Arthouse Garage Podcast

Podcast Transcript for Episode 43: One Night in Miami

Read the Podcast Transcript for Episode 43: One Night in Miami

Read the transcript below:

Andrew Sweatman 0:08
Hello, hello and welcome back to arthouse garage the snob free film podcast where we make art house indie classic and foreign cinema accessible to the masses. I’m your host, Andrew Sweatman, and today we’re looking at an exciting new film one night in Miami. Season Six of this podcast has been all about 2020 films, some streaming gyms and other award season favorites. The interesting thing about this year is that some of those movies fall into both of those camps. That is, they’re expected to win big this award season, and they’re easily available to stream. That’s the case with today’s film, which hit theaters on Christmas Day. But we’ll be streaming just a couple weeks later on Amazon Prime on January 15. You may be familiar with Regina King from her acting, she won an Oscar for her part and if Beale Street could talk, and she recently starred in the incredible watchmen series on HBO. This film one night in Miami, marks her first time behind the camera for a feature and she came out swinging Pun intended there because this film focuses on Legendary boxer caches clay, as well as the other prominent historical figures Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X. When cashes, Clay unexpectedly won the title of heavyweight champion of the world. On a night in February 1964. He hung out afterwards with those three people. And this film imagines what that night might have been like screenwriter Kemp powers is a lover of history and wrote the screenplay with a sense of respect for each of its subjects. I’m joined again by film podcaster, and programmer of the Arkansas times film series on Maya Jones. If you’re not familiar with Omaya, he’s appeared on this podcast many times, and is just amazingly knowledgeable and insightful about movies. So it’s always a treat when he can come by. Welcome back to the podcast Omaya Jones. How are you?

Omaya Jones 1:53
I’m doing well. How are you doing?

Andrew Sweatman 1:55
I’m doing very well. Staying sane in quarantine. Are you

Omaya Jones 1:59
as best as possible in quarantine, this has been a weird period because I never really stopped working. I can do a lot of work over the phone. I also have an opportunity to go outside at least once a day because I have to walk my dogs and things like that. So yeah. I haven’t experienced the same claustrophobia. I think that a lot of people have

Andrew Sweatman 2:18
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think that too. I’m kind of a homebody anyway. So like, there’s a part of me, like, obviously, I wish I could go to movie theaters. And, you know, not have to wear a mask when I go places. But there is a part of me that’s like, more hometime All right, sounds good. But also, I have children, and it’s exhausting. Because they were homeschooling now, which I love. I’m enjoying. But I’m getting lots of good family time. But also I don’t have as much me time as I used to, but that’s okay. Anyways, I was gonna ask you, what have you been watching lately?

Omaya Jones 2:54
Yeah. So Lately, I’ve been watching a bunch of different stuff. There was a period of time when I kind of got away from watching things as much as I had been earlier in quarantine. Yeah, but the past couple weeks, I have dived into Steve McQueen, small acts series that’s been on Amazon. And I’ve seen three of those. And everyone like that all the hype around lovers rock is real. Everyone should watch that immediately. They’re all worth watching. Some of them are fictional. Some of them are historical. So this is like a really fascinating series of things. Last night I watched, or the backup like this week, I’ve watched three things. Last night, I watched the African Queen, which I think might have been Bogart last movie that one of his last films. And then two of the movies that I’ve watched this week, were both sound of metal. So I watched a Monday then I watch it again last night. Nice. So

Andrew Sweatman 3:50
that’s at the top of my list to watch probably next summer, maybe tonight or tomorrow, try to watch that. It’s highly

Omaya Jones 3:55
recommended. I highly like I want people it’s on streaming on amazon prime. And I had seen some hype around it. And I didn’t know anything about it going in. Except that if you look at the cover image, it’s a guy that’s shirtless guy playing drums. And so I knew so metal was like a reference to the music or something. But it’s so much more than that. But I want people to kind of go in cold because I think that’s the best way that lead actor is Ahmed was on fresh air this week. So after you see it, that’s an interview you can check out he’s also been a bunch of other stuff like he’s been in girls. He was in Yeah, I know his name. His name for sure.

Andrew Sweatman 4:36
I’m gonna pull up. Go ahead though.

Omaya Jones 4:37
Yeah, I’m trying to think what else but he’s been around for a while. It kind of reminds me of like, I hope he kind of breaks out because it kind of reminds me of, if you remember, way back when the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern came out. I don’t know if you saw that or not. But one of the actors in that that you may or may not recognize was Tyco ytt Before he had kind of broken out, yeah. So yeah, resume he wasn’t venom, Rogue One.

Andrew Sweatman 5:08
Okay, he’s in red wire. And then I recognize him from Nightcrawler.

Omaya Jones 5:12
Yeah, he’s also in the sisters brothers which house I watched in the last month or so.

