Tag Archives: movies

My Current Top 15 Favorite Movies

I decided to lighten things up a bit… because I can! lol It’s been years since I’ve written anything talking about my “favorite” whatever. I’m going to spare you the “honor” of seeing those old articles; one is from 2014, and it was videos with me in them. The other two were in 2010 where I touched upon the topic of favorite sports movies and sci-fi movies.

I’ve had an interesting epiphany concerning favorite whatever. It’s hard to have a list of any topic be permanent when things are always changing and we’re always getting older. I’m sure a list of my favorite movies before I turned 18 would have been a much different list than what I’m presenting in my early 60’s (ouch!).
Continue reading My Current Top 15 Favorite Movies

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Yasmin Shiraz – Writer, Filmmaker, Social Media Star

Yasmin Shiraz does everything I mentioned above and more. Yes, she’s made movies, and she’s written books. She does speaking engagements. And she’s helped to spread both her message and her reputation through social media. I met her on Twitter and to me she’s proof of the good people on Twitter who need to be better known by the masses. She’s also one of the people I highlighted in my post on 21 of the Top Black Social Media Influencers. One of these days I’m going to be in one of her films (okay, she didn’t say that, but who knows right 🙂 ).

1. Can you tell people all that you’ve done and do?

I’ve written 7 books that have been published — a couple of best sellers, an award winner, and even a critically acclaimed book that was taken from my teenage diaries.

The Blueprint for My Girls: How to Build A Life Full of Courage, Determination & Self Love; Retaliation: A Novel, The Blueprint for My Girls in Love: 99 Rules for Dating, Relationships & Intimacyicon; Exclusive: A Novel; Privacy: A Novel; Teens, Handle Your Business: 24 Tools for Motivation & Success; and The Blueprint Guide to Success & Motivation: Identify, Focus On, & Achieve Your Goals.

I’ve written, directed and produced 2 films – one a 4x award winner – Can She Be Saved? is my documentary film about teen girl fights. It won several awards including Best Documentary at the NC Black Film Festival. They Call Me Dae is a short film that explores the life of a teen bully.

I’ve keynoted and conducted speeches for the Essence Music Festival, the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, Congressional Black Caucus, and at least 60 colleges throughout the US.

I’ve owned several businesses including a hip hop magazine, Mad Rhythms. I’ve interviewed more celebrities than I care to recall – though Johnnie Cochran and Martin Lawrence are among my favorites. I’ve been to Diddy’s house in the Hamptons and Jay-Z once threatened to throw me out of his dressing room. (He has a wicked sense of humor.)

2. Where did you get the passion to do all these things?

I love LIFE. I love doing things that I enjoy. I love music. I love being creative. Every day I push myself to enjoy myself through work. I feel that if I’m alive, I should use my life to enjoy myself and be happy.

3. What’s it like putting a movie together?

Wow! Putting together a movie is fun, creative, grueling, exhilarating. It pushes you to your limit. Just when you think you have nothing left, a film lifts you up and you feel satisfied that you didn’t give up on yourself. Its one of the best experiences of my life.

4. Your stuff is so edgy and real; do you ever worry that people will stereotype minorities because of it?

No. I don’t worry about stereotypes. My goal is to educate and give a voice to the voiceless. I want young people’s pain to be heard, seen and felt. If you look at one of my films and are not more in tuned with a young person’s experiences then you have missed the message.

5. You’ve written seven books, even winning awards. What awards have you won, and how did you get your first book published?

My first young adult fiction book, Retaliation won the Top Ten Reluctant Readers Award from the American Library Association in 2009. It was a major moment for me. My Blueprint books have been on various bestseller lists. After numerous agents rejected my manuscript, I wrote The Blueprint for My Girls and published it myself. 6 months after I published it, Simon & Schuster offered me a book deal.

6. You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. I find fiction difficult; how have you broken through in your mind to be able to write both?

