On a Black Panther-focused Facebook group, a number of questions about the current title penned by acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates were posed. His run on the comic is NOT widely acclaimed. Here were my responses.


Q. Are you a fan of Coates’ work?

A. In a word, no. He’s a good world builder and I rather like the wordiness of his writing, but the world was built already. He doesn’t have a good sense of pacing. He does too much in the margins despite all the talkiness.

Q. Where do you want Coates to take the franchise?

A. I want him to write some cool superhero comic starring the man with the plans A through H. It’s taken two years of his run to even begin to feel like Panther is that guy. This is in stark contrast with every other writer of the character for the past two DECADES.

Q. How can Coates improve his work?

A. • Shorter arcs, please. The better he gets at writing tighter, the better he’ll be.
• More exposition. It’s rather intolerable that Shuri’s been back for a year of comics and we STILL don’t really know what all her new abilities are. Like, that’s basic superhero trope, exploring the new powers.
• More T’Challa. The thing about Marvel’s solo books is that they get into the title character’s personal life away from the city/world/universe/multiverse-shaking events and into some of the mundane (with smaller scale super-problems to deal with) and — this is MOST important — into the lead’s head.

How much better would the first issue have been had we gotten to see Wakanda as the Golden City for a minute? THEN, suddenly, we see the Renzi-Sparked turmoil? What if we got to see T’Challa dealing with the unthinkable happening in his nation instead of his lieutenants doing it off-panel?

We needed that moment we saw in the “Captain America: Civil War” movie where Tony Stark is confronted at the elevator by Alfre Woodard’s character. But Coates was too much a neophyte writer to do that.

Q. Can Coates improve? Give your thoughts.

A. He HAS improved somewhat. There are moments of brilliance, such as his use of Dr. Eliot “Thunderbolt” Franklin. The recent “three steps ahead of his friends” bit. But there’s his distrust and apparent deep disbelief in the very idea of Wakanda, the fabled Afrofuturistic vision of what might have been for the continent if not for imperialism and tribalism.

I think Coates is trying to write a T’Challa who is a far greater king than his predecessors. I think he wants BP to be the one who is NOT the colonizer/imperialist that Coates’ newly retconned Wakanda was. But, y’know, why tear down the nation to build Panther up?

I’m a ride-or-die Panther fan, so I will keep reading despite my misgivings. If only maybe to troll it LOL


Since writing this a month ago, both I and Coates have seen the spectacular “Black Panther” film directed by Ryan Coogler, and I suspect that both of our perspectives on the character of Black Panther and Wakanda have been somewhat transformed. But only time will tell if it leads to a better Panther comic.

In the meantime, writer Evan Narcisse appears to be using the world-building Coates did on the main title to write one of the potential all-time great BP stories in his “year one” styled “Rise of the Black Panther” chronicling T’Challa’s early days as Wakanda’s monarch. The first two issues of the six-installment series are excellent.


It’s that time again: When I briefly veer from viewing popcorn movies and such in favor of what the Academy likes. And then I rank the Best Picture nominees myself.

The nine this year are:

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri



Call Me By Your Name
A summer-love story between a teenager (Timothee Chalamet) and his father’s assistant (Armie Hammer) set in early 1980s Italy, it’s The Gay Movie that always shows up in this or the acting categories. But while this film is similarly themed to last year’s winner, “Moonlight,” it’s not even in its league. Though beautiful, CMBYN has a weak conflict that literally bored me nearly to sleep.

Every year I’ve done this review, there’s the film that simply wasn’t half as good as the rest, and this is it for this installment. 3 stars.


Darkest Hour
This biopic about Winston Churchill is selected pretty much solely due to Gary Oldman’s amazing performance as the WWII-era prime minister of Britain. The movie itself rather spins its wheels a little bit. It’s never bad or boring but seems somewhat needless at times. 3 stars.


Phantom Thread
Daniel Day-Lewis plays a fastidious postwar England dressmaker who tends to fall for his models, including the latest played by (Vicky Krieps). Though it’s the sort of tired Oscar bait film that usually appears among the Best Picture offerings, PT manages to transcend its staid … what’s the word … boundaries? Dunno … to become a tale that haunts. 3 stars


Lady Bird
This quirky little film about a high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) with a prickly relationship with her critical mom is an artful bit of fun. Part self-discovery story, part hometown love letter and part early-’90s period piece, it kinda meanders. But it’s so enjoyable that I didn’t care. 3 stars


