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And so the cancellation of Will Smith begins

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Shocking no one really, a string of Will Smith films are ‘to be axed’ after the Chris Rock slapping incident at the Oscars divided global opinion on what to do – or not do – to the Hollywood icon. Whatever the case may be, it appears a cancellation is underway. Here’s why that may be a bad thing.

By Justina Terhember

Will Smith shocked not only Hollywood last weekend, but the whole world, when he slapped Chris Rock live on stage following a joke at the Oscars. It was such a seismic event that it pushed Ukraine to second position on the list of online trending issues. Of course, those who do not support him have been calling for his head on a spike, and even his supporters (nay, sympathizers) have made peace with the possibility of harsh repercussions, it appears the cancellation of Will Smith has officially begun.

Specifically, because Netflix and Sony have reportedly shelved plans to make films with the actor, with a string of projects facing cancellation, and some upcoming films quietly shelved. Smith, 53, dazed the world last weekend when he stormed the stage of the Academy Awards and slapped Chris Rock after he made an ill-judged joke about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith. Will returned to his seat and repeatedly screamed: “Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth!” while the astonished A-List audience watched on in shock, and the internet broke in two.

Will later apologised to Chris via social media and on Saturday announced that he had resigned from his position as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but as expected from the pulse of reactions on popular media, the worst is yet to come.

Will later apologised to Chris via social media and on Saturday announced that he had resigned from his position as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but as expected from the pulse of reactions on popular media, the worst is yet to come. The Hollywood Reporter claims that a Netflix film titled ‘Fast and Loose’ meant to star Smith has been shelved in light of the scandal. The film had originally been set to be directed by David Leitch, but he pulled out of the project a week before the Oscars sending Netflix into a frenzied search for a replacement.

It appears that Netflix was understandably wary of moving forward. It is unclear whether it will try to make the project with another star and director. TMZ also suggested that Smith’s other Netflix projects, namely ‘The Council’ and ‘Bright 2’ could also be tossed into the trash as a consequence of #SlapGate. To make matters worse, even frequent collaborator Sony is said to have canceled plans to make ‘Bad Boys 4’, all for the same reason.

The Smith family

Also being reported, is that the slapping incident has affected a project he has been working on at Apple+, one deep in post-production, a drama titled ‘Emancipation’ which tells the story of a runaway slave from a Louisiana plantation. The film had already been tipped to secure Will a second Best Actor Oscar nomination but the Hollywood Reporter now claims: “The streamer had planned a 2022 debut but has not dated its release.”

There are more, and there will be more, obviously. TMZ adds: “There are other Sony-tied films of his (either as a producer or actor) that might see the same fate including a Hancock sequel and a Karate Kid sequel.” I won’t be surprised if they revoke his Oscar award. All for what? Because he lost his temper? It was a slap, not a punch for God’s sake. To be honest, when I saw the video, I even thought “He hits like a girl”. But jokes aside, where and when will this lynching stop? It’s not just about Smith, you know. He represents a lot, culturally and racially.

There are cultural ramifications that might be felt for years, maybe decades. Progress for Blacks in Hollywood was slow and hard-fought, so a thing like #SlapGate shouldn’t roll it all back. It’s almost like someone, or a group of people, are eager to tear the actor down.

What these heavy-handed (forgive the pun) cancellation measures will certainly prove is that there is nothing like forgiveness in the public court of justice, or in the sanctimonious halls of Hollywood. Like I wrote earlier, it’s not just about Smith anymore. There are cultural ramifications that might be felt for years, maybe decades. Progress for Blacks in Hollywood was slow and hard-fought, so a thing like #SlapGate shouldn’t roll it all back. It’s almost like someone, or a group of people, are eager to tear the actor down.

Smith has got a production company now, so beyond just starring in films, he’s heavily involved in making them lately. Is an active cancellation the best way to go? What happened to suspensions, fines, public apologies, and community service? No doubt, Smith was clearly in the wrong for resorting to violence, but let’s not forget the joke was a triggering one. There should be a middle-ground, less-messy way to handle this situation, and cancellation is not the way. Like the end part of one of his apologies, “I am heartbroken.”

  • The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of GeekAfrique.com

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Review: ‘Magic Pen’ is an example of the difference a film school can make

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When a pen can make you get high grades at school, why study?

By Nathaniel Bivan

In March 2022, Uzoma Ihejirika, a writer, concluded a three-month training at EbonyLife Creative Academy (ELCA), where he studied screenwriting. Then he wrote on Facebook: “the decision to take the course came at a perfect time: I’d just quit an underwhelming job and needed the thrill of learning a new skill; it was also a welcome distraction from confronting the uncertainties that stared me in the face.”

One of the results of Ihejirika’s latest adventure was being a part of the team that brought ‘Magic Pen’ to life – one of their four student films at EbonyLife Creative Academy available on YouTube. And so, I decided to take a peek and realized this is absolutely stuff to talk about, for if students can accomplish this in only three months (note, it’s one out of four such projects), then Nollywood has no reason not to be making fantastic stuff. Anyway, here goes.