I love writing. I don’t overanalyze it. But, I love writing. I love expression. If I have an idea that I need to express in a non-fiction format then I work it in that medium. If I decide that the message will be better expressed in a fiction medium, then I go with it. I never limit myself or my writing. I’ve written poetry, raps, biographies, screenplays, interviews etc. You name it, I’ve written it. Most writers who truly love writing, love it in all forms. I am a writer’s writer.

7. Which social media outlets do you use and how have you seen it help you?

I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn… I love the concept of social media and so I’m always game to try it on.

Twitter has helped me reach new people and meet new people. I love it. Facebook has helped me to show people in a sorta intimate way what I really do. It has made me more familiar to people. LinkedIn has brought me new business customers.

8. You also do speaking engagements; do you enjoy that as much as I do?

I don’t know how much you enjoy it, but I am thrilled with it. I love writing speeches and delivering them knowing that I can capture a phrase, or a word in such a way that it punctuates the moment. I love how speeches allow me to be part comedian, part actress, part activist, part showman. I get to do it all when I’m speaking.

9. You do a lot; how do you script your time?

I keep to-do lists and every day I make sure I “to-do” what’s important. (LOL)

10. You’ve already done it all; what’s left?

Getting really paid for it. LOL. But also, I love to continue to stretch myself. Who knows what tomorrow brings? So, I push myself to see if I can make tomorrow a little bit different from today.

To follow Yasmin on Twitter: @yasminshiraz
To Visit her site: www.yasminshiraz.net
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Yasmin-Shirazs-Still-Eye-Rise-Friends-Fans/139699712763511


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My Top 20 Sports Movies Of All Time

Three weeks ago I wrote a post titled 100 Greatest Sports Movies?, where I took a look at the top 10 of someone else’s list of sports movies and had some commentary on them. At that time I said I was going to have my own top list of my favorite sports movies because, well, I just felt left out of that other list.

When you put together a list like this, you have to take certain things into concern. First, you have to select movies that you’ll watch more than once; I’ve done that for every movie on this list except one, and I’ll explain that one. Second, it has to have some kind of meaning for you. And third,… well, third is that you just had to enjoy it, whether it was important or not. For instance, I’ll tell you early on that the first 3 Rocky movies are on this list, but you’ll be stunned at the order I put them in and, after putting my list together, I even surprised myself that the first Rocky movie isn’t the highest rated one for me.

Does this movie lean American; oh yes, yes it does. No soccer, no Olympic sports, though there is one movie here that’s not quite a sports movie, yet it portrays something that was supposed to be a sport so I’m including it.

Without further ado, let’s get this debate on!

20. Rollerball – Rollerball isn’t really a sports, but it was supposed to portray a futuristic version of roller derby, which some still don’t think is a sport. I’m talking about the original version here, with James Caan, and this was just great movie making that was compelling for a nonexistent sport. They don’t put this one on all that often, but if I’m ever lucky enough to catch it I watch it every time.

19. Bad News Bears – This was a movie I could identify with because I was young at the time it came out, though older than most of these kids. It was funny as sin, about baseball, and starred Walter Mathieu and Tatum O’Neil.

18. North Dallas Forty – Folks missed the reality of this movie, thinking of it mainly as a comedy. Some thought it was loosely based on the Dallas Cowboys, and that could be somewhat true, but it was really an indictment of what professional football is really about. If any of you read Tim Green’s book The Dark Side of the Game, you’ll realize just how true that movie was to reality.

17. Fear Strikes Out – While most people thought the crowning glory for Anthony Perkins was his performance in Psycho, I went a different direction and thought his portrayal of Jimmy Piersall, a baseball player with immense talent who had a mental breakdown because of the pressure put on him by his father, was some of the best acting I’d ever seen.

