Archive for June, 2012

The Price of Superstardom?

So I watched Six Degrees of Separation for the first time this week.  I knew of the film of course, and its reputation as the film that proved that ‘Will Smith can act’.  But even knowing that going in, the film left me in shock…

Will is really good in this film.  In terms of pure acting, I think it’s my favorite Will performance, even above The Pursuit of Happyness.  Watching this performance now made me think of Will turning down Django Unchained, or other roles that now fall outside ‘the Will Smith brand.’  I actually have no doubt the Will Smith of today would never do this role; he’s an established A-lister, not someone working their way up who needs to get noticed.  You know who else this reminded me of, in a way?

Eddie Murphy.  Or more specifically, Eddie Murphy, one of the greatest stand up comedians ever.  His success inspired a generation of great stand ups who have come after him.  But did Eddie becoming the biggest movie star in the world kill the chance that we’ll get one more great Eddie Murphy stand up film?  Seems like it…

And I’m not saying Will or Eddie have made bad choices, or that they owe the audience anything.  It’s just an interesting thing to ponder; when an actor reaches ‘stardom’, he or she gets offered everything, and has choices to make.  But when someone reaches ‘superstardom’, you still get offered everything…but do you really have the freedom to do whatever you want?

Until next time.


I had the privilege of getting an advanced screening of the documentary: Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World.  The film, narrated by Susan Sarandon, traces the religion’s history through the art and architecture.  It wisely addresses the subject of Muslims creating art vs. ‘worshipping false idols’ (there’s a million ways to answer that question).  The film takes the viewer to well known places like the Taj Mahal and the Dome of the Rock, to smaller and less ‘glamorous’ buildings that are majestic in their own way.

The film premieres nationally on PBS next month: the official press release is below.  I encourage everybody to check it out:

New Film Reveals Masterpieces of Islamic Art
Documentary to Air on PBS July 6th
Narrated by Susan Sarandon
SILVER SPRING, MD – June 11, 2012 – Perceptions and ideas around Muslim identity and culture vary widely and too few are aware of the significant works of art and architecture that make up a large part of Islamic civilization’s legacy. Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World, is a new documentary from award-winning Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) that brings to life this legacy and will be broadcast nationally on PBS July 6th at 9:00 p.m. EST.
Narrated by actor, Susan Sarandon, this 90-minute film takes audiences on a global journey across nine countries and over 1,400 years ofhistory to present the stories behind the masterworks of Islamic art and architecture.
Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World is the ninth film by Executive Producers Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer and UPF (Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain, Prince Among Slaves). The film was produced to nurture a greater appreciation for the exquisite works of art that Islamic culture has contributed to humanity. “I believe all viewers, Muslim and non-Muslims alike, will bepleasantly surprised with what our film uncovers,” states Alex Kronemer. “As a window into an often misunderstood culture, this film has the ability to be a real catalyst for understanding and perhaps offer a new perspective on Islam’s values, culture and lasting legacy,” continues Kronemer.
The film will air on PBS as part of the new PBS Arts Summer Festival, a multi-part weekly series that will take viewers across the country and around the world.
Viewers of Islamic Art are presented with a kaleidoscope of exquisite works of art – from the opulent Taj Mahal of Agra, India, to the written word in the form of Arabic calligraphy with master calligraphers such as MohamedZakariya. A common theme linking each of the showcased works is the way each piece of art is so different from the next – exemplifying not only the beauty, but the diversity within Islamic cultures. Each masterpiece is a contribution to the larger narrative of just how much Muslims have contributed and still contribute to society.
Michael Wolfe says, “Never before have viewers had the opportunity to explore such richness of Islamic art and history with commentary from some of the world’s most renowned experts who have the ability to explain just why these works are so important.”  “We hope watching the film will result in Muslims feeling a source of pride, aswell as celebration in their heritage,” continues Kronemer.
After its national television debut July 6thIslamic Art will be available on DVD for $19.95 through
Islamic Art has already caught the attention of thought leaders who are calling the film an important contribution to documentary filmmaking about Islamic cultures.
“UPF’s Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World is a stunning achievement in documentary filmmaking. Itopens a window onto a sight of Islam so often neglected in the west. The aesthetic, beauty, and culture offer an opening for us all to start a dialogue on the values that we share and hold in common.”  – Karen Armstrong, Award-Winning author of religion
“This film will open the eyes and the imagination of American Muslims, reminding us all of our rich artistic heritage. I highly recommend that all American Muslims watch this documentary and share it with their neighbors!” – Imam Mohamed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America  
Join us on Twitter at @islamicartfilm the evening of the premiere, July 6th, for a tweet chat using the hashtag #IslamicArt.


The last shoot I worked on was a personal milestone; I’ll talk more about the finished product when it’s ready to go on air.  I knew when I got that particular role what it meant to my personal growth, when I got the call sheet the night before I let out an audible ‘whoa’ Keanu Reeves would have been proud of.  As a, well, fan of television and film, I recognized more than a few names working on the project.  So I went to the set even more aware of the steps I was taking…

I’m a professional but as I stood off camera waiting for the director to say ‘Action’ on the first take, I was still aware of a little bit of nerves running through me.  There’s only 20 people in the crew, but as you get the chance to work on higher profile projects, the truth of putting yourself out there in front of hundreds, thousands, potentially millions on the AAA projects; that reality flashes through your mind.  For some, that is the ‘why’; for guys like me, that’s a byproduct of the why (a good or successful project).

