Going Clear, an extension of a book by Lawrence Wright and directed by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney, breaks down the origins of Scientology beginning with its founder L. Ron Hubbard right through the present day leader David Miscavige. Journey after journey is revisited by eight members of the church from the time they joined to the moment they knew in their heart to move on with another chapter in life.Read More
Hollywood is full of wannabe's, blockbuster movie stars and actors who were once the toast of the town - are now considered washed up because the Hollywood that made them a star has evolved into a social media/reality show/celebrity gossip driven world. Incest, fires, murder,sex and acceptance are all subjects tackled in the David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars.Read More
One of the first jobs I had when moving to Los Angeles was on a show for the Sci-Fi Network called GvsE. Some of the people in my episode were Rockmond Dunbar (SoulFood), Antonio Fargas (Starksy & Hutch) and Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek fame.
I sat in Nichelle's trailer for a minute as she shared her career highlights, including her time as a member of the U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek. So when news spread yesterday of Leonard Nimoy's passing, I couldn't help wonder how this much be affecting her and the other cast members of the iconic Star Trek series.
Leonard Nimoy had become so linked with Dr. Spock that many forget he had a career that led him to that all important moment in time. Born as Leonard Simon Nimoy in Boston, he parents were Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews.
Beginning as an actor from age 8, In 1949, he traveled to Hollywood, though it wasn’t until 1951 that he landed small parts in two movies, “Queen for a Day” and “Rhubarb".
He continued to be cast in little-known movies, and in a minor role on an episode of “The Twilight Zone” before landing his first starring movie role “Kid Monk Baroni,” in which he played a disfigured Italian street-gang leader who becomes a boxer.
Mr. Nimoy served in the Army for two years, rising to sergeant and spending 18 months at Fort McPherson in Georgia, where he presided over shows for the Army’s Special Services branch. After his Army stint, he returned to California, where he worked as a soda jerk, movie usher and cab driver while studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. He worked often television shows like “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide” and “Perry Mason” before booking “Star Trek.”
Nimoy returned to college in his 40s and earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Antioch University and later awarded an honorary doctorate from the same institution. He directed “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984) and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), (where he also helped write the screenplay). In 1991, he was seen once again as Mr. Spock on two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and was also the executive producer/writer “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”
Leonard Nimoy leaves a proud legacy as an actor, teacher, philanthropist. But who knew he once owned a pet shop in Canoga Park? Or that he teamed with Vic Morrow in 1962 to produce an indie film based on Jean Genet’s edgy play “Deathwatch.” Or that he paid for and narrated a TV special, “If The Mind is Free,” that aired only in Chicago to raise money for the city’s St. Mary High School?
Here are a few more interesting facts you may not know.
Before the end of “Star Trek’s” first season Nimoy was signed to a recording contract with Dot Records. His first album, “Mr. Spock Presents Music From Outer Space,” was released a month later. Variety’s review described his vocals on the pop selections as “pleasantly rugged.”
Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the unrest in major cities, Nimoy joined with Jack Lemmon, Bill Cosby, Barbra Streisand and others to rally Hollywood support for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s “The Poor People’s Campaign.” Nimoy spearheaded a food drive for the campaign, which held a fundraiser at the Hollywood Bowl later that year.
RIP Dr. Spock!!! You lived long and prospered!!!!
When I was in The Lion King, one of my good girlfriends loved these plays featuring a character named Madea from a then unknown actor/producer Tyler Perry. Millions of people across the country came out to see Madea and one of the first of many to be adapted to the big screen was Diary of a Mad Black Woman. It starred Kimberly Elise, Cecily Tyson, Shemar Moore, Steve Harris and Tyler Perry as Madea.
It basically follows the journey of a black woman who is mad as hell about the way she has been treated by men until she meets "the one" who changes everything. The film garnered NAACP Image Awards for both Cicely Tyson and Kimberly Elise and grossed over 55 Million proving to Hollywood for the first time in a long time that films starring black actors was a force to reckoned with at the box office.
Perry, now has multiple shows on television being showcased on Oprah Winfrey's channel OWN and include The Have and Have Nots, Love Thy Neighbor and several others on the grid to debut.
Take a look back at Diary of A Mad Black Woman
Politics, Fashion and Stars are always a guarantee on and off the red carpet for the Academy Awards and this year was no exception. Before the ceremony, diversity was the big topic and now the day after, the discussion has continued regarding equal pay for women, rights for the LGBT community and like John Legend so eloquently pointed out in his speech,"...there are more black men incarcerated than there were slaves brought to America". Eloquent, provocative and jaw dropping speeches were definitely trending and given by winners Patricia Arquette, Common. John Legend and Graham Moore. Moore, who won for The Imitation Game dropped a bomb that detonated the Dolby Theatre, but his words were needed and heartfelt. "When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here and, so, I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird. Stay different. And then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along."