16. The Longest Yard – Forget the Adam Sandler version of this movie and look for the Burt Reynolds performance instead. This movie came out of nowhere and instantly became one of my favorite movies. It’s about a former professional football player who was thrown out of the game for accepting gambling money to throw games, ends up in prison for stealing a car, creates a prison football team to play against the guards, then has his integrity tested again for a chance to earn himself some favors. It’s gritty and sexy and way before its time.

15. Ali – Man, who know Will Smith could pull this off? His performance garnered him an Oscar nomination, and many people saw a side of Muhammad Ali that they may never have known existed. But there’s a surprise on this list; wait for it.

14. Space Jam – Okay, it’s Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny, but it’s still basketball and, well, it’s Michael Jordan AND Bugs Bunny!

13. Rocky – This movie was great, gritty, realistic, and no one saw it becoming as popular as it did. It was based on a true story that many people didn’t recognize, that being the life of Chuck Wepner, who had a shot at fighting Muhammad Ali for the championship. That a movie this great ended up at #13 on my list, as much as I enjoyed it, means that the movies ahead of it must mean something more to me.

12. The Hustler – This movie starred Paul Newman and a different Jackie Gleason that people didn’t recognize had this kind of talent at the time. It received 9 Oscar nominations, and for a movie about two pool sharks going at each other, that’s just phenomenal. It was also strange that Jackie Gleason’s character was based on and named after the real Minnesota Fats, who used to be on TV all the time back in the day doing all these trick shots.

11. Brian’s Song – This is the movie on the list that I’ve never been able to really watch ever again after the first time, yet it affected me so much that it had to be on my list. This was the first movie that almost made me cry when I was a kid, the true story of both the friendship between Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, the first time a black and white football player ever shared the same room, and of course Piccolo’s losing battle with cancer. Man, there was a lot of guy crying in that movie; I just won’t go there again, and I almost feel like crying writing about it, which shows how powerful a story it was. Man, was that really more than 30 years ago?

10. The Jackie Robinson Story – This was an important movie and an enjoyable one as well, but no one would ever say it was well acted. That’s because Jackie Robinson played himself, and as the guy who integrated the major leagues, that was a pretty great accomplishment. It was about a real as it could be for its time; if they’d put the language and abuse that he really had to deal with… well, there isn’t a theater in the country that would have shown it back in the day.

9. A League Of Their Own – “There’s no crying in baseball!” Who doesn’t know that line that lives in the United States? After all, it’s “only” the 54th rated line ever in movie history. Women baseball players during World War II, and they were talented as well. This was based on a true story, and I watched this movie over and over. That neither Geena Davis or Lori Petty were nominated for Oscars from this movie was a travesty.

8. Million Dollar Baby – This movie got, and won, lots of Oscars. I wasn’t ever going to watch this movie because, well, I just wasn’t interested. Then one evening I did sit down and watch it, and it’s great. Women boxing was just the subtext to the entire thing, as it’s mainly about an old boxing manager who gets a shot at redemption. I never saw the ending coming, and truthfully, to this date I’ll only watch the movie up until the time she gets injured; those of you who’ve seen it knows what happens, and those of you who don’t… you need to see this movie.

7. Rocky II – Here’s the second Rocky movie, and it was great theater. It wasn’t as gritty as the first one, since this time around he got real money to clean it up some. But it was a very compelling movie, and I like how they highlighted the angst of Apollo Creed trying to deal with the fact that he just couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t beat a club fighter the first time around. That Sly Stallone would share the stage that way with another actor was one of the best things he could have ever done.

6. The Greatest – Here’s the surprise; Ali playing Ali and doing the same things Will Smith did in the second movie first. Both movies were based on Ali’s autobiography called, what else, The Greatest. I will say that this version left out some of the, well, naughty things that Ali did, but otherwise it was a truthful representation of his book. And Ali really wasn’t all that bad, as this clip shows.

