Langfield Entertainment
40 Asquith Ave., Suite 207, Toronto, ON  M4W 1J6
(416) 677-5883


Updated:  February 3, 2005

The weather's been great and people's moods seem to be a little lighter when it's warmer.  Speaking of warmer, it's Bob Marley's 60th birthday today - an global icon whose impact across race, gender, musical genre and spiritualists never ceases to amaze me.  Here's an idea, come and toast his birthday at IRIE on Monday night - always a good time. 
 The upcoming events listed below promise to give us an assortment of fun as well including the Super Bowl party at Kabin (any wardrobe malfunctions predicted?) and the special Black History Month celebrations including the Soweto Gospel Choir at the Hummingbird and the enormous list of events at Harbourfront's Kuumba.
 How about something for your funny bone?  You've got to see the movie Hitch - my recap is below.
 Check out the rest of the entertainment news below - MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, OTHER NEWS, and SPORTS NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTS.






Super Bowl Party – Sunday, February 6

Do you like to have fun?  Do you like to eat free food?  Would you like to be apart of an A-list event?  Are you going to watch the big game?

If you said YES to all of these questions than you need to join 4th and 1 Events on Sunday, February 6th, 2005 for the Super Bowl Party of the year!!  Come down to the new Kabin Club (214 Adelaide St W-formerly Jai Bar) and enjoy the game on a large game screen, 2 Plasma TVs, free catered food, VIP Service and a bikini contest.  Enjoy the ultimate sporting experience alongside your host Much Music VJ Matte Babel and the beautiful girls from Molson's. 

There will be giveaways ALL night a DJ and after party all for ONLY $10.00 

Admittance to this event is by ticket only.

Kabin Club (formerly Jai Bar)
214 Adelaide St. W.-
For tickets/ Group rates call Benjamin 416-320-5907 or e-mail





KUUMBA at Harbourfront Centre

(Jan. 18, 2005) KUUMBA means Creativity in Swahili.  This year's edition of Kuumba at Harbourfront Centre celebrates African Heritage Month with two jam-packed weekends of music concerts and dance premieres, engaging and provocative readings and panels, a film series curated by the Get Reel Film Festival, a visual arts exhibition premiere and a variety of family activities.  Kuumba's full tenth anniversary activities begin on February 5 and February 6 and continue February 12 and February 13, 2005. All events, except where noted, are free admission and appropriate for all ages. Complete Kuumba program below: The Kuumba cultural programme is also part of Harbourfront Centre's Winter exploration of HE. The changing nature of the male identity and shifting notions of man's role in society are embedded as sub-themes in select Kuumba events. For more information the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit .  All Kuumba events are located at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto).




Soweto Gospel Choir’s Toronto Performance - February 17, 2005

Source:  Hummingbird Centre For the Performing Arts

The renowned Soweto Gospel Choir, referred to as the “Voices From Heaven”, will give a one-night Toronto performance at the Hummingbird Centre For the Performing Arts on Thursday, February 17 at 8:00 p.m. as part of their North American premier tour with only two stops in Canada.  Torontonians will experience the exuberance and inspirational performance from the 24-piece ensemble singing their South African spiritual songs as well as other popular songs including Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross.  Founded in 2002, the voices for the Choir were selected from various church choirs as well as from the general public to create this ensemble, which includes traditional African drummers and dancers. 

Under the musical directorship of David Mulovhedzi, the Choir has become renowned for uplifting music, colourful costumes and dance.  The Choir has received many prestigious international awards.  Most recently, Soweto Gospel Choir won Best Choir of the year 2003 at the American Gospel Music Awards and also at the 2003 South African Music Awards.  The Soweto Gospel Choir is an ambassador for the helpless children of Soweto and victims of HIV/Aids.  Proceeds from their concerts support these initiatives through their Charity Nkosi’s Haven/Vukani (meaning to arise, do something!).  Their first CD Voices From Heaven will be introduced on their North American tour.

The Hummingbird Centre For the Performing Arts is Canada’s premier performance venue and an historical and cultural landmark in Toronto.  It is operated for the benefit of the people of Toronto and the continuation of cultural diversity and entertainment excellence in Canada.  The Soweto Gospel Choir concert is presented by The Toronto Star.

Hummingbird Centre For the Performing Arts
1 Front Street East, Toronto.
Tickets: $25, $35, $45 & $55
Tickets can be purchased by phone at 416-872-2262 or on line at, by visiting Hummingbird Centre Box Office or any Ticketmaster location.
Groups of 10 + (416) 393-7463
For more information visit or 

For further information, please contact: Andrea Delvaillé , Andrea Delvaillé & Associates, Telephone: 416-496-8413




Irie Mondays

”Irie has servers who are nice to diners, and who seem to be at peace with serving food and believe that all diners belong, even those who are neither wearing black, nor under 40 nor skin and bones.”

- Joanne Kates, Globe and Mail

”I loved the Afro-Caribbean ambience, flaming torches, tribal masks, charming service and a pervasive mood so laid back it flirted with the horizontal.”

-James Chatto, Toronto Life Magazine

Let Irie awaken your senses.  Irie Mondays continue – food – music – culture. 
Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.  
10:00 pm






Hitch Recap

By now you've probably seen the trailers for Hitch starring Will Smith and Kevin James.  It looks cutesy humorous, perhaps a good date movie.  Probably one of those movies where the trailers are the funniest parts.  Let me tell you, this movie delivers c-o-m-e-d-y.  I was one of the lucky UMAC members that was fortunate to get to see the screening of Hitch on Monday night.  I went thinking that it would be mildly funny and I'd get a good giggle.  I did not expect the full assault of comedy on my being!  I think I laughed out loud at every single spot the writers wanted me too.  The dating advice is surprisingly insightful and it is merged with impeccable comedic timing.  The comedy duo of Smith and James is one of the most brilliant collabs in my most recent memory. 

Will Smith stars as Alex 'Hitch' Hitchens, the “date doctor” who specializes in first impressions, he customizes and orchestrates a client's first three dates and has secretly been responsible for hundreds of New York City weddings. Eva Mendes co-stars as Sara, a gossip reporter for a daily tabloid who, after a chance meeting with Hitch, finds her professional life and personal life on a collision course & makes Hitch re-evaluate his game!  In the midst of all this, Hitch has his hands full with Albert (Kevin James), a sweet but socially inept man who has enlisted Hitch's services to woo a wealthy Manhattanite, Amber Valletta.   Be on the lookout for this rising star!

So many things about this film caught be by surprise.  I've always found Will Smith funny to watch.  Just funny (ok and fine!).  Yes, I've watched the King of Queens and Kevin James got a quiet giggle out of me.  And Eva Mendes - I never quite understood her as one of those Revlon babes, alongside Halle Berry.  I mean, cute but I didn't get it. 

Right from the opening scene they had me.  The smooth Will Smith tapped into new territory putting himself out there as awkward and vulnerable, in a player kinda way, the physical comedy of Kevin James was side-splitting, in a charming way, and Eva Mendes was absolutely charming and endearing not to mention funny.   The timing was rhythmic even when it was predictable. 

Go see this romantic comedy!  You won't be disappointed.  I'm going to see it at least one more time.  And you might just pick up a few dating tips, just in time for Valentines Day!  OK, so now you know I’m a sucker for romantic comedies but keep in mind that the men were laughing just as hard!







Motivational Note: The Power Has And Always Will Be Within You

You can achieve everything you have ever wanted to have, experience, or become. The power has and always will be within you, but nothing will happen until you get motivated to make something happen. The following tips and ideas will help you to get and stay motivated to change your life and achieve your desires.

1.             Let Go of the Past - Before you can create a better future, you must let go of the pains in your past. Failing once does not mean you will fail forever. Learn from your history, but don't let it stand as an obstacle between you and your dreams.
2.             Remember Success - Just as important as learning from and overcoming past failure is recalling past success. It doesn't matter who you are, you have succeeded at something at sometime in your past. Don't gloss over these moments. Use them to remind you that you can in fact achieve your goals.
3.             Accept the Possibilities - It's possible. The dreams you hold in your heart but push to the back of your mind are within your reach. Accept the fact that you can create a better life. This will serve as the springboard of belief you need to succeed.







Andre 3000 Helps Out Esthero

By Karen Bliss for Lowdown

The mystery man on Esthero's long-awaited follow-up to 1998's "Breath From Another" debut is Andre 3000 of Grammy-winning duo Outkast.  Up until recently, the identity of the hip hop star on her song "Junglebook" has been under wraps. The album, "Wikked Lil' Grrls," is tentatively scheduled for a April 12 release in Canada.  The song, which has a light African pop feel, is a piece of escapism about living in the jungle. "I told him what it was about," says Esthero, whose album is a sexy, sophisticated blend of jazz, pop and urban musics. "It's basically a fantasy song of being tired of your surroundings and the idea of moving to the jungle and living in a tree fort, dancing with fireflies -- the desire for magic to be back in your life."  The Toronto-based singer envisioned Andre on the track, but wanted him to get a sense of the album. She gave him four songs from "Wikked," including the title track from her teaser EP, "We R in need of a musical ReVoLuTIoN!," plus "Every Day Is A Holiday (With You)," a song she co-penned with her friend, Sean Lennon.  "I wanted Andre to want to be a part of the record, not just part of a song," explains Esthero. "I thought it would be a big mistake to just send him the song because I don't know if he would've done it, but he called me a couple of days later and said., 'What are we doing and when?'"  Last July, she flew down to Atlanta's famed Stankonia Studios, where Andre laid down his vocal. After hanging out in the lounge as the singer created, he emerged with a cool part about making love like animals and feelin' cannibal. "I'll eat you alive," he sings on the otherwise tame song.  "When I heard the line, I thought he said, 'I'll eat you all night,' and I was laughing. I said to him, 'I don't think you can say that,' and he said, 'Noooooo, I'm saying, 'I'll eat you alive -- like a cannibal,'" she recounts. "He's so talented. It's so great to be around him, so humble, so fun. I'll remember the night in the studio with him forever."

Wikked also includes a plaintive gospel blues track called "Gone," with Cee-Lo Green of Goodie Mob. Esthero had worked with the group back in 1998 for a remix of Breath's "World I Know (Country Livin')" for the Slam soundtrack. On the other end of the spectrum is a pure happy pop track, "Everyday Is A Holiday (With You)," one of two songs co-written two years ago with Lennon at his New York home.  "The song was inspired by something Sean had already written, a song called "Happiness,' which we call The Muppet Song," says Esthero. "It had like that Henry Mancini (vibe), so I started writing something like that. The song was pretty much done. He helped me write the bridge and we sat there at the piano and just laid some background vocals and ideas, and that was that. He's got a beautiful left hand. He made the song come to life."  "Working with Esthero is like mainlining inspiration," says the effusive Lennon. "She's like inter-venus music. If songwriting is a highway, Esthero is a souped-up pink Lamborgini. If you don't wear a seat-belt, you get musical whiplash. 'Every Day...' was a garden already in bloom, she simply wanted someone to walk through it with. Lucky me."




Fired Nickelback Member 'Betrayed'

By Mike Ross -- Edmonton Sun

(Jan. 28, 2005) Former Nickelback drummer Ryan Vikedal would like to set the record straight: His departure from the band was no "departure." He was fired.  "I still don't know the reason," he says during a phone call to the Sun yesterday.  "We met with producer Bob Rock before Christmas holidays and everything seemed fine, but when I got back from the holidays, I was told I was fired."  Vikedal says he was taken completely by surprise and had been ready to start work on the next album when he got the news.  He says he wasn't impressed by how singer Chad Kroeger and the other musicians handled it - summoning him to the tour manager's house for a meeting on Jan. 3 only to be told "my heart wasn't in it," the 29-year-old drummer says.  "And then they went on to say that I'm not quite the rock drummer that they were looking for - and this after three albums and 17 million records sold. "I had to direct the meeting because they kept blabbing about my playing and that I wasn't happy with the band. It was just a bunch of lame excuses because no one could tell me the deal.  "I had to tell them to cut the s--- and get to the point. And even then they couldn't bring themselves to tell me I was done."  Vikedal says his replacement will be Three Doors Down drummer Daniel Adair, who is from Vancouver.  Nickelback and Three Doors Down toured together last year and Vikedal says he figures the change was in the works even back then.  On the prospect of Three Doors Down now needing a drummer, he shoots back, "No, thanks. I'm done with them."  Now, he says, "I feel like there's a weight off my shoulders but I'd like the honest truth to come out.

"I feel pretty betrayed by what was once called a family."  Vikedal says he's going to take a year off to study music in Boston, with teachers from the Berklee College of Music.  Nickelback, meanwhile, will not be working with Bob Rock after all, according to Vikedal, as Kroeger will again produce the band himself for the follow-up to the multi-platinum selling album, The Long Road.  Following the hit single How You Remind Me in 2001, the former Hanna group became one of the biggest modern rock bands in the world.  Of the snippets of new Nickelback material Vikedal has been privy to hear, he offers a one-word description: "Ballad-y."  A spokesman at Nickelback's Los Angeles management company denied that Vikedel has been replaced, saying he and the band have just "parted ways." The band itself was not available for comment.




Adult? Contemporary?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vit Wagner, Pop Critic

(Feb. 1, 2005) It has to count as at least a small irony that Liam Titcomb has a song on the soundtrack to Childstar, the satirical feature film about a precocious and pampered young celebrity.  In music industry terms, it makes perfect sense. The Childstar CD and Titcomb's self-titled debut both arrive in stores today, courtesy of the same label, Sony Music Canada, so there's the obvious cross-marketing aspect.  On the other hand, Titcomb, a 17-year-old Toronto-born and -bred singer/songwriter whose tunes are being pitched at listeners twice his age, displays none of the pampered, self-involved egomania that often goes with early success and adoration. Maybe it's because he has already experienced enough of the music industry — directly and indirectly — to have developed a guarded, practical perspective.  In the almost four years since Titcomb was first approached by Sony, the upheaval caused by the company's merger with BMG has resulted in the departure of the label rep who discovered him (Mike Roth) and the company president who oversaw his early efforts (Denise Donlon).  Although Titcomb speaks well of current Sony/BMG head Lisa Zbitnew, the attendant uncertainty, including the postponement of the album's release from last November, gave considerable pause.  On the other hand, it hasn't hurt that Liam's father Brent is also a musician, having cut his teeth in the '60s folk group Three's a Crowd, before releasing a handful of well-regarded solo albums.  After driving Liam to a recent day of interviews at the label's offices, Brent stayed on the periphery — an interested, rather than hovering, presence.  "I've learned a lot from my father," says Liam, "but mostly through osmosis rather than through him actually teaching me things.  "He never really sat down and taught me the guitar or anything, but he's always had really good suggestions because he's been doing this for so long. It was good to have him around when the contract was being negotiated."  It was actually at a CD launch for Brent four years ago that Liam, who opened the show, was first approached by Sony. By then, the 13-year-old had already been playing for six years and had been hanging around gigs for even longer.

"I was always backstage or onstage, listening to my father," he recalls. "A lot of it was about listening to his music, but I also got to hear a lot of other great musicians at festivals during the summer."  One of those other musicians was Soozi Schlanger, singer and lead fiddle player for the Cajun-style ensemble Swamperella. "It's such a passionate kind of music that listening to it as a kid seemed so amazing," he says.  At age 7, Titcomb began studying the violin under Schlanger. A year later, he was off to fiddle camp in West Virginia. Soon after, he was popping up onstage as a Swamperella accompanist.  Eventually, Titcomb picked up the guitar and, after meeting Roth, started writing the songs for his debut album. With the help of tunesmith Tom Wilson of Blackie & the Rodeo Kings and others, Titcomb wrote or co-wrote 10 of the album's 11 tracks.  "My So Called Life," which he penned with Roth, is an autobiographical take on Titcomb's musical upbringing.  "It's written for people who wouldn't necessarily know what it's like to grow up in the folk scene. My dad didn't play Woodstock, like it says in the song. But it's a reference that people will understand."  The disc, which features guest vocals by Chantal Kreviazuk, is more pop than folk. But, Titcomb openly allows, it's the kind of pop labelled "adult contemporary" that is more likely to appeal to his parents' generation than his own.  In that sense, Titcomb is no different from a whole slew of teen talents — from English soul singer Joss Stone to Canadians such as blues tyke Jimmy Bowskill and R&B up-and-comer Keshia Chanté — who are casting beyond the pubescent pop demographic bracketed by Avril Lavigne and Hilary Duff.  "Unfortunately, if you think of what kids want to listen to these days, it wouldn't be my record," says Titcomb, who toured last year with Great Big Sea. "But I'm not afraid of the idea that my music could appeal to anyone between the ages of two and 92. That's great.  "At Great Big Sea shows, those audiences are really varied. There are eight-year-old girls there. But there are also grandparents who come because they enjoy the music. So that was a really great tour for me because I got to reach a lot of different people. I just want to make music because I enjoy making music and I know people can enjoy it too."  The Childstar CD's cover carries the tag line, "When you're only famous for fifteen minutes ... every second counts."  Titcomb, by contrast, doesn't seem to care if he is ever famous, so long as his career lasts much longer than the proverbial quarter-hour.  "I'm not going into this thinking that I'm going to sell a million records so I can be rich. I was raised to do music because I loved it. And if I can pay the bills doing something I love, what could be better than that?"

Hear Titcomb's music and see his video Sad Eyes at




Jam Master Jay Foundation, DMC, adidas Planning Gala Event

Excerpt from - By Clover Hope

(Feb. 2, 2005) The Jam Master Jay Foundation for Music and adidas will celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the renowned adidas Superstar sneaker, dubbed the "shell top" and made famous by hip-hop icons Run DMC, while commemorating the life of slain Run DMC DJ Jam Master Jay.  The gala benefit takes place February 25 in New York City and represents the official kickoff of Jam Master Jay Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides funding and resources for public school music education programs.

