Tag Archive: will smith



Quincy Jones has had a career and a life that just won’t me duplicated.

EGOT.  He opened the door for Oprah to go to the next level.  He opened the door for Will Smith to go to the next level.  Nearly any creative I know would feel like his 90th biggest accomplishment would easily be their 1st.

So it’s impressive that ‘Quincy’ does such a good job of giving an overview for how much he’s done over the years while blending in enough of a personal element to balance the story out.

I could be hear all day talking about Q’s accomplishments, so I’ll just pick a few highlights:

  • Sinatra is one of my guys, so the chapter detailing their relationship was riveting for me.  How much respect Frank had for him, how Q was right there with Sammy when Sinatra spoke up about really integrating Vegas, the album ‘Sinatra at the Sands’ (a personal favorite).  All gems.
  • Like Kendrick said, my generation was introduced to Q through MJ.  The music nerd in me was equally happy to hear him credit Rod Temperton as one of the great songwriters, but getting behind the scenes footage of their professional bonding over ‘Off the Wall’ and ‘Thriller’ was cool.
  • I should have figured as much, but Q produced the concert that opened the Smithsonian African-American Museum.  Just seeing him walk through the pop culture exhibit and realize he produced or worked with damn near every person in the music section is another shake your head ridiculous moment; but seeing this man still producing massive events in his 80s is…humbling.

The film is co-directed by his daughter Rashida (side note: I’m far too young to know of a young Peggy Lipton, but seeing her with no context, my first reaction was still, ‘Oh, that’s Rashida Jones’ mom), and it’s well worth the two hour watch if you’re any kind of pop culture nerd.

High recommend.




In light of some really nice moments from Ava and Oprah’s new show last night, conversations with my own old man, and general mood, this one fell into the playlist right on time.  My single favorite single Will has done.




Suicide Squad?  OK…

But is Will finally doing the kind of movies we’ve wanted someone with his clout to do?

And this is the flick where he’s got Gugu playing his movie wife?

I’m in!

The Price of Superstardom?

So I watched Six Degrees of Separation for the first time this week.  I knew of the film of course, and its reputation as the film that proved that ‘Will Smith can act’.  But even knowing that going in, the film left me in shock…

Will is really good in this film.  In terms of pure acting, I think it’s my favorite Will performance, even above The Pursuit of Happyness.  Watching this performance now made me think of Will turning down Django Unchained, or other roles that now fall outside ‘the Will Smith brand.’  I actually have no doubt the Will Smith of today would never do this role; he’s an established A-lister, not someone working their way up who needs to get noticed.  You know who else this reminded me of, in a way?

Eddie Murphy.  Or more specifically, Eddie Murphy, one of the greatest stand up comedians ever.  His success inspired a generation of great stand ups who have come after him.  But did Eddie becoming the biggest movie star in the world kill the chance that we’ll get one more great Eddie Murphy stand up film?  Seems like it…

And I’m not saying Will or Eddie have made bad choices, or that they owe the audience anything.  It’s just an interesting thing to ponder; when an actor reaches ‘stardom’, he or she gets offered everything, and has choices to make.  But when someone reaches ‘superstardom’, you still get offered everything…but do you really have the freedom to do whatever you want?

Until next time.

The Best Mentor

“Besides, if I ever need help, who’s a better consigliere than my father?” – Michael Corleone

You know, I spent the whole day trying to think of the most grandiose, melodramatic statement I could make about the positive effect my father has had on me in all facets of my life.  But in the end, I’m opting to go a simpler route.

So here’s a nice video to take you into the weekend.  In addition to the gratitude and mentorship I’ll never be able to repay to my own father, I also want to say thank you and I’m proud of so many of my own friends (really too many to name at this point), who have become great fathers and father figures in their own right.  The company you keep.  This one is for all of you.  Maybe Will Smith’s single best work:

The Descendants

In various interviews, I’ve heard George Clooney say that his attraction to this project was in playing a character who didn’t have all the answers.  The main character of ‘The Descendants’ is the anti-Danny Ocean so to speak.  It’s a fine line for Clooney to walk on professionally; most actors will get jaded or resentful when they’re asked to play the same type of character over and over again; but being a ‘movie star’ is selling the audience on a ‘brand’, a persona that they know they’re getting no matter what movie you’re in or what story is being told (see Smith, Will).

George Clooney is the acting community’s movie star (see what I did there?) because he makes choices like this.  In this case, playing a character who’s borderline unsympathetic.  By Matt King’s own admission, he’s the ‘understudy’ parent.  His wife has been having an affair and apparently Matt is the only one who is completely in the dark about it.  His father in law doesn’t hide his disdain for him, blaming Matt for an accident to his ‘perfect and loyal’ daughter.  The strength of Clooney’s performance in this film is in how with all of this thrown at him, you still do root for the guy.  This isn’t a revenge or ‘overcoming the odds’ story.

In a film that takes its laid back tone from its Hawaiian backdrop, Matt King has several opportunities to ‘get back’ at those who have wronged him.  But with two daughters who he’s now raising on his own, he makes the conscious decision to be the bigger man.  Anger is natural, letting go and moving on are difficult, but (ideally) when you’re gone you want people to remember the good things that you did and not the mistakes that you made.  And as an audience we get this not in a dramatic third act monologue, but as a progression.  Clooney acts it out and we follow.

