Black Panther is a “Bad” Cat


For all those of you who have NOT seen the Black Panther film, stop reading. Stop reading right now and go and see it. It’s that good.  And of course you have to understand that in the hood, “bad” means good. And everywhere, someday, right will win the fight, and all that is noble and just will finally reign supreme.  Regardless of your sex, race or ethnic origin, if you love watching the best team win, and if you love what is true, and honest and lovely and good, you will love this film.

If you love comeback stories and good overcomes evil dramas, the Black Panther is for you. And if you love victories with a come from behind turnaround twist, you will appreciate the cinematic genius of Ryan Coogler and the acting acumen of Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright and Angela Basset and so many others.  

I read an outstanding review by Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post and can’t say it any better that she did. In short, Ann Hornaday said, “The Black Panther is a different kind of superhero (who) will mean so much to so many.”  Amen sista.

Here ya go:

” ‘Black Panther,’ an adaptation of the iconic comic book that has been decades in coming, proves to be more than worth the wait. This lush, impressively well-acted film, about an African king learning how best to marshal the superpowers with which he’s been endowed, comes draped in anticipation, not only from hardcore fans of the source material, but also from filmgoers already steeped in breathless hype. Director Ryan Coogler, working with a script he co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole, doesn’t just meet but exceeds those expectations, delivering a film that fulfills the most rote demands of superhero spectacle, yet does so with style and subtexts that feel bracingly, joyfully groundbreaking.

Chadwick Boseman, until now best known for channeling the likes of Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, comes masterfully into his own here as T’Challa, crown prince of the mystical kingdom of Wakanda, who assumes the throne when his father is killed while giving a speech at the United Nations. After an elaborate initiation ritual, T’Challa is tasked with hunting down an evil arms merchant named Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who has stolen a Wakandan artifact made of the precious metal vibranium. Outfitted with dhesive footwear, a fearsome feline mask and a suit that can absorb and redirect power, invented by his techno-genius sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa sets off for South Korea with his allies, General Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), an accomplished operative who also happens to be T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend.

That game, once it’s afoot, is plenty entertaining, even if it never veers beyond the most conventional contours of modern-day movie action. In a recent interview that went viral, the music producer Quincy Jones noted that most rap music is “just loops, beats, rhymes and hooks.” The same formula applies to the comic book movies that, at their most uninspired, feel like thinly cobbled-together series of battles royal, windy expository encounters, spatially challenged chase scenes and epic standoffs.

The difference with “Black Panther” is that, while observing the outlines of the traditional comic book arc, Coogler and his creative team have enlarged and revitalized it. Drawing on elements from African history and tribal culture, as well as contemporary and forward-looking flourishes, “Black Panther” pulses with color, vibrancy and layered textural beauty, from the beadwork and textiles of Ruth Carter’s spectacular costumes and Hannah Beachler’s warm, dazzlingly eye-catching production design to hairstyles, tattoos and scarifications that feel both ancient and novel.

Make no mistake: Coogler doesn’t use “Black Panther” as an awkward delivery system for such Deep Ideas. Rather, he weaves them in organically and subtly. “Black Panther” is great fun to watch and shot through with delicate threads of lighthearted humor, mostly delivered from Wright’s cheeky, sarcastic whiz kid and Martin Freeman, who shows up midway through the film as an earnest if unlikely ally.

Gracefully photographed with a gratifying un-frenetic touch by Rachel Morrison (nominated for an Oscar for her marvelous work on “Mudbound”), “Black Panther” succeeds far beyond Coogler’s directorial chops (which are prodigious), striking visual design and thematic depth. As a showcase for many of the finest actors working today, it proves how essential performance is, even in movies that on their surface demand little more than fitting into a latex suit and affecting a convincing grimace.

Boseman, who strides through “Black Panther” with unforced, charismatic ease, assumes almost Shakespearean levels of doubt as his character is challenged by an unexpected rival. Nyong’o, Wright, Sterling K. Brown and Daniel Kaluuya bring poetry and gravitas to roles that transcend mere support. Michael B. Jordan, who broke out in Coogler’s debut film, “Fruitvale Station,” brings scrappy, street-smart volatility to his performance as a character with whom T’Challa has a karmic connection, and Gurira steals every scene she’s in as an indomitable warrior trained in the art of spearcraft.