 "This is going to be a real, life-changing organization. We're gonna impact lives and we're gonna really make a difference," DMC told "We're gonna do everything that hip-hop is supposed to be doing right now." All proceeds from the benefit go to the Jam Master Jay Foundation for Music, a new organization founded by Jay's wife Terri Mizell, separate from the organization founded by Jay's mother Connie Mizell-Perry and brother Marvin Thompson.  DMC says he hopes to keep Jam Master Jay's legacy alive by serving as the spokesman for the foundation. "Even though he's not physically with us, I'm gonna do everything in my power to make sure people remember his name," said DMC. "At the same time, I'm gonna be the vehicle ¬ and do everything that Jay would have been doing if he was still here on earth with us today." The JMJ: Superstar featured event at the gala includes appearances by Missy Elliott, Kid Rock, DMC, Chuck D and other top names in music, fashion and entertainment. "This is what what Jay represented, this is what Run-DMC represented, this is what Hip-Hop represented," DMC said of the organization and what it stands for. Jam Master Jay was gunned down in his Queens, New York recording studio on October 30, 2002.  Despite several leads and several witnesses to the murder, no one has ever been arrested for the murder of the legendary DJ, who helped spread Hip-Hop music across the globe.




The Roots Host 2nd Annual Pre-Grammy Party

Excerpt from

(Jan. 28, 2005) The Roots, called one of the "twenty greatest live acts in the world" (Rolling Stone readers' poll '03), will host their 2nd annual pre-Grammy party, featuring a live three-hour jam session with special guest host Jada Pinkett-Smith. The event will be held February 12 in Los Angeles at an undisclosed location.  The Roots are nominated for two Grammys including Best Urban/Alternative Performance for the song "Star" and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for the song "Don't Say Nuthin'." Both songs are from their album, 'The Tipping Point' which debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 chart.  The Roots held their first pre-Grammy party in 2003 as an alternative to the more business oriented Grammy parties. The jam session offers the large core of musicians and executives a chance to entertain and be entertained. As with jam sessions, the emphasis will be on the freedom of expression sparked with the energy of live musical support from The Roots. "Most industry parties are a little too stuffy and are limited to performances by one or two artists. We created this event in order to put the focus back on the music and give major artists as well as new talent a chance to take part in a business and musical exchange," said The Roots founder and drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson. At last year's jam session some of the industry's major movers and shakers made guest appearances including Norah Jones, Common, Alicia Keys Anthony Hamilton, Sharon Stone and Omar Epps. Aisha Tyler served as the guest host with The Roots with lead emcee for The Roots, Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter. This year's anticipated guest list includes: Jay-Z, Mos Def, Usher, John Mayer, Talib Kweli, Dave Navarro, Jill Scott, Dave Chappelle, Tracee Ellis-Ross, Pharrell, Lawrence Fishburn, Fiona Apple, Spike Jonez and Camp Freddy.  Jada Pinkett-Smith will perform with her band Wicked Wisdom. The Roots are:  Black Thought (emcee), ?uestlove (drums), Leonard "Hub" Hubbard (bass) and Kamal Gray (keyboards). Support musicians include Frankie Knuckles (percussion); Captain Kirk (guitar) and Martin Luther (vocals, guitar).

For press information contact Paula Witt ( 718-522-7171 x 26. To secure an artist for performance contact Tina Farris (




BeBe Winans Inspires People To Dream With New Uplifting CD

Source:  Susan Blond, Inc.

(New York, NY – January 14, 2005)   On the heels of the breakout success of his best-selling holiday album, My Christmas Prayer (which topped four separate Billboard catalogue charts in December), gospel legend BeBe Winans will release his first studio album in four years on February 22, 2005, just in time to celebrate Black History Month. In these uncertain times, people look to things of substance to provide solace, and BeBe’s inspirational new album, Dream, is just that. From the reassuring “Help Is On The Way,” to the embracing “Safe From Harm,” to the album’s inspiring centrepiece, “I Have a Dream,” BeBe Winans has created an album that truly means something.

The album’s first single is the modern gospel hymn "Safe From Harm," a magnetic song made even more relevant in light of these trying times. Its message reaches beyond the borders of the music world, touching the hearts and minds of those who need words of hope and reassurance. “Safe From Harm” is the #1 most added song at Gospel Radio this week, with 12 adds. The first single for urban adult radio is “Love Me Anyway,” which showcases the singer’s skill at marrying the universality of secular and spiritual love.

Dream is BeBe’s first release on his own The Movement Group (TMG) label, which he founded two years ago. It is also his first release in partnership with Still Waters, the brand-new inspirational division of Hidden Beach Recordings, home to such standout artists as Jill Scott, Mike Phillips and Kindred The Family Soul. The album also features as its centrepiece “I Have a Dream,” a moving number comprised entirely of text from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It is presented with the authorization of the King Estate and is the first time the King Estate has allowed a song to be released that contains words entirely taken from Dr. King’s speech.

For his groundbreaking work as a Gospel/R&B vocalist, writer, and producer, BeBe Winans has won four GRAMMY awards, ten Dove Awards, six Stellar Awards, two NAACP Awards, and a Soul Train Award. A member of the famed Winans family, BeBe teamed up with sister CeCe for their 1986 debut album. The duo recorded a total of five albums, earning two GRAMMYs together, before parting to work on solo projects. In 1997 BeBe debuted with a self-titled album, and followed it with 2000’s Love And Freedom, and 2003’s concert recording Live And Up Close. Most recently he has released a Christmas album entitled My Christmas Prayer, which features a duet with Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas. In addition to his own work, BeBe Winans has contributed songs and vocals to projects by a diverse array of other artists, including Brandy, Dave Koz, Hezekiah Walker, Kelly Price, Yolanda Adams, and Stephanie Mills.




Allure: Through The Fire

Excerpt from - By Nia Beckwith

When you enter the music industry you take a chance. You work hard to perfect your craft, hope and pray to get discovered - and when you finally get that big break, you never know what tomorrow brings. The ladies of the group Allure - Alia Davis, Lalisha McLean, and Akissa Mendez - took a chance. After signing with two records labels that eventually folded, Allure can vouch that the music industry isn’t always glamour and gold.   Hoping to get past misfortune and gain a fresh start, Allure signed with Truwarier Records headed by Indiana Pacer, Ron Artest. When it came time to release their third album, Chapter Three, in November of 2004, things took a turn for Allure. With high hopes that things would be better this time around; the light at the end of the tunnel eventually darkened again. Ron Artest would be involved in one of the biggest brawls in NBA history which would impact Truwarier Records, and affect promotion and distribution of Allure’s album.   In dealing with such adversity, it might come as a surprise that these ladies have been able to maintain a positive outlook on their musical careers. So much has happened, but at the same time Allure let Alternatives know that they plan to stay strong, continue promoting their album, and won’t let hard times keep them down. Alternatives: How have you all dealt with being signed to two other labels that folded prior to Truwarier Records? What’s been your motivation to keep going?

Lalisha: Definitely it’s been challenging, but we feel that we’ve been put here and through these situations for a reason. We didn’t know that when we were signed to Crave or MCA that either was going to fold. Things happen, and God gave us the strength and surrounded us with people to endure and go through these things and still be okay. We feel everything has happened for a reason and it’s made us stronger.

AHHA: What lessons do you think that you’ve learned dealing with both Crave and MCA?

Lalisha: We’ve learned how to pick our team, be it management or an accountant. We just don’t pick people the company wants us to choose just to keep the project moving. We pick people that we trust now.

AHHA: Hooking up with Ron Artest and Truwarier, how did that come about?

Akissa: We had a mutual friend that was working alongside Ron and he brought it to our attention that Ron wanted to open up a label and was looking to sign a girl group. It kind of seemed like it was almost meant to happen, because we didn’t have a situation and he had one that he was trying to open up, and everything pretty much happened from there.

AHHA: Did you have any other deals on the table around the time you signed with Truwarier?

Alia: We were dealing with other major labels, but we thought why not try the independent route. Ron was tying to start the label and he explained that people weren’t taking him seriously because he was a basketball player. He believed that we could all help each other. In turn, we thought being independent we could have more control and maybe then people would start to take Ron more seriously because here we were an established group signing to his label. Things didn’t happen like they were supposed to, and this is just going to be another experience that we learn from. We’re just doing what we have to do to promote our album.

AHHA: The incident that Ron Artest was involved in back in November, when the fight evolved between the NBA Pacers and Pistons as well as fans, resulted in him being suspended for the remainder of the season. Do you feel that it impacted you?

Alia: Definitely. A lot of things have happened to us in our careers that have been out of our control. We thought that any publicity was good publicity, it was then we learned that it wasn’t. We sat down with Ron and discussed how things were supposed to go to with promotion, marketing, and just keeping us out there, but after the incident things didn’t go as planned. We stuck to out part of the bargain, which was deliver a good album on time. We put a lot into it. We wrote about 85% of the songs, stuck with producers that we have a history with, and did collaborations with Joe Budden and Elephant Man. Despite the backlash, if they would have kept to their part of the bargain, we feel that our album still could have been productive. A lot of deadlines weren’t met, so right now it’s up to us to fill in the voids and show everybody how important our album is to us.

Akissa: As far as us being impacted with this whole thing with Ron, that definitely back fired in the most negative way, because now everybody thinks that he’s a knucklehead and they’re pretty much looking at us now like we’re some dumb broads that he’s just rolling with. But that’s not the case, we’re going to have to do what we have to do to make sure our albums is heard and we’re perceived the right way. Throughout this whole situation, we have to thank our distributor Lightyear/WEA because they’ve been very helpful through all of this.

AHHA: Did you have any thoughts about leaving Truwarier or receive any new offers?

Alia: People are offering, but we’re the type of people that like to give people a chance. There’s a relationship there between us and Ron, and we try to show that we’re there for him, but at the same time we’re not going to hold up our careers because we’re trying to be there for him.

AHHA: So what’s next for Allure?

Alia: We recently did a song with Tom Jones, and we’re about to go follow that hit over in Europe. And we’ve just been writing to increase our catalogue so that we when start jumping on the bandwagon again we definitely have a large catalogue to sell.

Akissa: Pretty much whatever opportunities come along, we just pray that whatever God brings to the table he’ll bring it in time. We’ll still be promoting our album so everybody can hear it, and hopefully that will open up other doors for other things to come in. Honestly we’re just being patient as possible and plan to take things one step at a time.

For more information on Allure and Chapter Three, go to:




Nina Sky: Keep It Moving

Excerpt from - By Kathy Iandoli

When Nicole and Natalie formed Nina Sky and dropped their hit single "Move Ya Body" in 2004, the world was not ready to give them the credit they deserved. The months that followed transformed the twins from an assumed one hit wonder to a worldwide household name. From collaborations with Alchemist and Prodigy on "Hold You Down" and N.O.R.E on "Oye Mi Canto" to the release of their follow-up single "Turnin' Me On" [remix featuring Pitbull], Nina Sky has been proving their staying power.  Their impressive talent ranges from voice to lyrics to production. Nina Sky's sound is a combination Hip-Hop, Reggae, R&B, Reggaeton, and a touch of Soul. It's no wonder why Hot 97/Sirius Satellite's Cipha Sounds readily picked them up and added them to his Jack Move roster. Alternatives had the opportunity to catch up with the twins to discuss the ride through their ongoing wave of success. Alternatives: It's apparent from your lyrics and overall sound that you have some old souls at age 18. What's your musical upbringing?

Nicole: We grew up listening to all different kinds of music. Our stepfather was a deejay and he would play everything from like old school Hip-Hop like Run DMC to deep House music to Rock music. We listened to everything growing up.

AHHA: What's the biggest misconception about Nina Sky?

Natalie: Well people think that we're a gimmick, that we're not really twins, and that we really can't sing. People don't know that we write all of our own music and anything we've collaborated on. Plus, Nicole plays the guitar and deejays and I write alot...people don't know that about us.

AHHA: What artists are currently taking up residence in your CD player?

Nicole: John Legend.

Natalie: Yes! Everyday Nicole listens to John Legend. I've been listening to The Game.

AHHA: Describe your journey from the release of ‘Move Ya Body’ to the release of ‘Turnin' Me On’.

Nicole: Everything for us happened really fast. When ‘Move Ya Body’ dropped, it was dropped independently. We had no idea what was going to come. We had no idea that the song was going to take off. We did the song one day, and like two months later we were like performing - and this was without support from the record label; without the single being officially released. Then last year, we've traveled the world; we've done all these collaborations with other artists. Now we're releasing our second single ‘Turnin' Me On’ in the same way as ‘Move Ya Body’ where our management team [Jack Move] and people like that are pushin' our record and it's getting played everywhere. Like the song is huge in Miami. It's getting played every hour on the hour. I mean, it's moving slowly, but it's moving like ‘Move Ya Body’.

Natalie: And we're working on our next album; gathering ideas for that.

AHHA: Had you any doubts in your minds that your success would continue after ‘Move Ya Body’?

Nicole: No, because we have really good people surrounding us, and me and Natalie work really, really work. We're constantly writing music and coming up with new ideas. We're ready to work 24 hours a day, and it's a dream come true for us. To be able to do something that you love is like the greatest thing in the world, and we want to continue doing it. So we work really hard every day to keep things going for us. We make sure that we're surrounded by the right people and have good team support.

AHHA: You've been touring in Europe. Where was your favourite country so far?

Natalie: Germany. And our favourite city's Berlin. Berlin is almost like downtown Manhattan like the Village. The art is crazy. It just gives off really good vibes over there and really good energy.

AHHA: On the album, there's a balance between ballads and party jams. What are your favourite tracks?

Natalie: My favourite track on the album is ‘Surely Missed’ because it was very personal for me. I wrote that for two of my friends.

Nicole: My favourite song on the album is ‘Your Time’. I like it because it's a really feel good song that everyone can relate to. I think everyone has been through that.

AHHA: You sang ‘Holla Back’ at the Thanksgiving Day 2004 Parade. Will that be the next single?

Nicole: Nah, not here.

Natalie: Actually that is our next single in Iceland. So they're playing it in Iceland along with ‘Turnin' Me On’ and ‘Move Ya Body’ so it's kinda crazy.

Nicole: They [Thanksgiving Day Parade] felt it was the most appropriate song to sing for kids as opposed to ‘Turnin' Me On’ so we said, ‘Okay, cool!’

AHHA: You have some amazing slow jams on the album like ‘Temperature's Rising’ and ‘Faded Memories’. Do you plan to release any slow jams with this album or keep it to dance singles?

Nicole: Hopefully our next single, if we release a third single [off this album], will be a slow song. But with our next album, if we don't release a slow single off this one; we hope to release a slow single on our next one. It's to show people that we can do that too.

Natalie: We've done Reggaeton, we've done the Hip-Hop track, we've done the Reggae track, now hear us blow!

AHHA: How did the Alchemist collab for ‘Hold You Down’ happen?

Nicole: Well, Alchemist had already put down the song, but it didn't have a hook. Alchemist is cool with Cipha Sounds, who is one of our managers and producer on the album, and I guess they were like, ‘Well let's see what they can write’. He gave us the track without a hook. Natalie wrote the hook, we sent it back, and [Alchemist] liked it alot. He mixed down what we gave him and released it as a single. We had no idea it was gonna happen like that.

AHHA: How has working with Cipha Sounds and Jack Move benefited your career?

Nicole: It's benefited our career a lot. We have a really good relationship with our management.

Natalie: They believe in us. They want us to be creative; be in the studio when we don't have to be and recording. They support us, and they push our records. Even when the label doesn't, our management does.

Nicole: A lot of the success of Nina Sky has happened at that level, not even reaching the record label level. It just happened from a management level. ‘Turnin' Me On’ hasn't even been put out by Universal Records yet, but has been pushed by Jack Move and now it's getting played on the radio. So it's all about having the right people around us and a good management team - people who are really down for us and work really well with us. We're really lucky to have people like that supporting Nina Sky and our movement.

AHHA: With the success of ‘Oye Mi Canto’ do you plan on doing more Reggaeton tracks?

Natalie: Hopefully! We do everything!

Nicole: Yeah! We love Reggaeton music and we were happy to be involved with that project, especially since it basically started Reggaeton getting played on mainstream radio like Hot 97 [New York] and the video getting played on BET and MTV. So of course we'd like to be in it and maybe make some more songs like that. Definitely.

AHHA: You have several remixes released on the street like ‘Time to Go’ [featuring Angie Martinez] and ‘Fall Back’ along with the TOK remix for ‘Gal Yuh Lead’. Where can the average non-bootlegging individual find those?

Nicole: Well we put out our own mixtape so we bootleg our own stuff. Those songs like ‘Time To Go’ and ‘Fall Back’ were from our first mixtape. The second mixtape is gonna be ten times hotter than the first one! Look out for that. We always have our mixtapes going. We're taking the unsigned artist approach, but we're signed. We wanna hustle hard and be known for hustling hard. So if you wanna hear stuff that's not being played on the radio, you can hear it on the mixtape too. It's going from the bottom up, working hard even with a big record label contract. So look out for our second mixtape!

AHHA: What are some future collaborations in the works?

Natalie: We actually did a collaboration with Aventura. There are a lot of people we'd like to work with. Certain producers like 7 Aurelius, Alchemist, Neptunes, people like that. Other artists like Kanye West, Alicia Keys, possibly Outkast. Also Lloyd Banks, because he is from Queens too, so I think that would be a really dope collaboration.

AHHA: What's next for Nina Sky?

Nicole: Well we're coming up with ideas for our next album; always recording. We are into all different kinds of art like acting and writing. Don't be surprised if you see us on TV. Plus, I'm a deejay and have been doing parties with Natalie hosting. We're everywhere! We dibble and dabble!

Natalie: Well put!



Tweet: Welcome Back

Excerpt from - By Dove ~Sheepish Lordess of Chaos~ and Jesse Fairfax

The road to stardom, fame and even personal happiness is filled with cobblestones and an obstacle at every turn. Nearly three years ago, songstress Tweet won mass acclaim with Southern Hummingbird – an album filled with heartfelt songs of pain, joy, love, and sorrow that audiences everywhere could relate to. Her lead single “Oops (Oh My)”, an upbeat Timbaland production on ‘self-love’, opened ears and minds everywhere. The next single, “Call Me”, was featured in a Verizon Wireless ad campaign, which made her a household name.  Tweet developed a passion for music from having parents in gospel groups who, along with her siblings, played many instruments. Her dream of being successful landed her in a group with a production deal that never saw the light of day. Deep depression and a severe lack of funds landed her back home with her parents in Florida. As she was considering giving up her dream, she received a fateful call from Missy Elliott, who needed backup vocals on “Take Away” for her 2001 album So Addictive. That was Tweet’s formal introduction to the world.   Tweet is back this spring with her sophomore album, It’s Me Again. The lead single “Turn Da Lights Off”, which is produced by Kwame and features her mentor Missy Elliott, has been getting plenty of burn on radio and video shows across the country. Tweet recently had an enlightening conversation with Alternatives on who she is, where she’s been and her new album - which reflects on more joyous times. Alternatives: You really put a lot of emphasis on all the details and the musicality of your live show. What is the difference between the way your albums sound - which is a lot more synthesized, kind of futuristic sound - going to your live show, which has a lot more almost old-school, old soul vibe to it?

