Category: Sunday Soapbox


Hope all had a good Father’s Day.

Everyone doesn’t have good relationships with their fathers. Some don’t have any relationship. Some do but it’s really toxic.

I have a great one. First of one of many good breaks I’ve caught in life, but probably the most important.

So I’m running back the ending from ‘Call Me By Your Name’ to start the week. I catch the ‘allergies’ every time. One of my favorite character actors working today. Great, mostly monologue lifted directly from the book.

Enjoy.

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Obama opens this doc by saying ‘Some people are attracted to the power that is part of being in the spotlight, others work best behind the scenes. Clarence Avant is the latter.’ Truer words never spoken, cause 99% of the audience of this Netflix doc will surely have never heard of this man…

Like a shadow version of Quincy Jones, Clarence Avant has been in every part of entertainment (and politics) for decades (and of course him and Q seem to be best friends.) Unlike Quincy, there is no sense of flash about the subject of this doc (which has the perfect title). Can’t possibly go through every story mentioned in the two hours but a few of my favorites…

In the early 70s, Clarence got the heavy hitters of the time together for a benefit concert. That meant Sammy Davis Jr. got the call. The black crowd boo’d the hell out of him (this was shortly after he hugged Nixon). Sammy said his piece, performed ‘I Gotta Be Me’, and at the end the crowd was cheering again. Sammy is clearly touched. It’s a moment.

I’m old enough to remember the E.T. storybook narrated by Michael Jackson. Apparently that was done without getting clearance from all the parties, legally. But the guy everyone got along with was Clarence, he stepped in and got everyone on the same page. And Michael was so impressed, he asked Clarence to help him put together his first solo tour. Yes, the ‘Bad’ tour. I mean, come on…

Clarence was on board super early when a young man based in Chicago was rising in the Democratic Party. He was asked to speak at the convention, but not in prime time. Clarence fixed that. The rest is history. Even though Clarence really didn’t think that guy would really run the Presidency in a few years. But no one saw that coming. Even though Obama still teases him about it apparently…

Super educational, super informative journey through pop culture. Worth streaming.

‘Oh Allah, if you know this matter to be good for me in my faith, my livelihood, and the end result of my affair, then decree it for me, make it easy for me, and then bless it for me. And if you know this matter to be bad for me, my faith, my livelihood, and end result of my affair, then turn it away from me, and me away from it. Decree for me what is good, whatever it may be, and then make me satisfied with it.’ – Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

I have a warm relationship with both of my parents in their twilight years. ‘I Love You Black Man’ is both a statement and a way to live among my inner circle. That feeling of ‘I got you, you’re not alone’ between myself and my allies in the Community is stronger than ever.

This has been the first year, where 24/7/365 I’ve met my own standard for who I aspire to be, as a Muslim, a Black Man, a world citizen. Insha’Allah (God willing) the first of many more years still to come. Many of you have picked it up in the way I talk, the way I carry myself: I will not lose my family, my friends, my allies, my people, or my reputation by doing something I know I shouldn’t be doing. Not anymore.

Even when everything in this country, in pop culture, in this specific life I’ve chosen, has been designed to turn me against my own identity and question my self-worth, every time I’ve gone (or been advised) to go over a line that had the very real potential of permanently turning me against the people I love, or the people who love me, I knew to stop. I’ve made references over the past couple of years of my struggle to understand my own fortune. Now the answer is obvious.

Faith. And this was the year my faith became absolute.

I’ll borrow from one of Malcolm’s signature statements to describe the full ownership of my Calling as I enter this Ramadan:

If I die, knowing I have left the vast majority of people who have crossed my path in a better place than I have found them; if I have made just one person looks at Muslims, and the religion of Islam, in a more positive light, than all the credit is due to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds. Only the mistakes have been mine.

Sincerely,

Abdul-Malik Raushaun Abdul-Aziz

(Malik Aziz)

Ramadan Mubarak.

My words are coming Sunday night.

In the meantime, one of the Office homies just put this video in one of our chats. Good people man. Again, I’ll speak on that Sunday.

In the meantime, this PSA…

$1.2 Billion. You’ve all seen it by this point but as usual won’t be too detailed…

Someone half joked they should go ahead and give Kevin Feige the Thalberg at the Governor’s Awards this year (which is basically the Academy acknowledging someone has had a Hall of Fame career as a producer). It’s a funny line but I mean… he’s got to get it someday right?

We’ve all been trained to think of the great film series as trilogies (Star Wars, the Godfather, the Lord of the Rings, etc.) We’ve just witnessed a nearly universally agreed upon great film series told over TWENTY PLUS FILMS. It’s absurd. We’re all even conditioned now to not get up until after all the credits are rolled. They’ve changed the movie going experience.

As far as this film on its own, ‘The Dark Knight’ is the last time I remember everyone (film geeks, hardcore fan boys, casual fans, adults, kids) ALL being this happy with a sequel walking out of the theatre. The nitpicking can begin after repeated viewings, but as I started telling people Friday morning, ‘It’s as fast a three hour film as I can remember.’ From the first scene to the last, you’re in. The payoffs feel earned all the way through.

What’s really scary now is what’s next. The last ‘Skywalker’ film is coming out this year, and it’s lot of ‘Well OK’ right now. This generation of Star Wars is supposed to be ‘we have women and diverse leads now’ but the MCU can very easily take that thunder. DC seems to have found its way by finally saying ‘Don’t worry about a ‘Universe’; this is this story and sure we’ll reference other characters in this world from time to time.’ You’re telling me the next generation of Marvel films can’t start being true one-off stories (and probably do it much better with an already well established Universe)? My, my, my…

Genuinely looking forward to seeing it again in the theatre…

Oh yes…

So, other than giving me bittersweet flashbacks of the young Moroccan girl who was the first one to call me habibi, I can’t say enough good things about the new Hulu series ‘Ramy’.

