Category: Sunday Soapbox


Soderbergh’s latest, ‘High Flying Bird’ is now streaming on Netflix. A few quick points:

Directed by Soderbergh is usually an automatic plus one. The ensemble is rounded out by Bill Duke, Zazie Beets, and Sonja Sohn. And when features usually take their time, this one clocked in at 90 minutes. That’s like a plus seven before the story started.

For the second time, Soderbergh shot a feature on an iPhone. And I mean, I don’t consider the technical side of things my forte, but if you can shoot on an iPhone, you understand lighting during production, and you understand color correction in post production… we all should be making features at this point if we really want to.

The story itself, about a young black agent trying to hold onto his job and his clients during a lockout; not a story you see everyday, but in our current generation where sports documentaries have killed the drama of sports fiction films other than ‘Creed’, I don’t know if it ‘pops’.

Still definitely worth seeing though. Recommend.

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Last week ended with a bittersweet memory of my Frat brother who passed, let’s start this week on a happier note.

My Captain’s birthday was over the weekend. For all the obvious reasons, the number of times we talk in a year you can count on one hand at this point. But birthdays is one of them.

We caught up of course. He’s doing well, family is doing well. He asked about me and I shared a recent personal story with him.

His response was to give me the Official Caker’s Seal of Approval. We laughed for a good five minutes.

If you’re in the circle that gets that joke, you’ll probably laughing. If not, the larger point here is that he nailed me with a comeback, literally twenty years in the making.

We should all be lucky to have relationships that last that long. I hope you do (or are working on it).

Let’s get it people.

I think all the outside stories (Viggo using the n word, Mahershala apologizing to Don Shirley’s family) have already killed any gold ‘Green Book’ might have been up for. I’ll just pick out a few things I thought about while watching this one.

While this exact true story is new, the formula (black guy and white guy start at odds in ‘the old racist days’ and learn to appreciate each other) is very familiar. That’s not to say the film doesn’t work (I think it does), but I do think, in this exact moment in time, the people just weren’t going to be feeling it. The hostility and distrust and hyper politics are too raw right now for this type of entertainment.

On a lighter note,and I completely blame Eddie Murphy for this, ‘Moulignan’ is still my number one ‘Wow, you despise us so much you can’t even use the go to word. I might be more astonished than offended.’ Calling us shines ranks a distant second in this category.

Finally, and I feel like I say this every award season now: Viggo Mortenson. I feel like a lot of character actors have figured this out (even if the opportunities aren’t the same): do one ‘Lord of the Rings’ to take care of your family financially, then every year find a completely different character to dive into. ‘Eastern Promises’. ‘Captain Fantastic’. ‘A History of Violence.’ This year, ‘Green Book’. Must be nice.

Anyway, ‘Green Book’ isn’t a game changer but it’s not a bad film. Nice two hander for Viggo and Mahershala.

The story I tell most often when asked for a Hollywood anecdote is when I chose to work with a still up and coming Issa Rae over the fried chicken commercial my agent at the time tried to talk me into. It’s funny, it’s a name my people recognize, it’s a good anecdote.

As this year comes to a close though, there’s another story that now feels like the definitive ‘Malik in Hollywood’ episode to this point. It’s not funny in the same way, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But looking back, it says so much more about how my life has played out.

Early in my acting days, I was hired to work background for a courtroom scene. Easy money, make some new connections. That was the plan.

Number one on the call sheet was a white comedian. I wouldn’t say I was a fan but I knew his style: goofy stuff. Didn’t give it a second thought until he came out dressed as the judge.

In full blackface.

And when I say full, I mean not just the makeup, but the voice, the mannerisms: I was having a full Tropic Thunder moment. At this point, I could care less about the money (remember that for later). But I also lost any desire to ‘play along’…

I fell back into my film school knowledge for the most dignified solution: I figured out which camera was focused on me, and as soon as the director called ‘Action’, I deliberately sat up/slouched/leaned forward or leaned backward so there was never a clear view of my face during the scene.

I have to give credit where credit is due; someone in Video Village noticed.

The highest ranking brother there was playing the bailiff: six foot four, forearms like tree trunks, a smile for everyone in the cast and crew. He’s who they sent over to get me on board.

And he told me about his life: he gets cast in all of Comedian X’s projects. He has a place out in Malibu. He runs into Emma Stone all the time at the grocery store.

The message was clear: You play ball, and everything you want is on a silver platter. So come on Malik, let’s get you on camera smiling and laughing at this white boy doing blackface!

To this day, I believe that brother thought he was serving my best interests. Consistent work in an industry that pretty much guarantees the exact opposite? A place on the beach? Hanging out with movie stars on the weekends? That’s ‘the Dream’ right?

As this year ends, I think of how much faster I could have made it to financial stability. The path I’ve chosen, in the most literal sense, has meant I have yet to permanently sell out the Muslim community or the black community for personal gain. My base feels stronger than its ever been. And it’s growing.

The people closest to me know I also end 2018 with a Muse. I sincerely stopped planning for ‘that’ years ago. Not through any particular cynicism, I just came to the conclusion that just wasn’t part of Allah’s plan for me. So by my own admission, the storyteller in me can appreciate watching my heart go through every romantic comedy cliche: ignorance, denial, self-sabotage, annoyance at my inability to turn it off, and finally, sitting on the 101 in wall to wall traffic, singing along to ‘Footsteps in the Dark’ like nothing else in the world matters.

Submitting to whatever or whoever decides to put in my life now feels inherently right. I feel completely set in my individual Calling. The dirty secret behind me building a public persona as ‘Batman’ is this: perhaps the single greatest achievement of my life has been surrounding myself with mutually respectful, sincerely loving relationships of every possible type. In my mind at least, I’m genuinely not looking to fill an ’empty’ space. I have been opened up again to the idea of sharing what I’m building with a woman I’m passionate about.

Maybe in 2019.

Happy Holidays everyone. See you next year.

Last week of posting til 2019; let’s do some ‘greatest hits’ of the year before I talk about everything this year has been for me.

Can’t talk about videos this year without starting here.  Just can’t.

Enjoy!

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…

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.