Andrew Sweatman 5:15
Hey, Simon, watch that one. Yeah, so that’s been one that’s been on my list. Well, what I’ve been watching lately, I was gonna mention small acts of only watch mangrove the first one, but I really loved it. And looking forward to diving into the rest of it. I think it would make for kind of a long podcast episode, but maybe you should come back and talk about small acts in a few weeks, if you’re up for that. But I can recommend mangrove that’s as far as I’ve gotten. in it. I’ve watched a handful of things. I watched the Eyes Wide Shut for the first time. I’ve never seen that. And I’m in a little zoom Movie Club. And that’s what they are doing this week since it’s sort of a Christmas Christmas adjacent movie. And yeah, I really liked it. I’m still kind of processing it. But I knew a lot of the kind of the crazy stuff that was in it. So I was able to kind of more focus on I know the character and like, I don’t know the kind of what it’s saying about marriage or what questions to asking about marriage I think is interesting. So I’m still working on that. But yeah, I really enjoyed that. I watched the new Steven Soderbergh let them all talk. But that was really a lovely little movie. It’s it’s kind of Yeah, small. But it’s got really great performances from from Meryl Streep and Candice Bergen and trying to think the other actor, I’m blanking on her name right now. But it’s kind of three older women. And then it’s got Lucas hedges in it as well. And yeah, I thought that all well acted and just a really, really well done, script and everything. So I’ll recommend that that’s on HBO. I mentioned a couple other things. I rewatched. The favorite from few years ago, the the August 9 most. And that one really held up for me. I saw it in the theater, and I hadn’t seen it since then. And yeah, it’s really good, great performances. Again, great script, I think it’s his directorial decisions are really interesting. So anyway, I’ll recommend that if anyone hasn’t seen that, and then I’m still watching through Bergman stuff. I have the Bergman set now, which is exciting, so I can watch all of it. But I’m trying to kind of watch through the major ones and then go back and watch everything. So my next one up was cries and whispers, which completely blew me away. So, so amazing. Yeah, so I’ll recommend that as well. You have any thoughts on any of those? That’s a lot. And I haven’t we haven’t done a segment like this and a few weeks, so that’s a few weeks worth of stuff for me.

Omaya Jones 7:35
Yeah. So the Eyes Wide Shut is the only goobric I haven’t seen and so just now I just made the decision that I’m gonna rectify that on Christmas Day. So of course Tom Cruise’s in the news for yelling at yelling at some people are upset and I completely justified you know, yeah, it’s the only one of the few times there’s been a tirade by an actor, or the majority of the reaction is positive or in their defense. Yeah, right. Like I haven’t seen a lot of people criticizing Tom Cruise for going off and crew people for violating protective COVID protocols. Yeah,

Andrew Sweatman 8:20
yeah, it’s different than like the Christian Bale thing a few years ago where he just freaks out at the light by foreigner. Yeah, this is a little more just so I think it was a variety or something had the headline was Be honest. You kind of agree with Tom Cruise about this or something like that.

Omaya Jones 8:34
Yeah. I haven’t seen the new Soderberg yet. I’m interested in that. I you know, I watched the last one he did. I think it was a lot he did. He just so many things so quickly.

Andrew Sweatman 8:44
I was hard to keep. Well, I saw Merrill’s face on I was like, yeah, sure, watch

Omaya Jones 8:48
that. There’s a there is a profile or something on him. Or I think they were talking about the process of editing unsane and so you know, he now he famously shoots things with iPhones. But yeah, there’s different filters and technology and things and he’s also edits on the go so like, as they’re shooting, they’re editing and there was a story where they’re at like the wrap party, I think it was for unsane and after a few hours or a couple hours into the wrap party he says like you guys want to watch a rough cut. And he just like cut you know, just finished a film just right there. That’s why and it’s like a real DIY thing. And he also I know like with the Nick he shot a lot of that himself too. And we don’t have to go into this

Andrew Sweatman 9:32
we need to let them all talk on an iPhone. I’m looking to find out if

Omaya Jones 9:36
you don’t know I don’t know. But it’s funny if you watch high flying bird there’s a shot where even if he if you went in not knowing that it was shot on an iPhone. If you’re just thinking about the way the shot works, you realize like something’s going on because the tape the phone or the camera is on a table. And this is a shot that you could not get with a conventional.

Andrew Sweatman 9:55
Interesting. Wow. Well, there you go. Yeah. Any other thoughts? Have you seen cries and whispers I have Not, it’s good. I recommend that one for sure. I think it’s Bergman’s first one in color, which was interesting. And it’s got a lot of bright colors. And I have the criterion disk. So I watched all the special features and stuff. And it’s it’s interesting stuff. So yes, that’s that kind of went quickly at the top of my my favorite Bergman movies. But all right, well, without further ado, then let’s get into one night in Miami.

Unknown Speaker 10:27
You brothers, you could move mountains without lifting a finger. Minister, Malcolm X, good

Unknown Speaker 10:32
news, the chariot is coming. Your record is gonna stand the test of time. All together.

Unknown Speaker 10:45
The entire city of Miami is celebrating the new heavyweight champion. But I don’t even have a scratch on my face. Oh my goodness.

Omaya Jones 10:56
So pretty.

Unknown Speaker 11:00

Unknown Speaker 11:03
I can get used to that. In America, land of the free home of the brave. This movement that we are in is called a struggle.

Unknown Speaker 11:13
Because we are fighting for our lives. This thing about civil rights. And black people what they really want was that power in America, we have to be there for each other.

Andrew Sweatman 11:46
All right, let’s talk about one night in Miami. So this is set in 1964 tells the story of four men who were also celebrities who have become pretty hugely significant and just in American history. That’s Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke. They really did celebrate together after cashes clays, huge unexpected boxing victory in 1964, in which he became the heavyweight champion of the world. And so this film follows these four men as they just their conversations. What they’re doing is they’re they’re spending time together. And this is directed by Regina King. It’s her directorial debut. And it was written by Ken powers, who was a playwright before this. And so he imagined what they might have talked about on this night and and created this this fascinating dialogue, heavy drama. So that’s kind of the setup of this. I want to talk first about just Regina King, I think it’s it’s interesting that this is her first movie, she’s obviously such a great actor, won an Oscar for if Beale Street could talk a few years back. And recently was in watchmen that we discussed, Maya, I think she is obviously a tremendous actress. And I think she does a great job here as well do what is your impression of her her directing skills here?

