Category: Sunday Soapbox


So, I could have very, very easily been murdered today.  

I found myself Downtown this afternoon.  Not L.A. Live, more the residential neighborhoods.  I was wrapping up my affairs as a nearby high school was letting out.

One set of boys walking down the street I was on starts shit talking another set of boys passing by.  The first reaction is of course, ‘Kids.’

The conversation gets a little more heated.  I start paying closer attention.  The instigator in the first group keeps saying over and over, ‘But you ain’t gonna do nothing!  But you ain’t gonna do nothin!’

There was a Mexican cat around my age in the parking lot as well.  We caught each other eyes; it was a telepathic ‘Oh shit, I know where this is heading.  I hope I’m wrong but…’

We turned back around in time to see that silver in the other boy’s hand briefly shine in the sunlight…

I yelled ‘GET DOWN’ and instinctively grabbed the two women nearest to me and pulled them to the ground.  People started scattering. And running.

Today, the gun ‘worked’, in the sense that seeing it was enough to make the first boy and his crew run out of shooting range and make the obligatory ‘wait until next time’ threats.  No shots were fired.

When the adrenaline rush died down, there wasn’t much hanging around to take a second chance on being innocent bystanders in someone else’s beef.  The shock of it is worse than anything else.

This wasn’t Friday or Saturday night.  This isn’t ‘running with the wrong crowd.’ I’m not afraid of death, but this, in no way shape or form, was my fight.  This is just being in the right place at the absolutely worse possible time.

I’m fine, truly.  But tonight, again, I say the things I try to live by:

Make sure your family knows you love them.

Make sure your people know you’re down for them.

Chase your passions.  

Be your authentic self.

Live your life fully.

Love.

Because you have NO idea when your time will be up…

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My goal this year was to line up the rest of my life, the rest of my long term goals, that’s been done 11 months. I’m in a good spot.

A few of you know I’ve been thinking more this year about working again behind the camera; my specific ‘voice’ can be as strong of an asset to my goals as my face.

The last thing I directed, as most of you know, was a ‘Love Actually’ spoof (or correction) depending on your point of view.  

So the timing is right on all fronts to repost this.  

Enjoy!

I don’t know if this particular film needed the help, but first off let me say Netflix is getting better at playing to the eyes and ears of the film geek community.  I got to see ‘Roma’ at the Directors Guild over Thanksgiving weekend, on the big screen the way I’m sure Alfonso Cuaron (and traditionalists in the nominating committees for awards season) prefer to see films.

I had no preconceptions on what this would be, or really, what it was about. (So I’ll try to be deliberately a little more vague than normal here.)  But here’s the setting: a year in the life of an upper middle class Mexican family, and their maid/nanny, set in the not too distant past.  Language, setting and political dynamics of the country are very specific.  Shifting family relationships, sibling rivalries, falling in and out of love – universal.  We all can relate to that.   

The narrative doesn’t point the audience to pass judgment on this family, one way or the other.  For some people, that will translate as the film being ‘slow’ (for not telling you what to think).  The artistic crowd I saw it with took well to it though.  Best Foreign Film nomination seems like a lock next year.  Maybe more depending on what else rises and falls over the next month.

A recommend here for when it starts streaming.

In no particular order, thank you…

Mom, Pops, Sheena, the Fradieus, Darryl, Tara, Brittany, Tawana, Shannon, my ‘Fan Club’, Steve, Lorenzo, Leo, Jermaine, the Asian Delegation and my Age of Learning family, Nathan and Saba, Jay, Tish, Alfred and Amber, Adrian and Aida, Ben, Terrance, Brandon, Akela, Aaron, my Jayhawk family, Larvell and April, the Ummah, Dorian, Ormonde and Melissa, the Frat, the Starkies, Gene, my Trojan family, Quincy and Sophia…

And an ever growing list of people who I hope won’t be offended I didn’t name check them specifically.

Thank you for friendship.  Thank you for love.  Thank you for inspiration.  Thank you for leaving me be when I need time and space to figure things out on my own.  Thank you for listening when I reach out and I seek the opinion of someone I trust.  Thank you for pulling me back into focus when it’s time to get things done.  Thank you for cracking me up when I need to be reminded ‘it ain’t that serious.’

Thank you for reminding me how many people love me, look up to me, and are counting on me in various ways.  Thank you for standing by me, and standing up for me as I’ve lived a full, three dimensional life.  As time goes on, I can’t stress enough my appreciation for that.  

Onward.

So here’s my disclaimer: I have more vivid memories of the Simpsons’ ‘Sherry Bobbins’ episode than I do if the original ‘Mary Poppins’.  In my mind now, the original film is more certain iconic songs and clips than remembering the plot of the actual movie.

So, I doubt the new film will become as iconic as the original.  But, I also feel like, they didn’t mess it up (if that makes sense).  As others will surely say, to have a fun, completely non-cynical, old school Disney film in 2018 is kind of nice.  That’s one.

