AT THE MOVIES
Opening Feb. 16: It’s appropriate that Black Panther, a film based on a Marvel Comics’ character, opens in February, which is Black History month. The title character was created in 1966 by Stan Lee, now 95, and the late Jack Kirby. Lee, who is still
active, is an executive producer of the Black Panther film. When Black Panther (also known as T’Challa) was created, he was the first African character to have his own comic series. Even the comic name was original — it antedated by about a year the founding of the famous Black Panther organization. Short synopsis: T’Challa is the son of the king of an isolated but technologically advanced African country. When his father dies, he has to use all his superhuman powers to defeat evil foes that threaten the lives of his people. It’s directed by African American Ryan Coogler, who directed and wrote Creed, the surprisingly good Rocky sequel.
I think it’s worth noting that this film is an example of the best in cultural exchange between the Jewish community and the African American community. Of course, there were moments of cultural exploitation, but far more often there was a fruitful relationship. But there also were people like Stan Lee, who early on gave the black community a superhero. Likewise, I was struck by the fact that three important African Americans saluted Norman Lear,
now 95, at the recent Kennedy Center Honors. Comedian Dave Chappelle, Black-Ish creator Kenya Barris and Black-Ish star Anthony Anderson took the stage to recount how Lear changed the TV landscape in the 1970s by creating shows that had African American stars — and depicted African Americans in a good light (The Jeffersons, Good Times and Sanford and Son). They all said that these series inspired them to go into show business.
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Tony Award-winner Ben Platt, 24, has signed on to star in The Politician, a new Netflix comedy series. It’s created by Ryan Murphy (Feud, American Horror Story, Glee). Netflix has already ordered two seasons and Murphy is in talks with Gwyneth Paltrow (who had a guest turn on Glee), 45, and Barbra Streisand, 75, hoping to land them as co-stars. The Politician is described as a comedy, blended with social commentary and music (giving Platt a chance to show off his great voice). Paltrow’s new fiancé,
Brad Falchuk, 46, is a frequent partner of Murphy’s, and the Hollywood Reporter says he’s co-producing Politician.
If you happen to be in New York between Feb. 10-18, do see The Bar Mitzvah Boy, a rarely seen musical that has a limited run (call New York friends, too, and tell them to see it). The music is by the late, great Jule Styne and the lyrics are by Brit Don Black, now 79. Based on a hit Brit tele-play, it had a short run on the London stage in 1978. The current production stars Ben Fankhauser, 28. A year ago, I noted that Fankhauser was a co-star of Newsies, a hit Broadway musical that was filmed for movie theater showings. Fankhauser’s mother is a Detroit native, and he was born in Detroit, but raised in Cleveland.
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