Tweet: Well, that’s because I am old-school, and I’m from the church and that’s live musicians and things like that. Some of the new songs on this album have live drums and live stuff like that, but you rarely can do that in the studio. Usually I’m kinda laid back in the studio, but when I get on the stage it’s all about presenting myself and my music the way I want everybody to hear it - you get to be more free on the stage. I think that’s why I decided to take a live band every time I go out - you really can feel it more.

AHHA: Definitely, and you can see that in your performance too - you just look very happy when you perform.

Tweet: You don’t really have to stick to a program, you can jump from song to song or sing the song as long as you want, cut it you can just do whatever you want to do on stage.

AHHA: You have talked about battling a period in your life where you were really depressed and sad because your music career wasn’t going in the direction that you wanted it to.

Tweet: Right.

AHHA: Ultimately, you’re living proof that persistence and timing is everything. When you look back on everything that you’ve been through to this point, what do you think has been your biggest accomplishment, personally and professionally?

Tweet: Personally, my relationship with God has gotten stronger and through that I think that’s my biggest accomplishment. I didn’t know how much it means to have a relationship with God and to depend on him. So that’s my biggest accomplishment, from moving one state of faith into another state of faith. Professionally it’s just about reaching so many people that I didn’t know. Still today I have people coming and saying that my [first] album is still in their cd player and they listen to the whole record. I didn’t know that I would have that type of effect on people. I always thought it wasn’t about the numbers - if I could just meet one person or reach one person with my music I was fine with that. But to know that a lot of people really used my album as a how-to, and they feel like I helped them through certain situations. I think professionally that’s the best - when an artist can reach fans and people.

AHHA: Obviously there are a lot of people out here that support you and back everything that you do - but then you’re going to have your adversaries and people that don’t necessarily want to see you move as far. What do you feel is the biggest pressure in the industry to you?

Tweet: The biggest pressure, sometimes it’s the look - maybe being two pounds - that’s a pressure. I don’t really let it bother me because I really am not a big girl anyway. Sometimes some of the record companies want you to sound like someone else but I stood my ground and just been the artist that I am. But other than that I don’t see any pressures because I’m really with people that really have my back and I don’t have to compromise myself. Missy is one that is behind me 100% in what I do so it’s really not a pressure, not yet. It was pressure trying to get this album done but because of the [label] merge - I kinda wanted to wait ‘til the right time.

I don’t know how many other artists feel like I do, but I’m loving what I do and I’m just happy - I’m blessed to be able to be happy in something that I do. So the pressures don’t matter.

AHHA: Now that your life has changed and things have come full circle in your career and you’re a lot happier, how does that affect your songwriting?

Tweet: Now I have happier or more positive things to say, but I can still remember when I felt sad or lonely or things like that. I can write happier songs now, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t sit back and think about things that I’ve been through and still write about those too. I’ve matured as a woman as well as an artist, so I’ll put a couple of those deep dark secret songs in there here and there. [laughs] Other than that I want my fans to grow as well as me, so I don’t want to keep them at that dark stage in my life all the time. I want them to be able to know that you can come up out of the storm and everything can be positive.

AHHA: How often do you have people come up to you and say that affected them?

Tweet: A lot, and that’s what’s shocking me. It’s like all the time - I can just be in a grocery store and people will know, someone will notice who I am and they’ll mention, ‘Oh my God, I love you, I love your record, your album has taken me…’ It’s like all the time, and that’s what shocks me the most, because I’ve been gone for almost two years now, and for that album to still be popular it’s like incredible.

It’s just that it’s so many people that love that album, now going back to the pressure thing, that was one of the pressures, now that I think about it - to try to top that album. Being that I have grown and matured and come out of it, I was under a lot of pressure at the time - but I said I would want my fans to grow with me. So they have to accept these songs ‘cause there’s great songs too, they might not be as dark as ‘Hotel’ or ‘Drunk’, but it’s still good music.

AHHA: Aside from the mood of the album between the first and this new one, what would you say is different?

Tweet: I have my daughter on one of the songs - that’s great - but the only difference is I think I’m singing more on this album. The first album I was kinda timid and scared, because I came right out of going through a time in my life, and Missy just came right there and everything was dropped in my face at once, so I didn’t have time to really deal with anything. This time I really just sing songs.

AHHA: What producers or guest spots do you have that people can look out for?

Tweet: It’s 14 tracks [with] the same producers as last time - Nissan Stewart, Craig Brockman… Kwame actually did the first single which is ‘Turn Da Lights Off’, and he also did another cut called ‘We Don’t Need No Water’. Missy did some production, and she’s guest appearing on two records. Rell from Rocafella is on the duet I have on there, The Soul Diggers did production, as well as Walter Milsap, and Harold Lily wrote a song called ‘Sports, Sex and Food’. That’s about it.

AHHA: What are your plans to tour?

Tweet: Actually we’re trying to get a campus invasion thing going on where I just pop up at different schools, and we’re just trying to make this time, this go round perfect. We want to present the right singles, and present to everybody around the world ‘cause I know I have a lot of young fans too that can’t make it to the clubs at night. The marketing and promotional people, we’re really getting’ down to where we’re gonna hit the whole world as well as international.

AHHA: What do you want your fans to know about you at this stage in your life?

Tweet: That I’m really happy finally for once in my life, and I’m content and I’ve grown. I don’t want them to expect some slow, sad love songs - even though there might be one or two on there - but just know that I’ve grown as an artist as well as a woman, and it’s good music.




Thousands Converge On Ethiopia To Salute Marley

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Reuters

(Feb. 2, 2005) Addis Ababa -- Thousands of Bob Marley fans and Rastafarians gathered in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa yesterday for the start of weeks of festivities to mark the 60th anniversary of the Jamaican reggae icon's birthday. Organizers say up to 300,000 people are expected to converge on the city's Meskal square on Sunday for a tribute to Marley, who died of cancer in 1981 and is known for anthems such as No Woman No Cry and Get Up Stand Up. The event will feature artists including reggae rapper Shaggy, Benin's Angélique Kidjo and soul singer India Arie, as well as members of the Marley family. Reuters




Dash Spreads Wings With New Music Group

Excerpt from - Carla Hay, N.Y.

(Jan. 27, 2005) Former Roc-A-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash has formed a new music company, the Damon Dash Music Group, with Kareem "Biggs" Burke, who co-founded Roc-A-Fella with Dash and Jay-Z.  The Damon Dash Music Group will sign artists and act as an umbrella organization for various record labels, including Dream Factory (a partnership with producer 7 Aurelius) and a reggaeton label called Militain Musica, to be launched with hip-hop artist N.O.R.E. (aka Noreaga).  There will also be partnerships with the Wu-Tang Clan and M.O.P./the First Family on still-unnamed separate record labels. The Wu-Tang Clan imprint will release a posthumous album from Ol' Dirty Bastard at a date to be determined.  Dash said he formed his new company to "empower people and music that I believe in...and that will be positive for our culture and community. I want to give them a chance to have vision."  As previously reported, Island Def Jam last month acquired the remaining 50% of Roc-A-Fella which it did not already own, and named Jay-Z president/CEO of Def Jam Records. Dash said he will continue to be involved with Roc-A-Fella and Def Jam as a consultant.




Bob Johnson To Leave BET

Excerpt from

(Feb. 1, 2005) *Black Entertainment Television founder/CEO Robert Johnson, who sold his company for $3 billion in 2000 to media giant Viacom, has decided to step down from his chief post at the network to devote more time to his new NBA franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats. The “Wall Street Journal” reports that Debra Lee, who has served as BET's President and Chief Operating Officer since 1996, will replace Johnson by the end of the year.  During her stint at the network, Lee has been Executive Vice President of Strategic Business Development, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of BET’s Legal Affairs department, Corporate Secretary, and President/Publisher of BET’s publishing division. With the regime change, Viacom will exert more of an influence on BET's operations, reports “The Wall Street Journal.” Viacom Co-President Tom Freston said he wants to widen BET's programming and give viewers more variety. Under Johnson, BET took critical hits for its rampant airing of rap videos and comedy programming.   a bad reputation for its  known for its rap videos and comedy programming. The question ultimately is whether BET will have more positive and insightful programming under Viacom than when it was run by its black founder, Johnson.




Jacki-O Wants To 'Break You Off' At Radio

Source: Michele Roy / D.M.P. Public Relations / 610-559-7726 ; Joe Wiggins, TVT Records / 212-979-6410 x290

(Jan. 31, 2005) Jacki-O, Miami's Liberty City pride's new single, "Break You Off" produced by and featuring Jazze Pha, was sent to radio stations across the country last week.  "Break You Off" is the third single from Jacki-O's debut album, POE LITTLE RICH GIRL. Her first single, "Nookie (Real Good)" blew up the hip-hop charts last spring.  Her recognition came at last year¹s BET Awards, when she was nominated in Best Female Rapper category. Jacki-O's second single, "Fine" featuring Ying Yang Twins garnered an electrifying response due to the disarming lyrics and the sensuality in the video. The video has appeared on BET and MTV2. Jacki-O has been featured in some of the biggest music magazines such as Rolling Stone, The Source, Vibe, Blender, and XXL.  Recently Jacki-O has picked up a new fan base across the Atlantic. With quick-witted lyrical delivery, girl-power anthems and unapologetic sexuality, her music is making tremendous inroads in France and Holland. She was recently profiled in Radikal Magazine, which is the premiere hip-hop magazine in France, as well as "De Telegraaf", Holland's biggest daily by far (750.000 circ.).   "Its very exciting to see that the album is picking up interest in the International market. I can't wait to go over there to promote my album," an enthusiastic Jacki-O states. Jacki-O is getting ready for a U.S. and European promotional tour that should kick off in February.  The newest starlet in hip-hop isn¹t taken any of her success for granted in 2005. Recent TVT Records releases include: Torchbearers of Crunk Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz, hip-hop super-group, hip-hop soul songstress Teedra Moses, and Cuban-American lyricist Pitbull. Upcoming urban releases for mid-2005 include the R&B Crunk artist Oobie and Lil¹ Jon-protégé Chyna Whyte, a female rapper with vicious rhymes and incredible lyrical dexterity.




Faith Evans' New CD Looms

Excerpt from

(Jan. 28, 2005) Faith Evans fans get ready. Your girl is about ready to release her newest CD, "The First Lady," on March 29. The album, her debut on Capitol, features a number of collabos with Pharrell Williams, Jermaine Dupri and Mario Winans. "I am trying to show a real range of emotions," says Evans in a statement. "I've been through so much. I lost a husband, a label, I've gained weight, lost weight. These are all things that are a part of my life and of my music, but I'm able to take the good and the bad and grow." Director Chris Robinson will shoot a video for first single "Again," which will arrive next month at radio. Robinson recently directed "Hope," featuring Evans for Twista's contribution to Capitol's "Coach Carter" soundtrack. "The First Lady" will be Evans' first new album since 2001's "Faithfully," her final release for Bad Boy. That set debuted at No. 14 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 832,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Evans can also be heard on the debut album from already controversial rapper The Game's CD "The Documentary."




Lil' Mo Returns With New Label, Baby

Excerpt from - Dan Leroy, N.Y.

(Jan. 31, 2005) Lil' Mo, the self-proclaimed "Mother of Hip-Hop," plans to unveil two significant projects in 2005: her first album for Cash Money/Universal, and her second daughter. The diminutive singer's new baby is due at the end of February, but she won't have long to relax, as "Syndicated: The Lil' Mo Hour" is scheduled to follow on April 12.  The album has been preceded by the single "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah," featuring hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari and production by newcomer Amadeus. Mo says her pregnancy played a role in choosing the romantic track as the album's introduction.  "With me havin' a baby, I don't wanna come out singin' about my "Goodies'," she tells with a laugh, referencing the No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit by R&B vocalist Ciara. "I'm still in love."  The Big Apple native and Baltimore resident says she wound up on Southern powerhouse Cash Money because "it's more hands-on. They're more passionate. Other companies...their rosters were so full, I was like, 'No, I don't wanna get lost in the shuffle.'"  "Sometimes you gotta swim in a different pond to be where you can shine," she continues. "I'm not the only female [on Cash Money], but I'm the only female like myself."  Known initially as Ja Rule's duet partner, Mo released two solo albums on Elektra that were certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for U.S. shipments of 500,000 units. But her contract expired last year while Elektra was being absorbed by Atlantic Records, and uncertainty over the reorganization led her to leave, she says.  "Syndicated" -- the title is a nod to Mo's days as a radio personality -- features an appearance by Cash Money star and co-founder Bryan "Baby" Williams, although Mo says the label's in-house super-producer Mannie Fresh was unavailable because he was completing his own solo album.  But she does team up with frequent collaborator Fabolous once again on the track "Hot Girls." "It's a female anthem," she says. "Cause I don't care how pretty or how ugly you are, females got an issue with themselves. On the intro I say, whether you're size 2, or 200 pounds, we can still get down."  Meanwhile, Mo is already making musical plans for her new baby and older daughter. "They might as well get their singin' voices together," she jokes, "cause they gonna be a group."




Lopez Gearing Up For March 'Rebirth'

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Feb. 1, 2005) Jennifer Lopez's new album, "Rebirth," will be released simultaneously as a standard CD and a DualDisc on March 1 via Epic. The latter edition will feature the audio portion on one side and a DVD on the other, bolstered with interviews, in-studio footage and the video for first single "Get Right," which is No. 1 at MTV this week and No. 6 on VH1.  The track jumps 41-28 this week on the Billboard Hot 100 and is set to appear in a massive TV ad campaign for the National Basketball Association next month.  Meanwhile, MTV eyeing a Feb. 14 airdate for a Lopez primetime special, while appearances on NBC's "Today" and the syndicated "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" are in the works for the week of release.  "Rebirth" is the follow-up to 2002's "This Is Me...Then," which peaked at No. 2 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 2.5 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  The album includes collaboration with rapper Fat Joe on "Hold You Down" and will also sport the hip-hop version of "Get Right," which features Fabolous. 




Mariah Madness: Singer Drops More Details Of Video

Excerpt from www.eurweb

(Feb. 1, 2005) *Mariah Carey is feeling chatty these days, now that it’s time to plug her forthcoming album “The Emancipation of Mimi.”   Speaking to MTV about her new video for “It’s Like That,” she reveals that it has a Las Vegas casino setting.  Director “Brett [Ratner] is great at giving things a cinematic feel. We did the 'Heartbreaker' video together, and it had such a sense of humour to it, that I hope to have that for this video," she tells the network. Meanwhile, the 34-year-old tells “Blender” magazine that she’s happily single and not looking to get "tied down in any relationship." "At this stage in my life I'm not even getting into that stuff. I don't have casual flings either." As for her album, due April 12, she tells the magazine: "This was really kind of `let me have some fun.' I'm not saying anything negative about anybody from the past. I'm not dealing with an oppressive structure. Everything is ok. I'm making a record. This is fun and this is why I started singing."




K-Ci & JoJo’S Best: Compilation CD and DVD To Hit Stores Feb. 8

Excerpt from

(Feb. 1, 2005) *Romantic R&B received a jolt of bad-boy rebellion in the '90s first with Jodeci and then when one set of that group's brothers, Cedric ("K-Ci") and Joel ("JoJo"), went their own way. For the first time, the best of K-Ci & JoJo has been brought together with “All My Life: Their Greatest Hits” and the DVD "All My Life: Their Greatest Video Hits" (Geffen/UMe), due Feb 8. “All My Life” boasts 18 cuts, including all of their R&B chart singles, their most popular soundtrack contributions and a Babyface "Unplugged" collaboration -- all digitally-remastered.  "All My Life: Their Greatest Video Hits" gathers all 13 of their music videos, including two tracks not heard on “Their Greatest Hits,” ("Fee Fie Foe Fum" and "It's Me"), plus a bonus alternate version of "Tell Me It's Real." The DVD also features a programmable video playlist.




Singing Melody Takes The Gospel Route

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson /

(Jan. 27, 2005) Singing Melody emerged on the music scene in the late 1980’s with covers of popular American recordings. In the late 1990’s he hooked up with Lukie D, Thriller U, and Tony Curtis to form LUST.  Even though he was a part of the group, he still maintained his solo projects.  He scored hits with a cover of Take That’s Back for Good (which he renamed Want You Back), Say What, Let it Flow, Good Enough, When A Woman’s Fed Up, I Wanna Know and Shower Me With Your Love.  These days, Singing Melody is singing a different tune. A gospel tune that is. The singer who was born Everton Hardware is now a born again Christian.  When this column caught up with him earlier this week, Singing Melody said his conversion to the Christian faith was eminent for sometime. ‘At the end of the day you don’t want to work for two masters. Only one, and that one is the supreme being’, he explained. But has his conversion altered his singing material in any way? ‘Not really. God knows I had a job before. He knows what is best and he prepares people. The lyrics are no longer just for the girls, its for the people as well’, Singing Melody said. He has so far recorded the inspirational Reason and the gospel infused Talk About Jesus with his LUST members Lukie D, Thriller U and Tony Curtis.  Reason which is on the Fat Eyes label is currently climbing the New York Reggae chart. Last week the song debuted at number 27. His biggest hit on that chart to date has been Say What which peaked at number three in 2000. Singing Melody says he plans to do a lot more music videos this year to get his music to reach wider audience.  He is presently working on his third album for VP Records. ‘The album is going to have a variety in its musical journey’, Singing Melody assured.




Kanye, Charles Tribute Added To Grammys

Excerpt from

(Jan. 28, 2005) *In what is sure to be a memorable moment for viewers as well as the featured performers, Kanye West, soul powerhouse Mavis Staples, vocal group Blind Boys of Alabama and West’s artist John Legend will take the stage together for a performance at the Grammys, to be held Feb. 13.  The ceremony will also include a tribute to the late Ray Charles by Bonnie Raitt and soul journeyman Billy Preston. Also newly announced is a landmark Southern rock jam featuring members of genre stalwart Lynyrd Skynyrd joined by former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickie Betts, Elvin Bishop and country artists Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Gretchen Wilson. They join previously-announced performers U2, McGraw, Alicia Keys and Green Day. Meanwhile, Norah Jones, Ludacris, Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath and actor Gary Sinise have signed on as presenters for the show, which will be hosted by Queen Latifah and broadcast live on CBS. As previously reported, West is up for 10 Grammy awards, including best new artist. Staples is among the Recording Academy's 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award honourees, while the Blind Boys are nominated with Ben Harper for "There Will Be a Light" in the best traditional soul gospel album category. The set's title track is up for best gospel performance.




