Film Review: Black Panther

This post is super late, sorry!! I started writing this like, right after I saw Black Panther and then life happened and this completely fell off my radar. But here it is now!

Holy shit, I am like, legitimately shooketh. I watched Black Panther (I actually watched it twice, two days in a row—it was that good), and I loved it. It is too good for this world. Visually, it was beautiful, the characters were compelling and well-developed, the story was tight and paced well, and the story arc was both really captivating and relevant. There were so many things I loved about it, and it’s honestly a little difficult for me to find things I didn’t love. Maybe watching it a third time is in order?

If you haven’t seen Black Panther yet, GO SEE IT. Go see it twice. Or more than that, whatever. It is so worth it. And then come back and read my review of it. Spoilers ahead!

What I loved…

Erik Killmonger: Ok, so I didn’t love Killmonger in the sense of like, YES GO REPLACE T’CHALLA AND DEFEAT THE WHOLE WORLD, YOU HAVE MY FULL SUPPORT. No, he’s still an ass, and still totally in the wrong when it comes to his “an eye-for-an-eye” revenge-y mentality. But as a villain, he was so, so intriguing. I love villains who are complex—villains who aren’t just a Bad Guy Because The Film Needs A Villain. A really compelling villain has become the way he/she is because of his/her backstory and because of the things he/she has gone through. I love when a villain has real reasons for feeling a great deal of anger and hatred towards the protagonist and what the protagonist stands for. And I especially love when there are moments where you can empathize with, or at least feel for, the villain, and moments where the protagonist doesn’t seem all that golden either. As a villain, Killmonger checks all these boxes. His backstory is just heartbreaking. As a child, he went through way more pain and loss than most adults ever do, and more than the protagonists did. When we find out the truth of what happened to N’Jobu, it feels much more natural to sympathize with Killmonger rather than understand T’Chaka’s reasons for his choices and actions. We side with N’Jobu and Killmonger in this instance; not T’Chaka. The scene where Killmonger takes the vibranium herb and is transported to the ancestral plane is one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in the film. It really serves to humanize Killmonger. For the first time, we see the bond Killmonger has with his father, and we see the pain that both of them have had to deal with. It’s such a stark difference from T’Challa’s first time taking the herb and seeing his father—both T’Challa and Killmonger have their own share of challenges, but the challenges they each face are so different. I love how Killmonger was developed as a foil to T’Challa. Where T’Challa felt a sense of duty and belonging, Killmonger had no home, no family, and no legacy to uphold. He didn’t have a royal upbringing like T’Challa did, and he wasn’t sheltered from racism and bigotry. His anger at Wakanda, and their isolationism and unwillingness to get involved, is not unwarranted. He is angry at Wakanda’s inaction—and rightfully so. There’s a moment when Killmonger first arrives in Wakanda and faces the Wakandan leaders, including T’Challa, and he asks, “Where was Wakanda when our people were suffering?” (or something to that effect; can’t recall the exact quote). And he’s absolutely right. Killmonger isn’t angry for nothing. He has seen and experienced oppression, and he lost his father due to a choice T’Chaka made—T’Chaka chose Wakanda over his father and over him. Killmonger’s character was, in part, molded by the actions of the protagonists.

Killmonger’s role as a villain was also more significant; he served as a catalyst for change in Wakanda. T’Challa realized that sharing Wakanda’s resources was important, and that remaining isolated and not helping was wrong, because of what he learned about what happened to Killmonger and N’Jobu. I love when a villain has a really relevant place in the story; where the story progresses because of the role the villain played. After Killmonger was defeated, Wakanda didn’t just go back to the way it was. Wakanda changed; its future changed. Killmonger’s presence in Wakanda made an impact, and an ultimately positive one at that—which is what makes him such an interesting villain. Despite the fact that Killmonger was motivated by hatred, his defeat was what led to a change in how Wakanda interacts with the world and how it responds to the bigotry that’s present outside of its borders. Killmonger is such a nuanced, complicated, compelling character—and Michael B. Jordan absolutely did the character justice. (I mean seriously—THE MAN CAN ACT.)