The stars showed up and showed out for the red carpet. The pale pallete was a popular hue worn by Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez and Oprah Winfrey to name a few. My personal favorite was Gone Girl nominee Rosamund Pike in a red lace number that made her look like a lovely, statuesque bouquet of roses.
I had the opportunity to chat and meet some of my media idols such as "Entertainment Guru" for LA ABC7 - George Pinnachio, my good girlfriend, supermodel Roshumba Williams and made new friends like kitsch queen Esther Goldberg and TrendyMii.com's Keira Renee (who really helped a sister out on the red carpet)!
Some powerful performances that will remain etched in many minds after last night include Lady Gaga's tribute around the the 50th Anniversary of The Sound of Music, which Oscar Winner Julie Andrews with much emotion thanked Gaga and said the tribute "warmed her heart"; Common and John Legend accepting their little bald gold guy and insighted tears from the audience. Here is an excerpt from their acceptance speech:
Common: "John and I got to go to Selma and perform “Glory” on the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the civil rights movement marched on 50 years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation but now is a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South Side of Chicago dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression, to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings."
John Stephens (John Legend): "Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago but we say that Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on. God bless you."
After the ceremony the stars partied till the sun came up. I joined my fellow AAFCA members at a soiree sponsored by our organization and Mercedes Benz at the Four Seasons. Black Hollywood was in full effect with numerous 'Selma" castmates including Niecy Nash and "my brother from another mother" Omar Dorsey. Other attendees included Colman Domingo, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Beverly Johnson, Robi Reed, Star Jones, Vanessa Bell-Calloway and many others.
It was an exciting and exhilarating year for film that have inspired a lot of long overdue conversations. In moving forward, let's just not talk...but act. Make a Change...Make a Difference...Starting NOW!!!
Check out my Pre-Oscar Red Carpet Coverage and see you next year!!!
Here is full list of the winners from the 87th Annual Academy Awards:
Best supporting actor - JK Simmons for Whiplash
Achievement in costume design - The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling - The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon, Mark Coulier
Best foreign-language film- Ida – Paweł Pawlikowski
Best live-action short film -The Phone Call – Mat Kirkby, James Lucas
Best documentary short subject -Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 – Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Dana Perry
Achievement in sound mixing - Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, Thomas Curley
Achievement in sound editing -American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray, Bub AsmanBest Supporting Actress ...Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
Achievement in visual effects - Interstellar – Paul J Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, Scott R Fisher
Best animated short filmFeast – Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed
Best animated feature film - Big Hero 6
Best production design - The Grand Budapest Hotel: Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock
Achievement in cinematography -Birdman: Emmanuel Lubezki
Achievement in film editing - Whiplash – Tom Cross
Best documentary feature -Citizenfour – Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky
Best original song - Glory from Selma – Lonnie Lynn (Common), John Stephens (John Legend)
Best original score -Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Original screenplay- Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo – Birdman
Adapted screenplay -Graham Moore – The Imitation Game
Best director- Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Best actor -Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything
Best actress - Julianne Moore for Still Alice
Best picture - Birdman
In the history of the Oscars, there are always a handful of people the masses feel are robbed of their recognition by the Academy. This year it was Selma Director Ava DuVernay and its star David Oyelowo. I bet you didn't know about these groundbreaking, big stars who also never got a chance to win an Oscar. Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles
Hitchcock was nominated five times for best director and never won an Oscar. However, was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968 (usually given to those with an outstanding body of work, but never won the coveted award). Kubrick and Welles were nominated and won an Academy Awards in other areas. Kubrick won a Best Effects Oscar for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Welles won Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Citizen Kane.
Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole
Burton and O'Toole, two of the best actors in any era have a total of 15 Oscar nominations between them. However, in 2003 O'Toole was bestowed with an Honorary Oscar.
One of the most iconic imitated movie stars of all time, Marilyn Monroe, changed the game for women in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Monroe was an amazing actress, but the Academy overlooked her talent due to her sex symbol status.
Grant starred in over 70 films, garnered 2 nominations, but the golden guy eluded his career.
Here are also 20 other actors, who have been nominated numerous times, but have never taken home an Academy Award.
Leonardo DiCaprio 1994: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape"; 2005: Nominated for Best Actor, "The Aviator"; 2007: Nominated for Best Actor, "Blood Diamond"; 2014: Nominated for "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Johnny Depp 2004: Nominated for Best Actor, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"; 2005: Nominated for Best Actor, "Finding Neverland", 2008: Nominated for Best Actor, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
TOM CRUISE1990: Nominated for Best Actor, "Born on the Fourth of July"; 1997: Nominated for Best Actor, "Jerry Maguire"; 2000: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "Magnolia".
JULIANNE MOORE1998: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, "Boogie Nights"; 2000: Nominated for Best Actress, "The End of the Affair"; 2003: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, "The Hours"; 2003: Nominated for Best Actress, "Far From Heaven"
GLENN CLOSE1983: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, "The World According to Garp"; 1984: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, "The Big Chill"; 1985: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, "The Natural"; 1988: Nominated for Best Actress, "Fatal Attraction"; 1989: Nominated for Best Actress, "Dangerous Liasons"; 2012: Nominated for Best Actress, "Albert Nobbs".