Omaya Jones 13:02
Yeah, I think she does a phenomenal job. I was reading an interview. And she talks about how one of the reasons she chose this script in particular was that since it’s all on the page, in terms of like, the character, the voice, she can really focus on the visuals. And I met a little bit of a disadvantage because we saw this, I think in October,

Andrew Sweatman 13:21
yes. We watched this at the drive in at the same time. So it’s been been a few hours. Yeah. But I know

Omaya Jones 13:26
like, there, there’s like a shot where during the title belt, there’s like an overhead shot of the of the the ring. That’s where they’re fighting. And she does a lot is weird, because you know, this is adapted from a play. And so one of the things that always comes up when you’re using from a play is how do you make it cinematic? Yeah, and at some point, I realized what people mean by that is like changing locations. So like, another example of a play that was adapted to a film was like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. And you can do a lot just to make it the film feel bigger than it is, when you’re sort of opening it up from a play. She does a really good job of that just like staging to have them go from the interior of the hotel room, out to like the rooftop to the parking lot. And you’re just getting characters moving around in really interesting ways. And, yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard to talk about visually because it’s been so long.

Andrew Sweatman 14:25
Yeah, I agree. This is one I definitely wish I had been able to revisit. It’s gonna be streaming before too long, but yeah, but I agree. I think you know, as far as like making a stage play, feel cinematic. I do think she does a great job. I remember the first time I had a sense of that in a movie was the movie doubt, with Meryl Streep again, Meryl Streep, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, which I really liked that movie, but I did have a sense like this feels kind of stagey. Something about the the dialogue dialogue worked and there’s not a ton of locations that just I was like this There could have been maybe more done here. You don’t want to criticize doubt. But I think here someone might watch this and have no idea that it was based on a stage play. Because, yeah, I think there is enough variation there, there is obviously a lot in one location in that hotel room. And actually, so I found, as I was just researching camp powers, there is a short YouTube clip, you can see of the stage production, with all different actors. But the set is interesting because it’s in the hotel room. And yet above them, like around the edges of the stage, there’s like a second floor, motel like like outdoors of a motel with all the doors. And like, almost like it’s looking down into the room, which is interesting. But I can imagine they they use that creatively on the stage. But so that was an intriguing thing. And maybe that can kind of transition into camp powers, because he he wrote this. And at the screening, the Arkansas cinema society screening you and I got to go to, there was a q&a with him afterwards, just like a zoom recording. But it was really interesting. And he talked about just kind of being a history nerd, and having a feeling a connection to each of these four people. And then kind of one day happening across something that he was reading, that they actually these four were together, that that night, and he like there was a mind blowing revelation for him. And he kind of felt inspired to them. I kind of imagine what that would be like. He also mentioned, speaking of Regina King, again, that he assumed that Regina King would have someone else, you know, kind of adapted for the screen and take it take it away from him basically. And he was okay with that. But then she just kind of was like, No, I want you to do it. And he thought that he was kind of surprised by that. But But impressed. I thought that that makes sense to you. And he’s been getting other work since then. He’s been writing for the whenever the latest Star Trek show discovery, I think he’s he’s written some episodes there. And then for the upcoming Pixar movie, so he’s the one of the screenwriters there. So anyway, he seems to be getting a film career started really well with this movie. Yeah. What’s your What’s your impression of the script?

Omaya Jones 17:09
Yeah, I think the play is is interesting in that it is this historical fiction, but the voice of the characters comes through. And I think a lot of that is because a lot of the dialogue is sort of taken from things that they said in other places, or certainly not just the things they said in other places. And so you get to see this conversation as argument that was happening within the black community play out within these four different perspectives. And I was sort of like, sort of taken with the idea that like, oh, the idea for this play came from a paragraph in a book, I went out and I got the book. It’s a Redemption Song. Mm hmm. Redemption Song Muhammad Ali in the spirit of the 60s. And so like, it’s chapter one second paragraph, which picks up after the fight was with Sonny Liston after the fight club chose to forego the usual festivities at one of Miami’s luxury hotels, and headed instead for the black ghetto or even may camp during training. He spent a quiet evening in private conversation with Malcolm X, the singer Sam Cooke and Jim Brown, the great Cleveland Browns running back, and an early champion of black rights and sports. The next morning after breakfast with Malcolm clay met with the press to confirm the rumors that he was involved with a Nation of Islam. And so like the whole play, yeah, is inspired by that single paragraph. Yeah. Um, yeah, it’s the whole thing. But it’s, you know, the book is really about, I think, the context of the times, and everything that sort of led up to that, and then everything that how it all played out in the 60s after the fact. And it kind of goes into, well, I like after that Amelie, like, jumps back to like 1908. And, like Joe Lewis, and yeah, it does a lot of things with the history but it sort of just the contents of the times that led up to the 1960s. illusionary period.

