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The wee hours in which Malcolm X and Cassius Clay anticipated present-day racism in the USA | Culture

On February 25, 1964, Cassius Clay, only 22 years old at the time, surprisingly became the heavyweight boxing champion of the world when he defeated Sonny Liston in Miami. Liston, the title holder, was a hard-hitting, iron-fisted fighter. Clay had class, style and a big sassy mouth. But he was also a man conscious of his influence and destiny. His friend Malcolm X attended the pugilistic soirée and invited the brand-new champion to his motel room that night: Clay was about to announce his conversion to Islam, his name change (to that of Muhammad Ali, the one beloved by God), and his joining the Nation of Islam, the religious organization that Malcolm X, incidentally, was planning to leave. That night, in that tiny room, they were not alone, they were joined in the celebration by two other friends who were also stars in their own right: the singer Sam Cooke, the soul music icon, and Jim Brown, the legendary running back, who, at the top of his game but fed up with racism in sports, was thinking about retiring and taking a go at an acting career.

There is no photographic evidence of the night in question: actually, there is not even a single snapshot of the four of them together. Neither does anyone know what they talked about. What we do know is that after that night and the early hours of the next day, the four of them changed their lives and their careers. Sam Cooke was murdered 10 months later, in a shady accident that time has shrouded in a conspiratorial halo. Weeks later, in February 1965, Malcolm X was also murdered. The sixties were a cauldron seething with violence, civil rights and art.

During the confinement, Regina King (50 years old, born in Los Angeles) was astounded by the parallel echoes between what we were experiencing at the time (“The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor talk to us about the racism extant in my country”), and One night in Miami, the movie she made about the foursome in question (“They are some kind of Black Avengers, aren’t they?”) just before the onset of the pandemic. The movie is said to be an Oscar contender. It is Monday in Los Angeles, and King appears on the Zoom screen. The first thing that strikes me are her hazel eyes, even more noticeable in the aseptic room in which the interview takes place. King’s resumé is impressive. After a 35-year acting career, she is one of the TV queens of her country, having won four Emmys: a pair of them for the American Crime series and two for Seven Seconds and Watchmen. Besides, she has won a Golden Globe and Oscar for her work in If Beale Street Could Talk. She had directed several TV series’ episodes in preparation for her next step: “I am well aware of the change this means for my career. I am now a movie director, and even though I used to be one for television, I must admit that, five days away from the release of my movie, I’m getting more and more nervous.” The release, through the Amazon Prime Video platform, is due this Friday, King’s 50th birthday. She will celebrate it by “having a private screening with some friends, taking every precaution and following all the anti-COVID protocols.”

The actress’s rise to stardom seemed to be obvious from her birth. Her parents named her Regina [which means queen in Latin], and her sister’s name is Reina (“queen” in Spanish), which combined with the family’s surname does sound very monarchic. While she started working in the TV industry in 1985, she did not go into movies until six years later, mentored by the late John Singleton (she made three films with him) in Boyz n the Hood. “I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in those projects and with John’s friendship for two decades, which was out of the ordinary. He allowed me to learn from the preparation previous to shooting a film, an in depth process, and from how he wished to express and how. At the time, I was not conscious of the fact that I would also be directing someday, but the universe always has a plan (laughs).”

Cassius Marcellus Clay (Muhammad Ali) with Black Muslim leader Malcolm X at 125th St. and Seventh Ave.
Cassius Marcellus Clay (Muhammad Ali) with Black Muslim leader Malcolm X at 125th St. and Seventh Ave.NY Daily News via Getty Images

King would not be satisfied with any ordinary script, which explains the time she took tracking the right material. “Because I knew just how important this step was, I worked alongside my agent for a long time looking for a script that would fulfill several expectations. I found it all in One night in Miami: it was powerful and at the same time it would allow me to express myself as an artist. And each day, during the creative process, I became more and more excited about it. I’m not saying that what I had previously directed for TV wasn’t important, but the main subject of the movie is (she thinks it over for a few seconds) valuable. And urgent.”

