Category: Sunday Soapbox


 

shaykh

The official answer to it all is, ‘It is the will of Allah.’

If I go before I resurface next month, Surah 2, verse 286 should be on the front of the program: ‘Allah imposes not on any soul a duty beyond its scope.’

When my mind is quiet though, (which is often now), I feel incredibly fortunate.

At least once a day as of late, I’ve felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

A lifetime (really two lifetimes at this point) worth of experiences that let my family and my people live vicariously through things I could do and places I could go has turned on me; now I have feelings of guilt that I’ve come out of the other end, and somehow, for all the honest mistakes and reckless things I’ve done, I avoided the backbreaking choice that would have put me into a hole I couldn’t climb out of.

This will sound absurd to some, but I don’t know sometimes how I’ve avoided doing anything to turn my bloodline permanently against me.

This will sound absurd to some, but I don’t know how I avoided being reckless to the point of turning my Muslim people against me forever.

The people who don’t represent the same thing I represent but who respect what I’m about; I am embarrassed on a daily basis by how flush I am in genuine relationships.  I continue to do better, but I’ve also come to accept it’s just impossible for me to spend time with everyone I’m cool with.

Leading into this Ramadan, I’ve also accepted that if the law of averages hasn’t derailed me yet, I don’t intend to ruin my own plans.

The peak version of ‘Malik Aziz’ is somewhere in the spectrum between post Mecca Malcolm (part of the world Ummah but sensitive to the concerns of the community I was born into) and Denzel (no desire to be ‘a minister’, but I can use my life and my art and my reputation as the best possible selling point of the type of person my community is capable of creating).

24/7/365 now I hold myself to that standard.  There’s not a lot more to be gained by wondering why life seemed to wait for me to catch up to what I’m trying to achieve.  It’s just time to go for it.

All praise is due to Allah, only the mistakes have been mine.

 

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dear-white-people-season-2

I don’t think Justin Simien will take any offense to me saying each incarnation of ‘Dear White People’ has been an improvement on the one before it.

The latest season (or volume as it were) builds on Season 1’s re-introduction of the characters and settings of Winchester University, and creatively expands on them in so many ways, the few highlights I’m about to list below only scratch the surface…

  • If you feel the need to play the comparison game, I guess ‘Atlanta’ would be the other choice, but the number of strong individual episodes in this season is absurdly high.  The ‘mushrooms’ episode.  The ‘abortion’ episode.  My actor’s bias has strong feelings for episode 8, which is essentially a one act play for the characters of Sam and Gabe; the amount of personal and political material in that half hour alone is obscene.
  • But my favorite episode of this bunch is the ‘Joelle’ episode.  The character is obviously a fan favorite, and the realization/breakdown of ‘the hotep’ was too hilarious and painfully accurate.
  • A ton of good cameos I won’t completely ruin, but I have to say seeing Lena Waithe and Tessa Thompson play against ‘what I was expecting’ was fantastic.  For the USC crowd my old classmate Daheli got more screen time this season as the Iyanla Vanzant doppleganger and she makes the most of it.

So yes, all the applause.  Carve out 10 more half hours of your time for this.

Streaming on Netflix.

 

 

onmyblock

I understand (kind of) that Netflix can’t promote the living heck out of every single project they put up.  I kept hearing about ‘On My Block’ by word of mouth, and I was only two episodes in before I started telling people around me, ‘You need to get involved with this,’ and now that I’ve finished season 1 (and I’ve heard Netflix has already greenlit season 2), I’m writing about it today.

The best pitch came from one of the homies who actually finished binging it before I did: ‘It’s one of those CW shows, but for us.’  Accurate.  ‘On My Block’ is an often hilarious, coming of age story centered around four teens: insecure, nerdy Ruben, trying to stay out of ‘the life’ Cesar, tomboy growing into a woman’s body Manse, and the resident goofball Jamal.  Following the kids entering the first year of high school, the series does a great job giving each member of the ensemble a relatable individual arc that doesn’t pull the overall tone too deeply into melodrama.

And it has to be said: young actors can be hit or miss, but the casting on this one is pitch perfect.  A lot of the fun of this series comes from how much we’re cheering for each of these characters and their quests.

Ten half hour episodes.  Quick and easy binge if you’re interested.

 

 

first-match

Do not let it be said we’re anywhere close to running out of fresh angles for genre stories…

At its core, ‘First Match’ is a coming of age story.  But here are just a few of the ‘not worn out’ touches…

a) the protagonist is a young black girl

b) she tries to bond with her father by joining her high school wrestling team

c) the potential ‘dark side’ angle has her going into female street fighting (not quite MMA but close…)

We all gravitate toward hero stories of course, but, especially in this (teenage) phase of life, it’s very compelling to watch someone set themselves up for a ‘good’ future, and potentially blow it because their emotions override their logic.

Well acted and directed. Definite recommend.

Now streaming on Netflix.