Underground Urban: Hip Hop’s Demise

Excerpt from - By Tamara Smith

(Jan. 27, 2005)  Hip hop has been experiencing a steady growth since it emerged over two decades ago. It couldn’t go on forever!  Just like the economy, the music industry hits highs and lows.  Hip hop climbed to the top of the charts to be the top selling music genre, but once in the top spot, there’s no where else to go but down.   Since taking number one, hip hop’s got lazy.  Comparing the hip hop of today to that of the 90’s, this trait is undeniably clear.  In hip hop’s early days, experimentation was accepted.  Being a new genre, artists were free to be creative. Today, however, it appears that major labels believe that all listeners enjoy the same thing.  Artists look alike, act alike and sound alike.  BET, MTV, Much Music – it’s all the same.  Put on any channel and it’s the same rotation.  Video concepts are so similar, it’s hard to decipher where one video ends and the next begins (without keeping track of featured rides and threads)! Hip hop is fast on the way to becoming the new disco.  Over the years, it has created memorable tracks that will remain classics forever, but what has it done lately?  In sticking with what works, hip hop has held back its own growth and sustainability. A music revolution is coming.  The major labels will soon realize that people are beginning to get bored and start to push something new.  But, there is another option - true fans can make a choice to explore beyond the music that’s fed to them.   The music industry has forced a great divide between “mainstream” and “underground” hip hop.  Mainstream artists’ marketing is inescapable.  Its forced fans to forget there were any other options.  The next time you hit your local music retailer, take a more thorough look at the hip hop section.  When the public submits to a higher authority to choose its interests, it loses its influential power.  Yet, who best to guide the industry than the public?  Over the coming weeks, this column will feature news, reviews and interviews for artists and groups you’ve never heard of – but you should.  You deserve a choice.




Funk Brothers Not Resting On 'Motown' Laurels

Excerpt from - John Benson, Cleveland

(Jan. 28, 2005) Thanks to the success of the 2002 documentary "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," the Funk Brothers, ostensibly the musical backbone to Motown's golden era, have finally garnered recognition with the mainstream public.  "There was about 40 Funk Brothers, if you want to know the truth," says group member Jack Ashford. "So that name Funk Brothers is really blown out of proportion when it's really the Motown musicians; the guys that really performed there."   Having toured in the past with Joan Osborne, Maxi Priest, Darlene Love and Bootsy Collins, the current Ashford and Hunter-led incarnation of the Funk Brothers isn't relying on mainstream names to garner attention.  "We had Ali 'Ollie' Woodson of the Temptations and we've had Freda Payne and Ron Isley," Ashford says. "But we're getting to the point where we don't need them because our background singers are strong enough to carry their own. We have Larry Johnson, who was touring with Mark Hayes. He's a tremendous front man and [keeps] growing."   The Funk Brothers will be touring later this month in New York, Cleveland and Glenside, Pa., with a full slate of shows expected throughout the year.  As for new recordings, Ashford plans on restarting his vintage label Ashford Records, which during its reign boasted a roster that included Lorraine Chandler and Eddie Parker. Ashford says the first release, due out sometime in 2005, may be a compilation featuring the Funk Brothers performing with various up-and-coming artists.   "We have to reinvent ourselves," Ashford says. "We can't live on our old history. Of course, people come out and pay homage and things like that but I'm not looking for homage. I'm looking for new fans. I'm looking for something new because I have a lot more to contribute to music other than what I did back then. Now we have the opportunity to do that, we're just moving forward because we have a lot of things to do and we have less time to do it in."




Singer Houston Gouges Eye In Suicide Attempt

Excerpt from - By Remmie Fresh

(Feb. 2, 2005) R&B singer Houston has reportedly attempted suicide by gouging out his eye while on tour in London.  According to reports, Houston tried to jump off a balcony, but was stopped by his security detail. After he was prevented from leaping, he then was locked in a bathroom, where he gouged out one of his eyes.  Last year, the Hip-Hop oriented singer scored a major hit in "I Like That" with Nate Dogg and Chingy.  "Our thoughts and prayers are with Houston during this tragic time," Capitol Records said in a statement.  Earlier this month, Houston was nominated for "Best New R&B Artist" by the 2004 T M H Honors. Winners were supposed to be announced on Jan. 31, but results have not been returned.







Tuesday, February 1, 2005

AL COOK, Birmingham Jam, Wolf
BEENIE MAN Greatest Hits (Virgin)
DIONNE WARWICK Love Songs (BMG Heritage)
GLADYS KNIGHT Love Songs (BMG Heritage)
HARRY BELAFONTE Love Songs (BMG Heritage)
JANN ARDEN, Time for Mercy, Polygram International
JOE COCKER Heart & Soul (New Door)
JOHNNY MATHIS Isn't It Romantic (Legacy)
KYLIE MINOGUE, Ultimate Kylie, Capitol
LEN The Diary Of The Madmen (EMI)
LENA HORNE Love Songs (BMG Heritage)
NINA SIMONE Love Songs (BMG Heritage)
RAY CHARLES, Ray: Songs That Inspired the Movie, Rhino
SEAL Acoustic (Warner)
The Roots, Roots Presents: A Sonic Event [Clean], Image
Tina Turner, All the Best, Capitol
VARIOUS ARTISTS 2005 Grammy Nominees (EMI)
VARIOUS ARTISTS, Best of Rhythm and Blues 1952-1953, Epm Musique
VARIOUS ARTISTS, Forever Soul, Columbia River
VARIOUS ARTISTS, Gangster Love, Vol. 2, Thump
VARIOUS ARTISTS, Soul Classics [Northquest], Northquest

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

BEASTIE BOYS, To the 5 Boroughs [Bonus CD], EMI
T.I., Urban Legend [Chopped and Screwed], Atlantic
THE RELATIVEZ, Money Respect Money [Bonus DVD], Artist Direct BMG
VARIOUS ARTISTS, Essential Underground Hip Hop, Vol. 2, Landspeed
BRIAN MCKNIGHT, Gemini, Motown
K-CI & JOJO, All My Life: Their Greatest Hits, Geffen
RAY CHARLES, Brother Ray's Blues, Synergy
THE O'JAYS, Essential O'Jays, Sony
VARIOUS ARTISTS, Thump R&B Classic Collection, Thump
BRIAN MCKNIGHT Gemini (Motown)
CHRIS ROCK Never Scared (Geffen)
MICHAEL BUBLE It's Time (Warner)
PINK Live In Europe (DVD) (Zomba)
U2 All Because Of You (CD Single) (Island/Def Jam)
USHER 8701 (DVD) (Zomba)







T.O.'s Peter Raymont Lauded At Sundance

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jan. 30, 2005) PARK CITY, Utah (CP) — Canadian filmmaker Peter Raymont has won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival for his film Shake Hands With The Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire.  In an awards ceremony Saturday night, capping 10 days showcasing more than 200 films from around the world, Raymont's film documenting the Rwandan genocide was chosen the best in its class this year.  It was the second consecutive year a Canadian film has claimed the top documentary prize, succeeding last year's winner The Corporation.  "It's fantastic and it's a great honour," Raymont said. "It's important in that this will help bring the film to more people, to help keep the (issue of the) genocide alive and to keep it from happening again.  "It's not about another plaque on the wall," he said. ``Hopefully this will attract some major distribution deal in the States."  Raymont's film was the only full-length Canadian film selected to show at Sundance this year. It was one of 38 documentaries selected from more than 1,000 submitted from around the world for consideration.  The Toronto-based director said he felt particularly flattered when Sundance creator, actor Robert Redford, introduced his film last week as the festival got underway.  Redford is not in the habit of singling films out at the festival.  "He came partly because I think he admires Gen. Dallaire. He came to our event Saturday."  "He met the general and I beforehand for a few minutes. They sort of expressed their admiration for each other."  "Then he got up in front of the crowd, Redford did, and said this is the type of film why we created Sundance and why Sundance was created in the first place — that it's an independent film, its about an important human rights justice issue, then he welcomed the general as a great humanitarian."

Raymont said Redford stayed for the question-and-answer period following the movie.  "There was a lot of applause. I was still on cloud nine just being in the presence of Redford," he said, adding the audience was enthusiastic about questioning Dallaire.  In the documentary, Canadian Forces Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire  narrates his return to Rwanda where tens of thousands of Tutsis were  slaughtered in 1994 during his posting there as head of the United Nations peacekeeping forces.  "There's no narration," Raymont said.  "It's one of the few films I've made — and I've made 130 films — where theres no narration, there's no voice of the filmmaker," he said of his 91-minute film.  "It is more complex but it is more rewarding."  The film is the general's emotional descent into the hell of atrocities he witnessed a decade earlier and a return to the source of immense pain that has followed him since.  "I was worried about him," Raymont said about documenting the general's return.  More than 36,000 filmgoers attended the Sundance festival this year.  Those who stayed after the screening of Shake Hands With The Devil were moved, Raymont said.  Concerns raised after the screenings regularly turned to questions about aid reaching current areas of need such as Sudan.  "What is it about Africa? Why is it still a dark continent?"  "Until we realize we are our brother's keeper, until we act on that, there's going to be other genocides."  The CBC is slated to broadcast a one-hour version of the documentary, produced by Raymont, on Monday night.




Sundance Honours Canadian Film About Dallaire's Rwanda

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jan. 30, 2005) A documentary based on a book by retired Canadian lieutenant-general Roméo Dallaire on the horrors of serving in Rwanda won a major award at the Sundance Film Festival last night.  Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, by Toronto filmmaker Peter Raymont, received the World Cinema Documentary Audience award.  The film portrays Dallaire's journey back to Rwanda last April, 10 years after the genocide he witnessed as the Canadian commander of a United Nations peacekeeping mission. More than 900,000 people were slaughtered in the genocide.  Canadian Chris Landreth received an honourable mention in the shorts category (as well as an Oscar nomination last week) for Ryan, a tribute to troubled National Film Board animator Ryan Larkin.  The festival, held in Park City, Utah, screens independent films from across the globe. Other winners include:  American Documentary Grand Jury Prize: Why We Fight, director Eugene Jarecki.  American Dramatic Grand Jury Prize: Forty Shades of Blue, director Ira Sachs.  World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize: Shape of the Moon, director Leonard Retel Helmrich (The Netherlands).  World Cinema Dramatic Jury Prize: The Hero, director Zézé Gamboa (Angola/Portugal/France).  American Documentary Audience Award: Murderball, directors Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro.  American Dramatic Audience Award: Hustle & Flow, director Craig Brewer.




Canada Is Going To The Oscars®!

Source:  NFB

Montreal - The National Film Board of Canada received a very special 65th anniversary gift today – its 67th and 68th Academy Award nominations. Multi-award-winning animation short Ryan, directed and written by Chris Landreth, and the short documentary Hardwood, directed and written by Hubert Davis, both garnered Oscar nominations. This marks the second Oscar nod for Chris Landreth, whose short animated film the end was nominated in 1996. Hardwood is not only Hubert Davis’s first Oscar nomination, but also his directorial debut. The 77th Academy Awards will be held on February 27, 2005 at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.   Since its first Oscar in 1941 for Churchill’s Island, the NFB has won a total of ten Oscars—nine for individual film productions and, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1989, a special award for overall achievement. The NFB has received more Academy Award nominations for more films by any production company or entity, outside of the Hollywood studios.   “All of Canada is going to the Oscars,” said Jacques Bensimon, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson. “The National Film Board is Canada’s public film producer and we're proud to share our 67th and 68th Academy Award nominations with each and every Canadian.”  Ryan looks at the life and career of Canadian animator Ryan Larkin, an Oscar nominee who made some of the most influential animated films of his time when he worked for the National Film Board in the 1970s. Today, 30 years later, Ryan is living every artist’s nightmare: he panhandles on the streets of Montreal to make ends meet. By combining hand-animated images with the latest in technology, Landreth pushes the boundaries of photo realism and takes the animation and documentary genres to new dimensions.   “It is a great honour to be recognized for this film—it was a labour of love for almost four years,” comments Landreth. “An Oscar nomination is a wonderful validation—it was an incredible experience the first time and I look forward to returning.” 

Ryan has won 31 prizes this year at film festivals around the world, including Cannes, Annecy, Spain, Hiroshima, SIGGRAPH and in Canada at the Ottawa International Animation Film Festival. Ryan is a Copper Heart Entertainment production (Steve Hoban, Mark Smith), in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada (Marcy Page), in association with the Seneca Animation Arts Centre.  In Hardwood, director Hubert Davis, son of former Harlem Globetrotter Mel Davis, uses personal interviews, archival and home movies to explore the effect of his father’s decisions on him and his extended family, in this touching film about love and redemption.   “A nomination for my first film—amazing! It is very gratifying to turn the camera onto my family, tell our Canadian story and then have it received so well,” commented Davis.  Hardwood’s numerous prizes include the Golden Sheaf for Excellence at the Yorkton Film Festival and Best Short Documentary at the World-wide Short Film Festival. It was an official selection at the 2004 Hot Docs International Documentary Festival and at the International Documentary Association (IDA) InFACT series.   Hardwood is produced by Hardwood Pictures Inc. (Erin Faith Young), in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada (Peter Starr), with the assistance of the Al Waxman Calling Card Program, an initiative of the Ontario Media Development Corporation in partnership with TVOntario.




The Blacker Side Of Celebrity Culture

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Jan. 28, 2005) Most people take one look at junior thespian Haley Joel Osment and think of the "I see dead people" squirt from the spook show The Sixth Sense.  Not Don McKellar, the intrepid Toronto filmmaker, screenwriter and actor. He met Osment at an L.A. party a few years ago and had an epiphany, as well as a drink.  McKellar and Osment ended up chatting at the bar, with the shy Canuck being too polite to ask if the 11-year-old American actor's coloured drink was spiked.  McKellar was bowled over by Osment's poise and maturity and began thinking of The Kid in vague allegorical terms, as a symbol of America and Hollywood and the corrupting nature of popular culture.  Then McKellar returned to T.O. and heard local tunesmith Ron Sexsmith's song "Childstar." The chance meeting with Osment suddenly came into sharper focus.  The result was Childstar, the second feature McKellar has directed, a satire opening today about a 12-year-old acting prodigy who runs amok through Hollywood North and South. Or so goes the legend in the production notes, which are not always the most reliable source of movie intelligence.  "It's true!" McKellar insists during an interview at Musa bistro on Dundas St. W., one of his favourite neighbourhood haunts.  "I don't know if (Osment) was drinking. I keep trying to find that out. It was more his attitude that threw me off. It wasn't so much that he was out of control, but that he was really in control.  "That was the thing. He was so mature for his age, unnaturally mature. So mature that I didn't even identify with the fact that I was speaking with a pre-pubescent kid until well into the conversation. There was nothing childish about it, and that's what was uncanny about it."  McKellar, still boyishly skinny and dark-haired at 41, resolved to explore his Osment epiphany cinematically. His idea was to make the movie much more than the story of a prodigy on the prowl, and he's met more than a few snot-nosed stars on his many movie and TV shoots. To him, the child star is a much grander idea, symbolic of how America is currently viewed by the world.  "It summed up my movie experiences, but it also seemed just such a potent creation, this child star creation ... thing ... entity," he says, struggling for a defining word. 

"It did really seem to sum up something about America. The idea that this out-of-control kid with a lot of power and lot of influence out in the world, as a sort of ambassador to the world, just seemed like one of those effortless allegories that I didn't have to bang home, you know what I mean?"  There's no doubting the man's creativity, or his ambition. McKellar spun the noodlings and mumblings of eccentric pianist Glenn Gould into the dynamic screenplay for Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, and he found humour in impending Apocalypse in his directorial debut, Last Night.  He also made a couch potato cool in Twitch City, his cult TV collaboration with Bruce McDonald. And who can forget his immortal turn as Pokey Jones in McDonald's rock 'n' road film Highway 61, a befuddled barber who when asked if he wants sex replies, "No, I'm fine, thank you."  But one man's uncanny experience is another's marketing nightmare. It's tough to sell a movie about a precocious kid, unless your last name is Disney. W.C. Fields once said, "Children should neither be seen nor heard from — ever again."  "Yeah, yeah, a lot of people said that to me," McKellar says. "A lot of American investors told me: `What are you thinking? No 12-year-old can open a picture anywhere, and you can't get a star.'  "And it's true — I sort of looked into it. I was talking to the Culkins for a while, Macaulay and Rory, but it was a bit of a pain. They were a bit too old. But just dealing with their mother, I thought, `If it's possible for me not to go this route, I'll take it.' I didn't want to typecast it." He selected Toronto teen Mark Rendall, of TV's Open House and The Berenstain Bears, for the role of bratty Taylor Brandon Burns, a Yankee superstar who comes to Toronto to play the spawn of the U.S. President in a film called The First Son.

McKellar wasn't immediately sure if Rendall was right for the role. "I was worried that he wasn't tough enough for the role, that he wasn't bratty enough. But he ended up being the most professional person there."  McKellar then pondered the idea of using a real former child star to play Chip Metzger, a former child stair paired with Taylor in The First Son. Someone like Danny Bonaduce from The Partridge Family might have fit the bill.  "I almost went in that direction, but I just thought it would be too stunty and it would have thrown the film off in another direction. Then that Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star movie came out, which was entirely stunt casted, and I thought, `Well, it's not the route to go.'"  Instead he chose B.C.-born Brendan Fehr, who had an earlier career as a model before making a supernatural statement in films like the Final Destination and the TV series Roswell.  McKellar also needed an actress to play Taylor's obnoxious and conniving mom Suzanne Burnbaum. Many actresses he spoke with balked at playing such an unsympathetic character. But he made the felicitous choice of Jennifer Jason Leigh, whom he'd met a few years back when they worked together on David Cronenberg's sci-fi thriller eXistenZ. She also had a cameo on Twitch City.  "I just think she is one of the truly great actors in America," McKellar says. "People are sensitive about playing bad mothers. They get really upset about it. But I knew she wouldn't be afraid to feel the audience disapproval at times."  Having made so many difficult choices for the other roles, McKellar felt compelled to again cast himself in the lead of his own movie, as he did for Last Night. He plays Rick Schiller, a limo driver and aspiring filmmaker, who is drawn into Taylor's frantic orbit and Suzanne's tangled bed.  McKellar had in mind Elliott Gould's take on classic gumshoe Philip Marlowe in Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, a 1973 adaptation of one of Raymond Chandler's most famous detective novels. In that film, Marlowe has to wade through various celebrity cesspools as he tries to untangle a murder, learning a thing or two about himself along the way.

