Arts & Culture

Poised for the prowl: Black Panther’s box office attack continues

By DeForest Mapp
Medill Reports

Superhero King T’Challa led the multitudes  to “Black Panther” for two consecutive weekends. The blockbuster topped attendance at any other movie with a domestic gross of $400 million and shattered previous earnings records for a film that showcased a majority African American cast.

“Black Panther” made gold for a Marvel gamble that debuted on 4,020 screens at midnight, Friday, Feb. 15.  Many theaters nationwide sold out screening the film with a production price tag north of $150 million.

“[Black Panther] was really a story about a family and a monarch that had to make a big decision whether to bring his country into the greater part of the world or not,” said Gary Hardwick, filmmaker of Deliver Us From Eva and The Brothers.  “I was really surprised that they went with that story as opposed to all the other things they could have done.”

“Black Panther” brought us to the home of  King T’Challa, who sought to keep his country cloaked from the outside world.  And in doing so, he learned he could never protect those who mattered to him most without building strong alliances.

“[Chadwick Boseman] was the only choice [for T’Challa],” Marvel President Kevin Feige said during the film’s official press conference held in Beverly Hills, California.  “We were sitting around the table.  We were coming up for the story for [Captain America] Civil War.  Nate Moore, the executive producer, had … suggested bringing in Black Panther because we were looking for sort of a third party who wouldn’t necessarily side with [Captain America] or side with Iron Man.  And almost instantly we all said, ‘Chadwick.’”

King T’Challa’s Royal Talon Fighter, descending upon Wakanda in “Black Panther.” PHOTO: MARVEL STUDIOS/DISNEY

Director Ryan Coogler subtly tied the film to Oakland, California. Since the actual Black Panther Party  was founded in Oakland in 1966, the ties between Wakanda (created with special effects) and Oakland were intentional but clever.

“Wakanda was built in a room with Ryan [Coogler] and the incredible design team.  And so, to see it alive, it’s almost unimaginable,” said Lupita Nyong’o during the press conference for Black Panther.

Wakanda, on the surface, connected to many rural areas of Africa.  But T’Challa took the audience beyond a barrier  hidden to the naked-eye. “Black Panther” revealed a sense of community in Wakanda that the regular world may have found inconceivable.  Leaving the  world we know for this imagined world felt real.

“I think that [Black Panther] reveals that there is far greater potential in this world that we sometimes see every day,” said Chicago non-profit executive Ruth-Anne Renaud, 53, after seeing “Black Panther” at the Arclight Cinema in Chicago with her husband Tom.

Lupita Nyong’o, (left), and Chadwick Boseman (right) in “Black Panther.” PHOTO: MARVEL STUDIOS-DISNEY

King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) shared  good chemistry but the timeliness and  the importance of love could have been called into question when Nakia felt the gravity of what was at stake.

“In African culture, they feel as if there is no king without a queen,” said Angela Bassett, Queen Mother in the film,  during Marvel’s press conference of the film.  “I was so proud to have my daughter and my son there last night because in their faces, in their spirit… they were feeling themselves.  They stood taller” during the official press conference.

Simple factors as well as great filmmaking contributed to  Black Panther’s  triumphant success.  First, it’s in the Marvel cinematic universe, which has a loyal fan base.  Second, African American films have always done well at the box office relative to their  often modest budgets.  African American romantic comedies from 1995 to 2008 had budgets between $6 million and $30 million, while generating total domestic revenues of approximately $1 billion, according to The Numbers, Imdb and Box Office Mojo.

“I did have high expectations [for Black Panther] but I went into it with a very open mind, knowing that it would be different than other Marvel movies and stories, but really not sure what to expect,” said Chicago sales and marketing executive Tom Renaud, after seeing “Black Panther” at the Arclight Cinema.  “So, I went into it with a very open mind knowing that the production value was going to be very high.”

King T’Challa / Black Panther in “Black Panther.” Photo:  MARVEL STUDIOS-DISNEY

Add to the  Marvel-recipe the Disney Co.’s global marketing, its distribution partners and a well-written story.  The result was a high-concept superhero who keeps his people safe by literally hiding them from the rest of the world.  An intuitive audience used this as an opportunity to explore its curiosity.

“Sky’s the limit now that they’ve brought X-Men and they’ve brought Spiderman back into the [current Marvel] family,” Hardwick said.  “So, [Marvel] can do anything now if they wanted to.”

If there was any power to draw from the story of “Black Panther” it might be for Hollywood executives to exert more commitment  to connect with segmented audiences.  Though “Black Panther” came from the Marvel universe, there are other science fiction stories to be told.  Disney’s “A Wrinkle In Time” is but one due to be released in March.

“Make more stories that show the full spectrum of humanity and capability and possibility,” is what Ruth-Anne Renaud said she would say to Disney Studios Chairman, Alan Horn, if he were standing at the Arclight theater.

Infographic: BLACK PANTHER. Data sources: WSJ, Imdb Pro and Box Office Mojo.
Photo at top: Chadwick Boseman in “Black Panther.”Photo at top: MARVELSTUDIOS/DISNEY

Chicago reporter learns a new step to help fight cancer

By Dan Order
Medill Reports

Under three weeks of practice remain, as a local TV reporter prepares to perform a dance she’s been working on for months.

