Tag Archive: wire


madmen

Alright, now that our time with Dick Whitman has ended let’s update the list.  As always, just one man’s opinion:

1. The Wire – And still the Champion of the World!!!!!  Time has made Season 4 (the kids) even more impressive and Season 5 (tying up character arcs, but…the newspaper?) more of an albatross.  As a whole though, still the most impressive.  The city of Baltimore was the central character and the story was basically how the system is rigged, and for some reason, feels like I can turn on the TV and still see something very similar to that in the real world…

2. Breaking Bad – Actor bias here, but only a little I think.  As a character study of how one person changes and the ripple effects, it was close to perfect still.  We knew it ‘in the moment’, but time has justifably made the respect for the writing and long term planning of Gilligan (and the details!) that much stronger.

3. Mad Men – And here we are.  Again, hard for me to put into words. Still processing obviously.  I don’t know, something about the story of a man with rural roots, who takes on a new name and identity and cleans himself up, parlays his style and natural looks into access to beautiful women and an upscale life, but his unstable youth makes him a terrible husband and an absent father in spite of his best intentions, but in middle age he becomes a quasi-Buddhist in California and the implication is his biggest million dollar idea is still in front of him…

(woo, hold on, got something in my eye…)

(Editor’s Note: Malik stared at himself in a mirror and cried for three and a half hours before finishing this post.)

Sorry about that, what was I saying?  Oh yes, I loved ‘Mad Men!’  Good show!

4. The Sopranos – The student surpassed the Master!  Still the show that spawned so many of the others, but time is not doing this show that many favors.  If anything, the last shot of that show has made every ‘great’ showrunner since say ‘This is my baby and how the story ends, but I have to end this in a way that makes my loyal audience angry and confused.’  So there’s that.

5. Gotham – I keed! I keed!

But seriously, there should be at least one comedy right?  Is ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ too old school now? Was ‘Parks and Recreation’ too small?  Do we count ‘the Office’ even though most of us stopped caring as soon as Michael Scott left?  Maybe it’s ’30 Rock’?  (By the way, ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ is a worthy successor in its own way.)  At the moment, ‘True Detective’ still has a chance.  Maybe it’s ‘Friday Night Lights’ if we all throw out that one disastrous storyline in season 2.

Lot of good TV we’ve gotten the past 10 years plus.  But tonight is for Don Draper.  I’ll be having a Coke tomorrow.

Cheers!

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drunkmcnulty

Hope everyone had a great weekend.  I know some of you had more fun than others.

And if you’re going out tonight to have your fun, hey, you only live once. Get drunk if that’s your thing.

But seriously, don’t get ‘McNulty drunk’…

I’ve heard the word ‘Uber’ thrown around a lot when Friday night comes around. That sounds like a good way to go.

Enjoy!

Lincoln

 

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Season 3 of the Wire started me on this path, and as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve taken great joy in watching politics as entertainment.  Which means I enjoyed Lincoln quite a bit.

Focusing on the last few months of his life, the movie focuses on Lincoln’s quest to pass the amendment that abolishes slavery.  History tells us the amendment passed of course, the drama, as expertly laid out by Hollywood’s best filmmaker ever, is why Lincoln had the genius foresight of getting the amendment passed before  ending the Civil War (which was already won by the North, minus the formality of the South surrendering).  Surrounded by a Hall of Fame supporting cast (truly too many familiar faces to mention, but don’t be surprised if Sally Field gets a nomination), Daniel Day-Lewis embodies both the mythology of Lincoln that we all learned in elementary school, while making him very human.  The physical resemblance is uncanny at times, but he also nails the Midwestern inflections (I recognized it at least), he made Lincoln an overprotective father, a frustrated husband, and of course, a master lawyer.  My gut wants to say this isn’t Day-Lewis’ best performance, but because it’s soooo different from the maniacs I associate him with, it’s on the list of my favorite roles of his.  And much as I ride for Denzel, I don’t know how this performance doesn’t win the Oscar next year.

More reviews later…

The Chase

This is not a political post, but before I start, I have to acknowledge today’s events…

For my non-black friends and readers who mistakenly believe ‘all’ black folks fall on the the same spot on the political spectrum, you are about to see EXACTLY how conservative and/or liberal black folks can be when certain ‘issues’ are brought to the forefront.  I’ll stop there for now since, again, this isn’t a political post, and if we do need to have that discussion, we have from now until November.