Theme of community: The film really emphasized the importance of community, and I thought that was really cool. The community motif sort of underlies almost every scene, and it’s even used to distinguish the differences between T’Challa and Killmonger. When Killmonger defeats T’Challa and takes his place as king, the first thing Nakia does is to seek help from the Jabari tribe—who live in the mountains and who have rejected the Panther rule and the new technology. In the beginning of the film, we see this tribe as almost an enemy of the royal family. After all, M’Baku challenges T’Challa, and the tribe is essentially separated from the rest of the tribes under Panther rule. I love how what turns the tide in the final battle is the Jabari tribe coming to help fight and putting their differences aside for the good of Wakanda. Nakia’s mentality—and the mentality of most of the other characters in the film—is that they cannot win alone; they need each other and need to help each other. In the film, the characters find strength not from themselves, but from those they love and trust. In the final battle, when W’Kabi’s tribe is attacking T’Challa, T’Challa is having a hard time fighting back. What gives him the edge and helps him regain the advantage is when he sees his sister, Shuri, fighting with Killmonger. That’s what makes him realize he needs to win—because he needs to help her. Saving himself isn’t what gave T’Challa strength; instead, it was saving those he loved. Throughout the film, we see how the importance of community is emphasized, yet Wakanda continues to remain isolated from the rest of the world. At the end of the film, there’s no longer a disconnect between one of the central themes of the film and Wakanda.

Supporting character arcs: Almost every character in Black Panther was well-developed. M’Baku was only in a few scenes in the film, but he stole every scene he was in and really made the most of his screen time. His dialogue was on point, and I loved his sense of humor. He was a minor character, yet still had a character arc. Okoye was another supporting character that I loved—she wasn’t the main character, but her character still had a clear storyline, and she did grow throughout the film (learning that it’s not enough to just support the throne; but rather, who sits on it, what he stands for, and what’s best for Wakanda). Also, can I just say—Okoye is my fucking queen. Like, she is my soul sister. I want to be her. She was hands down the best female character in the film.

Who run the world? Girls: Speaking of female characters, I love how the film had so many empowered female characters. The female characters were central to the plot, and T’Challa genuinely needed them and relied on them. Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, Ramonda, the female soldiers led by Okoya—like, holy shit. I love how women had real, meaningful representation in this film. The female characters were strong, yet compassionate. They weren’t one-sided or stereotypes of a “strong female character” or “damsel in distress.” They were well-developed and had equal weight in carrying the story forward.

What I didn’t love…

Honestly, I am at a loss when I try to think of what I didn’t love. There are a few things I could nitpick at, like Agent Ross’s character (which was silly, but honestly I didn’t mind and he didn’t bother me), or using vibranium as a plot hole filler the way a lot of Hollywood movies use computer hacking (Ok, this is the Marvel Universe and of course it’s going to be a little bit ridiculous; I mean Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, FFS). But overall, I don’t really dislike these per se. I was really happy with the film, and it had way more positives than negatives for me.

Questions I still have

WHAT HAPPENED TO KILLMONGER’S MOTHER? I know that the interwebs has information on this, but I have not looked into this yet. Regardless, I think this would be something worth exploring in some way. Also, I have not seen Infinity Wars yet, so I know that there is a gap in my knowledge (I know, I know—don’t @ me, I haven’t had time! I’ll get to it when I get to it).

Final Thoughts

There is so much to love about this film. Even watching it twice in a row, then again a few weeks later on a plane ride to Asia—it was amazing each time. The cultural representation was so empowering—and having just seen Crazy Rich Asians and realizing how much Asian representation impacted me, I get how much representation matters. It sets a precedent for, and opens up conversations about, inclusion and diversity. And seeing oneself represented, whether in film or music or anything, is such an empowering feeling.

 

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8 years later…

So singing is like, a thing I am constantly working at. It’s something I’ve always wanted to be good at, and something I never really felt like I was great at but always wanted to be better at. I don’t know if it’s because growing up Filipino, music, and singing in particular, were huge parts of the culture and were how family and friends spent time together, or because I grew up with people who naturally had amazing voices, or because I thought it was fascinating how your body could produce really beautiful music on its own…or all of the above. ANYWAY. For the past few years, I’ve been working with a vocal instructor, and I recently listened to myself singing in a video from 2010. I sounded so different. Like literally, listening to myself now, I sound like I went through puberty or something (ha!) because my voice was a lot higher and more nasal in 2010. My voice sounds a little deeper now, and hearing the difference is just interesting to me. So, through the grit of my teeth, I am posting the 2010 video (a Justin Bieber song, no less), and the most recent video of me singing so you can hear the difference.

Before…

 

And after….

 

Still working at getting better and improving. I recently sang my first long gig–1.5 hours–and holy shit it was tiring as hell. So next thing I’m working on is being able to make it through a long gig without feeling fatigued and improving my vocal stamina. I’ll post another before/after vid at some point in a few years. Or months. Haha.