Two, I don’t know who else was on the short list, but Emily Blunt was the right choice to play this part right now.  She can sing, she has natural comedic timing, she carries the part as her own.  

Lin-Manuel: I almost feel like HE was born for this movie more than Emily was.  He fits naturally in the classical musical form (because of course he does), and thankfully, they give him a number that lets him do his modern, hip hop flavored style.

The movie doesn’t go wide for another month, so I won’t ruin some of the winks to the audience that are thrown in.  But I can definitely the adults got a kick out of a few things that went over the heads of the kids in the audience I was in.

Fun.  This was fun.

 

jinn-sxsw

So, a film about a young convert finding her place (and herself) as a Muslim while also coming into her own as a young adult.  You would not be wrong to deduce that I’m cheering for this film to succeed on several levels, whether it’s a good film or not.

But the debut film of Nijla Mumin IS a good film.   Better than I was expecting.  That’s not a knock on Nijla, that’s me as a heavily experienced film geek knowing that ‘first films’… you just instinctively lower your expectations after a while.  You look for potential more than you look for anything too promising in what’s in front of you.

So, the story of Jinn, which starts off as a tale of a young black mother (Luke Cage’s Simone Missick) finding herself in Islam, gradually shifts its focus to the point of view of the daughter (Zoe Renee, who is a revelation).  On top of the stresses of being a high school senior trying to get into art school, now add in your mother adopting a new religion and trying to fit into a completely new community that you may not want to be a part of.  Now THAT’S some organic, ready made conflicts.

A perfect film, no.  But a film that left me wanting to see what comes next from its leading actress and director? Absolutely.

High recommend.

 

 

front-runner

Like Jason Reitman, I’m old enough to remember hearing the names ‘Gary Hart’ and ‘Donna Rice’ on the news, but way too young to have any context for it at the time. ‘The Front Runner’ makes its case as one of those ‘pop culture turning points’ where our obsessions with the personal lives of public figures makes some of our best and brightest hesitate from putting themselves into high profile positions.

Hugh Jackman’s bonafides are untouchable now: iconic superhero, more than hold his own as a song and dance man.  So it’s cool in a ‘what can this guy not do?’ kind of way to watch him play a character who is trying a little too hard/ a little too defensive about hiding a major ‘flaw’ in his personality.

As has become the norm with Reitman at this point of his filmography, the supporting cast is a treasure trove of actors he’s worked with before (Vera Famiga, J.K. Simmons) and other character actor heavyweights (Alfred Molina) who fill out the cast and get the audience to question what is the ‘right answer’?  Does the media spend too much time on frivolous stuff?  If someone has a history of questionable judgment in their personal life, does that automatically mean they’d be a terrible leader or lack professionalism?

‘The Front Runner’ asks the questions but doesn’t give the answers.  Thoughtful but not overly serious (the Reitman style).

Worth seeing.

 

 

beautiful-boy-x750

I knew the subject matter of this film, and it’s still not an easy two hours.

Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell carry this two hander, about the relationship of a father and son, as the son has a lifelong fight with drug addiction.  Every family has some version of this: the person you love unconditionally and who you sincerely feel like they mean well, but they continually go down a path that you can’t comprehend.  And Steve Carell (and the story’s structure) does a great job of going through every stage: complete disbelief, trying to understand, rage, disconnection; all of it.

As far as Chalamet goes, as the movie went on I thought of him as both a young Bale (an actor already committed to ‘Method’ at a super young age) and a young Leo (I want to say ‘Basketball Diaries’ was his serious druggie movie without Googling?).  I mean, if he’s already positioned as the teenage serious actor fast tracked to the A list, there are worse career trajectories.

Not even November yet so I’m not going to say either of these are ‘top 5’ performances this year.  But they could be.  We’ll see.

 

las-vegas-getty

It occurred to me today that this will (probably) be the first year in at least a decade that I don’t hit up Vegas.

Two things:

At this point, I’ve done ‘Vegas Birthday’, ‘UFC Fight Weekend in Vegas,’ ‘Hangover in Vegas’, ‘New Year’s in Vegas’… there’s not really any all new variations I haven’t experienced yet.

And two, with ten or so weeks still to go, I’ve hit up the Bay Area twice, I’ve started doing film festivals again, I’ve seen family members and frat brothers I haven’t seen in years… I could call it a year socially right now and it would already be a gigantic step forward.  And I’m not remotely done.

So, until next time, Sin City.  There will be a next time I’m sure, but for now, one of my all time favorite movie sequences came to mind to start this week.

Enjoy.

 

 

eddieg

Ahead of the the 1000th episode of ‘Smackdown’, WWE is putting out a lot of content related to the show.  This video today is one of the best pieces.

The Rock is literally a movie star of course, but as far as that show’s best wrestlers, Eddie Guerrero is almost certainly number one on the list.  It’s cool to see years later how much respect he still gets from his peers and the company.

Enjoy.