Marlowe's journey of discovery is not unlike the one McKellar has followed, in the 15 years since he's been writing, acting in and now directing movies. You can see a lot of McKellar in the struggles and stumbles of his character in Childstar.  "It's not autobiographical, certainly, but it is close to me," he agrees.  "It came out of my experiences making movies. I wanted to be honest to that. That's one of the reasons why I ended up casting myself again in the lead. I thought it would be almost odd not to do it. Because you would be thinking about it anyway, and this is more direct. This is about deciding where you are in movies and why you are making movies."  He is both fascinated with and repelled by celebrity culture. I remind him of a line from an Elvis Costello song that seems pertinent: "I used to be disgusted/ Now I try to be amused."  McKellar smiles in recognition.  "I definitely go between the disgust and the amusement," he says.  "It's true that you have to have a sense of humour, but you also have to deal with it. Eventually, you realize that at a certain point you have to negotiate your way through it.  "It's easy to be cynical. In fact, you're asked to be cynical. But at some point you have to stand back and say, `I have to survive this.'"




Don McKellar

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Leah McLaren

Born Aug. 17, 1963 in Toronto  High-schooled at Lawrence Park Collegiate; abandoned pursuing a double major in literary studies and fine art at the University of Toronto just a few credits short of graduating. An abundant film-writing career (Roadkill, Highway 61, Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould); many scene-stealing acting parts (Exotica, eXistenZ, When Night is Falling); and one defining slacker role in CBC's Twitch City.  With his neurotic brand of humour and schleppy charm, Don McKellar is the Toronto version of Woody Allen -- a prolific triple threat actor/writer/director, but without the bad clothes or the messy personal life. After putting the city's grungy-glam Kensington Market on the map with his hit 1998 series Twitch City, McKellar released his first directorial feature, Last Night, a deadpan comedy about the apocalypse. As his new movie, Childstar, opens in theatres, McKellar reflects on working with children, the media, his love of procrastination and even deeper aversion to ambition.

What was it like directing a kid actor in Childstar, a movie critical of the way the business warps kid actors?

I wasn't unconscious of that. As soon as I met the parents at the casting I thought: What are they thinking of this script? But Mark [Rendall, who plays child star Taylor Brandon Burns] was so together, it was fine in the end. The part was actually a great opportunity for him to play a bad character. Usually he has to be good, so it was a healthy adolescent introduction to bad behaviour of all kinds. I remember the assistant director saying, "Oh there's a kid on set; we'll have to change the schedule," but it soon became obvious that Mark was the most professional guy on set. Of course, the thing about child stars is not that they're out of control but that they're so in control. And it was one of the conceits of the film that the adults were more childish than the kids.

Did you work in the business as a kid?

Not really. I did some professional acting in high school on the stage. And I did magic shows to make money for kids' birthday parties. The world of movies and TV seemed so far away to me. I didn't even know that kids did that stuff.

Would you let your own kid go into it?

No, I don't think so. I don't have kids and this hasn't exactly speeded the process along. [Laughs bitterly.] I guess if they ran away from home and ended up in commercials, I'd have to let them, but I wouldn't encourage it. But then again I wouldn't encourage adults either. I do think Mark is well balanced, for sure, but I wouldn't want my own kid to do it. I think I'm probably too competitive.

You've been critical of the way Canada treats its creative young in the past. Do you still feel that way?

Sure, I mean, it's the usual thing. I don't want to whine about it too much. I just think people have to recognize that there have to be tangible reasons for people to stay here. People often come up to me and say, "Hey man, thanks for sticking around." But the truth is, I'm not doing it for patriotic reasons. If I couldn't work here, I would leave. It's a fairly pragmatic thing. In the case of the press being interested [in Canadian talent], I find there's always a dismissive instinct, and it's one that I find parochial. In countries that are more established, it's the reverse. The Canadian press always finds it embarrassing to do the local stuff. But an ambitious reporter knows that covering the local is the way to be distinctive. Smart critics have always championed or challenged their local cinema.

What are you working on these days?

Today I'm going off to record the voice of Odd Job Jack for an animated series. I just got back from the Bangkok Film Festival. Tomorrow I go to Brantford to shoot [the TV series] Slings and Arrows. Then I'm going to the Berlin film festival. At the same time, I'm working on a new film and it looks like it's finally going. It's an adaptation of the Jose Saramago novel Blindness.

Whoa, dude, aren't you worried about ruining your reputation as a slacker?

[Laughs] Yeah, it's a constant problem. Just the other day I had an interview and the reporter was like, "I hear you're always procrastinating." And I am always procrastinating. I don't feel like I'm a workaholic at all. I sort of feel like I'm dragged along by everything on a personal level. That sounds obnoxious, but I go out of my way not to be aggressively ambitious. At least it prevents you from being bitter and grasping and pathetic. I don't set goals but I do set challenges. I guess I have that Canadian thing -- I find ambition to be an ugly characteristic. Intellectually I don't feel that way, but on a personal level. . . . I just got back from a film festival, and when you meet those young American guys -- that slouching contingent of young directors in baseball caps with their mixture of aggressive coolness and aggressive fawning. It's rude ambition. I mean, rude to other people. Politeness is a good strategy. I always say to young filmmakers, "Don't be afraid to play the Canadian card." When I go down to L.A., I always go into meetings and say that I don't know the politics down there. Why pretend to know everything?

Critics often describe your humour as "droll" -- what do you think they mean?

In the case of Childstar, it's not a raucous comedy. It veers between serious and comic. The comedy itself is pretty dark. As for me, I don't know. People say I'm deadpan. Am I that deadpan? I mean, I'm not Jim Carrey. I'm not gaggy. I don't like performers who try too hard. The ugliest, saddest thing is fighting for a laugh. I always say, if Robin Williams wasn't famous, he'd be the saddest man on the planet.




Clemons Marvels At Realism Of Movie

Source:  Canadian Press - By Dan Ralph

(Jan. 27, 2005) TORONTO -- The football scenes are exciting and the performances of Billy Bob Thornton and country superstar Tim McGraw are stellar. But it's the realism in Friday Night Lights -- the critically acclaimed film depicting a Texas town's rabid obsession with a high school team -- that most impressed Toronto Argonauts head coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons. "Football at that level and the whole concept of Friday night is ingrained in us at a very young age," Clemons said. "For Canadians, it would be like having the world junior hockey championship every Friday night." Clemons knows all about the mystique of high school football in the United States. Growing up in football-mad Florida, Clemons spent many Friday nights watching his cousins play in Dunedin before eventually starring himself for Dunedin High School. Despite his size (5 foot 6, 165 pounds), Clemons secured a football scholarship to the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., before being drafted by the National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs. After being released by the Chiefs, Clemons joined the Argos in 1989 and played 12 seasons with the team before retiring to become the club's head coach. After guiding Toronto to a Grey Cup title in 2004, Clemons was selected as a finalist for Canadian Football League's coach of the year along with Hamilton's Greg Marshall and Wally Buono of the B.C. Lions. But it was in Dunedin where Clemons developed his love of football.

"My two cousins played high school football and my aunt would take me to watch them," Clemons said. "It's what you looked forward to. "One of my cousins had a game where he scored a touchdown on offence, by interception return and punt return and the headline in the newspaper was Super Falcon. I remember the article, I was 12 or 13 when it happened. I was at that game and I aspired to that." Friday Night Lights is based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author H.G. Bissinger that chronicles the exploits of the Permian Panthers, a high school football team in Odessa, Tex. In Odessa, as in many small towns across the United States, football is indeed a religion and the weekly services are held in a 20,000-seat stadium each Friday night. Thornton stars as Gary Gaines, a soft-spoken, matter-of-fact coach dealing with the pressure of delivering a championship to an economically depressed community after failing to do so the previous two years. Derek Luke delivers a solid performance as Boobie Miles, a cocky running back whose only life skill is playing football. That fact is effectively driven home when Boobie suffers a serious knee injury and is left to ponder an uncertain future. McGraw, making his film debut, effectively portrays the alcoholic father of Don Billingsley, the Panthers' star tailback played by Garrett Hedlund. McGraw's character is a former high school football star who helped Permian win a championship, leaving his son with the daunting task of not only trying to live up to the town's expectations but also those of an overbearing and abusive father. "There were parents who took it too far when I played," Clemons said. "There were coaches who were wonderful because they teach you life skills and make it fun and a positive experience, which was the case for me." Friday Night Lights, which was released on DVD earlier this month ($38.95), also paints a somewhat gloomy picture that for many players, high school is about as good as it gets. Indeed, some will leave their small town to play college football and graduate and actually make something of their lives. But the majority will remain behind after high school, left mostly to reminisce about past glory and live vicariously through their sons as they try to play in the big game. The movie is much more than a seemingly endless parade of bone-jarring hits, highlight-reel touchdowns and end zone celebrations. It gives viewers a glimpse of life off the field, with residents calling a radio talk show after a Panthers loss complaining that maybe the players are spending too much time in the classroom.




'Walking on Sunshine' Receives Nomination for NAACP Image Award

Source: Jasmyne Cannick /

(Jan. 27, 2005)  Los Angeles, CA - Rap-it-Up Black AIDS Short Subject Film competition winner "Walking on Sunshine" written and directed by first time filmmaker Tracy Taylor (28, Los Angeles) was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.  The film was part of the first time Rap-It-Up Black AIDS Short Subject Film Competition sponsored by the Black AIDS Institute, Black Entertainment Television (BET) and Kaiser Family Foundation to raise awareness about the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black communities and motivate members of the community to take action to stop further spread of the disease. Screenwriters were encouraged to use their creativity to evoke a 'fresh' and culturally unique angle on these issues in a way that would resonate with their community.  "We're thrilled that the NAACP has nominated 'Walking on Sunshine,'" said Phill Wilson executive director of the Black AIDS Institute. "Given the disproportionate burden the HIV/AIDS pandemic places on Black women, it is only fitting for the NAACP to acknowledge the importance of this film about Black women and AIDS." "Walking on Sunshine" depicts two sisters who put themselves at risk for contracting HIV in different ways. The film premiered on BET in December for World AIDS Day.

"I'm delighted that the NAACP has recognized 'Walking on Sunshine' in the category of Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special," explained filmmaker Tracy Taylor. "This would not have been possible without the support of the Institute, BET and the Kaiser Family Foundation. The film speaks to the AIDS epidemic and its impact on Black women. Here's hoping that this nomination will help to get the film seen by its target audience, Black women. It's my sincere prayer that this film helps the number of Black women contracting HIV to drop." Currently, "Walking on Sunshine" is scheduled to screen in the 13th Annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival in Los Angeles on Thursday, February 17 at 1 p.m. and Monday, February 21 at 11:15 a.m. Both screenings will take place at the Magic Johnson Theatres in collaboration with the Black AIDS Institute. More information including ticket purchase can be obtained at The Institute is developing a discussion guide for the film and planning a national tour of the film at historically black colleges and universities and women's group. Anyone interested in sponsoring a screening and discussion should contact the Black AIDS Institute at (213) 353-3620 or The NAACP Image Awards celebrates the outstanding achievements and performances of people of colour in literature, television, motion pictures and recording arts. The 36th NAACP Image Awards will tape March 19th at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and broadcast on Friday, March 25th (8:00 p.m. ET/PT) on FOX. The dates for the next Rap-It-Up Black AIDS Short Subject Film Competition will be announced on National Black HIV AIDS Awareness Day February 7. Tracy Taylor will oversee the coordination of the next competition on behalf of the Black AIDS Institute as the new RIU/BASS Coordinator.




Hustle & Flow: Swag's In The Bag

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rita Zekas

(Jan. 30, 2005) They've been doing the hustle in Sundance.  One of the breakout hits of the film festival was Hustle & Flow, which not only got a standing ovation, but sold to Paramount for nine million smackers, part of a $16-million, three-picture deal for John Singleton's company. Its star, Terrence Howard, who plays a pimp who turns to rap, was hailed by USA Today as "the toast of the festival."  There was even a fashion crossover. The hottest festival merch was the Hustle ware at the Park City, Utah Roots store. Sundancers were all over the Hustle hat, hoodie and T-shirt, which sported a film cassette as a logo.  Among the celeb shoppers at Roots: rapper Ludacris; Sidney Poitier; the band Linkin Park; Shannon Elizabeth; Marisa Tomei; Island Records mogul Chris Blackwell; Joe Pantoliano; Kevin Kline; Billy Baldwin; Jeff Daniels; David Schwimmer; Alice Cooper and rapper Al Kapone (who appears in Hustle).  The Hustle line is available online at and should be at selected Roots stores next week.  Then there was the hustling of freebies. Park City had to be the swag capital of the country, what with all the graft thrown at the boldface.  And according to the New York Times, it wasn't just the celebs who were scoring the loot, "agents, directors, producers and even members of the news media (were) walking around with huge bags of free items."  Companies like Philips, Fred Segal, Motorola, Sony, Kenneth Cole and Yahoo commandeered storefronts, chalets and hotel suites to promote and often give away goodies like cars, cell phones, fur-lined boots, fur-trimmed parkas and cameras. Naomi Watts and Chevy Chase scored free Hewlett-Packard iPods and digital cameras.  Toronto-based Cake Beauty, which makes beauty products like bubble baths, scrubs and creams, teamed up with 7 For All Mankind Jeans and Swarovski at a suite in the Goldener Hirsch Inn, where they dispensed free loot bags worth $500 (U.S.) containing everything from lip butter to champagne to celebs like Michael Keaton, Joan Allen, Claudia Schiffer, Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacon, Keri Russell and Naomi Watts again. And they didn't even have to show up — They could have the bags sent to their hotel rooms.  Then there are the touchy celebs, as in what they touch they take. According to the New York Daily News, after performing at the Blender Session, Ludacris helped himself to the PlayStation 2 console and the NFL Street 2 game from his green room.




Music To The Rescue

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Jan. 28, 2005) Combining the classroom realities of To Sir, With Love with the infectious musical spirit of Mr. Holland's Opus, this French charmer rises above feel good status by virtue of its credible acting and outstanding score.  This is no doubt the reasoning behind its Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song.  Christophe Barratier's debut feature is set in 1949 in rural France, but it begins in contemporary times, as two old friends compare notes about their schoolboy days. Pierre Morhange (Jacques Perrin), known unabashedly as the World's Greatest Conductor, returns to France after receiving word of his mother's death.  As he broods about her loss and the vagaries of fate, he is visited by former school chum Pepinot (Didier Flamand), whom he hasn't seen in decades. Pepinot carries with him the diary of their former teacher Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot).  The film shifts to flashback, with Clément the main focus. He arrives at the gates of a boys school called Fond de l'Étang, which translates as "bottom of the pond," a name every bit as obvious as the plot.  A serious but unheralded musician, Mathieu hopes to pass his enthusiasm for music to his sullen young charges, who are merely marking time until angry adulthood.  No translation is needed for what happens. The balding and bothered Mathieu has the face of a sad clown but the heart of a saint, a quality he will need in abundance. He is the latest in a long line of teachers to run the gauntlet at Fond de l'Étang, and all bets are he'll buckle and bail just like the rest of them.  But Mathieu is made of sterner stuff than he appears, even as he immediately becomes the butt of childish pranks.  He bridles when the embittered headmaster Rachin (François Berléand) informs him that maintaining discipline until official discharge is the only goal of this sorry excuse for a school. Unruly students are forced into solitary confinement until they smarten up.  Clément tries the positive approach, by seeking to spark a musical awakening in his students. By forming a school choir, he reasons, they will achieve not only discipline, but also a sense of achievement and an appreciation for the arts. 

One of his most difficult students is also his most promising: an angel-faced troublemaker named Pierre (Jean-Baptiste Maunier, a real discovery), whose rite of passage will connect the events of the prologue, the flashback and the epilogue.  Had Les Choristes been made in Hollywood, the stereotypes would undoubtedly have seemed much broader, and thus harder to like.  But there's a certain insouciance about this film that is greatly assisted by its Gallic setting and language and its effective use of music.  Writer/director Barratier might not be the most imaginative of filmmakers, but he knows music. He's a classically trained guitarist who has forged a creative partnership with composer Bruno Coulais, who previously provided memorable scores to Microcosmos and Le Peuple migrateur, which Barratier produced. Coulais incorporates the children's choral singing into elements of the score, creating what the French call "une belle sérénade."  Les Choristes is a tribute to old-time school teaching and musical discovery that warms the heart and delights the ear.




Acting Made These Bad Boys Good

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner

(Jan. 29, 2005) The sight of rappers turned actors is a common one these days — and a natural one, since hip hop has always placed a premium on the cultivation of an outsized personality.  Will Smith's days as the Fresh Prince are all but forgotten, but he got his start rockin' a mike. Queen Latifah (Bringin' Down The House, Chicago) and LL Cool J (Charlie's Angels, S.W.A.T.) arguably get more recognition these days for their movie and TV roles than their music, while Method Man and Redman lately traded swapping rhymes for feature film roles (How High), the short-lived sitcom Method & Red and deodorant commercials. Mos Def, meanwhile, is successfully juggling a hip-hop career with critically acclaimed movie roles and even the occasional turn in Shakespearean theatre.  Perhaps rap stars are imbued with even greater thespian skills than we'd thought, though. Lately, some of the more visible figures associated with the once-notorious gangsta-rap movement have turned to convincing the same people they sought to terrorize 10 years ago with tales of murder and street warfare that they're fit for family consumption.  On one hand, the trend gives credence to many rappers' long-standing claims that their oft-criticized lyrical content is, in fact, fantasy and all that thuggish posturing is indeed just posturing. But on the other, playing nice and courting the Middle American market makes it decidedly difficult to break out the scowl and the AK and cross back into one's former character. We've singled out four examples.

