Bet Awards 2024: Usher Is Honored, Will Smith Returns, and the Election is Top of Mind

Usher accepts the Lifetime Achievement award during the BET Awards on Sunday, June 30, 2024, at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Usher accepts the Lifetime Achievement award during the BET Awards on Sunday, June 30, 2024, at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
TT

Bet Awards 2024: Usher Is Honored, Will Smith Returns, and the Election is Top of Mind

Usher accepts the Lifetime Achievement award during the BET Awards on Sunday, June 30, 2024, at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Usher accepts the Lifetime Achievement award during the BET Awards on Sunday, June 30, 2024, at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Usher accepted the lifetime achievement award at the 2024 BET Awards - even if the superstar mused it might be a bit early.
The Grammy winner stayed on his feet as a parade of artists performed his hits - Childish Gambino kicked it off with "U Don´t Have to Call," joined by Keke Palmer, who took the lead on "You Make Me Wanna..." Coco Jones appeared in the audience for a sultry rendition of "There Goes My Baby," serenading Usher and his wife Jenn Goicoechea, The Associated Press said.
Summer Walker hit the stage for "Good Good," Tinashe did "Nice & Slow," Marsha Ambrosius tackled "Superstar" and Chlöe performed "Good Kisser." Teyana Taylor and Victoria Monét teamed up for "Bad Girl," mirroring Usher and Beyoncé´s choreography from their performance of the song. Latto brought the energy for "Yeah!" In some ways, the homage underscored the women that carried much of the night - dominating the performances.
After introductions by Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, Usher accepted the award from music executive L.A. Reid.
"Getting here has definitely not been easy, but it has been worth it," Usher began his lengthy speech, reflecting on his career, which has spanned over three decades. He questioned the timing, saying, "I´m still running and gunning and I still love this (expletive) like I did when I was 8 years old," he said.
Much of his speech couldn't be heard to audiences at home because it was censored.
"I forgive each and every person who had anything to say negative about me because it only motivated me to be who I am," he said at one point.
Earlier in the night, Will Smith stood in a circle of fire - joined by Fridayy and the gospel choir Sunday Service - to make the live debut of his latest single, "You Can Make It."
"I don´t know who needs this right now," Smith opened his set. "But I am here to tell you, you can make it."
Mid-way through, Kirk Franklin joined, and then two rapped together. "Nobody gets an easy ride," Smith, who is in the midst of his comeback from slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars two years ago, told the room. "There is wisdom in that fire. Dance in your darkest moments."
The forthcoming presidential election was a huge topic of conversation throughout the show. After Childish Gambino presented Killer Mike with the album of the year award for "Michael," the rapper used his acceptance speech to address his Grammys arrest and voting.
"Technically, I was not supposed to be here. I was put in handcuffs, and I was marched out of this building. But I want to tell you, look at God. ´Cause I´m back, baby. I´m back and I´m winning," he said in his speech. Killer Mike was arrested at the Grammys earlier this year over a physical altercation he said was caused by an "over-zealous" security guard; he was not charged over the incident.
"They going to tell you who we vote for is important," he continued his speech, "And it is who we vote for on the big stage. It´s important, but it´s more important you know who your city council person is, who your prosecutor is."
Megan Thee Stallion opened the show by emerging from an egg - a metaphor for her a new musical rebirth - before diving into with an energetic medley of her new singles "Hiss" and "Boa."
"BET, Where my girls at?" she said, shouting out Monét and Jones in the crowd before launching into "Where Them Girls At" - a track that's been an immediate fan favorite since Friday's release of her third studio album, "Megan."
Taraji P. Henson hosted the show at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. Her opening monologue was a performance, Henson rapping "It's about us," in a loose parody of Kendrick Lamar's "Not Like Us," which he released in the midst of his reignited feud with Drake.
"No beef in here tonight," she joked, "Can we say plant-based?"
Tyla, the Johannesburg , South African amapiano superstar, won two honors on the show, starting with best international act.
Later in the night, she'd take home the award for best new artist. "This is crazy," she said. "I just want to dedicate this one to Africa."
Monét, who earlier this year won the Grammy for best new artist, made her BET debut and set a high bar for performances, condensing a full set into a few mins with three costume changes and a pair of songs, "On My Mama" and "Alright."
Then Sexyy Red took the stage, performing her smooth bedroom ballad "U My Everything" before moving to another stage and a costume change - tackling "Get It Sexyy" in front of an LED screen depicting the White House and dancers dressed like the Secret Service.
The show took a tonal shift when VanVan and Heiress Harris, two child rappers, their empowerment anthem "Be You" in a school room set. Harris is the daughter of rapper T.I. and singer Tiny Harris.
Best female R&B/pop artist went to SZA and best actress to Regina King, both of whom were not in attendance; the BET HER award went to Monét for "On My Mama." She brought her mother up to accept it.
Country musician Tanner Adell brought her "Buckle Bunny" and her new song, "Cowboy Break My Heart." GloRilla emerged from above, descending to join her dancers for "Yeah Glo!" and "Wanna Be" - the latter of which saw a surprise appearance from Megan Thee Stallion. Shaboozey kept the country coming with "A Bar Song (Tipsy)" and was joined by rapper J-Kwon, who appears on the track, creating an unexpected and rewarding collaboration across genres.
Lauryn Hill closed the night, beginning with "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" going into "Lost Ones," before introducing her son YG Marley for his reggae tracks "Survival" and "Praise Jah In The Moonlight." Best of all: Wyclef Jean appeared, and the trio - in front of a full-band - performed Fugees´ "Fu-Gee-La." Pras, the third member of Fugees, was not present. The rapper, who was accused in multimillion-dollar political conspiracies spanning two presidencies, was convicted in April.