Andrew Sweatman 19:01
Yeah, and I agree I so for me, I think this was just really like educational, really enlightening. I think that the American school system doesn’t do enough to teach black history. And so a lot of this was was like new information for me like Yeah, I was aware of who cashes clay and Malcolm X were and Sam Cooke, but actually Jim Brown I probably couldn’t have told you you know, before watching this who that was or having having looked it up but for the for me this was a good like a primer for these these four people and yeah, like a jumping off point to want to research more about them. Like I’m immediately after watching this, I got on Wikipedia, I was like reading all about all of them, like, wow, I never knew all this stuff. So I just knew, like, Muhammad Ali is, you know, the greatest boxer of all time and, and I knew a bit about Malcom X, but I didn’t I certainly didn’t know anything about their, their characters and, and that’s exactly what this movie tries to depict is like, Who are these people and, and kind of, yeah, I think again, imagine And kind of how did they possibly interact? And? And yeah, well, it, as you’re saying brings in so much context about the past and looking kind of towards the future too. And it feels this is like a an overused word, but it feels so timely, like to just the conversation that the national conversation that has grown and grown, even this year about, about race relations and stuff. So, yeah, I really, really liked this movie a lot, I think. Well, actually, across the board. And then one of the things I wanted to mention too, about Kim Powers was that he said something about he, he, he misses when movies could just be about people talking. And that’s, so that’s kind of what this movie is. I thought that was a nice little quote from him about. Yeah, like, there, there is a plot to this movie, but it’s, it’s kind of slender, and it’s mostly just flushed out in the things they’re saying and the performances. And with that in mind, I thought we might just kind of talk through each of the four characters and performances, and then the actors who play them and kind of break down and even like, what their their viewpoint is in the movie and kind of how that plays out. So I think it’s a really interesting that for me, that’s, I mean, that’s what this movie is mostly is the meat of what they’re talking about. So first up, I thought we might talk about Cassius Clay, this so this is right before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, as he joins the Nation of Islam. But so we meet him at the beginning. And I think it’s interesting to kind of depict him as he’s very young. And he’s like, he’s really funny and charming. And he has, he’s almost portrayed a little bit as like impressionable. But he’s played by Eli Gauri, who he was also part of the q&a. And this is super interesting is that he has been obsessed with Muhammad Ali for a long time, this actor Eli Gauri, and he actually prepared to play him in something else and didn’t get the part. I can’t remember all the details there. But he had always been told that he bore a resemblance to him. And as an actor, he thought, you know, one day I’ll play caches clay in something, and, like put a lot of effort into learning that and developing that, then didn’t get that part but said to himself, you know, I can still use this something else will come up and, and this is what came up. So I thought that was a cool, kind of full circle story. And he’s so so great in this. He has he I think most of the funny moments come from him. Probably he’s sort of a comedic relief. But yeah, so he is kind of getting it. There’s some almost a battle over his soul or something, as Malcolm X is wanting him to convert to Islam, and some of the other characters are telling him, you don’t need to do that. That’s not worth your time. But it’s an interesting, interesting thing. What did you think about his character?

Omaya Jones 22:52
I thought he did a really good job with sort of the cadence sort of trying to do the voice without it being just like an impersonation. Yeah. And like you said, he, so he was preparing for the role. He was trying to get this the role of Malcolm X and a movie that supposed to be directed by angley that I guess, never got made. And when he didn’t get the part, he just knew that, like, you know, you’d have an opportunity to do it someday. So yeah, he kept working on it. And I think that seemed like, That never happens.

Unknown Speaker 23:23
Yeah, yeah. I

Omaya Jones 23:23
feel like it’s wild. And I haven’t seen Michael Mann’s Ali film. I don’t know how he compares to Will Smith, but I thought that he, it was it was like very convincing to me. Yeah. And Molly’s is an interesting figure, I guess I don’t I don’t know if I should call him cashes claim because I’m in the film. He’s not Muhammad Ali yet. But it’s interesting in that he’s doing this thing where the way the film portrays it, Malcolm X is courting him to join the Nation of Islam. But I think he’d already been associated with the nation for a couple years at this point, but not publicly. So nobody knew. And so the question is, are you going to come out, publicly declare, and then Malcolm X is also knows that there’s this growing schism between himself and the nation, and what side will only be on if that happens, but Ali doesn’t want necessarily to be this publicly political figure. Yeah. And it’s interesting to me that in the like in the sound clip, or in the the press conference that happens the next day where he does come up, he’s a member of the Nation of Islam. He says some things that are kind of reminiscent to me of like Charles Barkley the 90s saying, you know, I’m not a role model. But he’s like this Firstly, independent speaker who just wants to do things his way and be like, not necessarily a part of this thing. And what’s interesting is that mama Lee becomes we’re, regardless of whether or not he wants to be this political figure, he kind of gets trapped into it throughout the decade.

Andrew Sweatman 25:01
Hmm, yeah. So I think that that ends up being kind of the, the central conflict is between Malcolm X and Sam Cooke kind of about that kind of thing is like what is the role of a black man in society, prominent black man in society to, you know, be outspokenly fighting against racial things. And so he’s sort of cut in the middle there. Yeah. And and you’re right, it shows him before the fight. So at the very beginning of this is before the fight, and then we we don’t actually see the fight, we think maybe we hear or we do see a short amount of the fight. That’s right, you mentioned the shot overhead. But then the vast majority is the night after. But before the fight, he they go and pray together. And he says something about I need my insurance policy or something like that. I gotta make sure I pray before the fight. And it gives some time to like, showing the way the prayer works. And he doesn’t get all the steps, right. And he and Malcolm X has to kind of guide them and correct them a little bit. Be as interesting, interesting thing, it’s like showing this, this really prominent person, like at a very early point in their, their career. But let’s talk about Jim Brown. Next, he, again, was the one that I like, I think I’d heard his name. And it turns out, I’d seen him in the acting and things but he and he’s actually the only one of these four people who’s still alive. But he was an NFL player and then became an actor. And so at this point in the movie, he’s kind of on the cusp of that decision. where he’s, he talks about feeling controlled by the NFL, and how he can make so much more movie More Money In The Movies. And I’d seen him in the Dirty Dozen was the the big one I remember seeing him in. But if you see Mars Attacks, I’ve actually not seen Mars Attacks. But it’s always been one of like, I should watch that someday. But I saw that he’s in that on IMDB. But he’s interesting. So he it kind of opens with him going to visit someone in his hometown, an older white man. And you see, like, the complicated relationship there that no, this this guy’s super nice to him. And he’s like, oh, you’re great at what you do, and is kind of like buttering him up. And then there’s some little moment where it’s like, oh, I can come inside and do something. And he’s like, Well, you know, we don’t allow black people in our house. And it’s just like, he’s like being very pleasant and his tone, but being obviously very blatantly racist. And it’s just kind of showing I think, the, the, the temperature of the time and how he, he must have experienced so much of that kind of thing. But If yes, then it follows him. And he and I think he and Muhammad Ali have an interesting dynamic because they are kind of famous in the same way, in a way, something like that. They’re kind of younger, and they seem to have that big, they go off at one point to a liquor store or something like that. And the dynamic they have is a little bit more. It seemed like the other two were like more, quote unquote, serious and always want to talk about the kind of the bigger world things but I had an interesting, just feeling with those two, you had a funny connection there. But yeah, what do you think about Jim Brown?