5. Pride of the Yankees – You’ve all heard of Lou Gehrig’s disease; this was the movie about Lou Gehrig. Gary Cooper was the perfect every man actor, and I just can’t think of anyone else who could have played this role and made it believable from that era. From what I hear, Lou Gehrig really was as nice as this movie portrayed him to be, and of all things, the movie has Babe Ruth in it as well. Talk about movies that almost made me cry; add this one to the list. But I can watch this one over and over and do okay with it, maybe because it doesn’t linger as much on his illness as Brian’s Song did.

4. The Great White Hope – Did I ever mention that there are a lot of people who think I look like James Earl Jones? I’m missing it, but this movie is one that was so controversial when it came out that it didn’t play in many parts of the country. It started out as a show in NYC, where you can do anything, and it’s the story of Jack Johnson, who just might be the best heavyweight fighter in history, a black man with a white wife who decided to throw things in the face of white America as opposed to trying to be a good example. It got him thrown in jail, probably throwing a fight, and in the end the first millionaire boxer left this earth penniless and ended the opportunity for black fighters to compete for a championship for almost 30 years.

3. Rocky III – Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking; why is this movie rated by me so high. Because it entertained me more than you could imagine. It introduced Mr. T to us, and is had some of the best lines that I still use to this day. No, it wasn’t great theater like the first two, but it was cut well, very entertaining, and introduced a lot of the world to Hulk Hogan. It outgrossed both of the previous Rocky movies at the theaters, was considered one of the best movies of 1982, and taught us all the line “I pity the fool.”

2. Raging Bull – What’s this, 3 boxing movies in a row? Hey, that’s just how it goes. And this one was the king of them all, about Jake LaMotta, a bad guy who, for some reason, was very compelling to the public. He had 5 fights with Sugar Ray Robinson and won one of them to become the middleweight champion of the world. This movie was shot in black and white, and Robert DeNiro, who won the Oscar for his performance, had to gain and lose significant weight for the role during the movie; that just rarely ever happens, even now. It also really introduced Joe Pesci to us; man, I love his movies!

1. The Natural – As I said in the first post, this is my favorite sports movie of all time, and is in my top 5 movies of all time as well. It’s a beautifully shot movie of old baseball. It was nominated for 4 Oscars, including the score by Randy Newman. Robert Redford didn’t get a nomination, which is a travesty if you ask me. At this stage it’s considered one of the most beloved movies of all time, earning a 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Yeah, they changed the ending from the book; they better had!


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Muppet Monday

I’ve been on kind of a serious kick and decided it was time to cheer things up for a little bit. As you know, I’ve talked about my love affair for the Muppets often enough around here. I have a bunch of Muppets videos all over the blog; one day I’m going to create a page where I’ve got all my videos, including the Muppets. In the meantime, I want to share these six with you, which I love.

Julie Andrews, Lonely Goatherd (Okay, I love Sound of Music also)

Raquel Welch; she still looks great!

Linda Ronstadt singing one of my favorite songs ever, and supposedly she said she never sung the song better than for this show.

Pearl Bailey, bad jousting scene from Camelot. Pearl was actually a U.S. Ambassador when she decided to do this particular show, and in the movie Carmen Jones, was the only actor in the movie who actually sang her own part.

Rita Moreno, the first person to ever win an Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy.

Opening song from the movie Muppets From Space, as they perform Brick House

And that’s that; back to other topics next time.

Muppets From Space

Price – $9.84

My Top 16 Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time

A site called Total Sci-Fi Online came out with their Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies of all time list a week ago, and like what usually happens, people look at such a list and say “what the hey” and “hey, you forgot about” and “why is that ranked so high or so low.” I’m obviously no different, if you remember my post on the Top 100 Singers Of All Time, still one of my most visited posts.

David Tang via Compfight

One of the problems you sometimes have with critics is that some stuff they throw on a list is just because they think something is cool and has to be on the list, whether they actually liked it or not. For instance, 2001: A Space Odyssey always makes these lists, yet I’ve always thought it was one of the most boring movies I’ve ever tried to watch. Also, Dune was a fantastic book, yet the movie was a mess.