 

Summer uniform pt.1: Boyfriend jeans

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Top: Madewell
Jeans: Rag and Bone (limited sizes available,
similar options below)
Belt: Lucky Brand
Shoes: Steve Madden

So, it took me a while to jump on the boyfriend jean bandwagon because I always thought I’d just be drowning in them. What finally converted me? Summers in Texas. Summers in Texas are HOT. Like, hot AF. Skinny jeans are fine if you’re spending your day inside a cold office during the summers, aka me (which BTW – can someone explain to me why office buildings feel it’s necessary to blast the A/C up the ass when it’s hot outside? The constant temperature changes give me whiplash.). But if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors, skinnies are absolutely out of the question (unless you like suffocating). Enter: boyfriend jeans.

For me, boyfriend jeans are perfect for summer because they’re lightweight and airy enough that I’m not dying outside, but they still cover my legs so I can stand to be inside cold, air-conditioned buildings without freezing my tail off. I’m one of those people who’s always cold and always needs to keep a sweater with me—and on the days that I wear shorts, I instantly regret it whenever I step inside a building. So my summer wardrobe largely consists of boyfriend jeans and maxi dresses/skirts—pieces that let a lot of air circulate, yet still cover enough to keep you warm inside a cold building.
Whenever I’m picking out a boyfriend jean, I prefer it to be in a mid or light wash with some distressing. Boyfriend jeans are usually a summer piece for me, and in summer I don’t tend to do dark washes. (I’ll still wear a black jean though—I think black works in any season as long as you pair it with the right pieces.) In summer, most of my denim is either distressed, faded, or both. Idk, something about summer makes me dress like I’m Colbie Caillat in one of her Coco music videos, or the female protagonist in a Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation set in a tiny coastal town.
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Top: Abercrombie (similar, BR)
Jeans: Rag and Bone
Belt: Lucky Brand
Shoes: Steve Madden
It can be a bit tricky trying to make a distressed jean work in an office setting, so my solution for that is to say “fuck it” and wear what you want because if men can wear shitty cargo shorts to work then I can definitely wear a distressed boyfriend jean with a heel and a dressy blouse. BUT—if your work setting is a little less casual, you can still work a mid or light wash boyfriend jean with no distressing (and throw on a blazer or jacket—that automatically elevates any outfit). My go-to for jeans is Rag and Bone (surprise surprise), and their Dre cut is a perfect boyfriend jean for me—it’s relaxed enough but still maintains some kind of silhouette and doesn’t look frumpy in the back (you know what I’m talking about). The denim is also a great quality and really, really soft. I’m wearing the Dre capri in these photos—but since I’m short AF it works as a regular length jean on me. For fit reference, the inseam on their capri cut is around 27 inches, which works as a full-length jean for me at 5’1. Levi’s 501s are another great boyfriend jean option—and I would have gone with the 501s if I hadn’t first found the Rag and Bone pair I currently have. 501s come in just about any wash imaginable (both distressed and non-distressed), and they’re a classic.
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Top: Hollister (old, see below for similar options)
Jeans: Rag and Bone
Belt: Lucky Brand
Shoes: Steve Madden
For a more casual look, I love pairing boyfriend jeans with something simple, like a white v-neck tee or a lightweight sweater, like this backless one. I’m a sucker for anything backless, and I think it balances the relaxed cut of a boyfriend jean really nicely. Whenever I’m wearing a piece that is revealing in any way—whether it’s a plunging neckline or a backless cut—I’ll balance it by covering up somewhere else or pairing it with a piece that isn’t as body-hugging. Even in casual settings, I like pairing a boyfriend jean with a heel—I think it looks best with a stiletto heel in a really minimalist style, like these Steve Madden Stecy sandals (a cult favorite). A slim heel balances the wider cut of a boyfriend jean and keeps the look a little more feminine.
My exact sweater is sold out—I picked it up from Hollister on a whim a few years ago for super cheap. Lulu’s has really similar options (with additional colors available) HERE and HERE. LOFT also has a similar option with a twist-back HERE, and Gap has a version with a less dramatic low back selling HERE.
As for my jeans, since there are limited sizes available, I’ve found some similar options by Rag and Bone HERE, HERE, and HERE.
PS – I recently bought a pair of Rag and Bone Margot booties, as well as Allbirds sneakers—so stay tuned for reviews for both of those coming soon!
Thanks for stopping by!
Ari

All black everything

I love wearing black any time (and every time), but black is definitely best in the winter. All-black ensembles look so chic in winter–and they’re so easy to put together. An all-black look is also my go-to when I’m in a pinch and need to throw on an outfit in like, five minutes. Nothing goes better with black than black.

