Sure, he was a dynamic rapper with lots of poetry and personality, but his acting skills were always superior to what we've come to expect from most rapper-actors. Here are some examples:
There is so much for me to say, but I don't think I have to say it all. Since I write stream of consciousness on this here blog, I'm going to try to contain my thoughts to only what is essential. The bare minimum of what is required to get by. Sort of like how the Dallas Mavericks beat the Lakers, yes the two-time defending champion Lakers who are led by the best coach in basketball and the best player in the NBA since Michael Jordan and some other guys with names like Gasol and Bynum and Odom. Yes, those Lakers. The Mavericks beat them in four games. That's the bare minimum. This wasn't five games, six games or a classic seven game series. This was a shellacking.
This is the series that ended Phil Jackson's illustrious career. The series that moved Kobe Bryant down to All NBA's second team status behind the likes of Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, LeBron, D-Wade and Kevin Durant. The series that confirmed suspicions that Pau Gasol is in fact a flopping, jump-shooting, soft, no heart, no fire 7-foot Spaniard playing a game against guys from Detroit and South Central and Baltimore. Guys that don't fuck around in the painted area. And maybe Bynum and Odom are more likely to make the Hall of Fame than they are to make an All Classy team. And maybe the pickups of Steve Blake and Matt Barnes weren't worth the losses of Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar after all because they can't hit open threes as much. And, quite frankly, maybe Kobe just isn't Kobe anymore.
This is the series that gave people like me - Kobe fans, Laker fans - cause for concern. More questions than answers. More tribulation than triumph. This is the series that made Mavs fans cheer.
Sure they were the better team. They came in with a game plan that looked more like a five-course meal. There was Dirk. He was the salad. He was the essential, healthy part of the meal. There was Jason Terry hitting threes from every angle of the floor, something like a serving of hors d'oeuvres...you weren't sure what you were eating, but you know you would try it again. There was Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler, acting as the Mavs' surf and turf...more than enough to fill your appetite on the point and down low. There was Peja Stojakovich, the asparagus that you didn't always finish but got your serving of. And then the dessert. That was J.J. Barea. And, for this series, Mark Cuban was picking up the tab and not looking silly in doing so.
Call me silly, but this is all a fairy tale. Not in the way that Cinderella's story was told. Not in the way that the Hoosiers won Indiana's State Championship. No, the Mavs were deserving of this dream's arrival. That much is clear.
But this is a fairy tale in that the Lakers' downfall being associated with some team from the Lone Star State's title hopes - and in such embarrassing fashion - is something that only happens in dreams.
The Dallas Mavericks won the series. But the dream is a shared one. Sort of like Leo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ken Watanabe and Ellen Page in Inception. The Mavs are Leo. The San Antonio Spurs are Gordon-Levitt, the Houston Rockets are Ken Watanabe and the rest of the NBA is Ellen Page.
The Mavs did most of the heavy lifting and had the most to lose. I mean how much longer could Mark Cuban keep throwing money at this franchise with no banner to hang? Can Dirk and Jason Kidd do any better with another year of regular season games behind them if they don't win it all this year? This is the burden Leo faced and the Mavs were victors by lifting the heaviest of weights during these NBA playoffs. Sure the Heat are facing high expectations, but they also have two stars in their prime and Chris Bosh on their coattails. If they don't win this year, they certainly will be favored next with another season of bonding, especially once they complete their secret pact to be surgically connected and become a three-head basketball monster. That is what they plan to do, right?
So the Mavs made it. They became one blockbuster movie star in the process too. But let's not forget the co-stars. I mean Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a badass. Like the Spurs, he's a great actor who's only slightly underachieved over the length of his career. Since 10 Things I Hate About You, the year Tim Duncan and David Robinson joined forces, he didn't quite live up to expectations. He never did match Leo's promise or skill similar to the Spurs' inability to top the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe. The Spurs still haven't won back-to-back titles. But then there was 500 Days of Summer. And Inception. Here we have a team with some promise. The kind of promise that comes with having the best regular season record. But making a blockbuster movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as your lead actor is about as smart as betting on the San Antonio Spurs to win it all with an aging Tim Duncan, an oft-injured Manu Ginobili and a French guy who was stupid enough to cheat on Eva Longoria with a woman far less attractive. You don't bet on Joseph Gordon-Levitt to be Leo. You bet on him to be the Leo's sidekick. That's the role the Spurs have played for the Lakers all these years. Which is why the Mavs' victory, just after the Spurs lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Rudy Gay-less, Hall of Fame-less, who's-there-coach-again Grizzlies in the first round, makes this a fairy tale. Only in this landscape could that Spurs (and Tim Duncan's) failure be trumped by a Lakers failure the same way the Lakers' three-peat and back-to-back titles with Kobe leading the way trumped the non-consecutive, but multiple championships won by the less flashy, wholesome team from San Antonio. That scene where Tom Hardy tells Gordon-Levitt to dream bigger is a reality for these Spurs fans who are cheering on the Mavs' victory as if it were their own. They should dream bigger and expect a team with the NBA's best regular season record to make it out of the first round instead of saying "oh, everyone knew they would lose in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies who almost never make the playoffs."