Of course, my list will have my own biases in it. After all, if you know anything about me, you know I’m a major Star Trek fan, so it will be represented.

Anyway, I hope you check out the list above. Meanwhile, I’m going to list my own favorites, in reverse order, and I decided to go with 16 because, well, I just like that number this morning. Actually, I liked the number 15, but then I had trouble with which two movies needed to be near the bottom of my list, so I decided to keep them both. Here we go; and yes, the link to each one is an affiliate link to buying the movie, if you’re so inclined to do so:

Fantastic Voyage – This was one of those big time special effects movies from the 60’s that starred Raquel Welch (that’s enough to put it on my list). Someone is really sick, and these people are shrunk with this new technology and actually “fly” a ship into a person’s body to battle the disease. This was way ahead of its time; nothing like it has been done since.

Predator – For me, this was a sleeper hit, because I hadn’t heard about it when it first came out; what rock was I hiding under? This was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best performances, because he wasn’t playing a robot, was with an ensemble cast that included a future governor of Minnesota, and the Predator was so good that they brought him and his family back for at least 3 more movies.

War of the Worlds (1953 movie) – This movie freaked people out, even decades after learning that Orson Welles radio performance was a hoax. What this movie taught everyone was that you could build up terror without actually seeing monsters, and the pacing was fantastic. Okay, I’ll admit that once we saw the aliens I was a little disappointed, but before then, this movie, even though I saw it many years later since I wasn’t born when it came out, was intense.

Omega Man – I saw this movie before I saw Planet of the Apes, and it was my introduction to Charlton Heston. At the time, I didn’t equate the dark creatures he was battling with zombies, ala Will Smith and I Am Legend (which I didn’t see; I don’t like zombies), which is a good thing because I might never have watched it. Talk about scary and being ahead of its time; who’d have thought that the original protector of the right to bear arms would also be one of the first big white Hollywood stars to have an interracial relationship on screen?

Fantastic Planet – This little avant-garde cartoon movie is fantastic, hence its name. It’s about these little people who are made slaves for this larger race of people, yet one of the little people discovers a major secret that he uses to free his civilization. This movie really was deep, and way ahead of its time; check out this clip to see if it engages you in any way.

Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind – This is how most of us who love space movies hope that, if there ever really is an alien encounter, it goes. Richard Dreyfuss really played his part well, and all of us were hoping he’d make it over the mountain and get to interact with the aliens, which of course he did. This was also, at the time, the longest movie I’d ever seen, yet I could have watched another hour.

Planet of the Apes – I actually saw the second movie first, which kept me up late at night for weeks. The first one, with Charlton Heston (though he made a brief appearance in the second movie), was obviously the better movie. Who hasn’t quoted lines from this movie after seeing it? The idea that man will one day ruin the planet and that another race will step up to the plate seems plausible the more you think about it.

X-Files: Fight The Future – At the time this movie came out, X-Files was my favorite TV show. This movie wasn’t for people who’d never seen the show, because they’d have had no idea what was going on. Yet, if they just wanted a thrill a minute, this movie had lots of it. The producers took a major chance with this movie, as it linked the end of one season with the beginning of the next season, and if fans missed it then they’d have had no idea what was going on. For me, it was a perfect compliment to the series.

Andromeda Strain – Talk about a movie that was ahead of its time. No one had ever heard of ebola when this story, then movie, came out. In general, something is killing all the citizens in towns around the country, and a small band of super scientists are put together to try to figure out what’s going on. The difference this time is that each scientist has their own personal issues they have to work through at the same time. Very human movie and a precursor to the hysteria we went through in the 80’s when the real thing came to light.

Terminator – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s second movie on this list, and his best movie ever. Talk about capturing the imagination of the world; robot comes back in history to kill the person who’s eventually going to give birth to the leader they’re fighting in the future. Can one change the future? This movie, and the three that followed it, seem to indicate that answer is no, but they still keep trying. The second movie was great also, but this one started it all. Yeah, tell me you’ve never said “I’ll be back.”

