Category: Sunday Soapbox


 

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.

 

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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

 

 

hiphopheads

A solemn day for my tribe today. Marek Jacobs, one of the young brothers who brought me into Alpha at the University of Kansas, passed away after a fight with stomach cancer.

I can’t tell you the specific first time I met Brother Jacobs, but I imagine it was something along the lines of the picture you see above.  He was one of the brothers who was DJ’ing the Burge parties when I was a freshman, and I was one of the young brothers who would post up every Saturday night in front of or right behind the DJ table.  When I crossed the burning sands, I was one of the brothers who he passed the torch of the KU radio show, ‘The Hip Hop Hype’, to.  The very first documentary I did in Lawrence, which I can’t tell you the title anymore, but the subject was young black men adjusting to living/going to a school on a predominantly white campus; Marek was there.

When word got to me he was in a hospice, I sent a card to him, just to reiterate my appreciation for him.  He didn’t live to see it, but I hope he’s at peace now.  One of my last, best memories of him was after one of my shorts showed up on BET, and Sanaa Lathan read my biography afterward.  He loved that.  He saw something I did on TV.  He saw a movie star name check KU on TV.  He saw a return on his investment in me.  That makes me happy.

Tomorrow is promised to none of us.  Appreciate your people while they’re here.  And appreciate your own gifts.

 

 

2017

I asked my family what they wanted for the holidays and the answer across the board was ‘My Time (and Attention).’

What perfect symbolism.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.  Who can really say if we’ve seen the worst yet?  But, when they literally came for the Muslims, I was ready.  All the other daily/weekly outrages that came (and are coming), it didn’t take a lot of soul searching to figure out where I stood.  There are little things that annoy you that you aren’t worth getting into a fuss over, and there are hills to die on.  I know I’m far from the only one where this year publicized more than one hill I was ready to sacrifice myself for, for the greater good.

Something else ironic about 2017.  Life came for me years ago, really.  Before any of the current world affairs craziness, I hit that psychological point of ‘Look, I’m going to have fun.  I’m going to laugh.  I’m going to love.  I don’t need any more stress.’  (Now we call this self-care, we definitely didn’t have the term back then.)  Many of you reading this know me ‘in real life.’  I don’t usually wear my stress on my sleeve, or my pain, or my insecurities.  There was definitely a part of me that felt, ‘Unless the war comes to my doorstep, I might be out…’

WELCOME TO 2017!!!

Literally hours before I started writing this, I was told another of the guys who looked out for me when I was younger is passing.  A part of me is heartbroken this morning, another part of me is again thankful that for the infinite number of personal and professional opportunities I’ve been given to Omorosa myself, I always stopped short when the vibe I felt was ‘This is cool right now, but long term if you want to ‘go home’, this will be a problem…’

I’m grateful for all of it.  I’m grateful for all of you. God willing, we’ll meet back here in 2018.

Peace be unto you.

 

 

finn

So, let’s talk about it.  If you haven’t seen it yet, last warning to stop reading…

I liked it.  I’ve also heard the full gamut of reactions: some people think it’s the best episode since “Empire”, some have called it absolute trash.  I’m in the middle obviously, but I think there are some valid questions to be asked.

First though, what I liked…

  • Subtle Nostalgia: Luke referring to Palpatine as ‘Darth Sidious’.  R2 using the ‘Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi’ video to bring Luke back into the fold.  And I don’t mind saying the eyes got a little misty when Master Yoda showed up.  There’s a lot of nice little moments like that.
  • Taking Chances: I love ‘the Empire Strikes Back’; I had legitimate concern they were going to just run all those story beats with the new characters.  But to their credit, pretty much from the beginning, had no idea where the story was going and couldn’t predict what would happen next.  Did every gamble work?  Hold that thought…
  • Supreme Leader Kylo Ren: We know who the bad guy is for Episode IX.  One of my nerd complaints about the Sith (which hasn’t been done in the movies until now) is we never see the Apprentice’s lust for power go full coup d’etat on the Master.  As far as the Dark Side of the Force goes, Kylo has no peers now.  Having said that…

Let’s get to the complaints which I think have some merit:

  • Great ideas, questionable execution: Kylo is the Supreme Leader now but…would someone as powerful as Snoke not sense the lightsaber two inches from him is being pointed at him?  Luke sensed Ben had the dark side in him but…would a Jedi Master really consider killing anyone in his sleep?  Let alone his star protege? Let alone his nephew?  I…don’t…know…
  • The Last Jedi: It’s really obvious now the story hole that’s been created by Carrie Fisher’s passing (RIP).  Still, this is the ‘Skywalker Saga’.  The people still aren’t fully invested in Ben Solo, and Rey is…not a Skywalker?  OK well…have fun with all that, JJ Abrams.
  • Finn: I’ve had a couple days to think about this now.  Adam and Oscar are clearly the ‘I’m a serious actor, not a movie star; only sitting on the end of Kimmel’s couch because Disney will break my kneecaps’ types; Jedi Bae is set up to have Keira Knightley’s acting/modeling career if that’s what she wants (and I really don’t know that she does, another conversation for another day).  Boyega is following Harrison Ford’s path: not the main character of Star Wars, but using the franchise to make himself the lead in his own franchise(s).  And that’s how you play the game.  But Finn, man…  His intro in this movie is half comatose, walking around in a leaking water bottle; the casino stuff was super cool but maybe not necessary (the idea/execution thing again), and when it looked like he was sacrificing himself by flying into the battering ram…I felt myself getting angry.  I brushed off the ‘Magic Negro’ critiques from ‘Awakens’; this time I felt it before the credits rolled.  We’ll see if JJ gives him a lightsaber again for Episode IX.

So a lot of nitpicks, but overall I still enjoyed it.  Go figure.

I guess the last word is I have more concern now for what Episode IX will be then I thought I would…