 

 

roxanneroxanne

Even for someone like me who’s more or less the same age as hip hop, it’s hard now to imagine the early days, when even people who saw money couldn’t imagine millions of dollars.  When it was a neighborhood thing and not a worldwide culture.  ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ does an excellent job of reminding you of the origins and a lot more.

If you don’t know the story of one of the first women of hip hop, this movie is a nice introduction.  Aided by performances from Nia Long and Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali (I’ll never get tired of saying that), ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ shines most as it reminds of the additional hurdles a female MC had to (has to?) overcome on top of trying to get ahead in a male dominated industry.  Need muscle when someone tries to screw you out of money?  Have a baby?  Just to name two.  The hip hop lover in me also loved the fairly organic way some other names of hip hop were integrated into the story without taking it over (Marley Marl, UTFO of course, Biz Markie, and another young kid from Queensbridge by the name of Nasir…)

Definitely worth seeing if you’re a hip hop historian.  Now streaming on Netflix.

 

 

BabyAziz

The writing was on the wall about a month ago…

The car breaking down every three months?  That stopped happening.  The hopping around from job to job which is somewhat expected in a town like Los Angeles, but I always seemed to be on the extreme end of it?  That stopped happening.  I’d found a certain type of stability…

Friends?  I inherited my father’s good heart, and I’m frankly embarrassed by the number of people I can genuinely call brother, sister, Fam, family, friend, supporter.  I know what it looks like when people feel genuinely ‘alone’.  I’ve seen how they act.  My people may be my greatest wealth….

The purpose?  The most honest answer to that is, I reflect on the number of things that seem designed to break my mind or my spirit or my self-confidence..and I’m still here. If my heart is still beating, I’ll keep going…

When I saw the writing on the wall, for the first time in a long time, I felt fear.  Bad things will happen of course, but as long as steer clear of being completely reckless…it’s truly, all on me now. Everything I’ve wanted is genuinely on the table. It’s all about the discipline.

I start naming names, I’ll either leave someone out, or undersell someone’s influence or importance.  If you’ve read this far, then know I appreciate the impact you’ve had on my life.

On to the next.

 

 

 

 

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bsactor2018

Here are the nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project

Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water

Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World

Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Who Should Win: Hmmm.  I thought the most standout of these five was Dafoe.  A completely different turn than his trademark roles.

Who I’m Cheering For: Dafoe, for the reason above.  Plummer getting nominated is already quite a ‘F*** You’ to Spacey, isn’t it?

Who Will Win: There’s a 10 percent chance that two nominations for Ebbing will split the vote for him, but based on momentum you got to thank Sam Rockwell completes his victory tour.

 

Darkest-Hour-Movie

First, Rest in Peace Reg E. Cathey.  From ‘Oz’ to ‘the Wire’ to ‘House of Cards’, Cathey was a fantastic, Emmy winning character actor.  More importantly, judging by the words of those who knew him and worked with him, an even better human being.  He will be missed.

Speaking of character actors.  Lee Harvey Oswald.  Commissioner Gordon. Dracula.  Gary Oldman owned these roles and numerous others in movies big and small over the years. But no Oscar.  That’s probably changing next month.

‘Darkest Hour’ benefits not just from having Gary Oldman in the leading role (barely recognizable under all that makeup), but also from living in a world where its target audience has been given ‘the Crown’ and ‘Dunkirk’ over the past 12 months.  Knowing so much more about World War II era London helps a movie we’re so much of the conflict is cerebral and hard to visualize.

None of this is to take away from what Oldman does here.  You expect dialect expertise, you expect a few outbursts of anger, you expect a great monologue from two if for no other reason than it’s Winston Churchill.  And you get all of that and a little more.

It’ll be a surprise if Gary doesn’t get his ‘Lifetime Achievement’ Oscar for this.

 

 

kerry-washington

On the weekend of the 2nd Women’s March, I thought I’d start this week by publicly acknowledging something I ‘borrowed’ from a woman…

Somewhere down the line, I heard Kerry Washington uses this technique called ‘Who Am I?’  As you’ll see below, it’s a mini cheat sheet that, for actors at least, can quickly put you into the mind of the character you’re playing (and also help you recognize the things you have in common with who you’re playing and the things you don’t).

I use this in 90 percent of my auditions to put me in the right ‘shoes’ so to speak; it’s been incredibly helpful (so thank you Kerry.)

For today though, I’ll answer the questions in my own voice, so whether you’re new to me or known me for awhile, maybe you’ll learn something. Ah, one more caveat: don’t think about it too much, the gut answer is probably the closest to ‘who you are’.

Enjoy.

Who Am I? – Malik Aziz

Month: March

Color: Black

Time of Day: Morning

Superpower: Invisibility

Flower: Rose

Song: A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke

Car: Maserati 

Item of Clothing: Hoodie

Animal: Beagle

Food: Pizza

Movie: The Godfather

City/Town: Los Angeles

Sport: Basketball