When the first scene opens in a classroom where the major character, Charles, thoroughly anxious in an exam hall, vomits on his coursemate, I knew I wanted to continue watching. Then, as expected, going by the title and synopsis, another coursemate offers him the key to scoring high grades – a magic pen.

Now, the Nigerian film industry is still warming up as it tries to dive into the sci-fi world with movies like ‘Kajola,’ ‘Ratnik,’ and several more. Then came the Critics Company, a group of teens at the time, who made news for shooting sci-fi shorts with a smashed phone. So, yes, I was expecting magic, lights, and thunder, and… magic on Charles’ exam answer sheet. An addition to the growing effort. But I was disappointed, and I mean this in a really good way. The twist concerning the pen and everything it stands for totally ruined my expectations and yet earned the team responsible for this short film a standing ovation.

The actors didn’t annoy me, interestingly. Who are they? Are they new? Is this their first outing or what? These are all questions I need answers to because sometimes it’s frustrating to watch a Nigerian movie and wonder what the criteria were for selecting some actors. But then, I’ve heard that sometimes producers or anyone in charge tends to impose and even get a son, relative or friend on board no matter the consequences. This is sad. To the detriment of excellent work?

Bottom line: The acting is really good. If it isn’t, I’m sure I’d have gotten irritated and simply stopped watching and wouldn’t have wasted my precious time doing this review. I’m like that most of the time.

One take-away from this film is that not everything is the way it seems, and sometimes success is more than just what we do – it’s a mindset.

So, thumbs up to EbonyLife Creative Academy, to Ihejirika, and the entire squad, particularly the actors. And lest I forget, the videography is really good too. I particularly enjoyed the images in Charles’ mind that, for me, made watching ‘Magic Pen’ electrifying and, yes, sci-fi!

Watch the entire film below:

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#BookChaser: EB makes poetry ‘medicine’ that heals

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In a collection that transcends poetry, our writer discovers it is music, interrupted by rhymes and rhythm.

By Nathaniel Bivan

I met EB through his words on a blog – laden with stories and poetry – that made me reach out long before Covid-19 became infamous. I realized EB was famous before the pandemic and then, writing for and editing the arts section of a major national newspaper then, I reached out to him.

When I dug deeper, I found that EB also did Spoken Word. In fact, it probably is his core art. This was when his words stood out on a song, a cover if my memory serves me correctly. Then in 2022, his album ‘Incarnation’ drops.

‘Guns don’t kill, bullets do. My poems are guns and bullets. People should read me and let me be their bulletin,’ he says in ‘What Will Humans Do.’”

Then, “Today I am not the poet. Today I am the poem. Recite me when you are down, recite me when you are bound.”

So I chose to read EB, and this is what I found. When everything fails, what will humans do? Will we make more sophisticated aircraft? Try to make the sun shine after sunset? Maybe through a lamp against the sky when the moon refuses to brighten the night?

So I chose to read EB, and this is what I found. When everything fails, what will humans do? Will we make more sophisticated aircraft? Try to make the sun shine after sunset? Maybe through a lamp against the sky when the moon refuses to brighten the night?

These are the questions I find in EB’s work, just as I also find Nigeria’s dilemma, embedded in his poems. For instance, so-called banditry and terrorism in the north, where people are unable to go to their farms for fear of being killed, or worse.  

I’m writing this review a few hours after an acquaintance tells me about how his father evaded death in Southern Kaduna, a part of the north whose inhabitants prefer to call the middle belt. So, when I listen to EB again, his story of a mother and son’s encounter with terror is heart-wrenching. I picture Kagoro, the place where terrorists visited not too long ago, killing many. But it’s not only Kaduna, there’s Zamfara, Katsina, and most recently Plateau State where terrorists, commonly called ‘bandits’ have plied their deadly trade.

These are the images EB’s poetry paints in my mind, and without even trying.

Then there’s the soulful music, the play with tongues that’s in reality the Hausa language. Is this a musical album or poetry? I don’t care. I’m enjoying it, I tell myself. Stories drenched in music and rhymes.

No wonder he started streaming ‘Incarnation’ early. In just a few weeks it had almost sold out.

I have listened to and read a lot of poetry in my lifetime, but nothing like what Elisha Bala brings to the fore in ‘Incarnation’. But I am tempted to ask: are the songs original? Because if they are – and I suspect this is the case – then this is not just poetry, but art that deserves to travel around the world.

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#SeunSays: Sometimes the best ‘superhero’ films aren’t superhero films

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In a heartfelt piece, a die-hard geek, author – and regular-ish new columnist for GeekAfrique – shares his views on ‘The Batman’.

Seun Odukoya

After watching comic-based movies for over thirty years, I can confidently say the best superhero films are sometimes not ‘superhero’ films. They are simply genre films featuring people with special abilities. Case in point: ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier’, ‘Logan’, and now ‘The Batman’.