Ice Cube

BAD REPUTATION: Managed to rile even the FBI as part of the seminal gangsta-rap outfit NWA, thanks to inflammatory, all-guns-blazin' tracks like "Straight Outta Compton" and "F--k Tha Police." Solo career was similarly dogged by constant criticism for its lyrical violence, homophobia and misogyny.
PARENTAL ADVISORY: "Ice Cube would like ta say / That I'm a crazy muthaf---a from around the way / Since I was a youth, I smoked weed out / Now I'm the muthaf---a that ya read about / Takin' a life or two, that's what the hell I do / You don't like how I'm livin', well, f--- you," from NWA's "Gangsta Gangsta" (1988).
BRING THE KIDS: Currently going the cutesy route as an unsuspecting boyfriend stuck on a hellish road trip with his girlfriend's naughty-but-adorable children in Are We There Yet? Naturally, everyone learns to love and respect one another by the end of the film.
CAREER FALLOUT: His last decent record was 1992's The Predator, but one doesn't get the impression Cube is particularly concerned. Perhaps the best of the rappers-turned-actors, he's lately been making noise about crossing over onto the Hollywood A-list. Unfortunately, Are We There Yet? suggests that crossover may be attained by any means necessary.

Snoop Dogg

BAD REPUTATION: Pimp-tastic ex-con and onetime Crips associate with a proclivity for weed and women (probably in that order) spent the mid-'90s fighting charges that he was an accessory to murder.
PARENTAL ADVISORY: "This is what you made me do / I really didn't want to put hands on you / But b--ch you playin' with fire / I'm so sick and tired, of loudmouth b--ches like you / A n---a had to go and put tips on you / 'Cause b--ch you playin' with fire / I'm so sick and tired," from "Can U Control Yo Hoe?" (2004).
BRING THE KIDS: Currently voicing a CGI bloodhound named Lightning in the zebra-centric family flick Racing Stripes. Future endeavours are rumoured to include further voice work in an animated fantasy film entitled Arthur and the Minimoys and Coach Snoop, a film based on his real-life experiences coaching his 10-year-old son's football team. "This film is about how I learned to be a good father through coaching," he told the Hollywood Reporter. "It's also about life lessons learned on and off the field."
CAREER FALLOUT: None, amazingly. His current single, "Drop It Like It's Hot," is one of his biggest and best in years. Somehow, knowing how fabulously baked Snoop tends to be all the time puts a subversive spin on even his most saccharine endeavours. Bring on the Disney feature.


BAD REPUTATION: Relatively tame by "thug" standards, although the young Xzibit was removed from his father's home in New Mexico as a teenager after several run-ins with the law. More recently, he upset parents' groups by performing the "Crip-walk" dance — unpopular with the easily upsettable because of its roots in L.A. gang culture — while on tour.
PARENTAL ADVISORY: "I insist that we f---in' on videotape / Just in case a b--ch lose face and try and call rape / If you know somethin' that might excite up our late night / Got an open invite to lay us a pipe," from "F---in' You Right" (2000).
BRING THE KIDS: Xzibit is now a fixture in millions of homes as the amiable host of MTV's hit car-makeover show Pimp My Ride, wherein each week the rapper helps lucky viewers turn their crapboxes into customized shaggin' wagons.
CAREER FALLOUT: It's rather difficult to buy Xzibit as an all-Gats-blazin' gangsta these days when the big lug is such a genial personality on TV. Despite Pimp My Ride's popularity, his latest album, Weapons of Mass Destruction, could only muster lukewarm reviews and a No. 43 debut on the Billboard album charts (that's 42 notches behind Tupac Shakur's latest posthumous recording) upon its release in late December. A movie career no doubt beckons.


BAD REPUTATION: L.A. rapper and, depending upon which myth you buy into, possibly a former drug dealer, pimp and/or thief whose forthright rhymes about sex, gunplay and his distaste for the police made him one of the first targets of right-wing types looking to clamp down on hip hop. The eponymous debut by his metal band, Body Count, was widely banned for the notorious murder fantasy "Cop Killer," eventually removed from the record.
PARENTAL ADVISORY: "I got my twelve gauge sawed off / I got my headlights turned off / I'm 'bout to bust some shots off / I'm 'bout to dust some cops off," from "Cop Killer" (1992).
BRING THE KIDS: Although he's stayed reasonably in character in a variety of action and cop films (as well as a recurring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Ice did play — and deliver a few raps as — the Judge in the 1999 film version of Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang.
CAREER FALLOUT: Ice has been far more successful as an actor than as a recording artist since the early '90s, and hasn't released an album of new material since 1999's 7th Deadly Sin. It failed to catch on with adult or kiddie audiences.




It's Cesar To The Rescue When Oscar Snubs Moore

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By James Adams

They love him in France. That must be some consolation to Michael Moore this week after he was denied any Oscar attention for Fahrenheit 9/11. Had George W. Bush been defeated last November, Moore's film, the biggest-grossing documentary ever, likely would have been credited as a contributing factor, then hyped to Oscar glory. When Bush failed to flame out, Fahrenheit's fate was sealed, at least with Hollywood liberals. However, the day before the Academy shortlist was announced, the Cesars, France's Oscars, did what Oscar didn't: They included Fahrenheit among the five candidates for best foreign film. The others are all features -- 21 Grams, Motorcycle Diaries, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Lost in Translation. Since Fahrenheit won the Palme d'Or at Cannes 2004, many European observers place it as the Cesar front-runner. And with fighting continuing in Iraq, and Osama ranging freely, you gotta think the French have to be a tad tempted to get America's goat by honouring Moore, especially since the Cesars will be awarded the day before freedom-fry-lovin' Americans hand out the Oscars. Cross-national crossfires also appear to be at work with respect to director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement. It's up for 12 Cesars, including best French film. But Engagement was denied Oscar consideration as best foreign-language film because the Academy declared that it opened too late in its country of origin (that would be France) to qualify. As with Fahrenheit, Engagement's backers opted for an expensive campaign to force the Jeunet film onto Oscar's best-picture list. On Tuesday, it received two nods, for cinematography and art direction.  Mark Gane and Martha Johnson have their own experience with the vagaries of cultural globalization. The Toronto-based mainstays of Martha and the Muffins, the husband-and-wife duo recently reached a settlement with German hip-hoppers Die Fantastischen Vier (the Fantastic Four) for half the writing royalties from Troy, a huge European hit for Die Fantastischens last year. An alert German Muffins fan noticed that Troy seemed to owe a lot to Indecision, a Johnson composition from a quarter-century earlier. Johnson and Gane asked the fan for a file of the song, which was credited as an original composition by all five members of the Four. "Upon listening to it, it was blatantly obvious Indecision had been incorporated into Troy," said Gane.

Blessedly, the Fantastischens "seemed eager to resolve the problem" after being notified by Virgin Music U.K., copyright holder of the Johnson tune. They "didn't contest the fact that [Troy] was Indecision, nor did they object to Martha getting half the writing credit." Gane said one of the Fantastischens apparently "copied the idea" for Troy "from a mixed tape prepared by a friend, and then they replayed the [Indecision] melody." Modest efforts were made "to find out who it is, and then they forgot." Cheques are to arrive in the Johnson-Gane household later this year. It appears New York-based Blue Man Group is on a collision course with Canada's major theatre unions in its plan to mount the Canadian premiere of its highly successful multimedia stage show in Toronto this June. Reps of Canadian Actors' Equity met with three Blue Man Group officials for about 50 inconclusive minutes in a Manhattan restaurant Jan. 21 to determine if Blue Man would be amenable to inking a collective agreement for staffing the Toronto show. Three other unions, representing musicians, stagehands, and wardrobe and makeup artists, also want deals with Blue Man, which so far has done virtually all of its shows elsewhere without being a signatory to a collective agreement.  A lot's at stake: Blue Man wants its Toronto show to run between five and 15 years, à la Phantom; the unions want the majority of the jobs to go to their members, especially in light of Toronto's "tarnished reputation" (as one theatre maven has put it) of late as a viable venue for long-run shows. Meanwhile, the unions are forbidding their members to attend Blue Man auditions, which already have been held in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.




With Five Nominations, Black Actors Gain Record Oscar Esteem

Source: Canadian Press - By David Germain

(Jan. 29, 2005) LOS ANGELES (AP) - Six years ago, Chris Rock joked that the Academy Awards looked like the "million white man march" for its traditional under-representation of blacks.  This time, with Rock taking his maiden voyage as host of Hollywood's biggest party, he will preside over a record Oscar night for black actors, who earned five of the 20 nominations. Jamie Foxx (news) was the first black performer to receive two nominations in the same year, as lead actor for his soul-stirring portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray and supporting actor for Collateral, playing a wily cabdriver who holds his own against a relentless hit man.  In the best-actor race, Foxx's competition includes Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda, in which he plays real-life innkeeper Paul Rusesabagina, who shielded refugees during the Rwandan genocide. Sophie Okonedo earned a supporting-actress nomination as Rusesabagina's wife.  Among Foxx's rivals for supporting actor is Morgan Freeman (news), who earned his fourth nomination, playing an ex-boxer and resident sage of a run-down gym in Million Dollar Baby.  The wave of nominations comes three years after another historic Oscar celebration for blacks, when Halle Berry (news) won the best-actress award for Monster's Ball and Denzel Washington took the best-actor honour for Training Day. It was the first time blacks won both lead-acting prizes, and with Ali star Will Smith also nominated, the first time in 29 years that blacks earned three nominations in the lead categories.  "I think you have to look toward Denzel and Halle for being such great ambassadors," said Foxx, considered the favourite to win the best-actor prize for Ray. "They made it look good, did they not? It was so great to see them up there holding those statues. Whatever race you are, you couldn't help but think they looked great.

"To be wrapped in that beautiful black skin, it made young actors such as myself want to do more in film and be able to go to that big dance. The opportunities are getting better."  Rock's presence as host will add to the lustre for blacks at the Feb. 27 Oscars (news - web sites). The feature-length documentary nominees include Tupac: Resurrection, a portrait of slain rapper Tupac Shakur, and the documentary short-subject category features Mighty Times: The Children's March, chronicling anti-segregation efforts in Alabama in 1963.  Among foreign-language contenders is the first South African film nominated for an Oscar, Yesterday, about an HIV (news - web sites)-positive woman trying to plan a future for her daughter.  The Oscar attention came at a time when movies headlined by blacks, Ice Cube's Are We There Yet and Samuel L. Jackson's Coach Carter, were Nos. 1 and 2 at the box office the previous weekend.  Following in the next couple of months are Will Smith's Hitch, Queen Latifah's Beauty Shop, Anthony Anderson's King's Ransom, Martin Lawrence's Rebound, Bernie Mac's Guess Who and Cedric the Entertainer's The Honeymooners.  Not a bad spring line-up for an industry that had only a handful of black performers with consistent mainstream appeal before the mid-1990s, such as Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Sidney Poitier.

"I think it's a sure sign diversity is finally coming to Hollywood," said Ron Brewington, Hollywood correspondent for Radio One/XM, a satellite service aimed at black audiences. "African-Americans spend a tidy sum for Hollywood, and we feel like Hollywood owes us something. Now it seems like Hollywood is listening."  In the academy's 77-year history, a scant 3.2 per cent of the acting nominations have gone to blacks. While that figure has risen from 2.8 per cent three years ago, it remains a weak track record given that blacks make up 13 per cent of the U.S. population.  The Oscars were largely a whites-only affair in their first four decades, with just eight black nominees before 1970 and two winners, Poitier for best actor with 1963's Lilies of the Field and Hattie McDaniel for supporting actress with 1939's Gone With the Wind.  Including this year's five contenders, there have been 38 black nominees since 1970, six of them winning. Previously, the most black nominees in a single year was three.  "We're looking at slow and steady progress," said Kevin Willmott, who directed CSA: The Confederate States of America, a faux documentary due in theatres this summer examining the racist nation that might have resulted if the South had won the Civil War.  "But the thing that always counts in these kind of successful moments is: Will it translate to more of these films being produced by studios? Will it make it easier for us to go to studios with films that deal with black people? Will they give us the 'Black films don't do well overseas' line, or will they really try to invest in making these kinds of movies a success?"

The outlook is more positive than ever, with stars such as Washington, Berry, Queen Latifah, Murphy, Lawrence and Ice Cube opening doors for black actors to gain mainstream appeal, particularly among younger moviegoers who drive the box office.  "I feel our audience, the MTV generation, is colour-blind in that respect," said Lauren Lazin, director of the MTV-produced Tupac: Resurrection. "They are very open and eager to hear stories about lives that are like theirs and that are not like theirs. Diversity is something innate to this younger generation."  Hotel Rwanda nominee Okonedo noted that the Oscar field also had included such potential black nominees as Kerry Washington and Regina King for Ray, a sign that real variety was coming to Hollywood.  "I feel like I'm in a great year at the Oscars," said Okonedo, a British actress co-starring in Charlize Theron's upcoming action flick Aeon Flux. "There's not only a diversity of actors but also diversity of films, little-budget films to great big ones.  "That's what it's all about. Not just the same old formula, the same old people, going up for the same old type of awards. I think it's really turned a corner this year."




Nia Long: Divine Diva

Excerpt from - By Tiffany Hamilton

Since her initial appearance on the acting scene, Nia Long has captured the hearts of millions. Whether it’s playing the Catholic school girl next door, the fine sista’ down the street or a sassy poetic photographer, Ms. Long definitely plays the part to the fullest by adding a little of herself into each role. Over the years we have not only grown to know her, but also to love her and relate to her.  After nearly a four-year hiatus, Nia came back on the scene starring in NBC’s hit TV drama Third Watch and recently showed us her major film range with her debut reappearance opposite Jude Law in Alfie. Now starring in Are We There Yet? with Ice Cube, she has once again placed herself back at the top of everyone’s list as that girl to watch. Alternatives spent some time with Nia in New York to discuss career growth and the balance of motherhood and stardom. Surprisingly, with all the success and her celebrity status, she is still amazingly humble. Alternatives: How was it working with Ice Cube for the third time?

Nia: It was great, we actually were sitting back talking about our films we had together one day. We had basically talked about the reason why we chose our roles in films that we were in like Boyz In The Hood, we did it because we knew it would be a success. There was no way it would fail. It was so real and everyone could relate to it, it‘s the same with Friday and now Are We There Yet?. We always said that we started this together, so we will continue to work together...kind of like a legacy.

AHHA: So looking back, how would you rate your performance now versus then?

Nia: Well, with acting as with anything you do, the more you practice the more you grow. I definitely feel that as an actress that I have grown and perfected my craft over the years. Although I feel like I have grown, I also know that I am nowhere near where I want to be, and hopefully better opportunities will come to me in time. As far as Cube, he is very technical and approaches things from a technical aspect. Like when we are on set, while most actors are really focusing on perfecting their role, Cube is focusing on his role and where to stand as far as to get the best shot. I learned from him how to be technical and focus on those things as well because everything is really about the shot.

AHHA: Did you read the script for Are We There Yet?, or did you say yes to it because it was Ice Cube?

Nia: Oh no honey, I always read the script. You have no idea on what could happen if you don’t. I read it and it was a great script. The only thing I was like ‘hmm...’ about was the fact that the kids in the film were scripted to be so bad and my character was so lenient, I was like no one is going to respect me as a mother after this! [laughs]

AHHA: As a mother, have you had any moments with your son similar to the behaviour of the kids in the movie?

Nia: No, not really. For the movie we had to go to an interview at Nickelodeon, and my son gave me one of those moments where I was embarrassed. It all started because he saw the lights at Toys R’ Us and he wanted to go. I mean he was acting like a four-year-old, wanting to do what he wanted instead of what I needed to do. I was just so upset that I had to walk away [smiling]. Although he has his moments, I still have to remember the fact that he is a child, and issues that may seem unimportant to us is just as major to them as our everyday issues we face as adults.

AHHA: Believe me I understand as a mother! I read in an article that you are a now a single mother, are you finding it hard now to balance your career and motherhood?

Nia: No. Fortunately my son’s father and I have remained great friends, he understands what I do and the fact that although we are not together that we still have a son and he helps share some of the responsibilities. I also have a great support system with my Mom who watches him for me when I go away to do films that may not be appropriate for him to be on set - so overall I am fine the hardest part really is leaving him.

AHHA: I hear that you are in the process of filming Big Momma’s House 2. When is it slated for release?

Nia: Yeah, I actually just agreed to do it. We haven’t really received a date yet, but it should be soon. I am actually excited because I think it will be fun to do that film.

AHHA: What would be your ideal role?

Nia: Any role created by me, for me, starring me and written by me. I mean each role that I have done has been a reflection of me in some part of my life, even in Alfie in which I played a little crazy. I mean I have been known as being a little demanding or whatever, but I feel a little craziness is cool - it keeps life interesting. I also would love to star in an autobiographical film about the life of Nina Simone, because I love her and feel that it would be very interesting. I think overall for me to find that perfect role for me, I would have to develop it on my own.

AHHA: That would be hot, not to mention the fact that a lot of African American actors and actresses really receive their recognition after starring in autobiographical films. Look at Halle Berry and Jamie Foxx.

Nia: Exactly. I really feel that [African American actors] are really very talented, but the roles to actually show our talents are limited, so I feel that we really need to get out and create our own movies with roles specifically for us. But also, when labels and production companies start to put more faith into good movies that have us on those kind of roles and believe in it when they see it on paper, instead of having to see other movies like it be successful then we could also have better quality roles as well. For instance with Ray it took a long time for that movie to be created, it was in the works for a while. I remember auditioning for it after I had my son, but I lost it to Regina [King]. [laughs] But if you look at Jamie’s body of work, he is very talented. As I stated before a lot of Black actors out there are talented, it’s just all about that right opportunity.

AHHA: You were on a very deserved hiatus after having your son, what made you go to star on Third Watch instead of jumping into major movie roles?

Nia: Well, when you are a mommy, you appreciate the stability of a TV job. Working on Third Watch I know I will be getting off about 3:00. Also around that time I wanted to play a role a little different than what I had played before, because when I tried out for Ray one of the reasons I didn’t get the role is because they saw me as always playing the girl next door. So I wanted to play an adverse role to show my talents as an actress, that’s when Third Watch came about. Soon after that I was offered my role in Alfie, so I am a firm believer in divine order. I believe everything happens for a reason.

AHHA: When you look back at your previous films, do you critique your work?

Nia: You know it’s funny, when I look back at my old films I can really remember how I felt at that time - like remember what was on my mind or what I was going through. As far as critiquing my work, of course. I look back and think like, ‘I could have done this or that’ - but overall, I really enjoy them because it gives me a chance to look back and reminisce.