The Post
This film about the Washington Post newspaper’s 1971 decision to publish the then-still-top-secret Pentagon Papers might look like a pointed jab at today’s politics, but in truth it is in every way merely a period piece. Featuring a crack ensemble cast led by Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep as, respectively, the editor-in-chief and publisher of the paper, this movie serves as an important reminder of the power and responsibility of a free press.
That said, as riveting as it can be and despite my professional affinity for the theme, it’s not otherwise exceptional filmmaking. 3.5 stars


In this WWII epic, director Christopher Nolan returns to the timebending, wheels-within-wheels storytelling approach he used in earlier films “Inception” and “Memento.” The result makes what would be a standard war film into a more riveting and challenging affair. Perhaps even more impressive is that Nolan made it PG-13 and it doesn’t feel softened or sanitized at all. 4 stars


The Shape of Water
A mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) befriends The Asset (Doug Jones), a mysterious being held captive at a secret government facility in this excellent film. Known for his playfully quirky pop-horror fare, director Guillermo del Toro makes perhaps his first grown-up movie with this Cold War sci-fi thriller romance that delivers on all those descriptors without collapsing into a puddled mess.
Essentially “E.T.” starring the Creature From the Black Lagoon as a Cold War spy drama/love story, this is a surprise contender for Best Picture. It’s an impressive piece of work all around. And yet, it’s lacking a little something in the end that holds it down from the top of my list. 4 stars.



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This smoldering noir drama works better than the super-clunky title. Frances McDormand is brilliant as a single mom who makes a bold statement to call fresh attention to her daughter’s death. What happens next, no one is ready for. At once cathartic and troubling, it’s almost the best film of the lot this year. But it bobbles its ending just enough to lose out on its uncontested place atop my Oscar rankings. 4.5 stars


Get Out
Things go awry when an African American man (Daniel Kaluuya) is invited to meet his white fiancee’s parents in what’s been called the biracial child of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “The Stepford Wives.”

I’m amazed and delighted that the Academy remembered to honor this film that debuted so long ago (February 2017). Its take on the themes of race are uncommon fodder for movies and it adeptly plays with conventions of the horror genre. In the end, its final act felt a tad too conventional for me, but man, was it satisfying. And with it truly being the most memorable of 2017’s Best Picture nominees, it shares space atop my list. 4 stars.


That does it for my Oscar party. We’ll see March 4 which film takes the trophy. (The Academy has never picked my favorite in the now four years I’ve done this. I don’t care.)

So this happened on Facebook this past week:


Donaldson has made his FB profile private now, so I can’t point down his metaphorical road and say, “Gary, that’s where you ****ed up.” Therefore, it might be too late for this racist, but maybe not some of you.

“Wait wait wait, Sampson,” someone is saying. “Yeah, this dude is clearly underinformed, but RACIST? Come on.”

I stand by it and here’s why.

1. The Marvel Comics character Black Panther debuted in the company’s flagship title “Fantastic Four” in 1966 several months before the founding of the Black Panther Party. There is no connection between the two.

Either asking a friend who might be in the know (say, a black friend or a comics fan) or conducting a simple Google search would have yielded that information readily. But he decided to spout off this racist nonsense instead.

It’s racist because it is SO EASY now to find answers to questions. All he needed was a smidgen of curiosity. The same effort he expended to call for a protest could have been used to ask an honest question, such as:

“Why in the world are they making a superhero movie based a terrorist group?”

(The original Black Panther Party was no such terrorist group, but some people honestly believe that, so let’s just go with it for now.)

If only he’d had that little smidgen of curiosity about people outside his circle, he would have asked the question and made SOME EFFORT to find the answer. But he didn’t.

To the degree that he lacks said curiosity but still feels confident to speak what he thinks is absolute truth on racial matters is the degree of his sense of racial superiority.

He thinks he can talk with authority on a matter of which, based on his completely uninformed response here, he has NO knowledge — simply because he has internalized the myth of white supremacy so deeply that he doesn’t think he needs to ask the question.

I see this brand of racism a lot. It’s not the sneering, snarling kind we saw at Charlottesville, Va., last summer or the sort that motivates the Dylan Roofs or Richard Spencers of the world. It’s rather the kind that thinks white people are losing something precious as darker-skinned people begin to take more of center stage in politics, in media.

It’s the kind that thinks “not seeing color” is something to aspire to rather than the insult it is.

It’s the kind that dismisses reports of racism as mere anecdotes, as exceptions to the rule in modern times, even though most every person of color in America can probably share multiple such experiences. That, my friends, is quantifiable reality, not just anecdote.