DC needs to learn to keep a lid on their casting choices, or maybe not. At this point, people ranting and screaming at the heavens because of Batman and related characters casting choices is nothing new. Hey, I ranted at Heath Ledger’s casting as Joker, but I learned my lesson. So, when Batfleck’s turn came about, I held my peace. The result? An incredible performance that didn’t get its time in the spotlight.

We all know the story: personal issues interfered with the original plan to have Ben Affleck direct and star in a standalone Batman movie that would have had Deathstroke as the main villain. That would have been insane, as both characters are known for their physicality and combat abilities. Besides, the warehouse scene in ‘Dawn of Justice’ gave me one of the several things that had been lacking from live-action Batman films: A Batman who can actually fight.

Another thing that has been so conspicuously absent in the movies is actual detecting. For a character hailed as ‘the world’s greatest detective’, to the point where one of his deadliest and oldest rivals refers to him like that, the movies have failed in that regard. Until now. ‘The Batman’ is your standard mystery crime thriller; someone is running around Gotham murdering the rich and privileged (aka the corrupt). He leaves breadcrumbs for the police and a certain vigilante to find – or the tail end of a rope for them to tug on, and thereby unravel the biggest corruption scandal in Gotham since…well, since forever.

The vigilante in question has been around for roughly two years, and his methods still need work. The most obvious is the fact that there’s no clear distinction between the mask (Bruce Wayne) and the man (Batman) yet. Bruce broods, Bats broods. Bruce is obsessive, so is Batman. He seems to be tottering on the edge of complete insanity, needing ‘one little push’ to completely lose himself. And somewhere on the fringes is Batman’s batman, hovering, unsure of his place in the ungodly mess that is his charge.

Gotham itself is a city devouring its own tail. It is gloomy, seedy, with the sun barely seen during the 176-minute runtime. Bruce himself provides the narration for some of the film, providing context and exposition. Zoe Kravitz’s Selina Kyle is a pleasure to watch – something even Bats acknowledges in one of the ‘that was weird’ scenes. The character can be fun, but much of that cannot be had in this joyless movie. Her bisexuality was introduced – but we weren’t beaten over the head with it. And both the stars have on-screen chemistry in abundance, sparks and hearts flew off the screen every time The Cat and The Bat shared a scene. I do like how their relationship is teased but not explored too deeply.

Matt Reeves’ ‘The Batman’ is good for many reasons. The dialogue is excellent: James Gordon is more visible here than in any other movie version, though he seemed more like Bats’ sounding board than his own man. It’s always nice to see the more human members of Bats’ rogue’s gallery – Falcone, Maroni; Collin Farrell virtually disappears into his Penguin, sounding like an early-days Robert DeNiro knock-off. Gil Colson is supposedly Harvey Dent’s forerunner – and Peter Sarsgaard plays him like a college teenager on a first date with his crush. Alfred is the guardian who is confused about his ward’s choices but loves him nonetheless. And a bonding moment promises a closer relationship between the two, which will probably lead us to the Alfred we all know and love.

‘However, it is worth mentioning that it’s as though Reeves looked at Nolan’s trilogy and upped the ante.’

I couldn’t help but notice how Reeves draws parallels between Batman and the Riddler. They both stalk people, embrace theatricality, and keep meticulously detailed ledgers. And Riddler did admit to being inspired by Bats. If only he knew. The Riddler, whose name has somehow become Edward Nashton is played to perfection by Paul Dano, who I have thought of as ‘disturbed’ for a while. I’ve always found his babylike face creepy, and he dials it all the way up with growls and grunts and sudden screams.

Pattison’s Batman realizes he still needs a lot of work; this is clear for all to see when at the climactic moment, he is made to realize running around a city in black and calling himself ‘Vengeance’ may not be the smartest choice. I’m not even going to talk about the bike, the Batmobile, the gadgets, and the functionality of the Batsuit. However, it is worth mentioning that it’s as though Reeves looked at Nolan’s trilogy and upped the ante. And the cinematography? ‘The Batman’ is a lovingly and gorgeously-shot movie, frame by frame. Several shots feel like a picture come to life, symbolism running rife within. Greig Fraser (of ‘Dune’ fame) deserves an Oscar for this one.

‘If I could offer Reeves some advice though, it would be to LEAVE JOKER ALONE. Everybody has a narrow view when it comes to Batman and his rogues’ gallery, as though Joker is the only villain he has.’

If I could offer Reeves some advice though, it would be to LEAVE JOKER ALONE. Everybody has a narrow view when it comes to Batman and his rogues’ gallery, as though Joker is the only villain he has. Reeves did a great job with Riddler, now do some other guy, like the Ventriloquist, Ra’s Al Ghul, Killer Croc, Clayface, the Mad Hatter, Hugo Strange, Black Mask, Calendar Man, Lady Shiva, or the Court of Owls. See the point there?

‘The Batman’ may be a hard sell for ‘regular’ moviegoers who only know Steve Rogers because they’ve seen ‘Avengers: Endgame’, and people who are not true movie buffs may find it long and boring. But anyone who watches with an open mind is guaranteed to be entertained. After all, is that not why we’re here?

Seun Odukoya, author of ‘Saving Dapo’, lives and writes in Lagos.

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