AHHA: How do you prepare for complex roles, do you have a special routine?

Nia: I really don’t have anything set as far as a routine when I prepare for roles. Honestly, my motivation comes from my son, whether it’s missing him or whatever… all my energy now is from him.




The Film Strip: Sophie Okonedo From ‘Hotel Rwanda’

Excerpt from - By Marie Moore

(Feb. 1, 2005) “Nobody” actress Sophie Okonedo, who was fearful of Don Cheadle, told the film strip she was waiting for “something extraordinary” not knowing it would be an Oscar nod.  Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo, who plays Don Cheadle’s wife in “Hotel Rwanda,” referred to herself as a “nobody” during the casting process. The world might not had been aware of Okonedo, but the London theatre community has been quite cognizant of her extraordinary talent for quite some time. Of Nigerian descent, Okonedo was born and bred in England. America and other international audiences became acquainted with the talented thespian when she appeared in the critically acclaimed film, “”Dirty Pretty Things.” Shortly before the “Hotel Rwanda” luminary was nominated for an Academy Award, I caught up with her at Hotel Parker Meridien in New York. We talked about her career and the remarkable movie that is bringing her much deserved kudos.

The director, Terry George, sent me the script and I said, “My God, this is extraordinary.”  I then auditioned and got it. I’m sure that behind the scenes, people must have been saying, “She’s a nobody.” For me, I was very lucky.
They’re both difficult. There’s nothing better than being involved in fantastic storytelling. I do find the theatre to be very exhausting. Every time I do a show, I ask myself, “Why, why, am I doing this to myself again?” Some actresses can get up in the morning and do this with ease, but the minute I wake up, I’m thinking about the play all day long. By the end of the run, I’m like this frail thing. I find it totally depleting, but it’s where you learn your craft.
I did, sure. However I didn't think it was appropriate to talk to the wife [Tatiana Rusesabagina] and make her relive it but her husband, Paul talked about it and I just listened to him.
I rather get into something I can sink my teeth into than be in some awful film. But this is what you live for and want to do as an actor. You want to do incredible stories and I like to do stories on ordinary people. Some people might prefer action films, but this is my taste.
One of the challenges of playing this role was that I had to de-westernize myself. It's a different mindset. I can't really put it into words but it's just different. Growing up in Rwanda is different than growing up in London. It's enormously different and that was very difficult, and reliving the genocide, that was my biggest challenge.
I fell in love with Johannesburg. It was fantastic. What a treat. The people treated me very well. They have been through a lot with apartheid. The people are extraordinarily optimistic. I can't believe I would bitch about small things compared to what they have been going through.
Yes, I have.
I was a stage actress for 10 years and with the Royal Shakespeare Company National Theatre before that film. I worked in the theatre for many years for little money, so it was very nice to be flying around the globe. If you told me this last year that I would be running around like this and be in New York three times—and I had never been to New York—I would’ve been very sceptical. This is all very extraordinary for me.
There isn't a mass of roles in England and there aren't that many roles for Black actresses in London. That's why I did theatre because I got to play fantastic parts on stage, and I still do. I stayed in theatre for a long time because of the parts I would get.
We have similar ways of thinking and it's such a relief. I was already a fan before I met him and I got nervous. I don't read magazines at all or watch television, but I knew who Don was. He was very open and generous throughout the filming.

I hope they feel angry. I hope they feel touched and I hope they want that what happened in Rwanda to never happen again.
The antithesis of what I just did. I've just finished “Aeon Flux” with Charlize Theron. I play her sidekick in the film. 
No, there isn't anything.  I got offered a lot of stuff in England, and I just thought that I'm really tired and I really want to be with my seven-year-old daughter. I'm waiting for something extraordinary to happen. 
 When Okonedo uttered those words, little did she know at that very moment “something extraordinary” was in the making,




Will Smith Reveals Details Of New Album; Title Of New Movie

Excerpt from

(Jan. 28, 2005) *As his latest film “Hitch” creeps toward its Feb. 11 opening, Will Smith’s latest project, based on the true-life rags-to-riches tale of an investment banker, now has a title - "Pursuit of Happiness."  Smith stars as Chris Gardner, who ends up homeless and jobless living with his infant son in a bathroom at a San Francisco train station. Despite his circumstances, he kept pursuing his goal of becoming a broker, eventually landing a job as a trainee and working his way toward becoming a partner in a Chicago-based minority brokerage.  The Columbia Pictures project is being produced by Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment.   *Meanwhile, the Fresh Prince side of Smith will drop a new CD on April 5 entitled, “Lost and Found.” The project, his first studio album since being dropped by Sony Music three years ago, features the first single “Switch,” produced by Kwame.  Smith describes the CD as “a real departure” from his previous 2002 album “Born to Reign.”




Eastwood Lands A Hit With Directors

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -David Germain, Associated Press

(Jan. 31, 2005) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—Clint Eastwood was declared filmmaker of the year by his peers on Saturday, winning the Directors Guild of America honour for the boxing saga Million Dollar Baby.  The award solidifies Eastwood's prospects to win his second best-director prize at the Academy Awards on Feb. 27. He previously won an Oscar and guild prize for 1992's Unforgiven, which also was best-picture at the Oscars.  Million Dollar Baby emerged as a last-minute awards contender. Eastwood did not begin shooting the film until early last summer, and distributor Warner Bros. had expected it would not be ready for release until 2005. When Eastwood showed a cut of the film last fall, studio executives went into overdrive to get it ready for December release to qualify for the Oscars.  The Directors Guilds award is one of Hollywood's most accurate forecasts for the Oscars. Only six times in the 56-year history of the guild honours has the winner failed to go on to receive the directing Oscar.  Million Dollar Baby and Martin Scorsese's The Aviator split key honours at the Golden Globes. The Aviator took the Globe for best drama while Eastwood received the directing prize for Million Dollar Baby.  In other guild directing honours, The Story of the Weeping Camel, which chronicles a crisis over a camel calf belonging to a family of Mongolian nomads, won the documentary prize. Ray director Taylor Hackford lost the feature-film contest for his Ray Charles portrait, but TV winners included Bruce Gowers, who won the musical variety honour for Genius: A Night for Ray Charles.  Among other TV recipients were Walter Hill, honoured for series drama for the pilot of the Western Deadwood; Timothy Van Patten, chosen for comedy series for the Sex and the City finale; and Joe Sargent won movie prize for the medical drama Something the Lord Made.




'The Incredibles' Sweeps Annie Awards

Source:  Associated Press

(Jan. 31, 2005) Glendale, Calif. — It was an incredible night for The Incredibles. The Pixar Animation Studios film about a family of superheros who save the day swept the 32nd annual Annie Awards on Sunday, winning top honours for best animated feature, best directing and best voice acting for Brad Bird, the film's director who voiced the diminutive seamstress Edna Mode. The film was distributed by The Walt Disney Co. The Annie Awards are presented by the International Animated Film Society to honour outstanding animation in television and film. Winners, including last year's Finding Nemo, have typically gone on to win the Academy Award for best animated feature. In the voice acting category, Bird beat Antonio Banderas, who provided the voice for Puss in Boots in the DreamWorks Animation film Shrek 2. He also edged out Samuel L. Jackson, who was nominated for his voicing of the cool superhero Frozone in The Incredibles. The film also took awards for writing, production design and music for the throbbing score composed by Michael Giacchino. Two of the Annie nominees for best theatrical feature — The Incredibles and Shrek 2 — are nominated for an Oscar for best animated film at the Feb. 27 Academy Awards. Among the other winners on Sunday were Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants for best animated television production, and actress Brittany Murphy for giving voice to the character Luane in the Fox TV show King of the Hill. The awards were presented at the Alex Theater. Among the presenters were comic book legend Stan Lee and Debra Jo Rupp, co-star of the Fox sitcom That 70's Show. The awards were hosted by Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants.







CRTC: Spike TV Can Stay In Canada

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Jan. 28, 2005) Ottawa — There's not enough evidence to conclude that the U.S. specialty channel Spike TV competes with any Canadian services and therefore it should remain available to domestic cable and satellite viewers, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled Thursday. The decision was prompted by formal complaints lodged last year, mainly by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters on behalf of Global TV. The CAB argued that Spike — the U.S. channel devoted to men's lifestyle issues — provided unfair competition to a variety of domestic channels, most notably Global's new diginet, Men TV. In its original format, The Nashville Network — and later the National Network — the American service had been authorized for carriage in Canada for some 20 years. But in 2003, TNN was re-branded by its new owner as Spike and, the CAB alleged, its Canadian eligibility should have been reviewed. In its ruling, the CRTC responded by announcing it would merely amend its list of approved imported services to identify Spike in its new incarnation. The Commission said that out of 219 comments submitted, 184 opposed the CAB position. And in what may be a bit of uncharacteristic whimsy, the CRTC notice added that three submissions argued that Spike should not be available "because its programming was not appealing."

This is the channel that carried Stripperella, Pamela Anderson's animated series about a stripper by night who turns into a masked crime fighter even later at night. The CRTC saw a difference between Spike (which focuses on middle-class American men) and Men TV (men's lifestyle programming from an urbane, sophisticated or cultured Canadian men's perspective). The Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association had argued that to remove Spike from the list of foreign signals that can legally be carried in this country would be anti-consumer. "The fact that this application was filed suggests a growing indifference to consumer choice in the system," said CCTA president Michael Hennessy at the time. Bill Hunt, the Global chief of specialty services, countered by insisting CanWest is not afraid of competition. "But where there's competition, there needs to be a level playing field, and we don't have a level playing field in these circumstances." Under the complicated rules of carriage, Canadian specialty services are supposed to be protected from unfair competition from a similarly themed imported signal. In the U.S., that 2003 re-branding of Spike also brought a formal complaint from filmmaker Spike Lee who saw the moniker as an infringement on his own identity. The issue was finally settled with Viacom, which owns the channel as part of its suite of MTV networks.




Crazy Canucks To Star Again

Source: Canadian Press

(Jan. 28, 2005) Toronto — It may not be exactly what happened, but it's the way it was. That's what Steve Podborski says of Crazy Canucks, a CTV movie of the week about that quintet of bona fide Canadian sports heroes, the daredevil-may-care men of the Canadian alpine team that took the World Cup downhill ski circuit by storm back in the mid-1970s. The $4-million production is based on the book White Circus by Ken Read and Matthew Fisher and was shot largely on location last year at St. Anton near Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps. It airs Wednesday night on CTV. Podborski, a teenager at the time along with teammates Read, "Jungle Jim" Hunter, Dave Irwin and Dave Murray, is delighted with the way the "inspired-by-events" film turned out. "They did a great job overall, considering it wasn't your $250-million production," he says. "It makes no pretence of being a documentary, and it's dramatic . . . you end up with a movie that points out the good stuff that happened. There was this focus and camaraderie that made us different." The climax of the film shows one of Podborski's spectacular wipeouts, one that sent him back to Canada for knee surgery. "Pod" was impressed with the stunt work depicting that event, but notes it happened a year later than the storyline suggests. "It's not what happened, but it is the way it was." He says a crash like that is part of the sport, and luckily it was too long ago to bring back painful memories. "I guess the part that really gets you is when the guys have to pack your bags for you." Podborski says most of the actors were doing caricatures of their real-life counterparts, and that goes for the long blond locks. He laughs at the way the actors (including Curtis Harrison, who plays him) had to don the disco wardrobe and hairstyles of the '70s.

"My kid said 'Was your hair that blond?' I said 'Well, no but it was longer than that.' That's one thing they missed. We were really shaggy." Podborski, who now lives in Whistler, B.C., is a successful businessman, endorses a variety of sports equipment companies and has appeared as an Olympic Games analyst. He says he gave no tips to Harrison on how to play him, and that he obviously had good direction. As for technical accuracy, Podborski says not all of the ski equipment is authentic for the era. "If you want to be really picky, certainly the bases were the wrong colour, but who cares?" The real Crazy Canucks did not serve as technical consultants but were asked to sign off on the premise. "I (thought) ultimately there's going to be a movie made about this time so these guys were the ones who figured it out and looked like they could do it well. And so I was delighted that they would take a shot at it." Clearly the producers lucked out with their team of stunt people. For insurance reasons, none of the actors did their own skiing, at least not until principal photography ended. In some scenes, the actors would stand in the gates, 2,000 meters above the village, looking poised, but then they would have to step aside out of camera range while a stunt double swung in. But the sequences that show how the Crazy Canucks attacked the downhill circuit with a verve that bordered on suicide, are the heart — and the heart-pounding part — of the film. But apparently, as thrilling as they look onscreen, they are by no means an exaggeration. "Our jumps were actually longer and faster. Everything we did was about three times faster," says Podborski.

The film opens in 1974 when the team has returned to Europe after a disappointing previous season and is facing the daunting Austrian skiing legend Franz Klammer. Their underdog situation is aggravated by not having access to the latest gear. So they conclude that the only way to crack the European-dominated downhill skiing world is to relentlessly tackle the toughest courses. They also did it with a flair that grabbed the media's attention and didn't let go. The rest, as they say, is history. Altogether, the guts-and-glory team members chalked up 14 World Cup victories and dozens of top 10 finishes. Podborski isn't bothered that it's taken three decades for that history to be put on film and disputes the common wisdom that they are remembered more in Europe than back home in Canada. "To this day I still have people stopping me and saying 'You know what, man, you changed my life . . . you're the best' and blah-blah-blah. And as I say, this is 25-30 years ago. So it made a profound difference to people here."




Welsh Did Groundbreaking Work

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jim Bawden, Television Columnist

(Jan. 31, 2005) A memorial service is being planned Saturday for Jonathan Welsh, the talented actor who co-starred in three Canadian TV series. The service will take place at Little Trinity Church (425 King St. E. near Parliament) at 2 p.m. Welsh died in his sleep Thursday in Belleville at the age of 57 after a brief illness.  Welsh was a fixture on Canadian TV in the 1970s and 1980s and co-starred in CBS's police series Sidestreet (1978-79) opposite Donnelly Rhodes, Adderly (1986-88) opposite Winston Rekert and Dixie Seatle, which ran on both Global and CBS, and CTV's ENG (1989-94) opposite Art Hindle and Sara Botsford.  Born in St. Catharines, he studied at Niagara College, before persuading his parents in 1967 to bankroll him to see if he could make it in theatre. One of his first stops in Toronto was to the Star, where he walked into drama critic Nathan Cohen's office requesting career counselling. A startled Cohen obliged with an hour-long dissertation on the state of Canadian theatre.  So Welsh mounted his own Centennial project and toured U.K. universities in a one-man show of Canadian poetry. By 1971, he had joined the Toronto cast of Hair, neatly cast as Berger. One Star critic wrote, "Jonathan has the blonde, tense appearance of an intelligent-looking Cagney."  Also in 1971, he was the first Canadian guest star on the new series Police Surgeon, one of the first U.S. series to shoot in Toronto. In 1972 he made his Stratford debut and appeared in the CBC miniseries Pierre Berton's The National Dream. He also had roles on CBC's King of Kensington, The Play's the Thing and The Collaborators.  On Sidestreet, Welsh was nicely cast as the eager, young sidekick to Donnelly Rhodes' experienced cop. Scenes were shot on the streets of Toronto. Adderly was a stylish espionage series with Rekert as the dashing spy and Welsh cast to advantage as his nominal boss, petty bureaucrat Melville Greenspan.  ENG, developed for CBC but running on CTV, was an ambitious attempt to document the action in a Toronto TV newsroom with Welsh again scene stealing as Eric "Mac" MacFarlane. Welsh told me he was proudest of the episode when "Mac" came out to his startled co-workers, the first recurring character to do so on a prime-time North American TV show.

An enthusiastic promoter of Canadian TV and movies, Welsh paid his own way to Montreal in 1979 to promote City on Fire, the $5 million disaster epic that co-starred him with a gaggle of U.S. stars of a certain age. No American stars, including Henry Fonda and Ava Gardner, would come to the premiere and Shelley Winters even requested her name be dropped from the credits (she was talked out of that). When Welsh arrived on set he was given a standard trailer but as the U.S. has-beens trickled in, "I was despatched to the changing rooms used by the extras."  After ENG ran its course (with 96 episodes), Welsh had recurring roles on such series as Total Recall (1999), Psi Factor (1999) and Earth: Final Conflict (2000). He also moved into production with a lifestyles series New World Wine Tours (which he also hosted) and founded Performers for Literacy, a non-profit organization encouraging children to read.  Unlike friends who moved to L.A., Welsh declared (in 1978): "I don't want to leave. Anyway, I'm NOT leaving. I live in Toronto and you can reach me there."  Recently Welsh had moved to Belleville. He died after a brief illness. He is survived by wife Heather and three children, Hilary, 20, Owen, 18 and Julia, 15.




Debra's State Of Grace

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Sean Daly, Special To The Star

(Jan. 31, 2005) BEVERLY HILLS—Debra Messing has always had plans with a capital P. They included graduate school, marriage by age 22, a baby at 26 and another by 28.  "Needless to say, none of that happened," the 36 year-old redhead admits with a smile.  "None of my expectations was fulfilled, which is the thing that's so scary and dangerous and spectacular about love. You never fall in love with the people that you think you will fall in love with."  That just happens to be the theme of The Wedding Date, Messing's new romantic comedy, opening Friday. She stars opposite Dermot Mulroney as a single New Yorker who falls in love with the male escort she hires to taunt an ex-flame at her sister's London wedding.  Messing, a former Rhode Island Junior Miss and star of TV's Will & Grace, found her real-life soulmate in 1990: aspiring screenwriter Daniel Zelman.  "He won me over very early," she remembers. "But the courtship lasted a very, very long time."  They waited 10 years to tie the knot and, until last April to welcome their first child, a 5 pound, 14 ounce boy named Roman.  Not that Messing, one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People of 2002, has been slouching. Since 1998, she has racked up six Golden Globe nominations and four Emmy nods (including a win in 2003) for the portrayal of wacky interior decorator Grace Adler on Will & Grace — a role that nearly went to Desperate Housewife Nicolette Sheridan.  The two stars have remained close friends since Sheridan made a guest appearance on the sitcom in 2003.  So, could Messing turn up on Wisteria Lane next? "I like to think that I am not a desperate housewife," she offers with a laugh.  But Messing is a bit of a self-proclaimed pack rat. "I am sentimental," she admits. "I literally have my cheerleading outfit from the 7th Grade in my closet."