JOAQUIN PHOENIX2001: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "Gladiator"; 2006: Nominated for Best Actor, "Walk the Line"; 2013: Nominated for Best Actor, "The Master".
EDWARD NORTON1997: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "Primal Fear"; 1999: Nominated for Best Actor, "American History X"
ANNETTE BENING1991: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, "The Grifters"; 2000: Nominated for Best Actress, "American Beauty"; 2005: Nominated for Best Actress, "Being Julia"; 2011: Nominated for Best Actress, "The Kids Are All Right";
ED HARRIS1996: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "Apollo 13"; 1999: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "The Truman Show"; 2001: Nominated for Best Actor, "Pollock"; 2003: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "The Hours"; lost to Chris Cooper, "Adaptation."
SIGOURNEY WEAVER1987: Nominated for Best Actress, "Aliens"; 1989: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, "Working Girl"; 1989: Nominated for Best Actress, "Gorillas in the Mist"
HARRISON FORD1985: Nominated for Best Actor, "Witness"
ALBERT FINNEY1964: Nominated for Best Actor, "Tom Jones"; 1975: Nominated for Best Actor, "Murder on the Orient Express"; 1984: Nominated for Best Actor, "The Dresser"; 1985: Nominated for Best Actor, "Under the Volcano"; 2001: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "Erin Brockovich"; lost to Benicio del Toro, "Traffic"
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, "Dangerous Liasons";
Nominated for Best Actress, "The Fabulous Baker Boys";
Nominated for Best Actress, "Love Field"
JOHN TRAVOLTA1978: Nominated for Best Actor, "Saturday Night Fever"; 1995: Nominated for Best Actor, "Pulp Fiction"
GARY OLDMAN2012: Nominated for Best Actor, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
ROBERT DOWNEY, JR.1993: Nominated for Best Actor, "Chaplin"; 2009: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "Tropic Thunder"
LIAM NEESON1994: Nominated for Best Actor, "Schindler's List"
WILL SMITH2002: Nominated for Best Actor, "Ali"; 2007: Nominated for Best Actor, "The Pursuit of Happyness"
MARK WAHLBERG2007: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "The Departed"; 2011: Nominated for Best Picture, "The Fighter" (along with David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman)
RALPH FIENNES1994: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, "Schindler's List"; 1997: Nominated for Best Actor, "The English Patient"
The Spirit Awards is always a highlight of awards season as it focuses more on the artists and their film rather than box office and politics. At the yesterday's ceremony, Birdman soars to to new heights taking home three awards for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Cinematography. Boyhood was nipping close at its heels with two wins. Patricia Arquette continues her winning streak for Best Supporting Actress as did Richard Linklater for Best Director.
No surprise, but very disappointed that yet again Selma (which had two noms) went home again empty-handed, as did Love Is Strange (which had four noms)
Here is complete list of the winners...
BEST FEATURE Birdman Producers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole
BEST MALE LEAD Michael Keaton, Birdman
BEST FEMALE LEAD Julianne Moore, Still Alice
BEST DIRECTOR Richard Linklater, Boyhood
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
BEST SUPPORTING MALE J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
BEST SCREENPLAY Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
BEST DOCUMENTARY Citizenfour Director/Producer: Laura Poitras Producers: Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM Ida (Poland), Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
BEST FIRST FEATURE Nightcrawler Director: Dan Gilroy; Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY Justin Simien, Dear White People
BEST EDITING Tom Cross, Whiplash
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD Land Ho! Writers/Directors: Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens; Producers: Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy
LENSCRAFTERS TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD The Kill Team, Director: Dan Krauss
PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD Chris Chison
KIEHL’S SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD H., Directors: Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia
Living in such a social media world where you are scrutinized within an inch of your life, Hollywood glamour and pop culture are always on the radar as are all of it stars. Even more interesting are the Hollywood Glamour Couples, so here are my top picks for the Glamorous Couples of All Time (in no particular order of course). 1. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
Dick and Liz, as the media affectionately dubbed them, were a staple of Hollywood glamour and red carpets. Both known for their unapologetic candor, it is safe to say that they were definitely the original "bad boy and diva" of the red carpet. In addition to being one the biggest movie stars in the world, Taylor lent her name to a still thriving perfume and jewelry line, as well as the CEO of the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. Richard Burton died in 1984 and Elizabeth Taylor passed on in 2011.
2. Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman
These two were iconically, classic Hollywood. Newman, was the steel blue-eyed Hollywood hunk and Woodward the brainy beauty. The Oscar winners remained a couple until the untimely death of Newman at age 83. Woodward continues to act, mostly with small roles and voice-over work.
3. Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck
They met on the set of the film Daredevil and their lives have never been the same. Oscar winner Ben Affleck has taken a page from the George Clooney book by being a force to be reckoned with as a director, producer, actor and writer. Garner seamlessly made the transition from television to film and last year Co-Starred in the most buzzed about film of last season The Dallas Buyers Club. Both gorgeous and seemingly very kind-spirited people, Affleck and Garner make being a movie star look easy juggling career and family.
4. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn
She was the Sock-It-To-Me girl on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, who went on to become an Oscar winning actress and he was the Disney kid who grew up to be a teen and adult heartthrob. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have been together for over 30 years and whenever they grace the red carpet it is always with elation and joy to be at the party. Oh...BTW...Goldie's daughter Kate Hudson is a bonafide star in her own right and winning a Golden Globe Award and Oscar nomination for her role in the Cameron Crowe film - Almost Famous. Here's clip from a comedy I loved watching them in called Overboard.
5. Jada Pinkett and Will Smith
He was the historic Grammy winning Fresh Prince of Bel-Air who kicked alien butt on Independence Day while joining Men in Black. She joined Oscar nominated Queen Latifah as a bank robber in Set It Off. They met in Hollywood and the rest is history. Oscar nominated Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith show the world that love is alive and well between people of color and shows no signs of slowing down. They always bring classic beauty and glamour to any red carpet lucky enough to have them. FYI...Jada auditioned for the role of Will's girlfriend on The Fresh Prince and lost the role to Nia Long (The Best Man).
6. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt
It was scandalous when Brad Pitt worked with Angelina Jolie on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The chemistry was undeniable (just as it was more than 20 years ago with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra). Brad Pitt stole everyone's heart with his brief, but memorable stint in the now classic film Thelma and Louise. Jolie showed up on the scene, broke down what makes a chick a Girl Interrupted and walked away with an Oscar. Jolie and Pitt are the perfect blend of glamour, brains and immense humanity. Pitt, winning an Oscar for producing last year's monster hit 12 Years a Slave has many other projects up his sleeve. I, for one, can't wait to see what he does next and Jolie made an impressive directorial debut this year with Unbroken. Take a peek at the film that started it all and turned up the heat on their relationship...
7. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall
She was a theatre usher and he was a middle aged movie star, but together...they were pure magic. Humphrey Bogart made a career being a guy who always had a dilemma and made being a gangster look glamourous. When Lauren Bacall crossed his path in To Have or Have Not, Hollywood would find themselves embracing a new kind of power couple. They remained married until Bogart's death in January 1957 and Bacall passed away in 2014. Although Bogart rook Oscar home for his role opposite Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen, Bacall was only nominated once for her role as Barbra Streisand's mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces, but enjoyed other successes on Broadway and as an author. Take a look at the iconic scene that was the beginning of the stuff Hollywood legends are made of.
8. Carole Lombard and Clark Gable
Clark Gable was a true "matinee idol" and Carole Lombard was the charming, yet stunning comedienne. Being stars during Hollywood's Golden Era, you can say that they were America's first couple stalked by the media. The press took great interest in their partnership constantly hounding the couple regarding wedding plans. They eventually wed and two years later Lombard perished in a fatal plane crash along with her mother and Gables' press agent - Otto Winkler. Gable would go on to act in 27 more films and remarry twice. "But he was never the same," said Esther Williams. "He had been devastated by Carole's death." Clark Gable died from a heart attack in 1959. Take a look at one of the rare moments they had on screen together...
9. Warren Beatty and Annette Bening
Warren Beatty was a notorious Hollywood playboy with his name being linked from starlets ranging from Natalie Wood to Madonna. But, when he starred opposite Annette Bening in Bugsy, it was clear his bachelor days were crawling to a close. Beatty has been nominated 14 times for an Oscar and won for "Reds". He is the only person to have been nominated for best producer, director, writer and actor in the same film — doing so twice for Heaven Can Wait, which he co-starred, co-wrote and co-directed with Buck Henry). Bening has been nominated four times, but has yet to take home Oscar. Here they are in Bugsy...
One of the many docs I screened over the weekend at PAFF which made a lasting impact on me was the documentary - From Watts to Senegal, a film that documents children from the Imperial Courts Projects in South Los Angeles and their journey to Senegal courtesy of the Foundation for Second Chances Foundation. The most important lesson learned according to one of the kids was"...be grateful for what you have - it could be worse."
Upon landing in Africa, one of the more memorable moments was their visit to the "door of no return", where many slaves passed right into slavery and away from their native land. The guides shared that in Africa, "...the masters would say that black people have no souls".
Knowing that learning is considered a privilege for children of Africa, the kids painted a newly constructed library and donated books.
A moment that struck me so hard is how a young spirit takes in such an extraordinary experience. When one child was asked what do they expect to see in Africa...they simply stated, "I expect to see me -every day of my life"
Check out this trailer and for more information on the Foundation for Second Chances - go to www.ffscinc.org
Could you imagine living in a world where you had to use separate entrances on public transportation, restrooms, dining establishments (if they would serve people of color at all), restrooms and drinking fountains?