It’s the kind that, in making the movie “Hidden Figures,” led to decisions to add scenes of Kevin Costner’s character smashing a “colored only” restroom sign and later inviting Taraji P. Henson’s character into the mission room when neither actually happened. Because this need for a white hero is also an element of racism.


2. He’s equating the Black Panther Party with the Ku Klux Klan. The latter, composed of a largely secret membership, has more than a century of documented terroristic activity across the South, while the former, a public organization openly active in the community, was essentially destroyed by the mid-1980s due to extreme persecution by the authorities.

There’s just really no comparison. But Donaldson here assumes that because both are nominally separatist groups aligned by race that the BPP is simply the KKK in blackface. That’s because he, like American society at large, sees the white version as the default and the others like it as mere imitation.


3. There was a movie released almost exactly 103 years ago starring the Ku Klux Klan in the heroic role. It was called “Birth of a Nation,” directed by D.W. Griffith. It was a fantasy, one that, using white actors in blackface, demonized black men, who were already an oppressed class, and indirectly led to the resurgence of the KKK and its reign of terror for another 50+ years.

“Black Panther” is also a fantasy. It’s the fantasy of what the future of Africa might have looked like if not for the triple scourge of the slave trade, imperialism and colonialism by outside powers, mostly European.

Some white people are afraid this movie is going to demonize white people the way Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” did black folks. I haven’t yet seen the film, so I can’t say for certain. I can’t imagine that it won’t make zero reference of the above-mentioned scourges.

But “Black Panther” is clearly intended to be a rousing popcorn flick that features a majority black cast with zero stereotypes — most of which were birthed out of the racist imagery of “Birth of a Nation.” This is a film where we black people are not just the comic relief or even the plucky sidekick. Indeed, it’s a film where we black people actually DO get to just be people and not the token diversity figure, as much as we usually still appreciate such efforts at diversity.


I genuinely hope that some of those 35 comments on Gary Donaldson’s FB post were correcting him on his woeful post, letting him know that the Black Panther character has nothing to do with the militant group, which is itself not simply an African American version of the Ku Klux Klan, which was already lionized in a far-too-influential film 100 years ago. I hope some of his circle let him know that Black Panther the superhero is as far from racism as it gets; that it actually represents a powerfully ANTI-racist ideal of what a world without anti-black racism might have looked like.

But most of all, I hope he was stunned out of his complacently myopic, self-righteous and unconsciously white supremacist view of the world, because that’s what was driving his response. And I hope he regains a sense of curiosity about us people who don’t look like him.


There’s a thing called White Supremacy and a thing called white superiority. They are not synonymous.

The former term, White Supremacy, refers to the extant state of society where white people generally populate places of power (see: Congress, every boardroom), dominate our media and entertainment (see: the majority of TV shows), and elsewhere (see: the Dove ads) due to centuries of active discrimination against and exploitation of non-white populations.

The latter term, white superiority, is the myth that both originally led to said exploitation and that some now believe is fact because they see the resultant white-dominated society and think, “We did that and no one else could because we’re better.”

Alt-right icon Richard Spencer is one of these believers. He’s trapped in the myth of white superiority. He doesn’t KNOW it’s a myth, the product of so many centuries of White Supremacist culture and policies. He has no idea that the very idea of whiteness as an identity was utterly  non-existent in history until slavery was racialized in colonial America.

Before that point in history, captive Africans worked alongside enslaved indigenous people and white indentured servants. They’d also intermarry and rebel or run away among their class, leading to interracial alliances inconvenient for the ruling class. So the powers that were decided to restrict the slave class to the ones most isolated in the Americas: the Africans. And that’s when “white” became an identity, all in the cause of maintaining the permanence and separation of the slave class.

Spencer doesn’t know that, though.

Journalist Gary Younge recently visited Spencer for an interview. Younge’s stated goal was to see what the intellectual underpinnings of what the British citizen calls “the Trump movement” look like.

It was like watching a man tie rope around his own neck, then blithely walk down a steep hill.

Spencer was that man, not Younge.

In the interview, Spencer relates his belief that African slaves in America are better off than Africans in Africa (as though colonialism didn’t nearly destroy the continent’s progress). That British citizen Younge will never be an Englishman because of his race (only true if douchebags like you have a say so, Spencer). That whites are “the genius that drives” world history (no, you only had A) the gun and B) Christianity, the latter of which muted your natural tribalism long enough to see about conquering others with the former).

Spencer is wrong on every count. But he’s not alone in his delusion, one that even had me caught in its web.

Case in point: “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman.

In 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” and 2018’s upcoming “Black Panther,” he plays the part with a (patched together) African accent that I thought was slightly exaggerated in the 2016 film.

