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Melissa McCarthy as “Lee Israel” and Richard E. Grant as “Jack Hock” in the film CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? Photo by Mary Cybulski. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Three quick notes about the SAG Award nominated, ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’

Not all, but most artists, after they establish they can throw fastballs in one genre, want to branch out and prove they do other things. Especially actors. Melissa McCarthy is one of our best working comediennes, of course she wants to prove she can do dramatic stuff. Even the comedic undertones here are toned way down so you have to focus on the acting. McCarthy carries the film without relying on over the top theatrics, can’t take that away from her.

Everyone wants to play the villain, but most people want to play the ‘cool vilain.’ Playing someone a little skeevy, and completely self-centered, and very unlikable: everyone doesn’t have the right ego to play that. So give Richard E. Grant credit for just going all in to play someone, not really evil, but just one of those completely self-centered types who knows how to play on other people’s sympathies to get over.

Finally, this whole film takes place in the NYC literary world. Doesn’t scream cinema, but beyond that as I was watching this, as a film geek, I thought that whole genre of films and TV shows that speak to ‘upper class Manhattan’ that a lot of us grew up on. No need to name names, but how much of that good work can we still just watch without thinking too hard about the people who created them? I say all of this to say, ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ isn’t a Hall of Fame movie by any means, but I can just watch it without thinking twice about any conflicting feelings about the author.

For that reason alone, recommend.

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Last week ended with a bittersweet memory of my Frat brother who passed, let’s start this week on a happier note.

My Captain’s birthday was over the weekend. For all the obvious reasons, the number of times we talk in a year you can count on one hand at this point. But birthdays is one of them.

We caught up of course. He’s doing well, family is doing well. He asked about me and I shared a recent personal story with him.

His response was to give me the Official Caker’s Seal of Approval. We laughed for a good five minutes.

If you’re in the circle that gets that joke, you’ll probably laughing. If not, the larger point here is that he nailed me with a comeback, literally twenty years in the making.

We should all be lucky to have relationships that last that long. I hope you do (or are working on it).

Let’s get it people.

MILWAUKEE – 1995: Rappers and actors Big Boy and Andre’ 3000 from Outkast poses for photos after their performance at the Marcus Amphitheatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1995. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

The weekend!

The brothers reminded me it’s been a year since we lost our Frat Marek Jacobs. Can only speak for myself, but I went through all the emotions again: sadness and grief and reminscing.

I think it’s coincidental but maybe it’s not, that in the past 365 days I’ve made quantum leaps forward and reconnecting with my bloodline, my Hollywood family, my KU family, doing right for everyone I claim to represent. I’m sure this is what he wanted me to do with my life. That, but not going so far into the role of serving the people I don’t carve out time to go after the things I want for myself. Again, one day you’re here, tomorrow, who knows?

I thought back to the jams of when we met, when he turned me on to the DJ booth. This is clear as day in my mind from the parties of the youth. And it still jams.

Have a good one folks. Take care of each other.

‘A Quiet Place’

Thrillers/Monster movies like this, I don’t consider to be my wheelhouse. But the people (box office) has spoken, this one even has a little Oscars buzz behind it, so I had to see it. A few thoughts…

So, is Emily Blunt having a year, or is Emily Blunt having a year? I’ve always been a fan, but no question this is a career ‘leap year’ for her. A cheap thriller with her husband on one end, and Mary Freaking Poppins on the other. Well played Emily. Well played.

Now, let’s talk craft. Jim Halpert in the director’s chair. Again, I don’t consider this my genre, but for anyone directing their first feature, going low budget (which does mean horror a lot) was a smart choice. I don’t know if I walked away saying ‘Damn he directed the shit out of that,’ but I also didn’t feel like his direction took away from the story he was telling either.

I wasn’t crazy about the monsters. Or rather, the monsters were fine. The plot made sense. But their ‘weakness’… eh, wasn’t feeling it. You know me, I won’t spoil it. But the movie is called ‘A Quiet Place’ and the whole conceit is no one can make noise so… ok then.

Still worth seeing though if you haven’t gotten around to it.

Full disclosure: this was the song I’ve been working on for my singing reel.

Then I saw ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, and, NOPE. My cover isn’t remotely this beautiful.

So our musical start this week comes from my fellow Trojan, Kina Grannis.

And if you haven’t seen ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ yet, trust me, it’s worth it. Just for that wedding scene alone…

Enjoy!

I think all the outside stories (Viggo using the n word, Mahershala apologizing to Don Shirley’s family) have already killed any gold ‘Green Book’ might have been up for. I’ll just pick out a few things I thought about while watching this one.

While this exact true story is new, the formula (black guy and white guy start at odds in ‘the old racist days’ and learn to appreciate each other) is very familiar. That’s not to say the film doesn’t work (I think it does), but I do think, in this exact moment in time, the people just weren’t going to be feeling it. The hostility and distrust and hyper politics are too raw right now for this type of entertainment.