One night in Miami is based on a play by Kemp Powers (the co-director of the Pixar movie Soul). Kemp himself adapted it for the screen. The plot is twofold: inside the celebration night there is also a night of reflection. “Just as it is happening now, isn’t it? Biden won, but nevertheless we still have many structural problems. Our social system has to be rebuilt itself, and that does not happen automatically. Furthermore, we have seen how the last four years have destroyed the efforts of decades. I try to remain optimistic [she laughs] but my expectations are very low.” Even so, King acknowledges that every dramatic event that has taken place in the USA after the shooting of her film heightens the relevance of her movie. “It is necessary to remind each and every American citizen that there are more things that unite us than things that divide us, that we have a long past history in common, and that we effectively harbor many negative traits. If we accept that, we can improve. This is not going to make America great again (King is making fun of Trump’s slogan), what we must understand is that it was never really great, and that it will not be so if human beings and fellow Americans are still being oppressed, marginalized and murdered.”

There is a scene in the film in which Sam Cooke is outraged by Malcolm X, who tells him to his face that the songs of Bob Dylan seem to better reflect the suffering of Black Americans than his own. Cooke, who had just recorded the awesome and moving song A Change is Gonna Come, answers: “I will not be anybody’s weapon.” And what about Regina King? Has she always spoken for herself in her multiple statements committing to, for example, having women make up 50% of the cast/team in her projects, or underlining the endemic racism in the USA? “Sometimes you feel that, as a famous person, you have to live up to certain expectations. Handling these situations is complicated. Overcoming those issues and knowing that your feelings as a human being go beyond ‘what a star is supposed to say’ is not easy at all. Anyway, remember that the universe always has a plan.”

The road traveled by ‘One night in Miami’ has been a long one. The shooting process was completed with a few extra days once the coronavirus had already reached the USA. The film’s premiere at the Venice International Film Festival turned Regina King into the first Black filmmaker to be nominated for the Golden Lion prize. That journey ends today with the film’s release on Amazon. “I made the movie thinking, evidently, about releasing it in movie theaters. But these are the times we live in. And after what we have suffered during the last months in the USA, it seems utterly important to me for the movie to reach the largest possible audience. Would I like to watch it in a theater surrounded by a crowd? Yes, and I would love the audience and myself to be moved by it at the same time. Will I now be able to reach many more Americans? Of course, and the main theme of my movie deserves it.”

Have you heard our Spanish news podcast ¿Qué? Each week we try to explain the curious, the under-reported and sometimes simply bizarre news stories that are often in the headlines in Spain.

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‘Monkey Man’: Dev Patel makes directorial debut with a delicious stab at action cinema | Culture

Dev Patel has always had an intelligent glint in his eye. From his big screen debut in Slumdog Millionaire to his role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s series The Newsroom, the British actor usually brings a sense of peace, calm and intelligence to his performances. Perhaps that is why it is no surprise that, at 32, he has made his directorial debut with a film in favor of social outcasts, which he also produces, co-writes and stars in. The surprise is its genre: Monkey Man is a fierce action and martial arts film, revolving around hand-to-hand combat, dismemberment and knife fights.

Patel returns to India, the land of his ancestors, for his story of revenge that is strengthened by the creative arsenal applied to its sequences — and not only those of combat. While there was a serious lack of design in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, one of the worst choices for Oscar for Best Film in Oscar history, Monkey Man has at its heart a physical and moral entanglement, involving a sadistic police chief, a luxury brothel that serves as home to both fornication and power, and a ragged young man who seeks to atone for the death of his mother through the most savage forms of violence.

Monkey Man is also set in a slum overrun by gambling and fights, with Patel earning a few rupees as an underground bare fist fighter wearing a crude monkey mask. With its colors and the camera’s handling of Bombay’s chaos, the movie has echoes of Brazil’s City of God.

Image from the movie 'Monkey Man.'
Image from the movie ‘Monkey Man.’Universal Pictures

A comparison can also easily be made with the John Wick saga, which has revolutionized commercial action and martial arts cinema in the past 10 years. Patel even mentions John Wick in one on-screen exchange. Yet, despite the similarities, the staging and editing of their spectacular fight sequences set them apart. In the four installments of the John Wick movies starring Keanu Reeves, the choreography regarding the confrontations is developed through a paradoxically harmonious staging of continuity, with general shots extended in time. The dynamics of their contenders and their movements are visualized with hardly any editing, almost like a classic fifties musical but instead of dances, there is physical destruction.