I was like, “Why doesn’t he speak English better? He’s more than smart enough.”

I, too, had fallen in the White Supremacy trap. I was thinking: Better English equals better intelligence. But Boseman has thought about this.

“People think about how race has affected the world.” Boseman said. “It’s not just in the States. Colonialism is the cousin of slavery. Colonialism in Africa would have it that, in order to be a ruler, his education comes from Europe.

“I wanted to be completely sure that we didn’t convey that idea because that would be counter to everything that Wakanda is about. It’s supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation on the planet.

“If it’s supposed to not have been conquered — which means that advancement has happened without colonialism tainting it, poisoning the well of it, without stopping it or disrupting it — then there’s no way he would speak with a European accent.”

He added: “If I did that, I would be conveying a white supremacist idea of what being educated is and what being royal or presidential is. Because it’s not just about him running around fighting.

“He’s the ruler of a nation. And if he’s the ruler of a nation, he has to speak to his people. He has to galvanize his people. And there’s no way I could speak to my people, who have never been conquered by Europeans, with a European voice.”

And there it is. And that’s why I’m now ABSOLUTELY OK with his accent — it’s an artistic rebuke of White Supremacy. And it’s also one more reason I am pensively anticipating the movie in February for bigger reasons than it simply being the newest potential Marvel Studios blockbuster.



So sometimes I get to write film reviews for the newspaper I design and copy edit for, http://www.GwinnettDailyPost.com when our regular movie critic either can’t or won’t make a screening.


Here’s a draft of my capsule review of Thor 3 written for the paper:

Thor: Ragnarok (PG-13)3 stars

Marvel’s godly hero Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns for a third solo outing. Tons of humor — a little too much, actually — makes “Ragnarok”  great fun despite a high-stakes plot where he’s stripped of his iconic hammer and cast far away from the homeland he’s sworn to defend (this time from Hela, goddess of death played by Cate Blanchett). Co-star Tessa Thompson nearly steals the movie. — Khari J. Sampson

The GDP uses a simple 4-star scale. My personal score, though? That’s a little different. I give it 3.5 stars.



There might be a few too many jokes. Some work great, as in the early moments of the film when a fairly dense amount of exposition is dumped in chuckle-inducing fashion. Said sequence works great to re-establish the title character at the peak of his powers, confidence and seeming invincibility before the story begins to strip them away.


Other times, though, the humor seems a bit mistimed. It’s a tightrope act, and while it never falls from the wire, “Ragnarok” wobbles a lot.


A particular weak point is Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster. He’s a different sort of bad guy for a Marvel movie, but far too much of the actor than the character comes through here. He doesn’t break the movie, but it’s a very good thing he doesn’t have to carry it as the main antagonist.


That job goes to Cate Blanchett’s Hela, and boy, is she up to the task. Hela is the most powerful and legit threatening Marvel villain to date. She plays it with a deft mix of arrogant menace and camp that is fun to watch.


Hulk reappears after being MIA since “Age of Ultron” a whole five films ago. Again, he’s played for laughs, which might be a good thing because there’s a pitch-dark tragedy at the center of the story of the Hulk and Bruce Banner. I feel a little bit cheated in that, in the interest of making fun films, perhaps the Marvel Studios’ efforts have shied away from the darkness that could make a masterpiece like Fox’s “Logan.”


But I’ll take the film as it, because the Hulk/Banner thing isn’t the only thing that’s pitch dark in “Ragnarok.”

  • Odin? Expires.
  • Mjolnir? Destroyed.
  • Thor? Exiled and unable to protect his homeland.
  • The Warriors Three? Murdered.
  • Armies of Asgard? Slaughtered.
  • People of Asgard? Enslaved or in flight and hiding.
  • Asgard itself? Destroyed.

This is literally a story where the villains prevail. The heroes’ only W is that most of them live to maybe fight again.

Such as Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie.


At first, she seemed another example of stunt casting for diversity’s sake. Some folks complain about this sort of “reverse whitewashing,” wanting to see the movies stick to the comics’ canon.


I get it. I’m also bothered when films change stuff up for the sake of adaptation or worse (see “Deadpool” in 2010’s “Wolverine: X-Men Origins”).


But it’s also important that more kinds of people be represented onscreen and in entertainment media.


The only reason most of these characters are white is because of decades of overt and then covert attitudes of white supremacy. When white has been the norm for so long — and artificially so — it’s going to take some intentionality to balance matters out.


“But the Norse gods ARE white” someone is saying. That’s not necessarily so.