The premise is super simple, Ramy is a young Muslim American living in New Jersey trying to find his place in his own culture and his place in the world while making his way in modern day society. ‘Master of None’ came to mind for some obvious reasons but you quickly have to put that comparison away. Aziz’s story was/is about a young New York actor with only passing references to his Muslim heritage.

‘Ramy’ goes all in.

All in to the point where I know there are words and phrases and customs used for in jokes here that killed me that many of you may not realize why it’s funny. All in to the point that the personal life history of the character (the Muslim girl whose maybe ‘too’ traditional for you, the Jewish girl you connect with because, ‘not celebrating Easter’ for example, is a better bonding point than you would think, the white person whose a little too attracted to your ‘otherness’ and not interested enough in you as a person (the sister’s story), there was a lot of ‘Oh damn’ as I worked through the ten half hours. Let’s leave it at that.

The cliffhanger at the end of episode ten…I don’t know where we go from here. But I want to find out.

High recommend, even with my obvious bias.

I was worried I was catching this exhibit at the end of its L.A. run, but as it turns out, it’s here til September 1st.

For the L.A. folks, if you haven’t made it down to the Broad lately, I can’t recommend enough ‘Soul of a Nation’. The exhibit covers several decades of black art (up to the present), and how artists specifically have tried to use their platforms to express their own feelings of isolation and rebellion.

There are pieces that reference Dr. King of course. I was naturally drawn to the pieces that referenced Malcolm, Angela Davis and Fred Hampton. Even the photographs and some of the Black Panther materials are interesting to see for those of us too young to have lived through that time (even if you don’t think of them as ‘art’ in the traditional sense.)

I still feel fired up just thinking about it. Again, the exhibit will be here til September 1st; if you get a chance and you’re in town, must see.

I’m not here to argue with any of you about the company he keeps, or if he’s truly ‘redeemed’ from past indiscretions.

I’m acknowledging the athletic accomplishment and the man’s kids being old enough now to appreciate in person how good their dad is at what he does.

I knew Nike wasn’t go waste any time.

Enjoy.

You know the rules by now; no spoilers but maybe some constructive criticism…

Horror is probably my least favorite genre but ‘Jordan Peele’ is a genre I love (like a lot of people, check those opening weekend receipts). I liked ‘Get Out’ more for a variety of reasons, but I didn’t hate this.

The legacy is deep, but at least for black actors, the Yale Drama School is definitely having a moment. Lupita, Winston Duke, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has a minor but important role to play. There have been a thousand and one paths people have taken to become ‘movie stars’; it feels like it wasn’t that long ago the complaint was out there black British actors were taking all of ‘our parts’ because they were ‘better trained’. Hopefully we can put that foolish myth behind us.

Personally, I was all in for the first half hour, and as the story twisted and expanded, I didn’t lose interest, but my ‘suspension of disbelief’ started to get pushed. I can’t expand too much there without spoiling it, but I started asking questions (and somewhat ironically getting answers) before the credits rolled. Sometimes the best suspense is letting the audience not know why things happen.

Trying to think of more to expand upon without spoiling but I really can’t, so let’s cut it there. Great cast, enjoyable film, absolutely ridiculous this is the first time Lupita has been the clear number one on the call sheet.

It’s not an exaggeration to say I idolized Michael Jackson as kids. There’s no movie star, athlete or musician even close to his level now. So I’ll start there and add, my head hurt watching this, and I’ve seen/heard enough of the stories calling the centerpiece of this documentary an opportunist and a liar. I can’t prove anymore than you what did or didn’t happen so I’ll take the Oprah route and try to talk about this ‘one step removed’…

The artistry is one thing obviously, but for us reclusive, creative types, the way Michael carried himself was in some ways equally as appealing (for a while). Depending on where your biases lie, you have fun with some of the rumors you hear about yourself. Is he gay? No? Well, is he interested in black women? (I’ve had my own dances with these ‘false but no harm really done’ misdirections.)

But if you have people asking ‘Is he a pedophile?’ See… that’s WAY too far over the rumor line. That should never be something the people who like you/love you/want to believe you should have to wrestle with.

Next…

I’ve had over the course of my life, more than a handful of women confide in me their own stories of sexual assault.

(Taking a moment to let that number and that statement sink in.)

Every story is unique but there are some definite patterns. The power play taking complete precedence over the actual need for pleasure. Someone very familiar as the perpetrator (although the ‘complete stranger in a dark alley’ scenario does happen, but by percentage maybe not nearly as much as we (men) think). And because the perpetrator is familiar and more powerful, the no win situation: people don’t believe you and your self-value is crushed, or people believe you and multiple relationships are permanently altered in a negative way (and the guilt that comes with that.)

Washington and Me Too and Corporate America. I think most of us who are self aware have a better vocabulary for this now. Again, I don’t know what happened either way, just speaking to patterns I recognize.

Now the music. We’re talking the Jackson 5, the Jacksons, all of the solo stuff. I think Michael is just way too big and too iconic to ‘cancel’. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say we’re looking at a Roman Polanski/Woody Allen situation: this is some of the best art of a generation but now there’s a moment where we wince or at least have to think about things we didn’t want to think about it before when we experience it.

So no one wins.

‘Finding Neverland’ is hard to watch but worth the conversation we’re having…