MasterClass. Moran and Osborn agree that these Lofi beats are often distracting to them and do not work effectively for their studying habits. 

Freshman Huaqiu “Cho-Cho” Williams believes that streaming jazz music on YouTube can help focus. His music is just soothing beats that have no lyrics to distract someone’s focus on studying. Jazz activates alpha brain waves, which help to reduce anxiety and promote a calm mind which is perfect for reviewing information learned in class or other tests going forward in the new semester.

One feature that all great study music has in common is that it relaxes the mind so that information can be absorbed and used for later purposes. By studying in relaxing places and having these background noises, you will help reduce the number of cram sessions you need, hopefully.  Using these strategies and others to reduce your stress levels can be found online on the SMCM Wellness Center website. Taking care of one’s mental health is essential to being able to effectively study and retain information so having soothing music and taking breaks are some methods for improving your mental health while studying.

2022 in a Bibliocentric Review 

By: Bridget Norton

This year we have seen the release of some phenomenal literature across broad genre ranges. The following are a few personal standouts of 2022. 

Rupi Kaur is a Canadian Poet, whose recent self-help September release, ‘Healing Through Words,’ was recommended by SMCM freshman Novalee Kreit. Kreit admires the strong feminism present in Kaur’s writting, and the representation of “the struggle of growing up as an immigrant woman, as it is not common in poetry.” This book uses writing exercises to aid in the exploration of hard themes like love, loss and trauma. However, Kaur also drives to support a celebration of healing and one’s self. Kriet was also fond of Kaur’s use of drawing to foster emotion, a skill that has transferred from her poetry into this book. You do not need to be a writer to take use of this book, simply be willing to be vulnerable and honest. 

‘The Bullet That Missed,’ by Richard Osman is an outstanding mystery novel and the latest addition to the Thursday Murder Club series. This club is composed of four characters from a retirement complex, a former MI-5 operative, a former nurse, a retired psychiatrist and a retired union leader. This novel has them tracking two murders, ten years apart and presents the former MI-5 operative with the choice to kill or have a friend die. This series is funny and a good escape, full of quick-wit and endearing side characters. The next installment is coming in September 2023, so the future of this series is something to look forward to. 

‘Book Lovers’ by Emily Henry is a romance novel that follows Nora, a cutthroat literary agent, and Charlie, a book editor, both of whom are visiting the small town of Sunshine Falls. Though they did not get along in their previous meeting in New York, they start to become friendlier and close through the story. While Charlie was not as compelling as other love interests written by Emily Henry, he was a perfect compliment to Nora. Additionally, the fact that Nora kept her drive and dedication to her work was a nice break from tropes. One major strongsuit of this novel, and Henry as a whole, is the ability to create nuanced characters, allowing them to exist outside of the romantic plot. Kate Pass, a SMCM student, commented that Henry “is good at making the characters and situations seem realistic while maintaining that larger than life factor of a romance novel. It makes you feel something.” This is a perfect quick beach read, not to be confused with Henry’s ‘Beach Read,’ which is arguably better than ‘Book Lovers.’ After all, who doesn’t love romance with a cult side plot?

‘Sea of Tranquility’ by Emily St. John Mande is a standout science fiction novel. It centers around four characters and their relation to an anomaly where they all heard the same violin playing, though they live in different centuries. The first several chapters are dedicated to their individual lives, but their stories begin to overlap, exploring themes of the meaning of life and the nature of reality. Overall, this book is an exploration of whether it even matters if anything is real or has meaning. This novel has a slower pace, but by the midway mark it is utterly enthralling and linguistically stunning, making the slow beginning worth it. 

Finally, ‘Other Birds’ by Sarah Addison Allen is a fiction novel which employs magical realism. In this book, Zoey goes to claim her dead mother’s apartment in The Dellawisp, a cobblestone building shaped like a horseshoe, on Mallow Island. The name Dellawisp comes from the turquoise birds that inhabit this island. After arriving on the islands, she meets her neighbors, but when an old lady in a neighboring apartment dies, a mystery is launched. However, the main focus is on the relationships between the characters at The Dellawisp and their efforts to love. Allen is able to convey that one does not need blood family to belong, and existence is deeper than what is seen. Allen’s descriptive prowess creates rich characterisation and vivid imagery. It is a character driven novel that is similar to ‘Sea of Tranquility’ in that it will leave you utterly satisfied if you take the time to get past the slow start.  

For further book recommendations and recaps of the literary year, lists curated by The New York Times, Vogue, and Time are a good choice.