When various cultures create or adopt a religion, if their gods take on human form, they tend to resemble elements of that culture. Have you not seen the black or Asian Jesus Christ imagery in those respective homes and houses of worship?

In the case of Marvel’s Norse mythology, the characters are who they are — but who’s to say that the rare Norwegian mortal who actually caught sight of Heimdall  or, more likely, simply heard of his existence, would not cast him as a dark-bearded white man in his imagination rather than as Idris Elba?


Back to Thompson.


She captivates every time she’s onscreen, lending a degree of complexity that Thor himself rather lacks. (Though, to be frank, her arc isn’t terribly complex, either.) Her Valkyrie is tough without overwhelming her femininity, and yet never seems to be trying too hard at either. She’s not relegated to being the love interest, either, in a refreshing divergence from the usual plotline.


There’s also this quote from the actress:


“I never thought I could be in a superhero movie.”


This is why, although I love the classic Brunnhilde the Valkyrie in the comics, I am all in favor of this sort-of recasting. Particularly after seeing how fantastically it works.


Here’s how the film falls in my personal ranking of MCU movies this week:

17. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

16. Iron Man 3 (2013)

15. Iron Man 2 (2010)

14. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)*

11. Doctor Strange (2016)

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)*

8-9. Thor (2011) / Thor: The Dark World (2013)

7. Ant-Man (2015)

6. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)*

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

4. Iron Man (2008)

3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

1. Avengers (2012)

Films in italics I’ve only watched once and I can never settle my feelings on this sort of nerd cinema on the first viewing alone.


Now…bring on Justice League! And Star Wars! And Black Panther!


It’s such a great time to be alive!

“Has anyone seen channel 8’s new morning traffic reporter? She’s a size 16/18 woman in a size 6 dress. She looks ridiculous. I understand that when I watch Channel 8 I’m going to get biased reporting and political correctness, but clearly they have taken complete leave of their senses.”


So a Texas woman named Jan Shedd openly complained about a local TV reporter’s “provocative” dress. Black Twitter (which, for those who don’t know, is basically just outspoken black people on the social media platform) called her out on the criticism, inferring that reporter Demetria Obilor’s dress was less the issue than her race.

I wasn’t sure they were entirely on target in that inference. Shedd simply seems like the kind of woman who may be uncomfortable with curves and anything resembling pulchritude. My mom is that type; she is really uncomfortable with wearing anything that hugs her figure. And Shedd had this as her Facebook cover photo:

Ugh. Bonhoeffer is one of my heroes and it offends me to see the anti-Nazi quoted here by this lady. She probably thought she was speaking out on evil — in this case, the evil of this woman exposing her dynamic figure and thus leading men to lust, I guess. (Which is frankly men’s problem to solve, period.)

But let me unpack the levels of wrong in Shedd’s criticism.

  • Obilor’s dress is too small, she says. No, it just fits and isn’t loose.
  • Obilor looks ridiculous, Shedd says. I wonder why she thinks so? I’m a dude, so I think Obilor looks FANTASTIC. For Shedd’s part, she’s veering close to body shaming territory. It’s this line of thinking that asks “What were you wearing?” to survivors of sexual assault.
  • Shedd complains of biased reporting/political correctness: Now I can’t really comment on News 8’s reporting, not being in the area, but I highly doubt bias is quite the problem Shedd thinks it is on the local level. (Nationally, perhaps. But not local TV news.) And I wonder what rates as political correctness in local news coverage for her?
  • Shedd thinks News 8 has lost their minds. Wow, that’s quite a charge to make. The station has done the unthinkable: Put on a pretty girl wearing pretty clothes on to report the weather or whatever.OH WAIT, LOCAL NEWS STATIONS HAVE ALWAYS DONE THAT.

Shedd is entitled to her opinion, of course, but opinions are like rectal orifices: Everyone has one. And hers stinks of self-righteousness.

But did it stink of racism? I wasn’t sure. That is, until this tweet following the spitstorm she endured afterward.

You. Didn’t. Notice. She was black.

Jan. If your sense of sight is sharp enough to notice Obilor’s dresses and figure, how can you claim not to notice her not-exactly-white ethnicity?

Here’s a friendly message to every reader of this blog: Being colorblind in this way is NOT A VIRTUE. At all. You don’t get any points in civil society by erasing this aspect of another human being. (More on that in a future post).

In Shedd’s case, perhaps Obilor’s ethnicity truly didn’t make any impression on her, and thus she viewed the TV reporter as a fellow white woman and judged her by that standard — perhaps the only quote-unquote “decent” standard for beauty and appearance that Shedd has ever known or employed.