I was rehearsed, I knew my lines, I knew my blocking.  The last ‘voice’ I heard in my head said this: ‘If this is really what you want, if this is really the direction you’re going in…it’s time to leave the humility in the dressing room, and let the self confidence shine in a more obvious way.’

The director said ‘Action!’, and as one of my aces now calls me, ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ entered the spotlight:

Silliness aside, this episode has become a perfect microcosm of where I’m at.  One day a week (usually Friday), I’m frankly amazed, humbled, honored, sometimes I’m honestly in disbelief that for the infinite number of mistakes I’ve made, I’m perched on the doorstep of everything I ever wanted, and a LOT more.  I’ve been fairly transparent about my most self-destructive phases, but Batman jokes aside, even in my darkest moments, it seems I’m not meant to be someone who stays in darkness any longer than I need to be.

The other six days a week, there’s one word that runs through my head on a constant loop: CLOSE.  You can touch it, taste it, feel it, smell it, but only in small doses.  It’s time to tie everything together, turn all the loose ends into one really, beautiful narrative.

So if you see me walking around this summer with my red pimp shirt unbuttoned to the navel with my Aviators shined extra glossy, you know why:

On that note, wishing all of you a happy and productive week as well!


The Best Mentor

“Besides, if I ever need help, who’s a better consigliere than my father?” – Michael Corleone

You know, I spent the whole day trying to think of the most grandiose, melodramatic statement I could make about the positive effect my father has had on me in all facets of my life.  But in the end, I’m opting to go a simpler route.

So here’s a nice video to take you into the weekend.  In addition to the gratitude and mentorship I’ll never be able to repay to my own father, I also want to say thank you and I’m proud of so many of my own friends (really too many to name at this point), who have become great fathers and father figures in their own right.  The company you keep.  This one is for all of you.  Maybe Will Smith’s single best work:

Attack the Block

Last year a film I kept hearing about but didn’t get around to seeing in the theatre was ‘Attack the Block’.  The pitch I heard was interesting enough; a group of inner city London(!) kids thwart off an alien invasion on their own.  Now that it’s available to rent, I finally had time to check it out.

Sci-fi/horror is not one of my favored genres, but I’ll join the chorus and say I enjoyed this film.  What it lacks in budget it more than makes up for in charm and ‘different take on a familiar subject.’  No surprise at all that some of the guys involved with Shaun of the Dead were involved in this film.  As I rewatched the trailer (below), I wondered if Hollywood would try to ‘adapt’ this film to a larger audience.  Then I recalled a mini monologue in the third act the main character gives, which basically theorizes the government sent the aliens into ‘the Block’ to wipe the people out just like they sent in AIDS and crack.  So, um, not waiting for the Hollywood version of that scene at least.

Anyway, fun little movie if you haven’t seen it.  One more post tomorrow to go into the weekend.  Until then…

I was going to write a review today but I really like Shannon’s review of one of my all time favorites…

Feeling Womanish

Most of us love a good story. And, if you’re lucky, you’ve had the experience of being so caught up in a good story that you shut out everything else that is going on around you. You bite your nails as the tension builds, cheer for the hero, hiss at the villain and ride the ebb and flow of the story until the end.

This movie puts you in the audience with the protagonist, as he listens to a story. And, throughout the whole film, you wide the waves of anticipation with him until the story resolves. And, damned if they don’t deliver a good story. It’s riveting, engaging and convincing.

On to the acting: I’m going to out myself as a Kevin Spacey fan. Now, that’s hardly an exclusive club. I feel that Spacey as a real flair for the subtle and understated. Spacey gets to do the types…

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I had a conversation with some friends not too long ago about movies from our younger days that now seem incredibly dated.  Documentaries have a great advantage here in that sometimes it’s great to capture an exact moment in time and look back and reminisce.

‘Rhyme and Reason’ was one of those docs that at the time I didn’t pay too much attention to; we were still in the middle of great hip hop being made and, as we now can see clearly, it was too early to see who would be recognized years later as the ‘crossover sensation’, who would be ‘the King’, who would be forgotten and who would be, well, dead.

I admit to being extremely biased toward this film since it was made during my phase as ‘DJ Apocalypse’.  It made me miss the days of having crates of vinyl taking up all my closet space.  Now of course I have all that music and more fitting into a pair of flash drives.  Technology…(shaking my head…)

Anyway looking back now, ‘Rhyme and Reason’ is a nice look back at hip hop culture at that specific time.


A year’s worth of great and not so great moments the first five months of 2012 for yours truly.  I’m on the upswing right now though, so we’ll see how successful I am with another seven months to go…

So I start my (and your) week off with this goodie as I push forward.