Tag Archive: godfather


alandbobby

My theme for my ‘sermon’ this week was pettiness.  The results will become visible in due time, but things are going my way right now.  Power corrupts all of us (let’s get that out of the way), but when it comes to slights, it’s just interesting to see where we all fall along the scale of ‘I will not be the one to break the peace we’ve made here today’, and ‘I don’t feel I have to wipe everybody out, just my enemies.’

So, on that note…

Enjoy!

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As we’re in the middle of comparing great acting performances, I have to apply the same standard across the board.

Michael Jackson, my personal favorite artist ever, probably the greatest pop star of all time.

Great actor at times like Sinatra?  No.  Good actor even?  Um….

Look, even the best actors figure out what they can do, but they can’t do well (unless your name is Streep I guess).

Mike tried to go back to the ‘Smooth Criminal’ well here, (and if I remember correctly this was on the back of one of his cases.)

So…Mike standing toe to toe with (his real life friend) the Godfather? Cool moment but…

Mike, catcalling girls in the street, acting like he can’t keep it in his pants when he sees a tastee?

COME ON MIKE…

Chris Tucker Rush Hour 3 movie image

Have a good weekend!

‘The Judge’

JUDGE, THE

Robert Duvall is nominated this year for playing the title character in this courtroom drama.  The strong patriarch with three sons with different personalities, a death on a fishing boat, Robert Friggin Duvall; impossible not to draw comparisons to ‘The Godfather’.  I’d still like to see Duvall, Robert Downey Jr, and Vincent D’Onofrio in an ‘epic’ family drama (this one has a smaller budget and gets a little melodramatic at times).

Quick backstory here is RDJ is a hotshot Chicago defense attorney who is pulled back to his small Indiana hometown to defend his father (Duvall) on a murder charge.  Another completely unfair but can’t help it reference is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.  Everything in this film is building up to the courtroom showdown between Downey and Duvall.  It pays off in my opinion.  With Gene Hackman in retirement, this is a nice potential bookend to the career of one of our great American actors.

 

“There’s no such thing as a small part, just small actors.” – Sidney Lumet

Being out of town delayed this post by a few days, but when you’ve contributed to American cinema what Sidney Lumet did, an appreciation is better late than never.  Non film geeks be warned, I’m going in on this one.  While his name does not have the crossover appeal of Spielberg or Scorsese, you can’t talk about Hollywood filmmaking without talking about this man.  A brief rundown for the uninitiated…

  • 12 Angry Men – Has to be in the debate for one of the best directorial debuts ever.  I believe I was in high school (possibly middle school even) when I was first shown this film, about a jury deliberating over the guilt or innocence of a kid on trial.  The majority of the film takes place in a jury room, and as television has given us even more access to the workings of our justice system, 12 Angry Men (in my opinion anyway) is probably even better now than it was when it was first made.  And this was his first film.  Damn.
  • Serpico – Much like ‘On the Waterfront’, the rare film where you completely sympathize with the ‘snitch’ (and yes I understand the snitches in these films were played by Brando and Pacino respectively).  Based on the true story of a NYPD officer who ratted out his coworkers’ corruption (and dealt with the repercussions of that), it’s a fantastic piece of 70s cinema.
  • Dog Day Afternoon – By leaps and bounds my favorite non-Corleone role by Pacino, and also number one of my list of ‘I Could See Hollywood Trying to Remake This, and I’ll Have Me a Good Cussing Fit That Day’ Movies.  Also based on real events, a down on his luck guy and his buddy decide to hold up a bank, and literally from the moment they say ‘This is a Stick Up!”, their day and their plan gets worse and worse and worse.  One of the first DVDs I ever bought.
  • Network – Even if you’ve never seen this film, odds are you’re familiar with the phrase, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”  Well if you didn’t know, it came from this film.  Some people say this film in its own way predicted the genre we all call ‘reality TV’.  I don’t know about all that, but when you get Robert Duvall and Faye Dunaway in their peaks, and a Hall of Fame catchphrase and performance by Peter Finch, you’ve got one hell of a movie.
  • The Wiz – I’ve caught slack from some of you for not holding this film to the same standard as the films above.  As compensation for this slight, I offer the next time we go to karaoke, I’ll perform this (complete with highwaters, glitter vest and matching bow tie…)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML-qN_6ZeCU&feature=related