Which is, of course, the problem: that she could live this long and still feel that her standard is the main one that matters.

Instead of trying to dismiss people who don’t try to ignore race and ethnicity as “racists” as Shedd does here, she’d do better to listen to their point of view and broaden her view of the world. And to stop looking down on women like Obilor who aren’t ashamed of their form.

The best man


Today was my brother Darron’s birthday. And this is a photo of his wedding last month to a lovely woman named Maggie.

I wasn’t there.

Barely more than a week earlier, I got the phone call from the local China visa office.

Despite my supplying a written job description of my work as a designer and copy editor and I signing a sworn statement I would not perform anything related to my work while in China, the Chinese consulate would not issue me a tourist visa until after a scheduled Oct. 26 face-to-face meeting at the consulate in Houston. Apparently, the government is extremely nervous about the fact that I work in the newspaper business.

My flight was scheduled for Oct. 2. Darron’s wedding was Oct. 7.

I may never go to China after this. I am certain I’d need to make the requested in-person interview, but these people made me miss my only brother’s wedding. I cannot imagine my anger would go unnoticed. I can’t imagine they would issue the visa.

So this is something like the speech I would have made as the best man had the Chinese government been less terrified of a free press.


I’ve known you all your life.
Mom says I greeted you warmly, but also that, being about age 2, regressed a little bit. So it’s not a huge stretch to say we’ve grown up together.

We shared most everything when we were younger. We shared our toys — even though some were definitely YOURS and mine were definitely MINE. We shared wild imaginative worlds together. We shared those frequent moves between towns and schools and clung to each other through the sadness of parting and the greeting of new experiences. We shared those gaming and TV and movie viewing experiences. We even shared the same college experience, at least part of it. And of course all those private jokes.

But also of course, you couldn’t share it all forever. Even when we were small, you were ever the one looking to the horizon, ready to travel far and wide and deeply, while I was happier in one place.

Still, you’ve always kept us close even when far away and, when you could, returned home. And it was literally a life saver for me that one September night.

It came as no surprise, but you definitely showed you’d become a superb man. Courageous. Gentle. Calm. Responsible. Kind. Intelligent. Beautiful. Funny.

And now you’re one more thing: married.

I know you’ll be kind to Maggie. You had the courage to court her, the gentleness and responsibility to do it right and well.

(I only have one bit of counsel: Do try to tone some of your outbursts down when you’re trying to make a point.)

If you love her even half as much as you’ve loved me, she’ll never feel unloved. Ever.

“I don’t know you at all.” That’s what I want to say.

But actually, it’s not true. I already know a few things about you, even though we’ve never met in person, just had a couple of Facetime chats.

I know you’re kind. Darron could never fall in love with someone who was unkind.

I know you’re responsible. Darron couldn’t spend his life with someone reckless.

I know you’re intelligent. Which is good because Darron likes intellectual conversation. (But don’t be shocked if he gets super silly. Because he does. Frequently.)

I know you’re beautiful. I’ve seen the pictures and had the aforementioned Facetime. And more importantly, your soul is beautiful.

I know you’re a good person because you love Darron. And I love YOU because you love Darron.

I know you’ll be kind to him. He’s a gentle soul, one more easily wounded than one would think due to his outward strength. It’s that gentleness, I think, that drew you to him.

He’s the best man. You’ve married my best friend. And I’ve gained a precious sister — one I can’t wait to meet.

I do have one more bit of counsel: Please bear with his funny but embarrassing habit of making sound effects for emphasis when he’s amused. Because he will.

It’s been a very long while since I last wrote here.

One reason is the trash circus better known as the presidential campaign of 2016. Though I am an independent moderate, the election of Donald Trump has shoved me further toward the left than I care to think about.

I am no longer certain I can bridge certain extremes. And I am frankly still too angry to try.

But the chief reason is a certain bit of misfortune that occurred to me last Memorial Day weekend.

Yes, that’s my door, and yes, it was kicked in. And yes, my computer (and PS3 and my brother’s PSP) and all my files on it were stolen. Bereft of my equipment to write or even gain internet access, I let said access lapse and have since enjoyed not paying that bill.

But the cost has been no ability to write. Not at length. And of course I’ve missed it. I’ve missed a number of things.

Therefore, when National Novel Writing Month rolled around again this year, I planned to take part. Usually, November catches me rather by surprise and I find myself having forgotten that NaNoWriMo is happening and I never participate. But not this year. This year I had a story idea in mind and had even started to outline.