Omaya Jones 28:09
So just from following football, I kind of know, Jim Browns history is the running back the Cleveland, Cleveland Browns, and he, like a few other athletes like Barry Sanders, or someone retired really, before they had to, for a lot of reasons, but yeah, if nothing else, just because football is a physically is a game that takes a physical toll on your body. And I think as a career that doesn’t necessarily do that. And he also would have more control. So he seems to me as a character is he’s like the odd man out. And this Yeah. And even, like, just flipping through the book. That not that this is based on, but like, he doesn’t come up that often. Yeah, you know. But he has to he is like he’s in the play because he was there that night. Yeah. And the actor Aldous Hodge, I think is interesting that he Yeah, you know, he was also an invisible man.

Andrew Sweatman 29:07
Oh, yeah. That’s right. That’s right. You know, most recently, yeah,

Omaya Jones 29:09
it’s like a cop friend as well as Die Hard with a Vengeance, which was his acting debut.

Andrew Sweatman 29:15
Yes. Um, I sent me a YouTube clip. I was like, Guess how this is connected? And I was like, What are you talking about? It’s Alice Hodge as a little kid and diehard three. That’s great.

Omaya Jones 29:24
Yeah, but he have like, of, of the four. He’s the one that seems the least conflicted and the most sure of what he wants from his life and from his career. And sort of like he studies Ali in that in that effort, I

Andrew Sweatman 29:42
think, yeah, he’s he’s probably the voice the most blatant voice that’s like why would you join the Nation of Islam like he’s kind of the voice of dissent there. For for Ali, but Yeah, go ahead.

Omaya Jones 29:55
Yeah, I’m trying to think cuz like there’s not you know, from the other characters that have moments where they sort of well, especially from like cook. Yeah. And Malcolm X, they have moments where they sort of articulate their vision very clearly. Yeah. And I’ve don’t remember getting that from Jim Brown.

Andrew Sweatman 30:16
Yeah, he’s the one I would on a rewatch would want to really key in to see like, what’s his his main role here? But yeah, he’s he, I think you’re right in saying he’s kind of the odd man out of the four. If he kept talking about like the, the movie industry a little bit, you get a little bit of a glimpse into kind of his struggles and sort of maybe, generally the struggles that, that black men were having, you know, with fame, and then kind of that, that dynamic a little bit. But yeah, that’s interesting. Let’s talk about Malcolm X. Next, he’s played by Kingsley Benadir, who I haven’t seen in much else, but he’s in several other things. He played brock obama, actually in that Showtime special the comi rule, which I watched earlier this year, that is pretty good. And he’s barely in it. But he said, pretty good Obama. But obviously, as Malcolm X, he’s very outspoken, and he’s, you know, he’s the one who’s courting Cassius Clay, and is the conflict with Sam Cooke about, you should be doing more to be outspoken and fight against racism. This is like the struggle of our time. And if you’re just benefiting from the systems that are there, then you’re not doing enough. And you’re part of the problem. This kind of is the general way to articulate where he’s coming from. But yeah, so that that conflict is much of the conflict of this movie, and leads to some really interesting conversations. And so that just those kind of dueling worldviews, and so we can talk about Sam Cooke’s half of that in a minute. But yeah, what do you think about kings? Who’s going to do his performance here?

Omaya Jones 31:55
I think he’s in America, Max, I think it probably took me a minute to adjust. Because in my head, I was probably thinking of Denzel Washington. So yeah, and that that’s kind of a, that’s a tough thing. Yeah, you have such an iconic portrayal of an actual person. And then someone else comes along, and they’re sort of battling against that. But he does, I think, a good job, sort of betraying like the conflicted nature of Malcolm X, right? Because Spike Lee’s film sort of is like cradle to grave the entire life of Malcolm X. And this is like, pretty much like one section of like, the last portion of that movie, and really getting that dive into where he was at this time, and sort of trying to, like separate himself from the Nation of Islam, knowing that there are ramifications for that, fearing for his life, you know, the this film doesn’t, doesn’t go to the point to where we see what happens, how everything plays out. But it’s so it’s, it takes place on like, February 25 1964. And Malcolm X was assassinated February 21 1965.

Andrew Sweatman 33:03
So about a year like,

Omaya Jones 33:05
yeah, like almost exactly a year to the day or a year before, this is when this movie takes place. And so it like if you know, that if you just know the history going in, and that’s gonna help with all these characters, you know, some of the history going in, there are parts of it that are sort of like feel kind of ominous. Yeah. Which will come up when we talk about Sam Cooke.

Andrew Sweatman 33:26
Yes. But

Omaya Jones 33:27
yeah, I think, you know, we see him he’s being accompanied by a couple of days, a Nation of Islam. bodyguards, one of them played by Lance Reddick. And who seems like very skeptical of Malcolm X and as not that he doesn’t doesn’t seem like he’s like he’s there to protect necessarily. Yes. Keep an eye on him.