It’s more than just a fun new sport for Lauren Victory of CBS 2, as she’s learning the Lindy Hop to help raise money to fight breast cancer.

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Bring on the obstacle course: Jeep Wrangler makes traction at Chicago Auto Show

By Annanya Johari
Medill Reports

Navigating an indoor hillside pulled drivers to the  biggest draw at the 110th expo of the country’s largest auto show. The “Jeep Camp” allowed visitors to rev up the 2018 Jeep Wrangler and set  course for an 18-feet hill, boulders and other off-road obstacles. The Chicago Auto Show highlighted hundreds of vehicles and drew thousands of car enthusiasts of all ages this month.

Other popular attractions included the Cadillac Escala, powered by a twin-turbo V-8 engine, a prototype for future Cadillac models.  It was voted the best concept car at the show, narrowly edging out the Lexus LF-1 Limitless featuring technologies such as digital side-view monitors and 4D navigation.


The Chicago Auto Show Welcome Globe. (Annanya/MEDILL)

Medicine, heroes and dancing in Cuba

This is the final installment in a multi-part series on Cuba. Read the previous collection of vignettes: “Memory and invention mix in Cuba”

“No es lo que quiera, es lo que hay”

HAVANA – Donated medications can’t be given to the state, my host mother Lesbia explains to me as I pry for anecdotes about her experiences with health care for a potential story.

I am walking the fine line between acting as a journalist and a house guest, but it is paramount to get to the bottom of medical resource accessibility after months of research and listening to doctors vaguely talk about the lack of resources.

Lesbia is telling me about her son-in-law, Jorge, who had an accident about a decade ago. He was on the roof when he fell into a power line and suffered a severe electric shock.

He suffered no permanent brain damage, but one of Jorge’s legs never fully recovered. Now, he takes vitamins sent to him by doctors in the United States to ease the pain.

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South African school children celebrate Chinese New Year

By Viola Du
Medill Reports

Sounds of drums, singing and kids’ laughter came out of a corner of Pretoria Chinese School of Gauteng Province. Dozens of children dressed in red gathered in the concert hall on Feb 15, getting ready for the Chinese New Year celebration.

Chinese New Year celebration and performances at the school is a tradition since the school was founded in 1934. Teachers and students usually work together and put on shows that often represent Chinese traditional culture.

View the photo essay

Photo at top: Students at the Pretoria Chinese School of Gauteng Province celebrate Chinese New Year. (Viola Du/MEDILL)

American First Nations compete at World Championship Hoop Dancing Contest

Nathan Ouellette
Medill Reports

PHOENIX, Ariz. – A chorus of voices and the echo of drums engulfed the sunbathed amphitheater at the Heard Museum this month as dancers from American Indian and Canadian First Nations gathered for the 28th Annual World Championship Hoop Dancing Contest.

The dances emerged from tribal healing ceremonies. Now, hoop dancing has grown from its traditional roots into a broader and more public celebration.  Individual dancers manipulate colorful hoops with their bodies – often transforming as few as four to as many as 50 hoops into designs coordinated with intricate footwork set to the rhythm of drums and voices. Judges calculate scores based on precision, timing, showmanship, creativity and speed.

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Chicago’s Working Bikes empowers riders across the globe

By Nathan Ouellette
Medill Reports

Traffic along  Western Avenue south of the Loop is often congested. Yet a reprieve from the pandemonium of horns and speeding cars can be found at the corner of Western Avenue and 24th Place, amid a dense forest of refurbished bicycles, at Working Bikes bike shop. 

Working Bikes is more than just a used bike shop offering rebuilt cycles and spare parts at affordable prices. Sales only make up a fraction of the not-for-profit’s operation, as volunteers stockpile abandoned and donated bikes and refurbish them for donation programs locally in Chicago and globally from Africa to Latin America.

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Madison Square Garden beats estimate

By Richard Foster-Shelton

Medill Reports

Madison Square Garden Co. (NYSE:MSG), based in New York City, reported healthy increases in revenues and net income, exceeding analysts’ expectations, for the second quarter ended Dec. 31.

Helped by a tax benefit, the company reported net income of $189.6 million, or $7.96 per diluted share, up from $57.7 million, or $2.39 per share, in the year-earlier quarter. Analysts estimated $2.01 per share.

The second quarter net income included a non-cash income tax benefit of $113.5 million, which the company said will reduce net deferred tax liabilities.

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Composing music for mummies

By Jourdan Kerl
Medill Reports

Each ancient portraits’ piercing gaze leaps from the shadows of the gray walls, lending an ambience of an abyss at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University.

The exhibit “Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt.” features portraits painted to be placed over the faces of  wrapped mummies.

The soft music playing through the space adds to the meditative mood.  “Respectful,” yet “minimalist” could describe the melody surrounding these expressions.

Thomas Molash drew inspiration from these two words to compose the ambient soundtrack “Abyss” for the portrait exhibit.

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Artists track 100 years of Chicago police violence to fight against it

Xiaozhang(Shaw) Wan
Medill Reports

Artworks about 100 years of Chicago police violence are on exhibition “to help people better understand what led to present circumstances,” according to the exhibition brochure.

The exhibition, “Do Not Resist: 100 Years of Chicago Police Violence,” is open through varying February dates, with different works on display at the Hairpin Arts Center, Art in These Times and etc. in Chicago. Continue reading