The action in Monkey Man, on the other hand, is not one of continuity, but of rupture. The cuts are incessant and move at an unrestrained pace; the shots come in quick succession, with barely a second or two between them. Patel’s handling of cinematic language is brutal. For a novice director, he displays a dazzling energy, cadence and expressiveness. This is demonstrated by three of the only four fights in the ring, each one based on a dynamic sense of space and narrative. The first is defined by the close-up shot, with the camera directed at the waist of the opponents or even lower — giving the viewers a sense of overwhelming closeness. The second offers a very different vision of the fight, which is both more poetic and exquisite. And the third uses surprise as the main exponent, and is raw and concise.

With rough textures, contrasting colors and ochre photography, reflecting the social mud in which most of the characters are stuck, Monkey Man only slips off kilter in the second half, when the Hindu demigod, Hanuman, assumes the tragic halo that envelops the protagonist. Although it gives him authenticity with respect to his lineage, the visualization is tinged with a somewhat tiresome messianic muddle of lyrical ambition.

Monkey Man

Director: Dev Patel.

Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Sobhita Dhuliwala.  

Genre: Action. United States, 2024.

Duration: 121 minutes

Release date: April 12.

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Paramount Studio Prevails in Copyright Battle Over ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

Paramount & The Copyright Battle Over ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

The Voice Of EU | Paramount emerges triumphant from the legal showdown triggered by Maverick’s triumphant return to the big screen. A U.S. district judge swiftly shut down a lawsuit brought by the widow of the Israeli scribe who penned the piece inspiring the 1986 blockbuster, Top Gun. The heirs of Ehud Yonay alleged Paramount breached intellectual property rights with the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, which soared to unprecedented heights in 2022, raking in over $1.5 billion worldwide. However, the judge decreed that numerous aspects of the sequel, including its narrative and dialogue, bore no resemblance to Top Gun. The sole shared element? Both narratives orbit the U.S. Air Force pilot training hub.

Judge Percy Anderson’s verdict laid bare that many of the claims raised by the Yonay clan failed to meet copyright criteria. In a 14-page ruling, he affirmed that the sequel’s themes, dialogue, characters, setting, and overall presentation diverged significantly from Yonay’s original article, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Marc Toberoff, the legal maestro representing the Yonay lineage since 2022, swiftly vowed to contest the ruling. The estate had dispatched a cautionary missive to Paramount in May of that year, weeks before the sequel’s release, forewarning of potential copyright infractions due to the family reclaiming story rights in January 2020.

The judge’s decree solidifies that Top Gun: Maverick marches to its own beat, with little homage paid to its predecessor or Yonay’s source material, which meandered through life at Miramar Naval Air Station in a non-linear fashion, honing in on pilots Yogi and Possum. Instead, the latest installment, helmed by Joseph Kosinski, unfurls a linear tale set years later, spotlighting a fresh squadron at North Island Naval Air Station, also in San Diego.

With the lawsuit dismissed, the runway is clear for the trilogy’s third chapter, headlined by the indomitable Tom Cruise. Currently in pre-production at Paramount, the script by Ehren Kruger, architect of the sequel’s success, fuels anticipation. Talks are underway to enlist Kosinski’s directorial prowess once more, though industry pundits speculate production could hit turbulence if Paramount falls under SkyDance’s umbrella. The titans of entertainment are in deep discussions about the fate of Tinseltown’s venerable studio.

Regardless, Ehud Yonay’s legacy won’t grace the credits of the third installment, as Judge Anderson quashes any such notion.


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‘Ripley,’ The Best Treatment Of The Patricia Highsmith Classic That Sheds Light Onto The Cursed Human Condition

‘Ripley,’ The Best Treatment Of The Patricia Highsmith Classic

When faced with another adaptation of Tom Ripley, the character, the very human villain created by Patricia Highsmith, the writer who tried to understand the evil that nests in each one of us, one wonders what was the need for it? I mean, hadn’t Anthony Minghella nailed the idea of such a charming, queer criminal in The Talented Mr. Ripley, a luminously dark film that became an instant classic in the 1990s? You might ask if the present is so lacking in ideas. But let me tell you that it suffices to watch a few minutes of Steven Zaillian’s Netflix miniseries Ripley to think quite the opposite (Zaillian is also the creator of The Night Of). That is, one wonders why hadn’t anyone done this before, how Minghella could have stayed so far away, so much on the surface of the character, really?