As for Ken Watanabe, please don't think I'm being a racist and saying he must be the Houston Rockets because of his similar ethnic makeup to that of Yao Ming. No, not that at all. The similarities I see are in the fact that Watanabe wasn't even supposed to be a part of this Inception team. They didn't need an extra guy on the team. But he bought himself in. He wanted to monitor his investment. Sort of like how Houston Rockets fans weren't even a part of the playoffs this year, yet they paid their way into this Lakers-Mavs conversation (monitoring their investment in long-standing Lakers hatred that pre-dates Kobe Bryant) by opening their mouths with no semblance of memory at all. If you can recall, the two-time defending champion Rockets were swept by the then-Seattle Sonics with a hungry Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton on a barrage of alley oops, open three-pointers, stingy defense and energetic fans. Sound familiar?
And all the rest of ya'll are Ellen Page because you're all students to the game. You have absolutely no business pretending to be the experts in how this process works, but you get a single beat on the Lakers (the way Page learned something intimate about Leo) and milk it for all it's worth. So you're either a Lakers hater or a bandwagon rider. You're creating your own world and rules as you go until the mirror is pointing back at you.
As for the real NBA followers out there, think about this.
If the Mavericks are Leo DiCaprio, the Spurs are Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the Rockets are Ken Watanabe and everyone else is Ellen Page, who are the Lakers?
The Lakers are Christopher Nolan.
It took Christopher Nolan something like ten years to make Inception, which is about how long it took the Mavericks, Rockets, Spurs and every other team in the league to win as many titles as the Lakers won in that span. Meanwhile, Nolan also pulled off Memento, Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. All certified championship material.
So while the Lakers are writing scripts and directing movies and finding new ways to entertain all the Dr. Pepper-drinkin', popcorn eaters with the best casts and the best plotlines, you're all just sitting around hoping for some Oscar consideration like the rest of these SAG card carriers.
The Lakers are already busy making the next Batman movie. And you better believe Kobe isn't finished as a leading man. All of you Jokers won't be back though.
I saw the Danny Boyle-directed, James Franco-starred film last night with Ash and I was not disappointed. Sure, it wasn't as eventful and engaging and moving and visually stunning as Boyle's Oscar darling Slumdog Millionaire...but that's a high bar to get over. I didn't expect 127 Hours to be as good as Slumdog, but I did expect it to have that scene.
You know, that scene...the one every great movie has. Sometimes it's when the plot comes together like when we realize Bruce Willis is already dead in The Sixth Sense, or in Shawshank Redemption (my all-time fav) when Tim Robbins finishes crawling through all that shit in the prison walls to be cleansed by the rain shower outside. Other times, it's the final scene when the theatre lights come on and everyone is crying. The final scene in Philadelphia definitely captures what I'm talking about here. There's no way you finish that movie without some tears coming out.
Well to say that I liked 127 Hours is to say that I absolutely loved that scene. It was actually a combination of both types...part because we know that the story is about Aron Ralston cutting his arm off and partially because we don't know what the meaning it all has in his life is. And to hear Ralston himself say that this wasn't just "based on a true story" in a Hollywood kind of way, but that it actually was a near-spoton depiction of the events and his feelings, really makes the final scene that much more effective.
I don't want to give away what specifically happens or what Ralston, played wonderfully by Franco, goes through, but I will say that I found myself identifying with his desire to go it alone (in the beginning of the film) followed by his realization that he can't do it all by himself (in the end). It's amazing how often people who have big imaginations and great ambitions are found to be the solo, I'll be fine by myself types. I think that's part of the reason why LeBron got so much flack for going to Miami, too...he didn't fit the mold of the John Wayne, Michael Jordan...
I myself struggle with coming to terms with my constant struggle to balance my independent willpower and drive to succeed and my true desire to be part of a team, a family. I really connected to 127 Hours because that scene jolted me (nearly to the point of breaking down) to introspection like few movies have or can.
I saw The Social Network last night and it’s only fitting that I use my blog to write about a movie about Facebook, the company that Mark Zuckerberg supposedly started while he was at home, drunk and blogging.