Movie Review: In ‘Deadpool & Wolverine,’ the Superhero Movie Finally Accepts Itself for What It Is 

Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)
Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)
TT

Movie Review: In ‘Deadpool & Wolverine,’ the Superhero Movie Finally Accepts Itself for What It Is 

Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)
Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds attend the premiere of "Deadpool & Wolverine" in New York City, New York, US, July 22, 2024. (Reuters)

If one thing is certain about “Deadpool,” it’s that its titular hero, for reasons never explained, understands his place in the world — well, in our world.

Indeed, the irreverent and raunchy mutant is sure to belabor his awareness of the context in which he lives — namely an over-saturated, increasingly labyrinthine multibillion-dollar Marvel multiverse which spans decades, studios and too many films for most viewers to count.

From its inception, the “Deadpool” franchise has prided itself on a subversive, self-aware anti-superhero superhero movie, making fun of everything from comic books to Hollywood to its biggest champion, co-writer and star, Ryan Reynolds.

It’s no surprise then, as fans have come to expect, that the long-anticipated “Deadpool & Wolverine” further embraces its fourth wall-breaking self-awareness — even as it looks increasingly and more earnestly like the superhero movie blueprint it loves to exploit. That tension — the fact that “Deadpool” has called out comic book movie tropes despite being, in fact, a comic book movie — is somehow remedied in “Deadpool & Wolverine,” which leans into its genre more than the franchise’s first two movies.

Perhaps this gives viewers more clarity on its intended audience. After all, someone who hates superhero films — I’m looking at you, Scorsese — isn’t going to be won over because of a few self-deprecating jokes about lazy writing, budgets for A-list cameos and the overused “superhero landing” Reynolds’ Deadpool regularly refers to.

But this time around, director Shawn Levy — his first Marvel movie — seems to have found a sweet spot. Levy is surely helped by the fact that the third film in the franchise has a bigger budget, more hype and, of course, a brooding Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

That anticipation makes their relationship, packed with hatred and fandom, all the more enticing. Their fight scenes against each other are just as compelling as their moments of self-sacrificial partnership in the spirit of, you guessed it, saving the world(s).

Speaking of worlds, there is one important development in our own to be aware of ahead of time. The first two “Deadpool” films were distributed by 20th Century Fox, whose $71.3 billion acquisition by the Walt Disney Co. in 2019 opened the door for the franchise to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Deadpool & Wolverine” takes full advantage of that vast playground, which began in 2008 with Robert Downey Jr.’s “Iron Man” and now includes more than 30 films and a host of television shows. The acquisition is also a recurring target of Deadpool’s sarcasm throughout the movie.

Although steeped in references and cameos that can feel a bit like inside baseball for the less devoted, “Deadpool & Wolverine” is easy enough to follow for the casual Marvel viewer, though it wouldn’t hurt to have seen the first “Deadpool” and Jackman’s 2017 “Logan,” a harbinger of the increasing appetite for R-rated superhero violence. The Disney+ series “Loki” also gives helpful context, though is by no means a must watch, on the Time Variance Authority, which polices multiverse timelines to avoid “incursions,” or the catastrophic colliding of universes.

A defining feature of “Deadpool” has been its R rating and hyper violent action scenes. Whether thanks to more money, Levy’s direction or some combination of the two, these scenes are much more visually appealing.

But “Deadpool & Wolverine” does succumb to some of the deus ex machina writing that so often plagues superhero movies. Wade Wilson’s (the real identity of Deadpool) relationship with his ex (?) Vanessa is particularly underdeveloped — though it’s possible that ambiguity is a metaphor for Deadpool’s future within the MCU.

The plot feels aimless at points toward the end. One cameo-saturated battle scene in particular is resolved in a way that leaves its audience wanting after spending quite a bit of time building tension around it. While there are a few impressive stars who make an appearance, audiences may be disappointed by the amount of MCU characters referenced who don’t make it in.

The bloody but comedic final fight scene, however, is enough to perk viewers back up for the last act, solidifying the film’s identity as a fun, generally well-made summer movie.

The sole MCU release of 2024, “Deadpool & Wolverine” proves it’s not necessarily the source material that’s causing so-called superhero fatigue. It also suggests, in light of Marvel’s move to scale back production following a pandemic and historic Hollywood strikes, that increased attention given to making a movie will ultimately help the final product.