Category: Sunday Soapbox


 

Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 3.56.29 PM

The comedy stuff I’ve done hasn’t really been consolidated into one piece, until now.

My buddy Jeebz likes to edit, so we tried to tone a few of the parts I’ve played over the years into a ‘comedic timing/hit the punchline’ highlight reel.

As far as the intro/outro, hand to God, as we were in the middle of it, my only thoughts were ‘Everyone is going to expect me to touch on this, let’s use it to set the tone.’

Only now as a passive observer do I see it and go, ‘Huh, I guess I can officially scratch playing this character on screen off my bucket list.  Cool.’

Anyway, enjoy!

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So yes, to say Spike is ‘back’ is condescending.  He’s been working.  The word I thought of last night as I walking out of the theatre was ‘accessible.’  This is the most accessible Spike Lee joint in a little bit.  My parents have no interest in seeing (and probably don’t even know about) ‘Chi-raq’ and ‘Da Sweet Blood of Jesus’, but they already asked me if I have an awards screener for ‘BlackkKlansman’ (which makes me chuckle).

Co-written by my old KU professor Kevin Wilmott, this film dramatizes the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who ‘infiltrated’ the KKK in the 70s.  John David Washington does fine carrying the movie as the title character.

Adam Driver: hates doing press, says absolutely nothing about his personal life, just wants to work his craft (so naturally I like him) probably plays his most ‘likable’ character so far.  Minor spoiler but he has a mini monologue about ‘passing’ about halfway through I thought was really good.

Actually, the character acting across the board here is A+.  Corey Hawkins shows up near the beginning as Kwame Ture and sets the tone for the film with a great sermon.  Topher Grace is hilarious as the kindly, corporate Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke.

Anytime we (the audience) got too comfortable, there was always a subtle (or at the end an overt) reminder of how dangerous and scary things get when we don’t check extremism.

Definitely a film of ‘America 2018’.   High recommend.

 

 

jeffbuckley

I’m not a ‘gospel’ guy in the traditional sense obviously, but damn this song (and this version) gets to me.

And I know I’m far from alone.  First time I heard it was in ‘The West Wing’ I think.  And Kate McKinnon did a nice version on SNL a year or so ago.

Lyrics by Leonard Cohen. Jeff Buckley vocals and guitar.

Enjoy.

 

 

jay-z-weight-loss-t

Barry Jenkins’ trailer dropped this week, and I’m about to hop back onto HBO for Issa, and pretty high odds I’ll have some thoughts on Spike’s new movie next Sunday, and Tessa is…Tessa…

So this is as good of a video to start the week as any.

Enjoy!

 

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Had a couple of days now to digest ‘Sorry to Bother You’.  I still have questions, but maybe that was part of the point when it keeps going deeper into the surreal?  For now, let me touch on the things I liked:

There’s a line early on where the main character is told ‘You’re black, but you’re like, Will Smith black.’  It’s a funny line but it also speaks to one of the main things I like about the film in general: it continues to open up the paradigm of what black filmmakers show to the masses (as usual, black musicians have been a little more free to work ‘outside the box’ for a little bit longer).  And of course, that’s not meant as disrespect to anyone who’s come before, past or present.  But in terms of genre, ALL genres, there’s still so much untapped material.  The more voices that get to be heard, the more fully ‘the experience’ is represented.

The actors: LaKeith, no actor immediately comes to mind for me to compare him to, which still feels like the best compliment to the arc of his career.  There’s a lot of projects he will never be considered for the Lead role, so great call to find the right project where he does get to be number one on the call sheet (and carries the movie well).

Conversely, Armie Hammer, based on everything I’ve heard or read, seems like one of the genuine good guys.  So it adds a layer of coolness that he’s played into his real life biography of entitlement (real or not) to play these privileged aholes. (Not to mention it’s not hard to imagine a line of name actors around the block who said no to working on the debut films of Nate Parker and Boots Riley).

And then there’s Tessa.  Off the top of my head over the past couple of years: ‘Westworld,’ ‘Creed’, ‘Thor’… she’s firmly in the Game now.  If you go back to the ‘Dear White People’ and ‘Mississippi Damned’ days though, you knew of her way before the franchises were possible.  I wasn’t surprised Tessa could play a different type of character as much as I caught myself thinking, ‘Yeah, I guess if you want to work your craft on something like this, you have to step outside the system.’  So, more kudos.

Yes, I’ve deliberately avoided talking about the story in depth, because…you really have to see it.  I think it’s worth seeing.

 

 

kiss

I had some thoughts about starting this week talking about ‘This Week’s Atrocity’.  But…

We’re about to head into July.  I think it’s time to clock the outrage, and focus on November.

So let’s get into some music to start the week.

Always loved the simplicity of this video.  Pretty girl, Wendy(?) on guitar, shirtless lead vocals.

BAM.

Enjoy!

 

 

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.

 

 

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.