Tag Archive: marlon brando


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!

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MJ-Xscape-STANDARD-Digital-Packshot

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you I campaigned a little harder than normal when the opportunity to be in this video came up on my radar.

And I’m only half joking when I tell you the thought crossed my mind, if I would’ve booked it… ‘You’re singing along to Mike in one of his videos.  They are characters, stories, living people who you would be equally hyped to work with, but you’re not topping this.’  Seriously.  I’m having fun, but being in a Michael Jackson video?  The word ‘retirement’ did flash through my mind for a second.

On the flip side of the coin, I also considered how long would be my ego be able to withstand the daily jokes and memes from those of you (and you know who you are) who would send me hourly clips of me jumping around and singing along and getting into a tickle fight with Timberlake.  So from that angle, that certainly would have fast forwarded me to how I imagine the last chapter of my life: living in exile, working as a bartender/DJ at Marlon Brando’s Tahitian resort under the alias ‘Davis Samuels, married to a Filipino girl and raising a couple island kids, and biding my time until some friend of a friend goes on their honeymoon and recognizes me and lets everybody back in America know I’m actually still alive and healthy and I’d made a completely new life for myself.

So, all things considered, I guess it’s good I’m not in this video.

Enjoy!

 

Halftime.

Michael.  Michael was the first icon of my generation.  He loved entertaining, and we loved watching him and listening to him and imitating him.  Along the way, he learned/understood the value of being enigmatic.  It’s a very ‘Hollywood’ thing to do; the myth/mystery of who you are behind closed doors becomes part of your attraction.  In Mike’s case, it’s fair to say the enigma thing backfired on him in his later years; there’s definitely a point where you don’t want to be a complete wildcard.  But when Mike did what he did best, he was peerless.  His personal and professional ambition to separate himself, first from his family than from his peers, drove him to break down boundaries for everyone who came behind him.

Malcolm.  Malcolm was and still is one our heroes.  ‘Our Shining Black Prince’.  His words, both in written form and in oratory, made us really proud to be Black.  No one man or group will single handedly reverse a system that undermines the self esteem and self worth of a culture.  But Malcolm definitely tried, he tried harder than anyone before or since.  That oversimplifies a lot of things, but on a basic level that’s why we love him.

Marlon.  The Prototype for American actors.  Not only that, but the pioneer for ‘the movie star as social crusader’.  Marlon was friends with Dr. King and James Baldwin; he even more infamously stood up for Native Americans; he was even friendly with the Panthers for a time.  But what do the people who knew him best say about him?  He was a nut!  He loved to laugh and he loved to joke with others.  For all the serious causes he was involved in and supported, he still had no problem knowing when to loosen up, and not take things too seriously.

Anyway, halftime is almost over.  Some very good things happened in the first half, but the Game is far from over.  Make the necessary adjustments based on what you’ve seen, but we can stick to the Game Plan and win this.  You’re a veteran now, you don’t need much more of a pep talk than that.

Rise dark knight.  Rise.

Shame

So everyone knows I’m a Brando guy, and I’ve talked about how ‘Last Tango in Paris’ was a major influence on how I built the character I used in “Lady In My Life.” So when one of the first things I heard about ‘Shame’ was that it was on some ‘Last Tango’ type ish, I was instantly like “Oh Really?!?”  I wasn’t going to hold any film to that  standard but I was intrigued.  And, as fate would have it, when I literally went from the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood to the Arclight only a few blocks away to catch a screening, I was really in a “Method” mood.

So let’s start there.  By own scale of 1 to 10 for commitment to a role, Michael Fassbender went for the 10 here; all in surrender of his body and spirit for the character.  Full salute from me for that.  For those unfamiliar, ‘Shame’ is about a young bachelor in his 30s, not a bad looking dude, stable in his job and living situation, who, for reasons never explained, is both unable and frankly uninterested in building and sustaining an emotional relationship with a woman.

(Let me pause this review here because I can here a certain peanut gallery picking up their phones to text me.  To you I say, shut it.)

What the main character of this film does have a passion for is sex.  But as the title implies, his passion for sex is…off.  He doesn’t do it for social status, for pleasure, for procreation, or as noted, for emotional connection.  He just…does it.  As often as possible and in plenty of inappropriate ways and places.  One of the things that director Steve McQueen (a brother from across the pond) gets right in this film is showing you in the first 20 minutes, there is nothing glamorous in this sexual perversion.