Andrew Sweatman 33:47
Yeah, essentially, it’s and then there’s the younger one to who they have a conversation with at one point. And he that’s an interesting actually wrote down some of the dialogue bear this is maybe not exactly right. Because I was, you know, at the drive in front of scribble this down. But he asks, Cassius Clay, I think asks him, or maybe Jim Brown asked him if he likes being a Muslim. And he says, Yeah, I regret not joining younger. And he talks about what he gets out of it. And yes, these people have my back all the time. And I’m not alone. And then one of the characters again, I can’t remember who I think maybe Jim Brown says, you don’t need religion for that. You could just join a game. And then someone else says, What’s the damn difference? And that’s I thought that was an interesting perspective on just at least one person’s experience with the Nation of Islam and kind of why why he joined but be I think so. So Malcolm X, you’re right. It has those moments where he’s afraid someone’s following him and he there’s my way calls home and yeah, like knowing that I didn’t know exactly how close to his death this just took place before watching it, but I knew it was near the end of his life. So there’s almost a sense of, you know, he wants to do as much as he can do. convince these guys to kind of carry the torch. You know if if he’s fearing for his life at this point. I think that’s an interesting, interesting level to it.

Omaya Jones 35:08
I don’t know if he looked up when Sam Cooke died, but what do you think the Sam Cooke Yes.

Andrew Sweatman 35:11
Well, let’s talk about Sam Cooke Yes, I also did not know any of the controversy around his death, but he actually is the first of these four people who died for context. Muhammad Ali just died in 2016. Jim Brown is still alive, as we mentioned in Malcolm X about a year after the events of this movie, and then Sam Cooke just a few months like this from February to December, he was killed. And yeah, so that’s an interesting point, too. But his his character, I guess, backing up his characters is really interesting to play by Leslie Odom Jr, who is just think he’s phenomenal. I know, mostly from Hamilton, as Aaron Burr, but he is so good here too. He gets to sing and kind of show off his his vocal abilities. But then his his kind of counterpoint to Malcolm X’s perspective is that he wants to like, beat beat the system in a way, like infiltrate the system that is there. As a musician, that’s the music industry for him. And so there’s a lot of things about a, you know, Malcolm X is telling him, you should be more outspoken, you should be fighting more. You’re just a part of you just go to clubs and entertain white people. You’re just like one of the one of the good ones, quote, unquote, in the eyes of white people, and you should be fighting because, you know, this is a big problem. And so he, he has a great speech where he talks about royalties, basically. And the Rolling Stones bought a song that he wrote. And so now he says, Now, when white people buy the song, we are giving black people money. And he’s kind of being subversive in that way. And he’s saying, I don’t want a piece of the pie. I want the recipe. That’s one of the quotes there. So that was pretty, pretty interesting. And I think he talks too about like, you know, I’m winning, I’m beating the system to if, if I’m beating them at their own game, it kind of kind of an idea. So yeah, I thought was interesting. And they, they argue a lot. Yeah. What did you notice? That was ominous? Here? I’m curious.

Omaya Jones 37:10
So you know, it’s the use of the song change is going to come. And one of the things that I like is how it plays with the chronology of events in the way is portrayed in the movie is that they, they’re in this hotel room, Sam Cooke says, You know what, I’ve been working on the song, and then he plays it for them. I think I recall that happening in the movie. And then like, at, you know, after that night in Miami, we see same cook on Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and he performs the song. Yeah. When it when it actually happened, or like the actual order of events is that he wrote and recorded the song in, I think, January of that year, or 64. And performed it in on February 7. Wow. So you know, it plays with the timeline a little bit. Yeah. But it was, in a way, the time it works really well. And it may have as an event, I think, among a lot of people that may have been overshadowed by the fact that two days later, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Andrew Sweatman 38:07
So interesting.

Omaya Jones 38:09
But um, yeah, so he only performed the song, live once. And I was I read this write up that was on NPR for the 15th anniversary. And they talked to Bobby Womack, who was his disciple, but maybe protege is the right word. But they talked about how when he first played it for Bobby Womack. He asked Bobby what he thought about it, and he said, it sounds like death. And he said, that’s how that’s how it kind of sounds to me. That’s why I’m never going to play it in public. And then Bobby Womack thought about it. And he said, like, well, it’s not like death. It’s it sounds kind of spooky. And it is, you know, it is, you know, like even a Spike Lee’s Malcolm X film. It’s played in the sun on the soundtrack when Malcolm X was on his way to his last speech. So the song does have these overtones that make it sound kind of like ominous. Yeah. Right. And then of course, he would you know, Sam Cooke died in December 1964. So yeah, less than a year later, he was killed. And an incident that sounds really sort of messy and complicated. I don’t know if you’ve read into it. I just read again, the Wikipedia

Andrew Sweatman 39:23
kind of article about it. But yeah, it’s a very he should he said she said kind of thing. And black versus white in that context. And it’s, yeah, it seems really shady, basically.

Omaya Jones 39:38
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s strange because well, we don’t have to go into the details but like, Yeah, he was like, killed by a hotel manager, essentially.

Andrew Sweatman 39:51
Random seemingly. Yeah.

Omaya Jones 39:53
Yeah. Yeah. But I think like Leslie Odom Jr. is a phenomenal actor. It has been wonderful to see this. Like the night People whose careers are taken off post Hamilton. Yeah, there’s like there’s always like, they’re there. There’s they’re always these things. Like the wire is another example of something that sort of spawns the careers of many people. You know, like, and it creates like this. There’s like an alumna of Yeah, pull from the wire, like graduated from the wire to go on and do a bunch of other things to Hamilton is having a similar effect with a number of people who are in the original cast. And it’s been really fun to see that happen.

Andrew Sweatman 40:30
Yeah, I agree. My, we love Hamilton to my house and my wife listens to it. Almost every day. She loves it. So and I love it too. But yeah, hearing. He’s, he’s probably my favorite. I mean, that’s a big statement, because everyone in Hamilton is so great. But his performance is his songs are among my favorite songs. Be I love seeing that Debbie Diggs is doing so much. I’ve seen blind spotting, by the way with the V digs. I have

Omaya Jones 40:57
that was. One spotting was one of the things that I’ve seen since quarantine that I missed in theaters. And I think is really fun movie in the way it plays around. With different perspectives and things. Yeah.