That said, IREFUSE to call the Wiz a cinematic classic.  BUT.  BUT…not only was this the film debut of my Idol, but it was during the making of this film that he met the cat playing piano in the clip above (a musical genius by the name of Quincy Jones).  They decided to make a couple albums together.  I think you know the rest…

I’ll start to wrap it up, even though I haven’t even mentioned ‘The Verdict” (a great film and for many people’s favorite performance of Paul Newman).  And while there’s no way to document this, he’s widely credited as being the one who suggested that in the Pacino remake of Scarface, they make Tony Montana and company Cuban immigrants.  (Wow.) That, my friends, is a first ballot Hall of Fame Hollywood career.

So rest in peace, Sidney Lumet.  You won’t bump Liz from the final spot in next year’s In Memoriam segment of the Oscars, but I’ll be damned if you’re not second.

 

A couple weeks into 2010, the last film I wrote and directed was being introduced to a national audience by a movie star.  With a couple of weeks to go in 2010, I got to host a show where I gave an up and coming rapper/producer his first television experience.  I love the harmony of that; it’s symbolic of the type of year this has been – harmonious.

Internally, I don’t feel like I’ve changed much in the past 12 months to be perfectly honest.  Maybe it was the film, maybe it was the personal life, maybe it was all of us just being a year older.  The saying is, you get back from the world what you put into it, so maybe it was me just being set in my ways.  Whatever it is, it feels like this was the year that people seemed to take me as I am.  The people who dig me take my imperfections as part of the package, the people who don’t like me seem to get that my insecurities have nothing to do with whether they like me or not. At this point, I am who I am, flaws and all as Beyonce would say.

Along those lines, I want to say it was Jay who said that no matter what he’s done since, in his mind he’s still the crack dealer from Marcy.  My mentality has a similar vibe: I will always be this quiet, black Muslim kid from Wyandotte County.  The Hollywood stuff and the European girlfriend, to my friends it’s like, ‘Who ELSE but Malik would be doing that?’ (and to those friends I say, ‘You’re absolutely right!  Nobody but me!’)  In all seriousness though, it’s all part of the natural direction of me following My Calling and my life’s journey. To me, there is no ‘either/or’, it’s all inclusive.  I’ve come to realize one of my pet peeves is when people try to erase their past.  There is no reset button in this game; things happen, you deal with them, you move forward.  Everything that happens is important, even when we don’t understand the reason at the time.

Part of being a student of the game of life is knowing at some point you will be pushed to your limits.  I’ve certainly gone through the emotional ringer the past 12 months. On a superficial level this has been a fantastic year, but those who know me best will tell you I’ve spent the greater part of 2010 severely depressed. (I’m good now though.)  Keeping things in perspective was something I had to remind myself often.  I’m a romantic, I’m an eternal optimist, I believe for the most part the good and the bad balance each other out.  When I look at my own life, I see love, I see loyal friends, I have a supportive family.  I’m in my early 30s and I can focus on being a capitalist for the rest of my days.  This year was brutal, but I have inner peace and I sadly know way too many people who don’t have it and don’t know how to get it.

So what one thing will I take with me from 2010?  Well, after half of a lifetime with a relationship best described as ‘standoffish’, fate has decided it was time for me to start reconnecting with my bloodline.  You can’t repair a decade and a half of distance in a few months of course, but as in all things, the intention to change things is the first (and most important) step.

