There are superhero movies, and then there's Black Panther: A true piece of cinematic genius that takes the viewer on a glorious, action-packed, and thought-provoking ride from start to finish. Don't even get me started on the records it smashed or underrepresented audiences it served. As of today's date, the Marvel superhero flick broke yet another box office record by topping $1.1 billion worldwide.

That said, when I got the chance to interview Joel Harlow, the Academy Award-winning makeup designer and department head behind Black Panther, I was understandably excited to do so. He filled me in on how he and his team brought the incredible Wakandan ritual makeup, tribal masks, detailed body modification and tattoo art of the film to life. Wakanda forever


Saturday, 03 March 2018 19:09

What is a Cult Film? - Joel Harlow

Since its debut, Black Panther has evolved from a movie to a cultural phenomenon with its epic tale of the technologically advanced society of Wakanda, an El Dorado-like land in Africa. As the first of its kind, the Hollywood pros behind the film had to combine centuries of African tradition and their own universe-bending creativity to bring this story alive. For director Ryan Coogler, makeup designer Joel Harlow, who worked on the sets of Star Trek Beyond, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Green Lantern and Alice Through the Looking Glass, was a clear choice.


And the Winners Are… On Sunday, Feb. 25, the fourth annual Hollywood Beauty Awards honored make-up artists, hairstylists and other creative artisans for their work in film, TV, music, red carpet and editorial projects. Held at the Avalon Hollywood theater, the event was presented by LATF USA. The awards benefited the Helen Woodward Animal Center.


Fans of genre film have probably seen Joel Harlow’s work, even if they didn’t realize it at the time. The longtime makeup designer and MorphologyFX founder got his start on horror films in the 1980s, including two of the Toxic Avenger films, and went on to multiple Oscar nominations (for The Lone Ranger and Star Trek Beyond) and one win (for 2009’s Star Trek). He’s worked with Johnny Depp on films from the Pirates of the Caribbean series to Alice In Wonderland to Tusk, and on superhero movies from 2000’s X-Men to Green Lantern to Logan. His work includes designing prosthetics and props — as he explained to The Verge in a 2017 interview about his extensive work on Logan, Morphology FX is an all-in-one effects shop that operates onsite at movie shoots.


“Black Panther” has received abundant praise, including for its wide-ranging, multi-dimensional female characters who get to drive the story and don’t just exist to motivate male characters. I echo all those sentiments about warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira), spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), scientist Shuri (Letitia Wright) and queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett). But I was just as excited as the end credits rolled to see that Marvel and director Ryan Coogler put their money where their mouth is by hiring women in prominent roles behind the scenes, and I don’t think it’s too early to highlight their accomplishments as worthy awards contenders for 2018.


Friday, 23 February 2018 15:44

Spotlight – Joel Harlow

To create cinematic illusions, you need conjurors. In this series of spotlight interviews, we ask movie magicians what makes them tick. Joel Harlow is a makeup and special effects makeup artist and designer with a career spanning decades. He created 56 unique alien species for Star Trek Beyond and has been Johnny Depp’s makeup artist for many years. Recent screen credits include the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films, Hellboy (2019), The Lone Ranger, Logan, Black Mass and Black Panther.


People aren't just excited for Black Panther, which finally comes out on February 16, because it's a big-budget Marvel film with Michael B. Jordan's abs and Chadwick Boseman's charm. From the moment the trailer surfaced late last year, people of color of all ages took note of the kings, queens, and warriors of Wakanda (a fictional East African nation) that look just like us, with rich brown skin and textured hair.


Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but makeup is the doorway to our superhuman selves. As a young girl, I was intrigued by the gravity and sensuality of my mother doing her hair and makeup for special occasions. Her hands moved across her face and through her tresses with the grace and determination of a sculptor, inspired to capture both the essence of her heritage and conjure her inner heroine.


To say that Marvel's "Black Panther" is one of this year's most anticipated films would be an understatement. Following the star-studded premiere, fans are sure to be flocking to cinemas worldwide on Friday. But before you settle into the cinema seats with your popcorn...


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