Andrew Sweatman 41:10
Yeah, I really liked it. And they’re making a TV show kind of a spin off show out of it. So I saw him on Instagram about something like they’re working on that right now. So anyway, I’ll recommend blind spotting. But yes. Back to Sam Cooke. We had there’s a couple great saying scenes where he, there’s a flashback scene once to a concert, that I think Malcolm X was there watching it, or one of them was there. Yes, Mako max. And basically the sound equipment went out. And he kept the show going with no microphone. And it shows that it’s kind of a powerful moment. And Malcolm X is is is really think so highly of him. That’s that’s what’s so interesting, I think about it is like he disagrees fundamentally with the way Sam Cooke handles racial issues. But he thinks really highly of him as a person and as a figure. And he says that the heat, he says a few times something like, like, your voice is so powerful if you just use it differently. It can be huge. And so I think it’s a really interesting part of that.

Omaya Jones 42:09
Yeah, well, I would just say like that scene that you reference is a good example of how you can take something like a play and make it really cinematic. And it’s also if you watch lovers rock is really reminiscent of something that Steve McQueen does. And that film.

Andrew Sweatman 42:24
I haven’t watched it yet, but very soon, I’m going to, but so I’ll be watching for that. But another musical thing that’s really interesting is, I think this is also Malcolm X, like, I hate that I’m keep saying I think it was this, but it’s been Yeah. But who talks about the Bob Dylan song blowing in the wind. And he, he listens to it, they play it on the radio, I think and he says something like, like it, they he kind of talks through some of the lyrics at the beginning of it. And he’s like, he’s talking about the black experience, and in a way, but this is some white guy on the radio. And he, I as I was kind of I listened to that song as I was kind of preparing for this. And then found out Sam Cooke has a cover version on one of his albums, that’s streaming, you can go listen to it. And so I thought that was a cool way that maybe camp ours is almost saying like, you know, possibly, here’s a fun theory of how the seed could have been planted for Sam Cooke to want to perform this song. Actually, the same quick version obviously sounds very different than the Bob Dylan version. But it’s, it’s pretty cool. That’s blowing in the wind.

Omaya Jones 43:26
Yeah, no. And that apparently really happened. Like Sam Cooke really did as reference in the book, how Sam Cooke was taken with that song and really thought like, I should have written that as like one of us should have written that, you know,

Andrew Sweatman 43:38
yeah, yeah, there’s a, a semacam has some line about it. This is about the oppressed having to work harder to be recognized. I said, that’s kind of the core idea. And the song that that really resonates with the experience he’s having as a black man, speaking of Sam Cooke and musical performances, his opening scene. So this is another example of Regina kings, I think, strong direction. He’s playing at the Copacabana. Actually, it was kind of cool. It’s like a famous club. And he is playing to an all white audience, which apparently is not uncommon for him. And there’s a shot though at the when he’s on stage, where just the camera angle makes him look really tiny in the frame. And this white crowd is huge. And the frame and it just feels really intimidating. That’s I thought it was a cool way to kind of set up his character that he sees fearless in a way that he’s not afraid to go do this. And then he does. He sees a strength in that. And that comes out later in the discussion with everyone. So I thought that was another nice directorial touch.

Omaya Jones 44:34
Yes, there. Yeah, there are a number of scenes before the film starts properly that sets up. I don’t know if they’re in the player. Now. They kind of open up the film. So we get like, little vignettes of each of the four main characters. I’m trying like, like the Jim Brown one just like makes an impression. You know, you can’t forget that and like just like the white the disappointment in that

Andrew Sweatman 44:59
I think the Muhammad Ali when I think he like loses a fight for Malcolm X, it shows his wife is watching him on TV. And then he comes home. One thing that Sam Cooke says about his kind of the conflict that he Malcolm X are having. There’s a little bit of a conversation between them. He says, Don’t you think that me commanding my own business destiny is better than just making people mad. It’s something along those lines. And then Malcolm X says back to him, that’s something about he’s, he’s too boujee says, You boogy people don’t understand what’s really at stake. I think he says boosh, wha he wouldn’t have said Buchi at that time. Because you bourgeois people don’t understand what’s really at stake, that that kind of nicely encapsulated The, the heart of their their conflict. Yeah, just really well written. You can kind of tell like, Camp powers has a knack for dialogue as a screenwriter, obviously, like, that’s, that’s a lot of what I mean, as a playwright. But I think that that really comes through like that really is the strongest thing about this is the dialogue is really, really well, well done.

Omaya Jones 46:05
Yeah. I mean, I think as a player overall, I just think it’s a phenomenally well, piece of written work. Yeah, you know, I just think is, how much of the dialogue and the debate and the discussions seem to have come just directly from the people themselves? Yeah. And so like, with Bob Dylan, I’m not going to read the whole paragraph, because it’s quite long. But, you know, it talks about boat in the wind and how it was covered by a number of different people, including Sam Cooke. And then it says, cook remarked to friends, that it was an embarrassment for black performers that it had been a white boy who first dared talk about race and politics and popular music. In January 1964, he wrote and recorded a change is going to come perhaps the first masterpiece of a socially conscious soul. Yeah, so like, that that conflict, as depicted in the film came right from, you know, the actual history. Yeah, that’s not just supposition that actually happened that way. And I think one of the things that I like about this film and the various discussions is that it shows how a lot of the conversations that we’re having today, this is not the first time they’ve had them, they were doing this in the 60s. And of course, in the 60s, they were it was going after things that happen in the 50s. And, and before that, the 30s and the 20s, and so on and so forth, you know, for all the time. And a lot of times when I hear are read activist, and people today talk, there’s this, there’s like a recency bias. It’s not just activists, just people in general, I think have this recency bias, where they act as though history started, either when they were born, or when they became politically aware. And what I like about this film is that it’s an opportunity for people to sit back and be like, okay, where is the same struggle? Yeah, absolutely. There are areas in which we’ve made process, there are areas in which we make we’ve gone backwards, but we’re still is the same struggle, as it’s always been. And, you know, it’s always been a tumultuous time. And that hasn’t changed.