For us Batman fanatics, the big thing in 2010 was the comics storyline, ‘The Return of Bruce Wayne.’  Bruce was shot back in time by Superman foe Darkseid, and had to fight his way back to the present day (which he did of course).  The major lesson learned in that arc (SPOILER ALERT) is that while the mythology of the Batman is a boy left alone after the murder of his parents and his childhood, the reality of Batman is that he’s never been ‘alone’.  He’s had allies every step of the way.  I was reminded in 2010 that while I certainly enjoy being ‘the Prince of Gotham’, I’ve never really been alone either.  This year more than all the others combined I think, I’ve been held up, encouraged, cheered for and supported by those I’ve always known I could count on, some who have genuinely surprised me, and some of you who I will probably never meet in this life.  I have been taking notes so I’ll try to name as many of you as I can (since this is already absurdly long…)

Katy – you stuck with me through my personal hell, and I’ve tried to reciprocate; thank you for holding down the BB team when it was sorely needed; ART – a lot of people told me to be ‘Michael’ when everything in my heart said it was time for a ‘Sonny’ move, but your voice stood out the most.  Thanks for being such a great friend. Marie – I love doing the show – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!  Hope to get a chance to do it again next year. Nathan – in a parallel universe, I would be living your life, but My Calling has evolved in an exciting direction, and I’m excited to ‘play my part’.  Looking forward to hearing about Jordan.  DaFellas – I’d call you my Jackson 5, but even if I was being sarcastic that would be WAY too condescending.  I think of us now as the Beatles after they broke up – everyone is following their ‘solo’ interests and we get together when we can and talk about how much fun we had.  You’ll always be my guys.

If you’re still reading a few more folks but I promise this is it: the Fradieus, the Franks, the Harrises, the Sheffields, the Thomases, Conway and Jabari for your advice (invaluable), BeatSmith (great show), Michael Zanuck, Daphne Kirby, Amanda Max, Doug Miro (best blogpost of the year), Through a Glass, Black Entertainment Television, Pasadena Community Network, Ralph Scott, the Black Hollywood Education & Resource Center, the Pigskin League, the Jayhawk friends, the Trojan friends, the Sumner friends, the Frat, everyone who has helped the past 12 months in the Return of Bruce Wayne.

The Dark Knight is rising in 2011.  Happy New Year!

A History of Violence

 

Now that the NBA season is over, I’ve been catching up on movies and TV shows that have slipped through the cracks.  A few quick opinions

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: halfway through the last season, started kind of slow but picking up steam fast. 
  • Requiem for a Dream: the visual storytelling and acting still hold up.  Some of the methods have been copied but I see why it was so big at the time.
  • A History of Violence: really enjoyed this film.  Have no idea how I didn’t hear more about the various twists but I won’t talk about it if you haven’t seen it.

I like to read the reviews of some of the critics after I’ve seen the film.  Here’s how Roger Ebert opened his review of A History of Violence:

David Cronenberg says his title “A History of Violence” has three levels: It refers (1) to a suspect with a long history of violence; (2) to the historical use of violence as a means of settling disputes, and (3) to the innate violence of Darwinian evolution, in which better-adapted organisms replace those less able to cope. “I am a complete Darwinian,” says Cronenberg, whose new film is in many ways about the survival of the fittest — at all costs.

Those definitions made me think of violence in my own life; not violence as in physical violence mind you, but violence as it’s referenced in the third defintion.  I will never live it down, but those who knew me in my younger days still kid me about my ‘Michael Corleone’ phase: every decision, every move based around the singular purpose of getting what I wanted (LA or NYC).  Just an ice cold mentality (pun intended) where there was nothing and no one who couldn’t be replaced.  I remember watching the end of Godfather II and thought that was the coolest shit ever.  “I don’t feel I have to wipe everybody out Tom, just my enemies.”  And Michael won.  He was alone and didn’t trust anybody at the end, but he won.  That played to my own ‘bottom line’ mentality.