On a lighter note,and I completely blame Eddie Murphy for this, ‘Moulignan’ is still my number one ‘Wow, you despise us so much you can’t even use the go to word. I might be more astonished than offended.’ Calling us shines ranks a distant second in this category.

Finally, and I feel like I say this every award season now: Viggo Mortenson. I feel like a lot of character actors have figured this out (even if the opportunities aren’t the same): do one ‘Lord of the Rings’ to take care of your family financially, then every year find a completely different character to dive into. ‘Eastern Promises’. ‘Captain Fantastic’. ‘A History of Violence.’ This year, ‘Green Book’. Must be nice.

Anyway, ‘Green Book’ isn’t a game changer but it’s not a bad film. Nice two hander for Viggo and Mahershala.

Some Malcolm in the DNA. Radical love for my base. Laced with silliness so it doesn’t become too preachy.

Yep, fully in my karma now. I think I know how some things are going to go in 2019.

And with that, let’s segway into this.

Enjoy!

Well, this was not what I was expecting to be the first post of 2019, but what can you do?

For kids of my generation he was THE interviewer. So iconic he’s been parodied in too many ways to count.

I never saw him break when Macho Man or Ultimate Warrior went on one of their rants.

He didn’t even blink when Booker T called Hulk Hogan a n—a on live television.

But this got him.

Rest in Peace, Mean Gene Okerlund. A giant in your field.

The story I tell most often when asked for a Hollywood anecdote is when I chose to work with a still up and coming Issa Rae over the fried chicken commercial my agent at the time tried to talk me into. It’s funny, it’s a name my people recognize, it’s a good anecdote.

As this year comes to a close though, there’s another story that now feels like the definitive ‘Malik in Hollywood’ episode to this point. It’s not funny in the same way, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But looking back, it says so much more about how my life has played out.

Early in my acting days, I was hired to work background for a courtroom scene. Easy money, make some new connections. That was the plan.

Number one on the call sheet was a white comedian. I wouldn’t say I was a fan but I knew his style: goofy stuff. Didn’t give it a second thought until he came out dressed as the judge.

In full blackface.

And when I say full, I mean not just the makeup, but the voice, the mannerisms: I was having a full Tropic Thunder moment. At this point, I could care less about the money (remember that for later). But I also lost any desire to ‘play along’…

I fell back into my film school knowledge for the most dignified solution: I figured out which camera was focused on me, and as soon as the director called ‘Action’, I deliberately sat up/slouched/leaned forward or leaned backward so there was never a clear view of my face during the scene.

I have to give credit where credit is due; someone in Video Village noticed.

The highest ranking brother there was playing the bailiff: six foot four, forearms like tree trunks, a smile for everyone in the cast and crew. He’s who they sent over to get me on board.

And he told me about his life: he gets cast in all of Comedian X’s projects. He has a place out in Malibu. He runs into Emma Stone all the time at the grocery store.

The message was clear: You play ball, and everything you want is on a silver platter. So come on Malik, let’s get you on camera smiling and laughing at this white boy doing blackface!

To this day, I believe that brother thought he was serving my best interests. Consistent work in an industry that pretty much guarantees the exact opposite? A place on the beach? Hanging out with movie stars on the weekends? That’s ‘the Dream’ right?

As this year ends, I think of how much faster I could have made it to financial stability. The path I’ve chosen, in the most literal sense, has meant I have yet to permanently sell out the Muslim community or the black community for personal gain. My base feels stronger than its ever been. And it’s growing.

The people closest to me know I also end 2018 with a Muse. I sincerely stopped planning for ‘that’ years ago. Not through any particular cynicism, I just came to the conclusion that just wasn’t part of Allah’s plan for me. So by my own admission, the storyteller in me can appreciate watching my heart go through every romantic comedy cliche: ignorance, denial, self-sabotage, annoyance at my inability to turn it off, and finally, sitting on the 101 in wall to wall traffic, singing along to ‘Footsteps in the Dark’ like nothing else in the world matters.

Submitting to whatever or whoever decides to put in my life now feels inherently right. I feel completely set in my individual Calling. The dirty secret behind me building a public persona as ‘Batman’ is this: perhaps the single greatest achievement of my life has been surrounding myself with mutually respectful, sincerely loving relationships of every possible type. In my mind at least, I’m genuinely not looking to fill an ’empty’ space. I have been opened up again to the idea of sharing what I’m building with a woman I’m passionate about.

Maybe in 2019.

Happy Holidays everyone. See you next year.

I’m not super high on SNL at the moment, but we are STILL out here saying ‘Susan’ and ‘Karen’…

Enjoy!