The feeling that, from the beginning, Ripley has been much more than an apparently seductive guy, that he actually never was — for Highsmith, he was always a strange guy — who nevertheless managed to make others trust him because, by observing them, he gave them exactly what they wanted, at all times. What they wanted was attention, to feel understood. The sense that through Ripley the world and the human being — everything that someone is capable of doing to get what he wants, and what he wants is not necessarily a good thing, you will see why — can be explained and has been there from the beginning, but it would seem that what we knew about him was that he was a fake, a trickster, a perpetual mask. And why, how did he experience that mask, where did he leave the rest? Well, Zaillian answers all those questions one by one and raises a few more.

And Ripley does so thanks to a hypnotic and fascinating narration that brings back the best film noir, inhabited by a present in which subjectivity reigns. Thus, there is an excellent intention in the use of black and white — and not only because of the classic air it gives, the tribute to noir from high neo-noir — because there is no color in Ripley’s world, everything is governed by Good and Evil, and the nuance is painful because no one in the society of the time (1961) is seeing it. And it is also there in the third person who constantly becomes the first person — that is, the viewer is both outside and inside the character, because what he is seeing is not only what is happening, but how Ripley himself feels what is happening. And how does Zaillian achieve this? With the sublime use of sound and fixed shots, objects and an environment that only seems to stalk the protagonist. The calm before any storm.

Ripley
Andrew Scott in an image from ‘Ripley’. Lorenzo Sisti

The way the crimes are told is the best example of that latent — and immersive — subjectivity that achieves what Highsmith set out to do, time and again, in her novels by telling how darkness, the damned, nestles in each of us: to empathize. They know the story. The writer’s recently divorced mother drinks a full glass of turpentine when she finds out that she is pregnant. And yet little Pat survives. And she grows up to become a writer who wants nothing more than to understand what her mother did. Her mother must have loved her; but she tried to get rid of her: did that make her horrible? It was through villains who were nothing more than ordinary guys with one foot on the edge of the abyss that Highsmith tried to understand her mother. And Ripley, her most perfect, her most polished, creation.

Remember the story. Tom Ripley (here, Norman Bates-like, played by Andrew Scott with a coyly sinister touch) is a small-time con man who lives by intercepting mail that isn’t his and forging identities to collect small sums. He is hired by a shipping magnate to bring his wayward son, Dickie Greenleaf (a magnetic and superb Johnny Flynn) home. Dickie lives in Atrani, a small Italian seaside town, with his girlfriend Marge (played by a cold and suspicious Dakota Fanning), where the two lead a small bohemian life. Ripley and Dickie are supposed to have been friends at some point — Dickie doesn’t remember him — and the attempt to convince him will turn into an impossible impersonation that Ripley painstakingly improvises as he goes along, criminally eliminating one obstacle after another.

Ripley
Dakota Fanning as Marge Sherwood and Johnny Flynn as Dickie Greenleaf in ‘Ripley.’
Courtesy of Netflix

On screen, the subtlety with which Zaillian portrays the fine line that separates Good from Evil — or what we should not have done from what we have done — is drawn by the narrative’s attention to detail and symbols. There’s a narrative beneath the narrative we’re contemplating, which Minghella overlooked; here, they give the character abysmal depth. Those stairs that Ripley climbs, which are at first intricate, labyrinthine, and then cease to be so; they remind us of Sisyphus, in his repeated ascent, the effort, the awareness of the Evil that weighs heavier and heavier. The annoying, insidious clock that marks the race against time that we will never win. The oppressive silence. The silence of death. Ripley is alone with himself when he kills, and the viewer is inside him.

“Tom Ripley is nobody, and so he can be anybody,” Patricia Highsmith herself said of her character. “In that sense, he’s an impostor. He’s someone who gets under someone else’s skin, and so he reflects us a little bit because we’re all a mask in a way,” she added. Yes, Tom Ripley is a mask. He is an animal destined to be someone else, who survives by being someone else, and here each twisted monologue in front of Andrew Scott’s mirror takes another step toward some kind of abyss. Because, as we said, Ripley — and any Highsmith villain — is capable of doing anything to get what he wants, and what he wants is not always, as we also said, a good thing. Not even for him. And here’s the thing that every one of Highsmith’s creations hides: an imperiously savage desire to destroy his world. Zaillian’s miniseries — pure suspense, an intellectually superior suspense, you’ll see — shows that desire better than anyone else.

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