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Black Is King Does Everything It Needs To

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Beyoncé’s nearly 20-year journey in film is as much a testimony to her tenacity as her formidable catalogue in music. Her work in the two fields grows a little more challenging at each turn. While she blossomed as a songwriter during her stint as leader of Destiny’s Child and came out of it as the premier contemporary R&B artist of the 2000s, she took quirky film roles starring alongside comedy icons Steve Martin and Mike Myers in The Pink Panther and Austin Powers: Goldmember. In the mid-aughts, Cadillac RecordsThe Fighting Temptations, and Dreamgirls posited Bey as a multi-hyphenate actor-slash-performer in the style of Whitney Houston, but, lacking a blockbuster like 1992’s Oscar- and Grammy-winning The Bodyguard (critically reviled though that movie might have been in its time), Beyoncé’s early films seemed like obligatory star-making gestures, less like parallels to the movies of multimedia double threats like Madonna and Dolly Parton and more like peers to the works of Jennifer Lopez and Justin Timberlake, musicians whose early film endeavors were hit or miss, relaying an eagerness to branch out of music sometimes lacking in good taste. For every memorable turn in Selena or The Social Network, there was Gigli or The Love Guru or Jersey Girl or Yogi Bear. Beyoncé’s role in the 2009 stalker drama Obsessed, in which she kills Ali Larter’s character in a fight sequence frankly funnier than any of her official comedic performances, did not help matters.

In the past decade, experiments Beyoncé did with the music-video format — alongside Kanye West, whose My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album was heralded by the fantastical short film Runaway — have shifted the standard for pop-star video excursions, looking to monocultural audio- visual events like the Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night, Prince’s Purple Rain, and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for tips in spinning storytelling and performance into a unified narrative thread. Her surprise 2013 self-titled visual album laid important groundwork that she would build upon in 2016’s HBO film Lemonade, which recounts the story of an apparent near miss with divorce but works on secondary levels as a celebration of Black womanhood and a dive into the knotty history and iconography of the South. (Props to Life Is But a Dream, a chronicle of her album and tour and her difficult first pregnancy, and Homecoming, which details the making and execution of Bey’s 2018 headlining Coachella performance, but those are documentaries and more of a testament to Beyoncé the archivist rather than the ambitious storyteller we’re lauding today.) This year’s Black Is King, a full-length film that uses last year’s The Lion King: The Gift as its soundtrack and source text, is the culmination of everything Beyoncé has learned in film since breaking out in Carmen: A Hip Hopera.

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See the Nike ad that took 4,000 hours of sports footage to make

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Nike’s latest ad sends a powerful message about Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. At a time when professional sports are struggling to start up amidst the pandemic, the ad has quickly become popular online.

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