Of course, I um, matured, and wanted other things in life.  The other half of that film of course is Vito at the same age, and his rise to power.  He comes home to his young wife and Santino, content to a point.  Then the local Don (who Vito sees is not much of a tough guy) costs Vito his job and the chain reaction begins.  The day he officially becomes Don Vito Corleone, he comes home, holds his youngest son in his arms and tells him, “Michael, your father loves you very much.”  The power is the result of his ambition, intelligence, and actions, but the ‘why’ is to protect and provide for his family.

I’d like to believe I have many more years left on this rock, but as a good friend reminds me from time to time, “We’re only going to ‘go to work’ for so long.  You live life well and ‘what you did’ is part of your backstory, but not THE story.”  I blew that advice off the first time he said it to me many years ago, but he kept saying it, and now I finally understand it.  Thankfully not too late.

I guess I’ve adapted.

 

In a company town like this, there is no shortage of screens to see films, old and new.  I get out to the Landmark once in a while, the Grove is still nice just because of the shopping center that surrounds it.  From a purely film geek, filmgoer experience, I will always have a soft spot for the Arclight.  It was one of the first theatres to offer reserved seating (meaning almost no more last minute runs or someone sitting where you wanted to sit arguments); the Hollywood location is fairly centrally located (Sunset and Vine) which has led to many wistful Friday and Saturday evenings pondering how the hands of fate had conspired to place me in the position I was in.  The Cinerama Dome has a history of its own, which I won’t fully go into here.  But that location has hosted and continues to host its share of premieres and special events. 

I caught at the Arclight the re-issued versions of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (still the only time I’ve seen the two classics on the big screen).  I was in the midnight screening of The Dark Knight there; even watching at home doesn’t duplicate the initial chills from watching the opening logo sequence in a completely full auditorium that’s hushed in revered silence.  I was also in the midnight screening of Iron Man, where before the lights went down, Robert Downey Jr. himself thanked the crowd for coming out (and putting him back on the A-list).  Only in Hollywood right?

Well…yeah.

 

5. Changing Gears

While I certainly doubt I’ve hung up my director’s hat forever, my time as an ‘indie film director’ has come to an end (on a high note at that – #7).  My feel for the craft is on point, but now that putting money away for my future is my number one priority, I can’t take on the same risks I could take earlier (#6).  Writing it out makes it seem obvious, but I’m putting all my energy into the talents that don’t cost me money to show off.  And truth be told, I miss being the ‘Prince of Gotham.’  Along those lines, my high class move in 2009 was…

4. Cavalleria Rusticana at the Met

As someone who has watched Raging Bull and the Godfather Part III at least a hundred times each, I’ve grown very fond of the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana.  So first I heard the Met in NYC was going to put on the show around Easter…and one of my college roommates just happens to be a lawyer in NYC…and my musically inclined ace just happened to be right down the road in Boston…and at the time the economy hadn’t caught up to me just yet…

That four day weekend in NYC was my first ‘adult’ vacation, but man, that didn’t stop us from having a great time.  A little opera, a little jazz, a little Junior’s: perfect getaway.  Ten years ago, I would have made a little indie movie about that weekend, but then again, ten years ago I would have been too ‘cool’ to go to the opera, so it is what it is.

3. Twitter

and really, the overall growth/importance of social media/networking.  The global village is here folks, today, right now.  This is a definite ‘did the chicken come before the egg’ argument, but with me simultaneously promoting/pushing ‘Lady’ (#7), and building the blog with content like ‘Limitless’ and the Most Important TV/Film Lists, I’ve managed to build a nice little audience.  Either through direct contact or looking out the stats the system generated, I know I have regular readers in Europe, Asia, Africa, and of course my home continent.  Even five years ago, how hard would it be to promote yourself without at least one studio film or TV show under your belt?  It’s been a great tool professionally, and it’s been just as much fun interacting with friends old and new.