Summer of 1963 in Opelika, Alabama...this was just an ordinary day. Just as it was in many states across America. On a normally hot day, Michael and his little white friend drink from a water fountain. After watching his friend drink for what he deemed an unusually long time, Michael thought the water must taste different on the "white only" side.
This TV One film (which aired on February 7th) starring Lorenz Tate and Sharon Leal is the true story of a seven-year-old black boy (played by twins Amir and Amari O’Neil) who becomes obsessed with the desire to taste water from the “whites only” drinking fountain.
The dialogue is riddled with sayings I have heard my whole life such as, "Never know what day is your last so eat dessert first", "Never tell anybody your dreams...they'll just tell you why they can't come true" and so many more that I was truly tickled to be reminded of my childhood in St. Louis, Missouri.
Michael adventures to drink from the fountain (despite warnings from his family and friends), takes him on a journey where he stumbles upon a KKK meeting, juke joint and arrest by the local police. He finally gets his chance when it comes to his attention the the "whites only" water and the "colored only" water come from the same pipe.
Just goes to show you how innocent and overworked a young mind can be. Shown during the Shorts Series at the Pan African Film Festival, "White Water" is produced by Dwayne Johnson-Cochran, screenplay by Michael C. Brandy/Eric Stein and Directed by Rusty Cundieff. It was truly pleasurable to watch and after a brief Q&A, the audience was treated to a "white water" rap by the twins who portrayed Michael. Check out the trailer and rap below...
In light of the recent obsession with Hollywood regarding Biblical stories like Noah, Exodus, Gods and Kings and the epic television miniseries by reality show producer Mark Burnett - The Bible, PAFF very appropriately scheduled a panel - THE BIBLE ON TRIAL IN FILM - Examining the Historical Credibility of Biblical Epics. Moderated and sponsored by Entertainment Attorney, J. Christopher Hamilton, Esq., and Hosted by Bravo's "Blood, Sweat ad Heels".
The panel of distinguished guests included film producer Ralph Winter, whose films include X-Men and the Fantastic Four, Pastor & Apologist Andrew Neil Smellie, Old Testament Scholar from Biola University Dr. David Talley, Scientist & Religious Scholar from Biola University Dr. John Bloom and creator of the Marvel comic books Underworld and Frankenstein - Kevin Grevioux.
Following intros the discussion kicked off when Andrew stated, "People believe what they see much more than what is in the testament...This is the time when we have to live that Christian life and I am using my bible as a scalpel cutting out sins and lust
The BAFTA Awards were handed out at the Royal Opera House over this past weekend in London, and Boyhood took the big prize with the Best Film award, its third overall win including director Richard Linklater and Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette. The Grand Budapest Hotel picked up five wins, including for Wes Anderson’s original screenplay. The Theory Of Everything and Whiplash also won three awards apiece and Lead Actor Eddie Redmayne, who along with Julianne Moore solidified their frontrunner status for the Oscar with their wins
Here’s the complete list of winners:
BEST FILM BOYHOOD Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland
LEADING ACTRESS JULIANNE MOORE Still Alice
LEADING ACTOR EDDIE REDMAYNE The Theory of Everything
DIRECTOR BOYHOOD Richard Linklater
EE RISING STAR Jack O’Connell
COSTUME DESIGN THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Milena Canonero
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING Anthony McCarten
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IDA Pawel Pawlikowski, Eric Abraham, Piotr Dzieciol, Ewa Puszczynska
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Wes Anderson
OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER STEPHEN BERESFORD (Writer), DAVID LIVINGSTONE (Producer) Pride
CINEMATOGRAPHY BIRDMAN Emmanuel Lubezki
SUPPORTING ACTRESS PATRICIA ARQUETTE Boyhood
SUPPORTING ACTOR J.K. SIMMONS Whiplash
SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS INTERSTELLAR Paul Franklin, Scott Fisher, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter
ANIMATED FILM THE LEGO MOVIE Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
SOUND WHIPLASH Thomas Curley, Ben Wilkins, Craig Mann
EDITING WHIPLASH Tom Cross
BRITISH SHORT ANIMATION THE BIGGER PICTURE Chris Hees, Daisy Jacobs, Jennifer Majka
BRITISH SHORT FILM BOOGALOO AND GRAHAM Brian J. Falconer, Michael Lennox, Ronan Blaney
PRODUCTION DESIGN THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock
MAKE UP & HAIR THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Frances Gannon
DOCUMENTARY CITIZENFOUR Laura Poitras
ORIGINAL MUSIC THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Alexandre Desplat
OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING James Marsh, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten
How many times have I expressed my adoration for non other than Whoopi Goldberg! Whenever she was announced or attached to a film, I was always the first to see it and Boys On The Side was no different. I also adore Drew Barrymore and knew about Mary Louise-Parker waaaaay before WEEDS came along...lol These three women under ordinary circumstances would have no reason to be friends, but become bonded for life on a ride-shared trip to California. They all have challenges...Jane a lesbian, Robin suffering with AIDS, Holly running from her past, seeking one-night stands and a good man. It all results in girls on the road, reaching understanding, respect, and care for each other.