But again, there will be no novel writing. I found myself pining to return to this Bridge Over Troubled Opinions blog (and to its hobby-minded sister, Heroclixin.com). I have too much on my mind and Facebook just doesn’t cut it as an outlet or repository for it all. And the less said about — or on — Twitter, the better.

If only that dude in the Oval Office could get that idea into his yellow-coifed skull.

I still lack internet access and thus I’ll be writing a lot for the future rather than live. But I’m raring to go. I hope you’ll hang with me as I share thoughts on:

  • How I celebrated Halloween
  • Updating my ranking of the Marvel Studios films
  • A review of the latest such film, “Thor: Ragnarok”
  • Election 2016
  • Why Trump is not going down on collusion charges
  • Why TF people policed a teenaged girl’s breasts
  • My brother’s wedding…that I missed
  • Race in America
  • SO MUCH about race in America
  • Seriously, it’s time to stop avoiding the issue
  • Tired of white folks being so fragile on this issue
  • Because it’s literally getting black people killed
  • While some folks are mad about other folks kneeling WHEN DID KNEELING BECOME “DISRESPECT?”
  • Guess what? Everyone’s problematic.
  • The upcoming Black Panther film looks amazing
  • The current Black Panther comic is kinda trash, tho
  • Can “Justice League” continue the redemption of the DC Comics movies that “Wonder Woman” started?
  • And more

Let’s do this.

It’s time again for my annual personal Oscar screening party! (See the 2015 and 2016 versions)

This year it’s with a big difference: I’ve become a sort-of professional movie critic! I work for a small newspaper and occasionally the regular film critic can’t (or won’t) attend certain screenings due to schedule conflict or … reasons. So I and my other immediate teammates get opportunities to step in the gap.

(I really need to mirror the reviews here.)

Last year was the “Oscars So White” controversy. This year, it seems that the Academy has made it a point not to overlook black people-led projects. Some consider that pandering, but when the films are great anyway, how so?

On to my ranking of the nominees.



“Manchester by the Sea”

This one I actually got to review ahead of its release. And like Brooklyn last year, it’s one that really ought not be on a Best Picture list in my unhumble opinion. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch,  but it screws up from its opening scene and thus sort of wastes a lot of good performances because the central plot and character arc is a bit murky.

The newspaper uses a 4-star system. I prefer a 5-star one and so give “MBTS” 3 stars.




I saw this with my parents over the holidays. About 30 minutes in, my mom leaned over and asked, “What is this movie about?”

Based on a great stage play, “Fences” is adapted to the screen by the original writer who, obviously, remains in love with all his words. It’s less a movie than the play with really, really detailed sets. But the acting is top-notch across the board, especially Viola Davis, who should win the supporting actress Oscar. 3.5 stars.



“Hell or High Water”

Part heist movie, part 21st-century Western, this movie appealed to me because it’s about two brothers (which will always get me in the feels because of my brother) and it’s got a nice stick-it-to-the-Man edge beyond the crime aspect. 3.5 stars.




It kinda seems obligatory to have an LGBTQ-themed film make the Best Pic nominees. But this quiet film is well deserving of the honor. Like “Manchester By The Sea,” it features a taciturn protagonist and very deliberate pacing. But it actually shows progression in the main character, doesn’t rely on confusing flashbacks and comes to a satisfying conclusion. And so it sits rather higher on my list. 3.5 stars.



“Hacksaw Ridge”

As a man of faith, I found this World War II biopic about a conscientious objector who nevertheless fought to serve in the war as an unarmed medic to be right in my wheelhouse. The underrated — and oddly polarizing — Andrew Garfield is deservedly up for an acting award.   4 stars.



“La La Land”

I hate live-action musicals. So the fact that this one was so effective wins it a high spot. It didn’t hurt that I love Emma Stone.

It better not win, though. As fun as it is, it’s far too long and is the least important film of the lot. 4 stars.




Yet another film based on a true story, this one about Saroo, an Indian youth who, after being adopted by an Australian couple, decides to find his birth family really torques the waterworks. Dev Patel is great as the adult protagonist, but it’s the young Sunny Pewar who’s a revelation. Its only shortcoming is the title. There are no lions in India. But it all makes sense in the end. 4 stars



“Hidden Figures”

From the opening scene to the end, this film sent me soaring like no other film on this list. It needs to be viewed by every single American of all ages. Though based on true stories, it’s marred somewhat by the ahistorical white savior scenes in the middle and part of the climax. But it’s not enough to mar my love for these hidden figures. 4.5 stars.