2. Very Smart Brothas

For being the most consistently funny brothas blogging at the moment.  I spent many nights winding down, just to get caught up in a ‘wake the neighbors up chuckle’ from whatever silliness Champ and Panama brought to the table.  Sometimes it was a long column about relationships, sometimes it was proving that, sometimes, the picture really is worth a thousand words…

And honorable mention in the ‘Things That Routinely Made Me Laugh’ category for 2009 goes to: The Most Interesting Man in the World campaign (Dos Equis), the Kobe/LeBron puppets (Nike), and as usual, the Jack in the Box commercials.

Champ and Panama of course did a column about what I (and a lot of you) will probably remember the most about this year…

Number One

Looking out, across the nighttime

The city winks a sleepless eye…

Hear her voice, shake my window

Sweet seducing sighs…

Get me out, into the nightime

Four walls won’t hold me tonight…

If this town, is just an apple

Then let me take a bite

If they say, why? why?  Tell ’em that it’s human nature

Why? Why? Does he do me that way?

If they say, why? why? Tell ’em that it’s human nature

Why? Why? Does he me do that way?

Reaching out, to touch a stranger

Electric eyes are everywhere

See that girl?  She knows I’m watching…

She likes the way I stare

[Chorus]

Looking out, across the morning

Where the city’s heart begins to beat…

Reaching out, I touch her shoulder

I’m dreaming of the Street…

[Chorus]

In honor of the first anniversary of this blog, I’ve opted to write something personal.  Because I know she’s a frequent reader, I’m going to use this space today to speak directly to my ex-wife.  The rest of you (who I know enjoy learning more about my private side anyway), enjoy:

Dear XXXXXXXX,

How have you been?  It feels like we’ve talked around, but not to each other in a very long time.  I’ve had a long year, but I’m still here.  I think this is the first time in a long time where everything for me has been about business.  I’m setting the stage for the rest of my life, pun intended.  I figure you heard that through the grapevine.  Anyway, sitting here listening to the Godfather waltz made me think of you, of us.  No, I’m not going there, just hear me out…

It really seems like two lifetimes ago now I was courting you and trying to figure out how to get you to like me.  We were just kids really, you and I.  I don’t feel like I was ‘quiet’ back then; or rather, not quiet the way people who don’t know me perceive me to be.  I loved hearing you laugh; I’ve always loved hearing you laugh.  And you knew how to encourage my silliness.  For the brief period of time we were happily married, we had fun.  Well, let me not speak out of turn; I had fun.  There were the big ‘events’ of course, but when I think of you, I think of the little things: the way you pouted when I play fought with you, the way you pecked the base of my neck when I did something without you asking, the way you breathed when you slept.  Even when things started to go sour, it made me peaceful to watch you sleep.  It brought me home more than once.

In retrospect, I’m not amazed the love between us ended.  But knowing my personality (and yours), it seems tragic it ended so violently.  I can count on one hand the things I’ve wanted more than I wanted a divorce from you.  Even you would admit (I think) that we reached a point where I could do nothing right by you, and you could do nothing right by me.  My guys didn’t like you, your girls didn’t like me, and that was that.  We both wanted to explore the other options we had; I didn’t see you in my future anymore and vice-versa.  When we finally separated, all this tension just…released.  The freedom to get on with our damn lives.

The Lord works in mysterious ways of course.  In hindsight it seems our biggest mistake was getting married too young.  My feelings for you at the time were genuine, but we clearly weren’t partners.  As I’ve come to learn in the relationships I’ve had since, what was missing in our marriage was trust/respect.  We were together, but were we ever really friends?  When my friends and I have disagreements, we tend to talk about it, and at worst, agree to disagree.  When we fell apart, it exposed there was a basic bond we skipped past to get intimate.  I’m not blaming you; it’s a two way street.  I have learned that much; I imagine in your relationships you have to.