Featuring a young Matthew McConaughey and pre-Dextar James Remar...Let's roll on down the road with girls looking for Boys on the Side...
Sundance 2015 was full of worthy documentaries to screen. I caught three of them, Listen to Me Marlon, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution and Larry Kramer: In Anger & Love. However, here is a brief synopsis of those and some others that had a lot of people buzzing while I was in Park City...
WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?
Directed by Liz Garbus and making its debut at Sundance before premiering later this year on Netflix was What Happened, Miss Simone. Garbus sensitively explores the constant state of opposition that trapped and tortured Simone—as a classical pianist pigeonholed in jazz, as a professional boxed in by family life, as a black woman in racist America—and in so doing, reveals a towering figure transcending categorization and her times. The film stays true to Simone's subjectivity by mining never-before-heard tapes, rare archival footage, and interviews with close friends and family. Charting Simone’s musical inventiveness alongside the arc of her Jim Crow childhood, defining role in the Civil Rights Movement, arrival at Carnegie Hall, self-imposed exile in Liberia, and solitary life in France, this astonishingly intimate yet epic portrait becomes a non-fiction musical—lush tracks and riveting story resonating inextricably.
There were two prolific nights featuring the music of Miss Simone. After the premiere screening, John Legend performed his version of "Please, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood". Footage is courtesy of J. Adler.
Later on in the week, Common, Erykah Badu, Aloe Blacc other stellar artists took the stage for yet another musical tribute. Here are some of those highlights...
LARRY KRAMER: IN LOVE & ANGER
While at Howard University completing my degree in Broadcast Production, I decided to run for Miss America. Of course, you have to win a local and then the state title in order to do so. I called Atlantic City, got the info of where to compete in Maryland and ran for a local. I won and was elated to have to opportunity to run for Miss Maryland and if I were lucky move on to Miss America.
During those days talent and interview made up more than 70% of your total judging score. Rock Hudson had just died from A.I.D.S. and America was in a panic, as they associated this dreadful disease with only being related to the gay community. Having lost two family members and a multitude of friends in the theatre community to this dreadful disease, my emotions were very raw when it came to this subject. Remembering it like it was yesterday, my interview was all fun and games until one of the judges presented me with this question, "Do you think A.I.D.S testing should be voluntary or mandatory?' I couldn't believe someone would even contemplate such a thing.
Needless to say, I responded, "AIDS does not discriminate. It doesn't care if you are black, white, rich or poor. It is a disease like any other and strikes at any given time...I don't recall anyone ever asking if there should be voluntary or mandatory testing for polio or cancer". I'm pretty sure that answer did me in and I never made it to Atlantic City. However, I stood up for what I believed and my opinion was based on the facts not rumors. My Mom was a registered nurse and made sure that I was educated properly on this issue, because like I said...I had family members and friends taken out by full blown A.I.D.S or HIV.
Si, it suffices to say, when I read about a documentary being screened at Sundance on Larry Kramer, it was a necessity for me to attend.
Larry Kramer - In Love & Anger is the story of how one person said NO! Using that two letter word is how you start a movement and how you change the world. Kramer, affectionately known as the worlds's "Angriest AIDS Activist" was Yale educated and started out with a job finding projects for Columbia Pictures to produce. Some of those projects include such iconic films "Suddenly Last Summer". It didn't take long for Kramer to catch on producing a film called "Women In Love", which is notoriously known for a naked wrestling scene in front of a fireplace that ironically earned him an Oscar nomination.
Kramer had many accomplishments along his journey writing many books and plays. The Normal Heart opened on Broadway in 1985 and was made into a television film for HBO that garnered nominations for its stars Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts.
His anger over gay rights and discrimination leading to the delay of the AIDS cocktail, that ultimately saved millions of lives led to the birth of organizations like The Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP! His tenacity paid off when after year of berating the FDA the cocktail was made public and saved many lives including his own.
The film is set to be released on HBO in June just in time for Kramer's Birthday in June 2015. I don't have a clip of the trailer yet, but here is speech Kramer gave in 1993 and it will give you the essence of this passionate, brave soul...
THE BLACK PANTHERS: Vanguard of the Revolution
I don't know about you, but I wholeheartedly associated the The Black Panther Party with varying images of Huey P. Newton from eh 60's. My knowledge about them, what they stood for, how they came into existence was limited at best until I attended a screening at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
What I learned is that 50 years later, there is very little progress in the civil rights movement for citizens of the U.S. With incidents happening in New York, LA and in Ferguson (located in the suburbs of my hometown - St. Louis), it feels as though all the lives lost to make way for a better way of living have been for what?????