As far as you’re concerned Obama, you genuinely surprised me today.  I never doubted where you stood, but I know you’re smart enough to know taking a stand now would alienate and polarize one of your key demographics.  In an election year!  But you did what any any real leader is supposed to do, you chose to take a stand on the right side of history at the possible/probable expense of some popularity in the here and now.  So, Salut Mr. President.

Now where was I?  Oh yes…

So my favorite TV show ever is The Wire.  Once a year since it’s stopped airing, I’ll watch all five seasons in succession just because I still enjoy it that much.

Anyway I’m midway through Season 3 and I get to the sequence of Avon’s coming home party in the nightclub.  (trust me, that’s not a spoiler)  I was reminded that one of my dreams when I was going through my Carlito Brigante phase was to own a nightclub.  That’s the part of my personality that loves going out and being around people.  A conversation with one of my frat brothers reminded me though, I did ‘own’ a nightclub in college.  I just got out of the Game before all the bad things went down.  People got shot, huge gang fights, brothers got subpoenaed to appear in court.  Yep, in college.  I’m not crazy about the concept of ‘luck’, but I do acknowledge that I’ve been pretty good over the course of a lifetime at cashing out my chips before things turn really sour.  Some of my female friends have also told me they consider us a microcosm of my personal life (all the perks, none of the drama).  I can’t print my response to that on the interwebs because my family reads this space, but let’s just say I strongly disagree with that assessment.

I do think though the nightclub metaphor has a lot of value.  It’s ‘the grass is greener’ philosophy, but taken to 11.  I don’t know how much of this is built into ‘the American Dream’, but most of adulthood seems to be basically chasing…something.  Money.  Sex.  Love.  Career.  But sometimes you get so caught up in ‘the chase’, you don’t see or acknowledge that what you want is right in front of you.  I’m as guilty of not recognizing what’s in front of me sometimes as anyone else.

So the moral to the story is don’t forget once in a while to stop, close your eyes, take a deep breath, stop thinking about what’s ‘over there’ and look at what’s ‘here’.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I plan to have the grand opening of ‘Twisted Steel’ in downtown L.A. around Spring 2013, so I have a lot of work to do.

What can I say?  “You know, I’m just a gangster I suppose…”

 

A friend across the pond has passions similar to mine so when I got home tonight I shot a quick video promoting our mutual interests.  You can see that below.  The mustache I’m sporting for another week is for Movember; it’s certainly drawn attention to that cause. I guess at the moment I’m socially consciously multitasking.

I’m going through my annual rewatching of my favorite television series ever, The Wire.  I won’t spend this space trying to win you over to it, but if you haven’t watched it, you should.  Anyway, one of the nice things about watching a show like this is reconnecting with all the minor characters who fill up the world.  I just passed the episode (minor spoiler alert) where Omar shoots Brother Mouzone.  Thinking he’s on the verge of death, Brother Mouzone won’t give Omar the privilege of hearing him beg for his life, he simply says “I’ve made peace with my God,” and starts to pray to himself.  Sure, I probably smile a little wider than most hearing the brother with the bowtie say that line, but the truth of the statement should ring true to everyone.

“I’ve made peace with my God.”  Everyone of us has our own set of problems to deal with; we’re all driven by our own agendas, and then have to manage the agendas of others to various degrees.  But you lose track of your own peace of mind, you might wake up one day and find you’ve given over too much of your life and personal happiness to someone or something with no vested interest in you.

And on that optimistic note, I wish you a happy week!  I’ll try to get up one more post before Thanksgiving, but the short week may prevent that from happening.

Cheers!

 

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?

Cedar Rapids

 

My friends at AMC Independent were nice enough to invite me to an Intimate Screening of the film “Cedar Rapids” this week.  The film, which played at this year’s Sundance, stars Ed Helms as a small town insurance salesman sent by his office to represent the company at a convention in the big city.  And the big city in this case, is Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  My friend nailed the vibe of this film better than I could walking out, it’s like “Up in the Air” but there’s something more tangible about it (unless you work around alot of salesman who look like George Clooney).