It strikes me as a little odd that our relationship is better now than it ever was when we were together.  Part of getting older I guess.  I’ve had more than one flame admit to being intimidated by you, which makes me laugh.  Everyone doesn’t age well, but you are as I imagined you would be: attractive, sophisticated, strong.  I’m not trying to relive our past, I’m just acknowledging what I found appealing about you in the first place.  Whatever you think of how I’ve moved on, you should recognize that when I cast Erica or Samra opposite me in my romantic flicks, I’m paying tribute to that.  All things considered, there’s still not that many mainstream artists that portray you as beautiful.  I’m part of the solution, not part of the problem.

I don’t hear from you much anymore, so I assume things are well?  My father still asks about you now and then.  I think he’d still like to see us work things out, but that ship has sailed.  It is nice to see you once in a while, to hear your voice, to know life has played out the way you wanted it to.  As bad as things were at our darkest point, I would have never imagined we would be civil again.  Such is life.  Anyway, be good.

M

(P.S., Not too long ago, I found the Alpha shirt you bought me back in the day.  Remember the time I tried to explain the Riddle of the Sphinx to you? (wink, wink))

 

Oh there been times that I thought, I couldn’t last for long

But now I think I’m able to carry on

It’s been a long, a long time coming

But I know a change gonna come

Sam Cooke, ‘A Change is Gonna Come’

I’ve expressed a slight dread to those close to me that I’ll wake up one day to children who have no appreciation of the lives of their grandparents.  As expressed in The Godfather and other films, is the price of mainstream ambition the loss of your cultural roots?  The dark side of the American dream if you will.  Some of my earliest memories are of making the drive down 71 South, through towns where Confederate flags filled the streets, to get to the hometowns of each of my parents.

My father came from a small town in Northern Louisiana.  And I mean small; I’m still not sure if the town has its own high school.  My father is the middle child of three brothers; as best as I can tell, he was the ‘quiet one.’  Spending time in my father’s hometown, I would hear the stories of how he and my uncles would pick pecans at the Big House up the road from where they grew up.  (Lord knows what else hung from those trees over the years).  I can go there now and still see every star in the sky at night.  In Kansas this is what would be considered a ‘farming’ community: a lot of pickup trucks, all used for practical purposes.  In movie terms, I’m reminded of the setting of ‘Hud’ in more ways than one.  I have vague memories of my paternal grandparents; what sticks out in my mind was seeing ‘Big Mama’, my great-grandmother.  She lived in a three bedroom space with the sister of my grandmother for many years.  Even in her most advanced state, she always recognized my father (and myself as a boy).  I’ve never asked him about it directly, but I definitely sense she played a major role in my father’s life growing up.  Absent or present, my father is definitely the man who has the most influence on my life.  He’s taught me a lot over the years, but as I think of these earliest memories, I recognize how some of the most important things he passed on to me, in particular my compassion, were instilled in me at that early stage of life before you recognize you’re being ‘taught’ anything.

My mother came from a more traditional small town, even further south than my father.  In this day and age you rarely hear of families this big, but my mother was one of ten children.  My memories of my family on the maternal side are much more vivid; I can recall specific moments with both of my grandparents on that side.  With a such a large number of children and grandchildren, their home became the ‘ground zero’ for every pleasant and unpleasant reunion growing up.  We’d have these huge crawfish boils growing up; crawfish, half potatoes, corn on the cob thrown in a huge pot and seasoned, heated over a giant flame.  Our uncles would be drinking tall cans of Coors, our aunts would be in the kitchen talking and making pecan candy for dessert; as kids we’d be sucking on sugar cane stalks and racing snails in the carport.  In the evening if we were still hungry, my cousins and I would walk to the Canal Street Market and buy pork cracklins.  I’d come back to the North with ridiculous mosquito bites, but other than that, it was a great period for me.

Of course, none of us make it through life without ever going through something.   My time was coming.