Director, Stanley Nelson declared that he had "always been interested in the Black Panther Party...I was 15 years old when they started and I thought they had swagger." It is Nelson and producer Laurens Grant's wish that the film m will be used to educate young people when it premieres a year from now on PBS (although they are shooting for a limited theatrical release in fall of 2015). Having just completed editing of the doc Monday, January 19th, it was seven years in the making and sheds the light on the reality vs the myth of the Black Panther Party, its members and its goals.
We were treated to a Q&A with the wife of BPP member Eldridge Cleaver - Kathleen Cleaver. She's a tough cookie and still adheres to the code by which she and the BPP lived so many years ago, but is very clear about what that code is (I AM A REVOLUTIONARY) and why it was and still is important in the 21st century.
Even though many members like Elaine Brown, David Hilliard, Jamal Joseph, Jim Dunbar, Willian Calhoun, Roland Freeman, Kathleen Cleaver and others were interviewed, there was a noticeable absence of Bobby Seale (who is still living in the Bay Area). It was understood that Seale may be holding out to tell his own version of the BPP story, how it unfolded and reached its demise.
To date, there are still 20 members of the Black Panther Party incarcerated. The party met its untimely demise when Newton and Cleaver had differences of opinion on how the party should continue, meddling to tear the party apart from the inside out by Herbert Hoover and the CIA and the shift in responsibility from Newton from community to drugs.
Although there is no trailer available at this time, here is an interview with the Director Stanley Nelson
With funky, fat-laced Adidas, Kangol hats, and Cazal shades, a totally original look was born—Fresh—and it came from the black and brown side of town where another cultural force was revving up in the streets to take the world by storm. Hip-hop, and its aspirational relationship to fashion, would become such a force on the market that Tommy Hilfiger, in an effort to associate their brand with the cultural swell, would drive through the streets and hand out free clothing to kids on the corner.
Fresh Dressed is a fascinating, fun-to-watch chronicle of hip-hop, urban fashion, and the hustle that brought oversized pants and graffiti-drenched jackets from Orchard Street to high fashion's catwalks and Middle America shopping malls. Reaching deep to Southern plantation culture, the black church, and Little Richard, director Sacha Jenkins' music-drenched history draws from a rich mix of archival materials and in-depth interviews with rappers, designers, and other industry insiders, such as Pharrell Williams, Damon Dash, Karl Kani, Kanye West, Nas Jones, and Andre Leon Talley. The result is a passionate telling of how the reach for freedom of expression and a better life by a culture that refused to be squashed, would, through sheer originality and swagger, take over the mainstream. (this description of the film comes from www.Sundance.org)
Check out this interview with Deadline Now...
GOING CLEAR: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I had my own little up-close brush with the Church of Scientology. It was not a pleasant nor positive experience and that is all I will say about it in public. Having said that, this doc was the talk of the festival for one reason - Tom Cruise.
In Going Clear - Director Alex Gibney profiles eight former members of the Church of Scientology, including A-list Hollywood celebrities. Shining a light on how the church cultivates true believers, including their experiences and what they are willing to do in the name of religion, the film covers a broad range of material from the church's origins—punctuated by an intimate portrait of founder L. Ron Hubbard—to present-day practices and alleged abuses as reported in the media.
Check out this interview done by the Associated Press with Gibney and other key players associated with Going Clear...
LISTEN TO ME MARLON
LISTEN TO ME MARLON
There is no doubt Marlon Brando was one of the most brilliant acting talent of our time! Director/Screenwriter Stevan Riley gives us the greatest gift of all by allowing us to witness a master class in humanity and acting with The Godfather himself - Marlon Brando.
Listen to Me Marlon sheds light on the artist and the man. Charting Brando's exceptional career and extraordinary personal life with the actor himself as guide, the film explores his complexities, telling the story entirely in his own voice. No talking heads, no interviewees: just Brando on Brando.
Like most celebrities, we feel as though we know their whole story, but we only have the opportunity to scratch the surface. Marlon Brando was an activist against those whose voices were muffled in American and abroad, Black Americans, Indians and Tahitians. He used his status to shed light on these injustices at the risk of placing his own mortality in jeopardy.
His goodwill would soon be eclipsed by his womanizing, family tragedies and eccentric behavior as he became older in a business that doesn't embrace age or loss of good looks.
About 30 minutes too long, it was enjoyable and I wouldn't have traded that experience for anything in the world. Listening to Brando lit a fire under my behind creatively and I will forever be grateful for that master class in the dark.
The Sundance Film Festival deals keep on coming! A24 is finalizing a U.S. rights deal for Mississippi Grind worth just over $2 million...allegedly. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the film stars Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard and Robin Weigart.
Mississippi Grind is a drama is about a gambler who sets off on a road trip through the Southern U.S. with a young gambling addict in an attempt to change his luck. The film launched Saturday in the Premieres Section of the festival at the Eccles Theatre, with strong performances by Reynolds and Mendelsohn.