The movie only hauled in $23 million in its opening weekend which suggests the Oscar buzz didn’t significantly enhance the box office success of the film, but I think the slightly-lower-than-expectations opening has more to do with the fact that when good movies go up against good sports, sports win. This past weekend saw the Yankees and Rays in a tight AL East race while the Braves, Giants and Padres battled it out for the final two playoff spots in the NL. Also, Texas and Oklahoma played (sorry, I didn’t forget), as did Florida-Alabama and Stanford-Oregon. Oh, and Donovan McNabb’s Redskins played in Philadelphia. In other words, it was a big week for sports.
Regardless of the opening numbers, The Social Network is a really good movie. It will likely remain strong in the theatres because the writing and directing were top notch, the music was by Trent Reznor and the casting was pretty much spot-on, even with the Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker (Napster founder) selection. Oh, and Facebook has half a billion users if that’s good for anything.
So what is it that I’m here to say about the film? Well, I should first put out the SPOILER ALERT. Secondly, I’ll tell you that the things that stood out for me weren’t so much what I learned from the movie that I didn’t already know or what I think about Mark Zuckerberg after seeing it. What really resonated with me were the questions I left Alamo thinking about as I walked out:
What does it say about the structure of exclusivity within the private school system if Mark Zuckerberg, a kid who scored a 1600 on his SATs and attended the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy, feels like an outsider at Harvard?
I am a huge public school advocate. I grew up going to poorly-ranked public schools with oversized class sizes and too few capable teachers, but that didn’t stop me from becoming the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college. When I was 12, I decided I wanted to go to either UT or UNC and never deviated from that plan largely because private schools, with their tokenism and privileged black students, didn’t interest me. This is part of the reason why, to this day, I wrote Real Role Models and why I spend so much of my time speaking to AISD students and Teach for America classes all over the country; these students – and not the ones at Phillips Exeter – need my help.
Sure, the argument is that if you could afford to go to or send your kids to a private school you would do it, but I don’t agree. I think there are important social lessons that can only be learned in public schools. If you’ve read anything and watched The Social Network, regardless of how much you believe is true, you realize that Zuckerberg isn’t exactly a social butterfly and I bet transferring to Phillips Exeter and later attending Harvard did more to hinder his social abilities than if he had continued in public institutions. You may suggest that Facebook never would have been created without the exclusivity rampant at those establishments, which is true, but if you consider the societal costs our country (and eventually the world) is paying because of what that exclusivity encouraged Zuckerberg to create, I’d argue that Zuckerberg would have been better off creating something that served the conscious public like Sean Parker’s Napster or Craig Newmark’s Craigslist, rather than our subconscious egos and need for acceptance like what Facebook does.
The largely-fictitious theory that writer Aaron Sorkin worked with in making the screenplay for The Social Network is that Zuckerberg’s desire for notoriety and acceptance (in finals clubs) pushed him to extract just enough from other people (ideas, money) in order to push his original idea (facemash.com) to the next level (Facebook). This is fine and dandy, but the truth is that we all have our reasons for doing what we do. I’m sure someone could tie much of my ambition and accomplishments, as minute as they may be, to not having grown up with my father. They’d probably be half accurate. But, to me, that’s going directly to the effect and complicating or possibly skipping the cause. The cause may be rooted in the basic structure of private schools. While private schools think they create more focused, enhanced environments for learning, they also breed fiercely over-competitive and cliquish environments socially (note: the Winkelvoss twins played this role perfectly).
Which leads me to my second and final question: What does The Social Network say about our generation? I know movies are works of fiction more often than not, but that doesn’t mean they’re not rooted in society. I just saw Wall Street 2 and it was basically a regurgitation of the 2008 economic crisis with Lehman Brothers (and their bankruptcy just over two years ago) and Goldman Sachs being the two featured firms. That said, what does this film say about our society and the role Facebook plays in it. I’m not just talking about the breakups I’m sure Facebook is responsible for or the decreased value of friendships with various people who you never really intended to keep in touch with, I’m talking about our age with the creative class and the powers that be.
Did Zuckerberg break intellectual property law by using parts of different ideas to improve his own or is that just where we’re headed with easier ways to communicate and share technology? Is Zuckerberg doing the right thing to be the CEO instead of letting some grey-hair take over as Sean Parker tells him in the movie? Is Zuckerberg one of us – the creative class – or is he just a new type of businessman? Now that Zuckerberg has “made it”, will he be in the catbird’s seat like former Harvard president, US Treasurer and recently-former National Economic Council director Larry Summers and be as dismissive and unable to see the potential in some young kids’ ideas?
Is that the goal today? To be in the position to help people up as Sean Parker did or is it to be able to reject people as Larry Summers did rather than being rejected as Zuckerberg was made to feel by the finals clubs? I guess we’ll never quite know the social ramifications of The Social Network, but I think it’s good to wonder.