It’s these actors — their faces, their commitment, their attention to craft and detail — that elevate “Black Panther” to stirring heights, whether they’re surfing on top of speeding cars through the colorfully lit streets of Busan, arguing against the backdrop of a teeming, futuristic city or communing with their deceased elders on the ancestral plane. And, as they dominate the screen in a movie rooted firmly in their own history and narratives, they provide an exhilarating, regal rebuke to the chronic absence and denigration of black bodies in American cinema.

‘Black Panther’ may be grounded in the loops, beats, rhymes and hooks of contemporary film grammar, but it feels like a whole new language.”


Win At The Buzzer

Last night I went to a George Mason University Men’s basketball game. My wife Lisa is an alum and also the VP of the College of Health and Human Services Alumni Chapter Board, that organized a tail gate party for the CHHS alumni. It was wonderful to meet many alum, that came from far and near, who are doing amazing things “on and off the court.”

Bettyann Duffy, the President of the CHHS Alumni Board was there as well. She’s from Philly, so we have a common bond. It was great. And we also met some Eagles fans! So, what’s not to like about going to a George Mason game?

The Dean of CHHS, Dr. Germaine Louis and her husband, also came and we had a ball talking about the Eagles Super Bowl win. But now we’re only going to talk about Mason, because the game was even greater than the tail gate party.



On the surface, George Mason seems like a relatively average Division-I team.  Saturday, the Patriots improved to 14-15 overall on the season and 8-8 in the Atlantic 10 with a thrilling 78-76 win over Massachusetts. The game ended on a buzzer-beater layup by sophomore guard Ian Boyd. Mason cruised to a 16-point halftime lead, so it looked like the home team would make quick work of visiting UMass. Not so.

UMass came out of the locker room with a vengeance and eventually tied the game. UMass would’ve won except one of their players fouled Mason on a three-point attempt. With no time on the clock, the Mason player calmly drained three free throws to send the game into overtime. Unbelievable. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, the extra session was even better.

In OT, Mason pulled ahead, but UMass wouldn’t go away. With five seconds left, UMass tied the game. Then Mason’s best player, Otis Livingston II, drove the length of the floor. He was defended by at least two UMass players so he ditched the ball to a teammate on his left who made a layup as time expired. Final score: Mason 78, UMass 76. In overtime! What a game.

The irony is that at the close of the Tailgate Party we all sang the Mason Fight Song, not realizing that this game would prove to be just that, a fight. And sometimes life is just like that. Sometimes, you get ahead and then you fall behind and then you find yourself with time running out trying to figure out how to pull it out.

Sometimes, you need more time and more grace and another break to fall your way. In order to win, you have to keep pushing and pulling, fending and fighting through ups and downs and ins and outs. That’s how you Win at the Buzzer.


Are The Winter Olympics Way Too Long?

Here’s a humorous, tongue and cheek article by Ben Cohen and Joshua Robinson of the WSJ. It’s hilarious and well worth the read, just as Lyndsey Vonn’s Bronze Medal ceremony was worth the watch (she forgot to take her medal with her to the podium).

“PYEONGCHANG, South Korea—The Winter Olympics are a magical time every four years for people to marvel at sports that would almost certainly kill you, gawk at figure-skating wardrobe malfunctions and fall under the hypnotic spell of curling.

And then there are days like Monday. The complete list of medal events that day amounted to team ski jumping, 500-meter speedskating and two-man bobsled. That was it. Not a single medal was awarded before 9:53 p.m.

The slim pickings were symptomatic of a larger problem with the Winter Olympics: They’re way too long.

Wednesday was the 14th day of competition here. And somehow there were still four days to go. If it was beginning to feel like a slog, that’s because it was. There has never been a longer Winter Olympics.