Like I said, the actor’s favorite movie star.


I’ve talked a lot about what I am, and not much lately about what I do.  I’ve been treated to some pleasant news which through sheer coincidence of timing came while I’ve been fasting.

The last script that I wrote was a semi-autobiographical story about growing up as a Muslim in pre and post 9/11 America.  I didn’t and still don’t view it as the next Will Smith picture, so I only sent it to those who I thought might have an interest in the point of view I was presenting.  One of those groups were the Sundance Institute, and I learned about a week ago they liked what I’ve pitched enough that they want to see more.  Very flattering.  Even my folks back home who know nothing about the Biz recognize that brand name (‘the thing in Utah’ as my father put it), so potentially down the line, that could be a game changer.

Right now it’s just an opportunity so I only gave myself a little time to ‘daydream’ on what could be.  What I write in this space on the subject matter is a reflection of my outlook on the world, but if you keep up with me at all, you know when I put on ‘a show’, I’ll give you a show.  The story I wrote is not an in your face political statement like some of Spike’s films. Even with the subject matter, it’s not a redemption story like a lot of Tyler’s movies. The comment I’ve heard the most from people who’ve read the script is “I was surprised at how funny this is,”; in other words it’s an extension of my strong suits as a storyteller, the self deprecating clown, the sarcastic geek, the hopeless romantic (think Lady In My Life).

So I completed another pass of the script this weekend, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year.  Through the circles I run in, I know I’m not the only film school geek in the mix, nor am I the only Muslim filmmaker they’re looking at.  Nothing is a done deal, but they’re getting my best effort so if I’m meant to go down that road, I will. For the time being, I’ll return my focus to what I can control this week and this month, and hopefully get another pleasant surprise down the line.

Quick Shots

A lot of movie talk among friends this week – I thought I’d post my thoughts on three different castings…

Willow Smith in a remake of Annie – I mean, did this even have to get ‘sold’?  Little Jada has a hit song under her belt, her brother had a nice hit (and respectable remake) with the Karate Kid; and little orphan Annie is one of those movies that it seems like every generation gets their own version of.  I don’t know if it’s confirmed, but I heard Jay Z will be helping out in some way.  I may be wrong but it seems like “Hard Knock Life” was his first real, real big crossover hit.  Seems like a smart, safe play all the way around.

Beyonce in a remake of “A Star is Born” – this was the equivalent (to me anyway) of seeing someone whose name you know but you just can’t remember, then they say their name and say “YEAH THAT’S IT!”  I can’t say I’m a hardcore Beyonce fan, but I’m a fan.  Personally I’ve wanted to see her do a role where she just acts and doesn’t sing, but “Beyonce in “A Star is Born” sells itself.  Directed by Clint Eastwood sounds to me like they’re gearing up for an Oscar push.  We shall see.  Early prediction: there won’t be a Jennifer Hudson this time around to steal the movie from under her.

Anne Hathaway in “The Dark Knight Rises” – Cautious optimism.  I don’t care how much juice Chris Nolan has with Warner Brothers, there was just no way there was going to be any kind of “Batman 3” without SOME type of female lead. (Not saying that was his intention.)  I like Anne Hathaway, I think she’s very credible as an actress, but (like everyone else) wasn’t even on my radar to be Catwoman.  Of course we all know the reason the rational fanboys haven’t gone ballistic over this: Heath Ledger as the Joker.  So we’ll see what Nolan has in mind…

Have a good weekend.


One of the most popular sitcoms of its era, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air told the story of West Philly teenager Will Smith as he brought his street-wise hip hop sensibilities to the Banks household, moving in with his aunt and uncle in Bel Air, California.

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  In the middle of a new golden age for black sitcoms, The Fresh Prince, in addition to having a black star and an all black cast, would over its six year run have guest appearances by numerous black stars making their own moves on the career ladder (Tyra Banks, Don Cheadle, and Tevin Campbell immediately come to mind).  How many sitcoms in history have had their theme song rapped by its star?  The defense rests.

Legacy:  Very, very easy to forget with all that’s happened since, but Will Smith was damn near done before this project got greenlit.  Like a lot of young brothers who get money young, he spent freely and the IRS was on him.  The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air gave Will a second career as an actor, and to his credit he’s taken full advantage of the opportunity.

Craft:  With all due respect to TBS, this show was truly very, very funny.  Well cast, well written, and very well performed, the show consistently brought the laughs, which (should be) the goal for any sitcom.

Crossover:  And let’s pass some of that praise on to NBC and its various station managers across the country.  When the show was for all intents and purposes cancelled after three seasons, both fans and affiliates let the powers that be know how popular the show was in spite of it not ever being the number one show in America.  Three more seasons later, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air more than earned its place as a syndication favorite.

Apollo:  Another show where you could pick from many choices.  I’ll go with the running joke that we all know: Jazz (Jazzy Jeff) getting thrown out of the mansion repeatedly for either a) hitting on Hilary, b) pissing off Uncle Phil, or c) usually a combination of both.

Next time on the TV show countdown, something much more serious.  Until then…