Ed Helms anchors a really well put together cast: Sigourney Weaver is the object of his childhood affections (literally), Anne Heche plays his love interest at the convention (I love seeing actresses you don’t normally associate with ‘sexy’ turn it up, and she does it here).  John C. Reilly brings the manic energy as a rival/friend from another firm, and Isiah Whitlock rounds out the cast.  That name might not be familiar to you, but there are a couple of great in jokes to the greatest show in the history of television that will jog your memory when you see him.

Granted I’m biased, but everything from the hotel (looks like a Holiday Inn) to the fast friends made and lost gave me several flashbacks to the Club Alphas and Big 12 Conferences of my college days.  This film is a straight comedy, don’t get me wrong, but alot of the little details (the houses, the clothing, the way people carried themselves) felt true to the world they were portraying.  Cute little film.

 

Today the hip hop nation takes pause for 2Pac’s birthday.  He would have been 39.  It’s a strange reality to me to know there’s a generation who know of 2Pac through videos and old footage, but who didn’t live through his peak years.

Like some but not all, I had a love/hate relationship with 2Pac while he was alive.  I loved the passion of his voice, I loved the depth of his lyrics.  In my circle we define a movie star as a guy the guys would hang out with and the girls would bone.  By that definition 2Pac is still hip hop’s biggest ‘movie star’ to date. 

What I didn’t care for where the extremes of his personality.  How could the same man who made ‘Keep Your Head Up’ and ‘Dear Mama’ be part of a gang rape?  How could the son of a Black Panther throw a whole Coast of black people under the bus so…violently?

If Pac was our real life version of Bishop, or Tony Montana, or Nino Brown, then it feels no less sad but maybe less surprising he had the same violent end those characters did. 

The Hate U Give Little Infants Fux Everybody.  Was this prophetic?  Ironic?  Both?  From the time Pac died (and really after Biggie died), the shift started.  Some really do grow up with no sense of ‘options’ or ‘hope’ of living a life different from what their parents or grandparents had.  But for pretty much any young black person who grew up in at least a lower middle class background (like myself), we had to ask ourselves, “Look I love the music and I love my culture, but I’m not trying to DIE over this!”  There were of course those who were talking down to the gangsta rap culture from day one, but how often do people react positively when they know you’re talking down to them? 

Baby steps.  Sometimes one step forward, two steps back.  Where I went to college, there was a very infamous ‘Welcome Back to School Party’ where a member of one historically black fraternity pointed a gun at the member of another historically black fraternity.  And yes, choas ensued.  I still chuckle as I remember one of the freshmen, his eyes still bugging out of his head, coming up to me and saying, “Malik, is THIS what college is like?!?” 

(As an aside, I’m not trying to ride my high horse for those of you who vividly remember that night in our lives.  As a matter of fact, it was one of my fraternity brothers who took me out to shoot my first automatic.  Riding around Douglas County Kansas bumping Makaveli’s ‘Me and My Girlfriend’.  Now THAT’s irony!)

Anyway in pop culture black artists have gone from being genuinely tense, to mocking how we took some things a little too seriously.   Everything from Chappelle’s ‘When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong’ to the Huey/Riley dynamic on the Boondocks to the Wire have deglamourized the gangster lifestyle (since 99.9 percent of the time it ends only one of two ways – death or jail).  These shows have all illustrated how we both embrace the ‘outlaw’ lifestyle (and always will) but for the most part have learned the lesson about letting real gangsters do gangster things, and the rest of us will watch from a safe distance.

In some of his last interviews, Pac talked about forming a new political party and running for President.  That’s still funny to me, but none of us would have ever imagined a little more than 10 years later there would actually be a black President.  Or for that matter, Snoop and Diddy sitting next to each other courtside at a Lakers game.

I guess what I’m really saying is that for all my complaints over the years about 2Pac or the ‘thug culture’ or the state of hip hop today, in the end, it is still my culture and I will still take pride in its success and defend it.

Brooklyn’s Finest

 

This morning I caught a movie I’ve been waiting for for months, Brooklyn’s Finest, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed.  If I had to use one word to describe it, the word would be dark.  You can watch the trailer and know what type of world you’re getting into, but to watch how it all plays out, this film at times makes Training Day (also directed by Antoine Fuqua) look like Police Academy. 