This film sort of felt like The Sting, but instead of centering on grifters we are engrossed in the world of two different types of gamblers. One gambles out of addiction and the other gambles literally for the high of it all and to make a little cash for his loved ones. Mississippi Grind took me on a roller coaster of emotions and often times I held my breath out of anticipation of what was to come next. It was intense in the way a good thriller keeps you on your toes with you thinking you have figured out the ending...only to be completely surprised in the end. Alfre Woodard, Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton are all equally compelling as a bookie and female escorts (respectively)
As I have said here many, many times, a good portion of the films that come out of Sundance end up being in future awards season conversation in the upcoming year...
I promise you...Australian Ben Mendelssohn and Ryan Reynolds will be on the lips of everyone when this film is released later in 2015. Here is an excerpt of an interview done with Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers with the two stars...
Los Angeles, CA – January 14, 2015 – Actor, Humanitarian, Author, Health and Wellness Ambassador and Philanthropist, Hill Harper, named Celebrity Ambassador for the 2015 Pan African Film & Arts Festival, to be held February 5 -16, 2015 in Los Angeles, CA.
Hill Harper is most recognizable for his starring role in the hit television drama, “CSI: NY,” where he played eccentric Dr. Sheldon Hawkes from 2004 until early 2013. During that time, Harper won three NAACP Image Awards for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Dr. Hawkes. He most recently starred on USA Network’s “Covert Affairs,” as CIA station chief Calder Michaels. Prior to “CSI: NY,” Harper co-starred as an ambitious undercover FBI operative on the CBS series, “The Handler,” which earned him a 2004 Golden Satellite Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. In 2014, People Magazine named Harper one of their Sexiest Men Alive. Additionally, Harper was awarded the best actor prize at the First Time Fest for his starring role in “1982,” which debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival. He will next be seen alongside Jennifer Lopez in the Universal Pictures film, “The Boy Next Door,” releasing January 23, 2015. Harper recently wrapped production on his next film, “Concussion,” alongside Will Smith.
In addition to his performing career, Harper has authored four New York Times bestsellers: “Letters to a Young Brother,” “Letters to a Young Sister,” “The Conversation” and “The Wealth Cure,” which chronicled his diagnosis with thyroid cancer and his journey to health. “Letters to a Young Brother” won several awards and was named “Best Book for Young Adults” by the American Library Association in 2007.
“I am honored to be the Celebrity Ambassador for such a prestigious and global film festival. PAFF has supported me in my career journey from the beginning and I look forward to giving back and supporting up and coming artists, as well as my peers,” says Harper.
In an effort to stop the high school drop out rate of underserved youth, Harper created the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, dedicated to empowering, encouraging and inspiring youth to succeed through mentorship, scholarship and grant programs. In August 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Hill Harper as a Member, President’s Cancer Panel; a key Administration post seeking to combat cancer and its devastating effects.
PAFF Founder and Executive Director, Ayuko Babu states, “Hill Harper’s talent and devotion to his community made him the perfect choice as the 2015 PAFF Celebrity Ambassador. We are looking forward to an amazing festival.”
The Pan African Film & Arts Festival has premiered a host of top black films including Think Like a Man, Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, About Last Night, Love & Basketball, and many more. Each Year PAFF presents awards of recognition to key industry players and rising stars who have soared in the film industry. Previous recipients include Forest Whitaker, Loretta Devine, Charles Dutton, Alfre Woodard, Idris Elba, Billy Dee Williams, Sidney Poitier, Nicole Beharie, Omari Hardwick, Phylicia Rashad, David Oyelowo, Nate Parker, Taraji P. Henson and a host of other extraordinary industry professionals both in front of and behind the camera.
PAFF collaborates with other festivals around the world, giving us an audience that is truly international. Not only are we the largest and most prestigious Black film festival in America, but PAFF-LA is the largest Black History Month event in the United States, during the month of February. The Pan African Film & Arts Festival is the quintessential Black festival.
The Pan African Film & Arts Festival is sponsored by Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, Cinemark, City of LA, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; Bank of America, HBO, Macy’s, Turkish Air; Union Bank, Film LA, Revolt TV, Water Replenishment District, South Africa Airways and Final Draft.
Festival passes and tickets are on sale now. For more information on PAFF, including screening schedule and events, please visit www.PAFF.org.
Established in 1992, The Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) is a non-profit 501(c)(b) corporation dedicated to the promotion of cultural understanding among peoples of African descent. PAFF is dedicated to racial tolerance through the exhibition of film, art and creative expression.
The Festival showcases over one hundred fifty (150) quality new films and over one hundred (100) fine artists and unique craft persons from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, South America, Europe, the South Pacific and Canada, all showcasing the diversity and complexity of people of African descent. The Festival also features special red carpet screenings and receptions, as well as a variety of other special events, including panels & workshops headed by industry professionals on various topics surrounding acting, directing and other film industry related topics.