Casey Mulligan shows up as the sister of our protagonist. Not as one of the ‘normal sweet, girl next door’ types she’s played in other films, but as a desperate, really desperate for attention seeking little sister.  It was certainly an interesting choice for the audience to get no backstory on these two siblings, one emotionally vacant and one in constant need for approval, but in my opinion at least, it kept the film from maybe reaching its true potential.  If “Last Tango” is the standard, in that film there are little moments here and there where, if you don’t know, you (as the audience) can at least infer “Oh that’s why he’s an asshole.”  The audience of “Shame” doesn’t get that luxury.  For shame. (See what I did there?)

All that said, I think it’s a good film.  And the performances by the two leads are really good.  The film is rated NC-17, which I guess is its own reference to the high degree of sexuality in the film.  But to me all that NC-17 does is remind me how with the US ratings boards you can blow off all the heads and chop off all the arms you want and get an R, but you have one too many penis shots in your film and it’s immediately X-rated.  Another debate for another day…

 

Some i’s have to be dotted and some t’s need to be crossed, but I got word today that this fall, ‘Lady In My Life’ will appear on the nationally syndicated ‘African-American Short Films’ showcase.  For all the jokes and humblebrags I’ve made about this short not going away, the truth is that for a guy/artist like me, for whom the word ‘legacy’ means something, it means a great deal to me to have a piece of work that people are still interested in seeing and showcasing years after I first created it.

Not too long ago someone asked me my opinion about the short film game, and I gave my honest opinion.  As a businessman, the goal is always to turn a profit, and short films (much like features) are very high risk/high reward in that regard.  But as an investment in your long term future, shorts can open a lot of doors.  Based on what I’ve been told, this little piece has sparked conversations on (the portrayals of) black love, gotten some people to laugh, made others think about their own skeletons in the closet.  I’m well aware of the power of the medium (especially for minority filmmakers), which in my book is a ‘pro’ for others to tell their own short stories.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I actually try not to watch it anymore.  I see everything I would have done differently.  The crew from Through a Glass and my co-star Samra did an amazing job; I’m strictly talking about myself as an actor.  What I did works, but now I wish I would have done one take of the monologue with more of a Paul Newman, ‘cool confidence’ feel.  Yeah I know that last sentence was only for the film geeks and actors, but it’s a language I’m comfortable speaking.

On the flip side, and I’ve made this joke before, if this short really doesn’t ever go away, I’ll be able to turn on the TV one day and see myself, and like Brando in his twilight when he saw ‘Streetcar’, I’ll be able to tell my kids, “Oh, I was so young and handsome once.  Pass me the nachos…”

When I have some exact dates for when it’s playing, I’ll let everyone know.  Have a good weekend.

So awhile back my friend @thecheesefry turned me on to Flickchart, and I promised after I ranked 1000 films (a solid number I think for anyone who calls himself a film geek) that I would post what my favorites are. The question I used when ranking was this, “It’s Sunday afternoon, there is nothing on but these two films, which one am I watching?”  Before I get to my top 20, here are a few things I learned.

1. 1000 films…that’s a lot of movies.  But I give you my word I really have seen all 1000 films I’ve ranked (to this point).

2. A lot of the ‘classic’ films?  You really only need to see them once. (A somewhat surprising revelation to me.)

3. Depending on what your ‘question’ or criteria is for choosing one film over the other, you can learn a lot about someone’s personal tastes with a time killer like this list.

4. I knew I was a big Gary Oldman fan, but even I didn’t realize how big of a Gary Oldman fan I was.

So enough chatter, here is my top 20, with a little comment about each one.

20. Bram Stoker’s Dracula – my favorite ‘bad’ movie of all time.  Gary Oldman chews up the scenery, but Winona and especially Keanu in a historical period piece.  Alrighty.  And I know it fits the over the top mood of the whole film, but Beast Dracula having his way with Lucy in the second act can still get a ‘What the Hell?!?’ out of me.  Good Times.

19. Vertigo – I also have soft spots for ‘Psycho’ and ‘North and Northwest’, but this is the Hitchcock film that rose the highest.  One of my favorite endings definitely; I think the first time I saw it, my feeling was ‘Now THAT was a movie!”

18. The Shawshank Redemption – Like a lot of people, this one was under my radar until it came out on video.  Also on the short list of films me and my father enjoy equally.

17. Ocean’s Eleven (2001) – Granted the deck was stacked in terms of cast (pun intended) but this is a great Hollywood movie.  Clooney at his peak, Vegas looks fantastic, great use of Clair de Lune at the end.  Easily a personal favorite of the past ten years.

16. Coming to America – I talked about how great this movie is in the ’25 Most Important Black Films’ section (cross site plug).  I’m not the first person to say this but it’s true, it’s by far the most quotable black film ever.  One of my few regrets in life is not walking off the stage like Randy Watson after my last step show.

15. Batman Begins – As a pair of my friends can attest to, the last time I came out of a movie theater jumping up and down and pumping my fist.  And I was well into manhood when this film came out.

14. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – Everyone knows this film is underrated, they’ve remade it with Denzel, and I still feel like it doesn’t get its just respect.  The assassination of the real president a year after the film was made will always hold the original down. And I just recognized the irony that next I have…

13. JFK – Whatever you choose to believe about what happened that day in Dallas, strictly as a film ‘JFK’ is phenomenal.  In my lifetime, maybe no other film has demonstrated how powerful the medium can be in terms of making people think about the world around them.

12. Return of the Jedi – I’m old enough to remember when people trashed this as ‘the weakest Star Wars film’.  Those were the days right?

11. City of God – Best non-Italian gangster movie ever?  Maybe.  I have fond memories of ‘City of God’ being to film what ‘the Wire’ was to television.  Out of nowhere, people were telling me, ‘YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!’, setting my expectations low so I wasn’t disappointed, then telling five other people ‘YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!’

10. The Empire Strikes Back – The Dark Side never had, or never will look this damn cool and bad ass ever again. “Luke, Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father…”

9. A Streetcar Named Desire – Young Brando at his physical peak, when he was clearly passionate about acting.  Nuff said.

8. Eddie Murphy: Raw – I’ll be the first to admit that some of the jokes here are extremely overboard (and especially ironic given the rumors and run-ins with the law Eddie has had since then), but I’ll take this over ‘Delirious’ every time.  Eddie was still the kid from Saturday Night Live on Delirious, here is when he is ‘Eddie Murphy: Movie Star’.

7. Airplane – Now the ‘joke a minute’ genre has been watered down to the point that the films are usually not funny at all, but the originator is still the best of the bunch in my opinion. ‘Stewardess, I speak jive…’

6. Once Upon a Time in America – It’s not a perfect movie, but I still love the ambition of it. I think everyone has or will have at least one non romantic relationship that will end badly.  And in the end, did Noodles just get high and imagine what could have been?

5. Superman II – Christopher Reeve will always be the perfect Clark Kent/Superman, and Terrence Stamp gave the Gary Oldman performance before we knew of Gary Oldman.  “Kneel before Zod!  ZOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

4. The Dark Knight – the Prince of Gotham lost this round and I couldn’t have been happier.

3. The Godfather Part II – Best sequel ever.

2. Roots – Technically not a ‘film’ in the way the others are, but Flickchart put it on the list, so here it is.  Still debating at what age this will be mandatory viewing in the Aziz household.  Five seems too young…

1. Malcolm X – What did you expect?

 

“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.

King

 

Like most black kids of my generation, I had the idea that Dr. King was ‘somebody’ before I had any real concept of who that ‘somebody’ was.  It was his picture and Jesus on the back of our church fans.  At my grandfather’s house, there were two pictures in the house that weren’t family: John F. Kennedy and MLK.  There wasn’t a ‘King Holiday’ in the early years of my childhood, for awhile he was just the ‘black hero.’

When my sister and I were still in our ‘kiddie’ stage, we made the family road trip to Walt Disney World.  My father decided one of our pit stops would be Atlanta, which struck me as a little odd since I knew at the time we didn’t have any family on either side in the ATL.  As it turns out, he timed our pit stop on the weekend of some type of “King Fest.”  My mother still has a picture of herself with Yolanda King that she treasures; we stopped by Ebenezer, we went to the Center, we visited Dr. King’s tomb.  It was the first time I went to the gravesite of someone outside my family.  It wasn’t a morbid thing since it’s right there with the museum, but it made me think.  In retrospect, it was probably the beginning of my interest in Black History.

Once I got to an age where I could understand race and America, I started with Dr. King’s life and works.  All of them.  His own words (“I have a Dream,”, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,”) some of the well written biographies about him and his crusades (Selma, Chicago, Birmingham, D.C., and Memphis), his allies and his adversaries (the Kennedys, Malcolm, Sammy and Brando, Hoover). I wouldn’t call myself an expert but I’d say I’d know “more than average.”  It played a large part in shaping my identity and what I value.

In practical and satirical ways, people often ask a) has Dr. King’s Dream been fulfilled and b) what would Dr. King be fighting against today?  The answer to both questions of course is that we’ll never really know.  Even in his eerily prophetic final speech, he said “I may not get there with you, but we as a people will get to the promised land!”  For better or worse, part of the practical nature of giving your life over to a larger purpose means you will not see the ‘end result’ of what you’re fighting for.  In the cynical times we live in, it’s something of a minor miracle that anyone does something knowing their good deeds can and sometimes will be taken in vain.