But there is nothing in the Olympic Charter mandating that the Games need to feel this long. The Winter Olympics of 1976, 1980 and 1984 lasted 12 days from Opening Ceremony to Closing Ceremony. Until broadcasters wanted more. The Games expanded in 1988 to give ABC three weekends of television coverage during a typically dead time of the sports calendar between the Super Bowl and the NCAA basketball tournament. And they’ve only gotten longer since then.

The Olympics stretched to accommodate new sports that keep the winter Games fresh and relevant, like mixed doubles curling. With that there is now curling every single day of the Olympics. There is so much curling the only way that Pyeongchang’s organizers could squeeze it all in to 17 days was to stretch 17 days to 18 days: The first curling match was the day before the Games officially began. Eighteen days! That’s six days longer than the last NBA Finals, four days longer than Wimbledon and twice as long as the world championships dedicated specifically to curling.

So perhaps the sport could survive without nine matches of round robin play. And nobody needs 12 days of long-track speedskating either. Not even the gold-addicted Netherlands. They conduct their Olympic trials in all of four days.”

And the moral of the story is this: sometimes short and sweet is better than bitter and long.

Is Anybody Watching The 2018 Winter Olympics?

Let’s take a unscientific poll: thumbs up for yes and thumbs down for no.

As for me, I’m not. Well, at least not yet. I want to watch and I plan on watching, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. For starters, I’m from Philly, and as a native Philadelphian, I’m still celebrating the Eagles’ Super Bowl win over the Patriots. And rightfully so, since this victory has been a long time in coming. So that’s my excuse. What’s yours?

Let me guess. First, you’re not interested. The 24 hour news cycle is so full of White House scandal and North Korean bramble that you just can’t keep up. That’s understandable. Second, most of the Country (the US that is) has been hammered by storms of some kind. Most of the Midwest and the Northeast have been hampered by winter weather, so people in cold weather watching other people in cold weather isn’t quite such a winter delight. And third, you just haven’t gotten around to it yet. That’s OK. You can use my excuse, as long as you’re happy for my Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Fly Eagles Fly!

So it’s Sunday. And, hopefully you’ve worshiped God in some form or fashion today. Now that you’ve put God first, let’s support our mother countries and the athletes that represent us. It’s the essence of teamwork and my favorite theme, Team, Team, Team!

What’s Wrong With The Cleveland Cavaliers?

LeBron James is not happy.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Isaiah Thomas, aka “I.T.”, from the Boston Celtics in the 2017 offseason, they knew it was going to be a while before the crafty ball-handler was well enough to play, as he was still recovering from a hip injury.

After enduring seven months of rehabilitation, Thomas made his Cavs debut on Jan. 2 in a 127-110 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring 17 points in just 19 minutes of playing time. He’s had some good and bad games since then. In fact, the former Washington Huskies stand-out has been the Cavs’ leading scorer in each of their last two games. However, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the team is growing a bit wary of Thomas, and for good reason.

The chemistry between LeBron and I.T. just isn’t there, and the Cavs have appeared to be disheveled and disinterested in recent loses.

So what’s the problem? More importantly, what’s the solution? But first things first. In sports and in life, we all know that you can’t fix something until you know why it’s broken.

Will the Cavs trade Thomas? Maybe. Or LeBron? Not likely, especially since he has a no trade clause in his contract. Oh well. The circus in Cleveland may well leave the door open for Boston to win the East. Maybe.

The Philadelphia Eagles Overcome Everything!

Nick Foles Lombardi TrophyThe Philadelphia Eagles overcame everything that was thrown their way in route to winning Super Bowl LII in a wire to wire thriller.  They overcame injuries and insults and insolence and indifference.  They overcame being underdogs and afterthoughts and from being dead last in the NFC East a season ago to coming back from way back to shock the NFL World in 2018 on Super Bowl Sunday Night.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, picked my Eagles to defeat the evil empire New England Patriots (except maybe Randy Moss). But every other so-called “expert” in the field of professional sports picked the Pats to win in a laugher.  But they were wrong.

The Eagles lost their star quarterback Carson Wentz and their vitally important All Pro Offensive left tackle Jason Peters (remember “The Blind Side?”) and their defensive leader Michael Kendricks along the way.  They finished dead last in the NFC East last year (did I say that already?) and were picked to do the same this year.  But that was then and this is now.