Andrew Sweatman 48:12
Yeah, absolutely. Like, it totally has resonance today. And I think that’s one of the most powerful things about either watching older films I’ve talked about, like, watching classic films and why I love it is because it does give that picture of a time period, or watching films that that accurately or with just time films that depict a previous time with an eye for for kind of the spirit of the time and what things were like politically and that kind of thing. It does, I think it can open eyes in a way that can be really powerful. Because Yeah, you’re right. Like, I tend to think that things have only been the way they are for a short amount of time. But but this just reminds me again, like yes, this has been this way for a long time. And I think especially for younger generations who might be able to watch this and and see, like, is this really educational for me, but imagine like a high school student and saying this or that kind of thing, kind of I find it inspiring that film can make a difference in that way. And as to the like the way this was adapted from real stuff, as you’re saying, like, so much of it clearly came straight from their actual words. And I think that’s, like that’s the way to adapt history, I think is ethically or something is to be as as close to the real thing as you can and then be forthcoming about like, yep, this is a fictionalized account. But here’s what I did to try to be as close as possible, which stands in contrast to a lot of historically made movies like speaking of greenbook that won the Oscar, that that not only has like some people have a lot of issues with the racial discussions in that movie in the way racism is depicted. and rightfully so I agree with a lot of that, but also That the enormous liberties that takes with history, I’ve just done a little research around that and like the family of the character, and that is very unhappy with it because it paints him in a very different light than then was reality for a story that was created to make white people feel better. Like it’s a it’s just a whole big mess. But anyway, we don’t have to talk about Green Book. But I think that’s in such a contrast of this, which someone who, first of all screenwriter of color, that probably makes a big difference, but has so much respect for the history of this and for the people involved in this thing. So true to it. And yet then offering this artful career creative rendition of what this might have been. That’s, it’s like, it’s clear that he he doesn’t expect anyone to believe this is exactly what happened. Just in the way it’s written. And, anyway, I just have a lot of respect for for Ken powers, and I’m curious to see what he does next. I’m really anxious to watch Seoul in a few weeks. That’s that’s gonna stream soon. But anyway, yeah, I really, really liked this movie.

Omaya Jones 51:01
Yeah, I hope everybody watches it. And I think that one of the one of the things that I noted, I think, as I was watching it, I think I sent Michael carpenter, a text message was just that you, you can get away with a lot in theater, because this art is a play. And I think that there’s more of a tradition and theater of openly playing with history, right, probably and like, what, whether whether or not you’re just talking about, like different stagings of plays and things like they’re just more creativity. I mean, when it comes

Andrew Sweatman 51:33
to history, like Hamilton, like, which, obviously is based on history, but again, it’s like, it knows no one in the audience thinks this is exactly how it really happened going though.

Omaya Jones 51:43
Right? Yeah. So like, you know, if he made a movie if Hamilton was a movie first, and people they were I think there’d be a lot already, like Thomas Jefferson was was not was not was not black. You know, I think that would come up a lot. It would be like, a problem for people. Yeah, yeah. People tend to be really literal with movies. And I think you see it with like, various websites and things that like movies, cinema sins, or something for them to really nitpicky. And I think that and part of it, I think it’s just like the way that in theater, or at least with this particular display, in particular, like there’s a lot of talk about, like, yeah, I made this up. And it’s like, very open and honest about that. You know, and like talking about the process and how they came to it. And maybe there’s just like more of a history of that and theater than I think there is a lot of times in movies.

Andrew Sweatman 52:26
Well, that is one night in Miami that is streaming on Amazon Prime starting January 15. I can highly recommend everyone check it out. It’s going to be I can pretty much say it’s going to be in my top 10 of 2020. The question is how high I’m still working on that. I have a lot of things to still try to watch by the end of the year. But yes, very much recommend this. And it sounds like you do also.

Omaya Jones 52:49
Oh my Yes, absolutely.

Andrew Sweatman 52:51
Well, thanks again, Omaya for for coming back and discussing this with us. I’m sure you’ll be back on the podcast very soon. But until then, thanks so much.

Omaya Jones 53:00
Thanks for having me.

Andrew Sweatman 53:04
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of art house garage. We’ve got a few years worth of episodes now. And you can hear all of those in your podcast app of choice. If you want to support art house garage. You can leave a rating or review in your podcast app. Or you can buy an art house garage t shirt, or actually we have some hats too. That’s at our house garage, comm slash shop. stay in the loop about art house garage and the films we’re covering by subscribing to our email newsletter at art house garage, comm slash subscribe or you can email me directly And of course follow on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and letterbox. Just search at our house barrage and all those places, or find links in the show notes. And that will do it for this episode. Thank you again so much for listening. And until next time, keep it snobbery.

Transcribed by

Picture of Andrew Sweatman

Andrew Sweatman

Andrew is a writer, podcaster, and film lover who wants to help people think critically about movies. He lives in central Arkansas with his wife Allison and two children, Rosie & Beau. Andrew is the Senior Editor at Arthouse Garage and a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA). Find him at and on Twitter and Instagram: @ArthouseGarage.

Share This Episode

Leave a Reply

Sign up for our Newsletter