The three central characters of the story are a cop played by Ethan Hawke, who willingly bends the rules to provide for his increasingly expanding family, an undercover cop played by Don Cheadle who is ready to get out of undercover work and wants his regular life back, and a retiring cop on his last week of the job, played by Richard Gere, who just wants to get to retirement without any trouble.  You don’t have to be as big of the fan of the crime genre as I am to know you’ve seen these character types; Donnie Brasco and Se7en immediately come to mind.  So as with any genre film, you judge it against how it takes these archetypes and give you an interesting take.

I thought in this case the cast of characters was stronger than the story that was told.  And is that a surprise?  Kansas City bias aside, I’d pay full price to watch Don Cheadle drink a glass of milk, he doesn’t disappoint. I’m not the first person to note the (deliberate?) similarities between the kingpin character played by Wesley Snipes here and his trademark role of Nino Brown.  The East Coast locale and type of story surely played into seeing a few familiar faces from a certain greatest TV show of all time that came on HBO and was set in Baltimore.  He looks the exact same, but the difference between Ethan Hawke’s LA cop in Training Day and his Brooklyn cop here gave me more respect for him as an actor. And much of the film revolves around Richard Gere’s character.  I think the best compliment I can give him is the man still has ‘it’: the ability to be the anchor in a ridiculously talented ensemble.  And there’s a few other ‘names’ who pop up but I won’t name who.

The crime genre (and its most lucrative subgenre, the gangster genre) have both hit that point where greatness is almost impossible to get to.  So when a film does a good job, you acknowledge how hard it was.  And Brooklyn’s Finest is a good film; worth checking out for the great acting alone.  

 

thewireseason4

The Wire aired for five seasons on HBO.  The main character of the show was the city of Baltimore, with each season looking at the city through a different infrastructure (the streets, the docks, politics, the school system and the media).  I’ve done nothing to disguise the large amount of admiration for the show on a personal level.  So why is it only 15th on the countdown?  On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  As mentioned in the intro, the show is set in Baltimore, Maryland, one of America’s most urban areas.  Because of the locale and the show’s decision to focus on the lower class citizens, the show was filled with minority actors in every season.  If you want to be a super contrarian you can point out that the show’s creator David Simon is white, but honestly, you can say that about a lot of the shows and movies we consider ‘black.’

Legacy:  The show hasn’t been off the air that long so this one is a little harder to quantify.  So I’ll approach it from this angle:  in the past few years, I can’t think of another show that built its audience almost exclusively based on word of mouth.  A good friend of mine wouldn’t stop raving about it, so I got into it.  I got into it, and I couldn’t stop raving about it to my friends who hadn’t seen it yet.  And the chain continues on…

Craft:  David Simon himself has described his show as a visual novel.  It didn’t help bring in new viewers as the show gained steam, but you truly had to start at Episode 1 of Season 1 to stay with the show.  But anyone who made the journey will tell you the payoff for investing in these stories and these characters was almost always worth it.  Speaking of the characters, while it’s highly unlikely there will be a movie star out of the bunch, props also go to the cast, who definitely did their part in making us in the audience both empathize and at times be disgusted with every major character of the show.

Crossover:  As every Wire fan knows, the show was adored by its fans but never got Emmy love.  Ever.  Not for writing, not for any of the extraordinary actors.  The Wire continues to have a rabid fan base, and according to Simon, that’s all he cared about. 

Apollo:  For a single moment, I’d say when Herc walked in on the Mayor (if you know the show, you know exactly what I’m talking about).  But I have to speak on the one character that still sticks with me.  Duquan, better known as Dukie.  A close friend of mine is still working his way through seasons 4 & 5, so I won’t use this space to say how it all ends, but I will say this.  With the possible exception of Tyra from Friday Night Lights, there is no character I’ve felt sorrier for in my television experience.  I’ve said repeatedly that while I’m fully aware it’s just an actor playing a part, if I saw Dukie walking around L.A., I’d stop whatever I was doing, buy him lunch and spend a few minutes with him to make sure he was doing alright. 

The next entry will be up later this month…