As much as I loved “Hidden Figures,” it wasn’t quite exceptional enough, especially with it being based on true events. If said true events were interesting enough to warrant a film version (and these are), in my opinion the work’s half done. It’s just a matter of not screwing the actual story up by adding or subtracting too much for the sake of whatever.

No, for my money it’s original stories that translate into truly exceptional film. And that’s why “Arrival” takes my top spot, with its so unexpectedly good take on the science fiction alien contact tale coupled with a human interest story of how a woman moves on after great loss.

And then it gets better when you realize what’s really going on and the story becomes that much more magnificent in the final act. 4.5 stars.


I never knew my grandma was a cheerleader as a girl.

That was probably the most surprising thing I learned about her as our family laid her body to rest Halloween 2016.


My grandmother Martha had been ailing for several years now, bedridden with diabetes,  dementia and requiring round-the-clock care.

In the morning of October 26, 2016, I got the call from my dad that she had at last passed away overnight.

I’ve been bracing for this moment for years, in a way, and particularly so in the last few days of Grandma’s life since being alerted that the end was near. It’s true that seeing it coming helps at least a little.

Maybe more than a little in my case. I’m surprised at how normally I’ve been able to function in these several days since the news. But this eulogy has been far more difficult in coming than I thought it would be —  evidence that I wasn’t processing the loss quite as well as it appeared even to myself.

She’s the last of my grands to go, outliving her husband by a little over 15 years and my paternal grandfather by a decade. (My biological paternal grandmother died when Dad was a sophomore in college.) And so passes that generation of my immediate family.


Born in 1924, by age 11 Grandma was an orphan, having lost her mother when she was only 2. She was then raised by an uncle who probably misremembered her birthdate and so Grandma celebrated her birthday a day early until her 80s, when her original birth certificate was found.

It was said she treated her childhood dolls as children while playing. She would go on to raise 13 children of her own and serve as a church and neighborhood mother to more still — to say nothing of her 21 grandkids and 30-plus great-grandchildren.

She was called a mother of mothers by one of her sons-in-law — my dad — and the title is fitting.


Grandma was a devoted Christian who, even when deep in her dementia, could still occasionally sing and pray to her Lord. And as a praying woman, she likely had a direct effect in changing the course of my life.

Upon graduating college in the early 1990s, I opted to stay in Washington D.C., despite having very little in the way of a plan or money or anything. I was barely employed. I had a line on a place to stay, but looking back on it, it was sketchy. Still, I was determined to figure something out.

(There may have been a girl I was interested in.)

I later heard that Grandma specifically prayed that I get out of D.C. Answered prayer may have been why I suddenly abandoned all my plans and decided to go home to Atlanta after all.

It may have been the decision that saved my life. It almost certainly was one that led to the saving of my soul, as it was in Atlanta that I became serious about my faith for the first time.




There’s no question. This is my favorite photo of Grandma. It’s a significant one for me for a number of reasons.

She and Grandpa were Atlanta Braves fans from the time the team came South. I couldn’t have cared less about baseball during those summer visits during my youth, but as an adult in my late 20s and 30s, I became a fan of the home team. During adult trips to her Macon home, I enjoyed sitting with her to watch baseball games. They were bonding moments for us.

All this time, though, she’d never been to an actual major league Braves game. So, in 2010, at age 85, during one of her extended stays with my mom and dad’s place, we — myself, my parents, her youngest son and his wife, with tickets provided by my cousin Angela —took her to one.

She enjoyed it but the constant roar of the crowd grew unpleasant for her and so we took her home before the end of the game. The Braves were losing, anyway.

Until they actually ended up winning after she’d left. But she could cross that off the bucket list. (I’m not sure she HAD a bucket list, though.)

I look back on this summer day as pretty much the last time she could get around well enough to enjoy such an outing and my company.


I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete this eulogy — or even really start to properly grieve — until after the home going service. And indeed, it was during the car drive to the service that it really hit. As we began our drive, I saw a road worker standing at attention with his hardhat off. And all the way to the church during the roughly 5-mile route, every single driver on either side of the four-lane road had stopped out of respect.

That doesn’t happen in Atlanta. But it speaks to the values that still live on in Macon — values that Grandma embodied more than most and passed down to every single one of the children she mothered. And it was a most fitting tribute from these strangers-but-neighbors to this tiny woman who nevertheless stood like a tower in the spirit over this unworthy world.

Now she is receiving her due in heaven from her Lord.

Until we meet again, Grandma, may I embody those values and bring Him my own crown — one that, if not for your prayers, I might not have.