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Giving the side-eye.

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Outfit details
Jacket: Blank NYC
Sweater: Trouvé (similar)
Jeans: Hudson (similar)
Boots: Sam Edelman (similar)
Ring: Kendra Scott

The black suede jacket is by BlankNYC, and I’ve worn it more times than I can count this winter. It goes with everything, and the suede is really warm. I found the jacket to be true to size–I took an XS, and it fits well (albeit a little snug if I wear it over bulkier sweaters). For reference, my measurements are 32-24.5-33. This exact color still sells HERE, but if you prefer a different color, you can find it in burgundy and camel HERE. There’s also a black leather version selling HERE.

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RBF.

The jeans are by Hudson. I picked them up at Nordstrom Rack a long time ago, and I was actually on the fence about keeping them when I first got them. I’m glad I did, as they’ve proven to be a wardrobe staple. These are great dressed up or down, and the holes fall (more or less) on my knees (no shin holes, please!). The fabric is soft and stretchy but still thick, and the jeans hold their shape over a good number of wears. I couldn’t find this exact pair selling anywhere, but Rag and Bone carries a style that’s really similar HERE–and Rag and Bone is probably my favorite denim brand. As far as sizing goes, I’m usually a 25 in both Rag and Bone and Hudson–both those brands tend to fit true to size, though I’ve found some pairs to run slightly small. For a high waist skinny style, both brands tend to fit true to size on the legs, with a little room in the waist.

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The boots are actually a recent find, and one of the best impulse purchases I’ve made. I love the silhouette of the boot, and the leather is quite soft and pliable. The heel is high, but not too difficult to walk in, and it’s a stacked heel so it’s a little easier to walk in than a stiletto. These ran pretty true to size as well–I’m usually a 7, and I took a 7 in these–though if you plan to wear thick socks under these boots, I would suggest sizing up a half size. This exact pair is sold out, but there is a really similar style (also by Sam Edelman) that sells HERE. I also love the Margot boot by Rag and Bone–there’s a black suede version that sells HERE.

Sweater is by Trouvé, though the black version is sold out. I really like this alternative by NIC+ZOE selling HERE–I love knot details, and this one is convertible so you can knot it or front tuck it.

The ring is the Kenny ring by Kendra Scott, and I wear it almost every day. Statement rings are my favorite, and this one is exactly what I look for in a statement ring–it’s eye-catching, yet versatile. It’s a great addition to any outfit. This exact style appears to be sold out, but there is a similar alternative selling HERE, a budget-friendly version selling HERE, and an all-metal version selling HERE. Kendra Scott also carries another style that I’ve had my eye on for quite some time, HERE.

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I gotta pee!

Thanks for stopping by!

-Ari

Things I’ve learned this year…

2017 was an interesting year. I learned a lot. Here’s some of it:

  • Love is respect.
  • People are not made to be alone. We depend on each other. People who think it’s better to be alone because “people are dumb/ignorant/don’t get me” are unwise. People who think friendship and relationships are not a necessary part of life are naive. People who think they will never need other people are naive.
  • Emotions are just as important as logic. You need both to live a balanced life. You cannot have just one.
  • There is nothing wrong with being sensitive. There is strength in sensitivity.
  • Confidence and strength come in all forms and do not look like just one thing. Don’t underestimate someone’s confidence or strength just because they don’t look like your idea of confidence and strength. And don’t feel forced to change just because you don’t embody someone else’s idea of confidence and strength.
  • Reading, writing, music, and art fill the soul. They’re essential to human survival. Learn an art form, and make sure you’re always reading something.
  • Feminism and gender equality are the same thing.
  • Pick your battles.
  • Whenever possible, choose peace, compassion, and forgiveness.
  • Trust and respect must be earned.
  • Love is action. Love is a choice. Love is a habit. Love is not just a feeling.
  • Feelings are fickle. Don’t use them as your compass too much.
  • When things are right, your head and your heart will be in sync.
  • When your head and your heart are not in sync, follow your head.
  • True happiness takes strength and work to cultivate.
  • But love and respect should come naturally.
  • You have plenty of time, but use it wisely.