But as the man himself wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  (That’s also my single favorite quote of his.)  As a child looking at his final resting place, I had no idea what ‘injustice’ meant.  As a man, I understand it too well.  I don’t have the hero complex I had as a teenager, but I will always care enough about the world around me to do what I can.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Megamind

 

Wisely getting a headstart before Harry Potter takes over in a couple weeks, Megamind is actually not a bad family film.  While not as deep and three dimensional as any of the Pixar films, it’s still an enjoyable hour and a half for adults and kids alike.  Starting with the premise, “What would happen if the villain actually killed the hero?”, Megamind has fun with the ideas of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ without ever making you feel like you’re in some deep theological debate.  Featuring the voices of Will Farrell (a good rebound after Land of the Lost), Tina Fey (solid as always), and Brad Pitt (on cruise control, but I don’t mean that as an insult), I don’t know if Megamind will do gangbusters numbers, but it should do well.  There’s alot of in-references to Superman, both the hero’s mythology in general and the great movie that kicked off the superhero genre back in the late 70s.  I did some research after I got home and found out the movie had even more references to comic book heroes that went way over my head.

The cynical side to me says the only thing that matters with this film is “Did it do well enough to earn a sequel?”  The early numbers suggest maybe so, but whether it does or not, I think this film is enjoyable enough if you have little ones.  Didn’t see it in 3D, so I don’t know if that enhances the experience (I highly doubt it).

 

So last year when I first heard about this film, I made the gut decision I wasn’t going to see it.  I was at the NAACP Image Award nominated memorial service, and as I wrote at the time, to be there was as draining for me emotionally as anything I could imagine.  I understood the business behind releasing the documentary (promoters making back their money, ‘one last glimpse’ for the conspiracy theorists and the diehards like myself) but no film could top what I experienced that day in Staples. 

Then I started to hear about how good This Is It was on its own terms.  My mother and sister first; “You haven’t seen it?!?”  Then various friends who know my lifelong admiration of Michael; “You haven’t seen it?”  Then my homegirl who went to the memorial with me; “You haven’t seen it?”  Then people who I know for a fact didn’t have nothing but jokes about Mike for the last 20 years; “You haven’t seen it?”  Then the homeless cat who sleeps at the park where I run on the weekends; “You haven’t seen it?!?”  HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!?  I digress…

Since at this point I’ll assume that yes, you HAVE seen it, I’ll just give you some of my thoughts in bullet point form as I watched it…

  • For those of you who get on me about not eating enough (and you know who you are), I look like Fat Bastard compared to Mike in this movie.  I know the man was never known to hit the gym, but my goodness he was skinny.  He sure seemed healthy enough throughout the rehearsals though didn’t he?
  • Along those lines, it’s ironic that in the past few weeks I’ve had stepshows on my brain from my college days.  I say that to say, I know when you’re gearing up for a show in front of a live audience, you’re pretty much going half-speed all the way up until the week/day before the big show.  So seeing rough cuts of various songs/sequences didn’t throw me off as much as some people who might have been expecting more.  Frankly, Mike at half speed would still get my money before damn near everybody else right now who’s touring live.
  • Maybe it’s because I didn’t hear him sing it as an adult alot, if ever, but the half speed version of “I’ll Be There” still had my hairs standing up.  I don’t know if I wanted to see that full production number; that was clearly set up to be a show-stopper.
  • The editor deserves a little credit on this one, but I’m seriously starting to doubt if there will ever be a song that guarantees an “Awwwww shyt!” more than the intro to Billie Jean, especially when you don’t see it coming.
  • Seeing 50 year old Mike go through the motions of Beat It and Thriller put a smile on my face, I couldn’t help it but rewind the Blu-Ray, get up, and dance along with Mike in my living room.
  • I heard Prince told Mike once that if he really wanted to throw down on a comeback tour, he should do a straight accoustic set to remind people how good of a vocalist he was.  Even though he complained about it after the fact, I know I wasn’t the only one who could, as my Captain would say, ‘feel the moistness’ when Mike freestyled a little at the end of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”.  I think I went psychically deaf for a few minutes.
  • Finally, more than a few times as they were going through it, you could clearly see Mike smiling and enjoying himself.  In retrospect, I think that’s what I was looking for.  For all the damage both self-inflicted and done by others to this man, did this cat that I borderline worshipped for so many years actually enjoy his gift as much as we did?  Or was he more like a Brando who always seemed to have a borderline contempt for his own extraordinary talents?  Without getting into all of Mike’s issues (which would take all week), I think on the most basic level he enjoyed what he could do.

Again, it’s funny to watch it now, completely separated from all the hoopla.  At the moment (right after watching the film) I’m sad he’s gone again.  But I will admit I stand corrected, for all of you who told me I had to see this movie as a Michael Jackson fanatic, you were right.  I’m glad I changed my mind and finally got around to watching it.