There are so many redemptive stories on this Eagles Championship team. But the story of Nick Foles takes the cake.  Nick Foles emerged from the shadows and proved the doubters wrong as he played better than even he may have expected in the playoffs to give Philly their first Super Bowl win, ever. And how sweet it is! 

Here’s what the New York Times had to say about Nick Foles winning Super Bowl MVP honors:

“Three weeks ago the thought of Foles being named the most valuable player of Super Bowl LII would have seemed ludicrous, but after watching the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback crush the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, and then essentially match that performance against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, the choice seemed obvious.” Amen to that.

Nick Foles taught us how to endure and persevere and hang on in there. Yes Nick made a difference, but his teammates believed in him and in the power of “TEAM” as well.  For everyone out there who’s thinking about quitting (Nick Foles did) or giving up or listening to what everyone else is saying, hold on just one minute. The motto for the Eagles this postseason was this; “one can make a difference, but a team can make a miracle.”  And that’s it; that’s the answer.

The Eagles had a miracle season and a miracle Super Bowl and got miraculous plays from players who believe in miracles. At the end of the game, when they needed one defensive stop — just one — they got it, just when they needed it most. The Eagles got a strip-sack-fumble of Brady by Brandom Graham which bounced right into the hands of Derek Barnett. But to seal the deal, they needed yet another stop, and they got it: a deflected Hail Mary prayer of a pass to Gronkowski fell harmlessly to the turf.  Thank God!

And miracles still happen because we still believe in the power of hard work and teamwork and working and believing together. The Eagles just won the Super Bowl when they weren’t supposed to. And along the way, they overcame everything Brady and everyone else threw their way. 

Jesus overcame everthing. He overcame death, hell and the grave. He was in all points tempted, and was yet without sin. And He said this to us:

In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

With Jesus, we can overcome everything, too. We can overcome past pain and present strain. We can overcome the hurt of our dark history and the disappointment of unfulfilled destiny. We can overcome factual failure and fictitious fears. We can overcome everything.

So let’s learn from the Philadelphia Eagles. Let’s overcome everything. Everything people say and everything we do. Everything. Let’s overcome every disappointment and every defeat; every hindrance and every setback; every letdown and every putdown; every difficulty and every disadvantage; every big thing and every little thing. Everything.

The Eagles Super Bowl LII win once again proves that we can in fact overcome everything.  And so, my friends, as we celebrate with the Eagles and Philly fans everywhere, let’s determine that with the help of Heaven, we will overcome everything!

All For One and One For All

We love sports because the concept of team is embedded in our inner being and lies at the core of every human concern. Unity and solidarity and community and congruence are the essentials of teams and teamwork. It has been said that there is no “I” in team. Amen. A really good team has a corporate identity that transcends and supersedes individuality yet even lifts each individual together.

Successful teams are selfless and not selfish. Teams that focus on the whole, not the individual, will win. Teams that focus on individual talent at the expense of the team invariably and inevitably lose on and off the court. It’s that simple.

E. Stanley Jones puts it this way: “Gordon Alport, professor of psychology at Harvard, said that ‘paradoxically self expression requires the capacity to transcend oneself and the pursuit of objectives not primarily referred to the self.’ Here psychology and Christianity collide. Jesus said that ‘he that findeth his life shall lose it and he that loseth his life shall find it’. Self cultivation is allright and very necessary provided the self has been surrendered, and the surrender must be to God. Then it can be cultivated for it is God centered and not self-centered.”

That’s why so many people love Carson Wentz. Yes he’s disappointed that he’s not playing but he’s shown by his selfless actions in helping Nick Foles that he’s all about the team. And that is also why Brady and Belichick have so many haters. They seem to put themselves above the whole, above the team. Yes they’re good, but what about everyone else? The sum is greater than the individual parts. That’s how God intended it to be. You need look no farther than the Trinity for the Divine example.

All for one and one for all. Each member pulling for each member, and every member in fellowship with the entire membership. This is the motto we should all ascribe to fulfill.