The Matrix – This movie was just cool. Imagine the premise; everything we see and feel right now isn’t real, just something forced through our bodies by a race of machines intent on eliminating anything else that’s real, which is a dark place instead. If humans created machines, doesn’t that mean that at least one human has the capability to overcome them? “I should have taken the blue pill.” And I’d have loved it even more if it had been this version:

5. Jurassic Park – The build up for this movie was intense; the movie didn’t let me down. Imagine; science realizing that they can actually make dinosaurs via DNA from the past. Then they take a shortcut; what could go wrong? This is science that some are talking about doing today; I think it’s a mistake, but what do I know? This movie was so intense when I saw it that I had to go back 3 days later to watch it again so I could finally get to sleep. It taught me to never, and I mean NEVER, go to any more movies of this type at midnight.

4. Star Wars III – Revenge Of The Sith – In my opinion, this was the best movie out of the six… I think I’m the only person in the universe to think so. lol It was dark, action packed, and definitely the one movie that was more for adults than for kids or swooning little girls.

Even though we all knew what was going on, we were captivated in seeing how it all went down. From Yoda battling the Sith to Obi Wan Kenobe and Anakin Skywalker battling to the almost death on a volcano planet, I felt like this movie had the most intrigue of them all. Never had the forces of good and evil been to definitely drawn out and illuminated. It was so good that I easily overcame my one gripe and the one thing I hated most, which was Anakin so immediately giving his life over to the Sith with no qualms whatsoever and, of course, Hayden Christensen being in it at all (worst acting performance ever, but at least he was good in the final action sequence)!

3. Star Trek II – Wrath Of Khan – This was the first movie that almost made me cry since Brian’s Song. They brought back Ricardo Montalban as Khan from one of the best TV episodes, and he was the perfect choice for this movie as well. William Shatner as James Kirk uttered a line in this movie that’s one of my mantra’s these days: “I never believe in the no-win scenario.” That they killed off Spock almost crushed my spirit; I was so glad they brought him back, even if the 3rd movie overall wasn’t top notch. And Kirstie Alley was still hot. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few.” For some reason the speech part is against copyright, so this is a clip that’s somewhat different, yet you still get the visual:

2. Armageddon – This movie makes the list because it almost made me cry near the end also, which, from what I understand, a lot of other guys felt the same way. The premise is that a super asteroid is heading towards Earth, and NASA decides to hire some guys known for drilling oil wells to do the job of digging into the asteroid so they can blow it up with a nuke. When Bruce Willis tells his daughter that he won’t be coming back, even though I have no children, that was a tough moment, but when he actually does blow himself and the asteroid up, fulfilling his words, and then they show the wedding scenario with his picture and the other guys who didn’t come back,… well, it took all the reserve I had not to fall out like a baby.

1. Independence Day – This one makes the top of my list because it’s the one movie that I can go to when I need a boost even now. The premise behind the movie is that, just before America’s Independence Day, we’re visited by an alien race that’s intent on wiping out humanity so they can scavenge the planet for all its resources for its own people. And their technology is way beyond ours; how can we overcome it? With Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, and a rousing speech from Bill Pullman, that’s how.

This movie is personal for me. For 2 1/2 days after the attack on the Twin Towers in NYC on September 11th, 2001, I was glued to the TV, changing channels every so often looking for something new on what was going on. I didn’t sleep for more than 60 hours. Finally, I knew I had to get away from it. So, I got up, went into the bedroom, and put this movie into the DVD player and went to the speech.

I watched the movie from that point 6 or 7 times in a row before I started feeling good. That’s why this movie is number one on my list.

And there you go. I’d love to hear your comments and see which movies you feel belong on the list. And maybe you’ll put your own list together, and let us know; I love this stuff!

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