And guess what? The Brooklyn-born actress is almost slim enough to still fit in it.  Messing credits much of her post-pregnancy physique to breast-feeding. "I felt it was a great responsibility to eat well, because everything I was eating, he was eating," she says. "So I was eating much more healthily than I normally would — like fast food and cookies and donuts and pizza."  She also makes it a point to exercise. "I do stationary bikes and work out with weights" at least three times a week. After all, every actress knows you have to look your best for the paparazzi.  "It is like there is a weekly chronicle of how you are doing on your diet that month or how good you were at getting rid of that pimple," Messing says. "Being scrutinized is not healthy for anybody and something that is unnatural, but it's something all of us have to accept."  Such unwanted attention was never a problem for Messing, growing up with her older brother Brett in suburban Providence. Her father worked as a jewellery salesman; mom was a banker and travel agent, who loved to sing. So did Debra. So much, in fact, that she majored in theatre arts at Brandeis University and later spent half a year studying in London's B.E.S.G.L. (British and European Studies Group) program.  Messing was eventually accepted into New York University's elite graduate acting group. That's where she first met her future husband.  Messing made her movie debut opposite Keanu Reeves in A Walk in the Clouds and has since appeared in The Mothman Prophecies, Garfield: The Movie and Along Came Polly.  But it was Will & Grace that made her a household name in 1998. Now the burning question is: How long can the show go on?  "The prerequisite hasn't changed," Messing says. "I still feel like as long as we are enjoying it, which we are, and as long as we feel that the scripts are still funny and fresh, then there is no reason to stop.  "But I also think we all want to go out celebrating what Will & Grace is instead of letting it die a slow, crippling death."  Perhaps when the time comes to call it a wrap, Messing will have a chance to accomplish that final goal — a second baby.  "I'm open to it," she concedes. "I mean, I love children, I am delirious over my son. In an ideal world, would I like him to enjoy everything that comes with living with a sibling? Yes, I would love that. Whether or not that's going to happen, I don't know ... It's not in the immediate future."




Our Eyes Are Watching Oprah: Show To End In 2011

Excerpt from

(Jan. 31, 2005) *Oprah Winfrey told television executives in Las Vegas last week that she will end “The Oprah Winfrey Show” when the contract with distributor King World expires in six years. We’ve heard this talk from the daytime maven twice before – once in 1997, before deciding to renew her contract through 2002; then in 2002, she announced that 2006 would be the perfect year for the show to end because it would be the anniversary of its 20th year in national syndication.   We have until 2011 to see if Oprah really will close the chapter on the TV behemoth. But one vow she has managed to keep is her refusal to take on any more acting roles since 1998’s “Beloved” – that is until “Desperate Housewives” creator Mark Cherry gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse. Neither Winfrey nor Cherry will divulge too many details, but both confirmed weeks ago that Oprah shot “a thing” that will air on her talk show, most likely during February sweeps. “Marc Cherry wrote this incredible script, and I ended up going through all the different phases of the different housewives, and I hadn’t acted really,” said Winfrey. “I haven’t acted since 1998 with ‘Beloved.’  And I thought I was done with my acting days, but I loved being a part of the ‘Desperate Housewives’ so much that I’m thinking I might do something else soon.  You got any ideas? I’m open.” Winfrey apparently has desperate housewife Eva Longoria wide open. The actress who plays Gabrielle on the ABC series is such an Oprah fan that she could barely compose herself on the couch when she, Cherry and fellow cast members Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Nicolette Sheridan were featured on the show late last year.  Longoria says it wasn’t until that day when she knew what a phenomenon “Desperate Housewives” had become.  “The audience in ‘Oprah’ doesn’t know who’s on the show. They just line up outside everyday,” explains Longoria. “They’re hoping it’s ‘Oprah’s Favourite Things’ first of all, so they’re were a little disappointed at that, but when the warmer-upper, comedian guy goes, ‘We have the cast of ‘Des...,’ they just went crazy.  He didn’t even get out the full ‘Desperate.’ It was kind of exciting to feel that energy from, basically our audience. Oprah’s audience is the women who watch our show, and for me, that was overwhelming. I cried.” 

In addition to Oprah’s “Desperate Housewives” skit slated to air on her program, another forthcoming episode will be devoted entirely to promoting the Mar. 6 premiere of ABC’s “Oprah Winfrey Presents: Their Eyes Were Watching God,” an adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel starring Halle Berry. “I gotta figure out a way not to go overboard,” laughs Winfrey. “We’re planning a show now to do something that Halle would be comfortable doing.”   Berry, sitting next to Winfrey, gives her an incredulous “Oh, Oprah” smile. It’s the same smile she flashed earlier following Oprah saying how nervous she was in asking Halle to star in the ABC picture. “I was a little nervous calling her up,” said Oprah. “No, she wasn’t,” said Berry. “I was a little nervous because Halle and I are friends, and I really hate imposing on friends,” Oprah said.  “I hate asking anybody to do anything for me, except I really, really wanted this really badly, and I only wanted her.  So I thought, ‘I’m going to give it a shot.’ She had just won the Academy Award the night before. I thought, ‘I better get in now, because I know everybody else is going to be calling her up,’ and I know it’s a bold move to make to say, ‘Congratulations, you look really nice at the Academy, but could you do that movie I’ve been talking about for 10 years?’” To humour the actress, Berry was asked if she had any hesitation over accepting Oprah’s offer – particularly because it’s a film for television, not the big screen. “Absolutely not,” she says quickly. “Not when Oprah calls you up and asks you to do it, and not when it’s a book that you love, and you know that it’s a book that Oprah loves and you know the reputation of [Winfrey’s production company] Harpo. You know that it’s going to be handled with great love, great care, dignity, respect, and to be a part of bringing Zora Neale’s work to life is something that will be a part of my legacy.   “It’s not just making movies for the sense of entertaining. It’s actually doing something much deeper,” she continues. “And anytime I get a chance to do that, I don’t care, I’d do it on a street corner in New York City if that meant it was going to do the kind of good that this movie potentially has an opportunity to do.” 




Dick Clark Released From Hospital

Excerpt from

(Jan. 27, 2005) Dick Clark is recuperating at home after seven weeks in a hospital following a minor stroke. The 75-year-old "American Bandstand" icon returned to his Malibu, Calif., home yesterday (Jan. 26) and was said to be grateful for the many cards and letters he received during his hospital stay.   "He was very touched by the outpouring of support, not only from the celebrity world but from the people on the streets of New York," his spokesperson said.   Because of the stroke, Clark was unable to host his "New Year's Rockin' Eve" show from Times Square for the first time in 32 years. Daytime talk show host Regis Philbin stood in while Clark watched from his hospital bed.   During the broadcast, fans on the street held up "Get Well Dick" signs. Madonna, John Travolta, Janet Jackson and other celebrities shared best wishes via taped segments.   His spokesperson wouldn't discuss the impact of the stroke.




K. Washington in ‘Boston’

Excerpt from

(Jan. 29, 2005) *Kerry Washington moves from the home of Ray Charles to the law offices of Crane, Poole & Schmidt.  The actress, who played Charles’ wife Della Bea Robinson in the Oscar-nominated "Ray," has signed on for a multi-episode arc on ABC's "Boston Legal" as Chelina Hall, a new associate at the law firm. The 27-year-old actress will also appear in the forthcoming summer films "Fantastic Four" and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Her first “Boston Legal” episode, titled “Tortured Souls,” airs Sunday, Feb. 20. *Speaking of “Ray” actors, star Jamie Foxx tells that he was still sound asleep when the Oscar nominations were announced at that ungodly hour on the West coast.  Foxx, was in a Beverly Hills hotel near the set for his new movie “Jarhead” when news broke of “Ray’s” six nominations. He said: "My managers called me and woke me up to say: 'Beautiful things are happening on TV - turn your television on.’”




Chris Rock Teams With Seinfeld For HBO Doc

Excerpt from

(Jan. 31, 2005) *Comedians Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld are teaming to produce a multi-episode documentary on the history of standup to air on HBO, reports “Daily Variety.”   The pair, whose friendship goes way back to their early club circuit days, have been mulling the project for several years, but it wasn't until recently - after the funeral for Rodney Dangerfield - that they decided to pitch it to HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht. According to Variety, Albrecht jumped on the idea and initiated talks with documentarian Ric Burns to direct.  The series will reportedly cull material from HBO's vast archive of standup specials from the last three decades, including shows by Dangerfield, Seinfeld, Rock as well as George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Robert Klein, Roseanne and Steven Wright.  *Meanwhile, during Rock’s recent press interviews in advance of his hosting duties at the 77th Academy Awards, airing Feb. 27 on ABC, the comic told of how he made an unofficial visit to the White House while filming a movie in Washington D.C. a year ago. While walking past 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Rock said: "A black security guard spotted me and took me into the White House. I was walking around the whole White House. It was weird because Bush was there and they were hiding me from Bush."




LL To Get His ‘Caress’ On

Excerpt from

(Jan. 31, 2005) *A new commercial for Caress body wash will feature LL Cool J. flanked by two sexy women as he walks down a red carpet toward a New York night club.   The ad, titled "Limo," is supposed to showcase the "star power" of Caress-radiant skin and how having "skin to be seen in" and the attitude to match gives these women access to one of NY’s hottest nightclubs -- with LL tagging along as eye-candy. In the spot, the women - with “glowing skin” – roll up to the club only to find a long-a** line.  Unwilling to stand and wait, they spot a stretch limo arrive in front of the club and jump inside. To their surprise, it belongs to LL Cool J – who steps out onto the red carpet and conveniently walks in with the.  With LL between them, the women bypass the crowds and flashing paparazzi and head straight through the VIP entrance. Once the trio is safely inside, the women smile at each other knowingly and then "take off" into the club, leaving LL looking used and abused.   The ad will hit airways in early February and can also be viewed on the Caress website at







'Da Kink Hair-Raising Hit For Mirvish

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Jan. 27, 2005) The rest of Toronto may be suffering through the January gloom, but things are looking sunny these days for Mirvish Productions.  'Da Kink In My Hair is proving as big a hit at the Princess of Wales Theatre as it was during earlier runs at the Toronto Fringe Festival and Theatre Passe Muraille.  In fact, there are no seats available for the remainder of the show's originally scheduled run through Feb. 26 and so David Mirvish has decided to hold the show over a week through March 5.  Despite mixed reviews from the city's theatre critics, ticket buyers are finding the show to their favour.  "In the commercial theatre, the audience is king," said Mirvish. "And audiences love 'Da Kink. We rarely extend our subscription shows, but the popular demand for this show warrants it. From the beginning 'Da Kink has been breaking down barriers and it is continuing to do so."  The play by trey anthony deals with the lives of a series of black women in Toronto, who tell their stories during a visit to a West Indian beauty shop run by an all-knowing beautician named Novelette, played by author anthony herself.  When asked if 'Da Kink could get held over even longer, Mirvish communications director John Karastamatis said, "That all depends on public demand. We have to vacate the theatre in time for Evita, which opens April 27, but until then, we can keep our options open."  Another huge popular favourite is proving to be Wicked.  The smash Broadway musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz doesn't even start previews until March 8, but 90 per cent of all available seats have already been sold.  Wicked, which runs until April 24, is strictly limited by its touring schedule and there is no possibility of a holdover. So if you were planning on heading down that yellow brick road, put in your bid now for the very few remaining seats.  And the long running hit Mamma Mia! continues to play to solid houses, thanks to an attractive weekday discount program available for the winter months.  It celebrates its fifth Toronto anniversary this spring and the party should really be something.




Raven Lets Hair Down

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rita Zekas

(Jan. 29, 2005) Who's that girl? Where have I seen her before? It was bugging me the whole time I watching Raven Dauda in `Da Kink in My Hair at the Princess Of Wales.  "She used to work at Joso's," I was told. Eureka! Didn't recognize her without the plate of fish in her hand, reciting the seafood specials.  Dauda worked at Joso's while she was going through the requisite struggling-actor phase. Those days are over. If there is a work slowdown in Toronto this year, you wouldn't know it by her résumé. The woman hasn't stopped working. She's done everything from Kojak to The Rules of Engagement.  And she looks different in everything. I screened Childstar and couldn't place her in it.  "I had a bit part. I was the hooker in the silver dress," she explained over tea at Bistro 990 on Monday, her day off. "I'm with the American actor and I'm a star hopper."  Get out! Dauda is tall and trim. That hooker character was way more voluptuous. A good two sizes bigger.  Nah, Dauda insisted, it was all done with push-up bras and big hair: "A kinky Afro."  "I'm thankful that in the last year, I was constantly working. I'm so proud that my short film, The Stronger, is at the Sundance Film Festival."  The Stronger has gone to Sundance without Dauda because she is on stage in Kink, set in a hair salon in Toronto's Eglinton Ave. West Caribbean neighbourhood.  "Stronger is also set in a beauty salon," she laughed.  It's a two-hander but Dauda has all the good lines. Actually pretty much all the lines.  "I come in with a flourish, meet an old friend and discover she's having an affair with my husband. And I just go at her."  According to Trey Anthony, who wrote 'Da Kink in My Hair, "You can often tell what's going on in a woman's life by the state of her hair. If it's in a mess, her life is probably in a mess."

Dauda's hair is in funky, neat cornrows. "It's about the power of hair," she allowed. "I take great pride in my hair."  In one ear, she was wearing a colourful, beaded, dangly earring made by Ngozi Paul, who plays Nia in the show. It's all about sisterhood.  "I'm honoured to be on stage with fabulously talented women," Dauda said. "It's such a tight family unit. It involves risk-taking and a lot of trust; a lot of patience; and a lot of tears. People are baring their souls. The majority of these women were my friends and even on days off, I want to call them. I don't know what will happen when the show ends. We'll have to find a big rooming house."  Dauda plays Sharmaine, the local girl who has made good and gone to Hollywood to become a soap opera diva, getting to be between the sheets on screen with a hunky leading man.  But Sharmaine couldn't care less. She is a lesbian.  "It is such an honour to play Sharmaine," Dauda said. "She is the voice for gays and lesbians. Some nights, I feel the audience gives me a fight but it reminds me this (platform) is necessary. I see the same-sex marriage issue in the papers but I never knew fully the struggle they deal with. I'm black and that's a different struggle.  "Sharmaine is layered. She's a fighter, scrappy and gutsy. It's not a matter of where did I go wrong? It's part of who you are. How can you deny who you are? Sharmaine says, `Yes, it is who I am. It enhances me.'"  Sharmaine is not based on any one daytime diva, though Dauda watched As the World Turns and The Young and the Restless for inspiration. She played the same role in the play's Passe Muraille incarnation.  "I feel Sharmaine has grown older and more grounded. She was angry before. This role has changed my life — now I consider myself a storyteller. Before this, I lost sight of why I got into acting. I was doing cool TV things."  Dauda, 30, has been acting for the last decade. A native of Ottawa, she came to Toronto when she was 13. She has two older sisters and an older brother, all non-showbizzy.  She attended Northern Secondary and was part of the Sears Drama Festival.

"R.H. Thomson gave me an Outstanding Performer award and it was life-altering," she recalled. "I felt, I really think I can do this. The only thing I ever wanted to do is be an actor. I'd do talent shows and I was always acting up with friends, doing dress-up.  "I went to the Etobicoke School for the Performing Arts. My first professional gig was as a background dancer on the Norman Jewison film Bogus."  She's never been typecast and usually plays strong characters. In the primetime soap Paradise Falls, she played larcenous opportunist Kelly Foran.  "Kelly comes to town, works as a waitress and becomes a casino dealer, where she ends up hooking up with the mayor to run a scam," Dauda said. "At the end, I double-cross him, get a whole bunch of money and go to Grand Cayman with the cutest, hottest guy. `See ya.'"  She's appeared in the actioners Bulletproof Monk and La Femme Nikita, but would like to be the one kicking butt herself. She has her blue belt in tae kwon do. "It's four away from a black belt," Dauda said. "This time next year, watch out. I always wanted to shoot a guy; I've had people tell me I should be the next Foxy Brown or Cleopatra Jones."  Dauda teaches drama to kids at Dean Armstrong School and for two years has been working on mounting the play 3 Parts Harmony, which she wrote.  Her surname comes from Sierra Leone. What about Raven?  "I chose the name Raven when I was 10 or 11," she explained. "Before, my name was Michelle. I was taken with the raven, a creature that could be a witch or The Trickster to the Inuits. And Edgar Allan Poe's raven. Ravens grow up huge; in Vancouver, I saw some which could carry away small dogs. My mom said, `Try the name for a year and if it sticks, we'll change it legally.' When I was 12, I became Raven."  With that, Dauda was off getting her hair rebraided by Keda, sister of Miranda Edwards, one of the Kink-y women.




The Full Nelson, And Then Some

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -Robert Crew, Arts Writer

(Jan. 31, 2005) Donald Carr loves wordplay; his new one-man show at Artword Theatre is called The Full Nelson, is a punning tribute to the great South African leader Nelson Mandela.  The Full Nelson, subtitled A Black Eye on a Crazy World, is rife with such playful word- and phrase-bending. Some are familiar — "she was Snow White and then she drifted." Some are less so — "The mind is like a parachute. It only functions when it is open."  But Carr's purpose is totally serious. The show is an exuberant romp through history and politics, pausing on its way to pay heartfelt tribute to a number of iconic "M"s, including Malcolm (X), Mohammed, Martin (Luther King), Mahatma (Gandhi) and, of course, Mandela.  It is told in dance, movement and, above all, in a torrent of language. And amid all the fun and word games, Carr manages to reverse a cliché or twist a familiar saying in a way that makes you stop and think.  Judith Sandiford's set is a giant playground for Carr, who has worked with Toronto Dance Theatre, the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham dance companies and the National Ballet as well as acting with Black Theatre Canada and Theatre in the Rough.  He clambers on ladder-like frames, leans out from them clutching onto ropes and hangs upside down as he unbottles his thoughts about life, creation, Adam and Eve, the slave trade and the African Diaspora, and apartheid.  Carr calls it a "hip-hopera" and divides the piece into seven so-called "arias." It should be said that there is no real singing in the show, just a range of different styles and genres of music performed by keyboardist Thomas Baker.  Carr is an engaging and energetic performer, as lean and purposeful as his script is overweight and wandering. The material meanders along, scattering and shattering bon mots. Some thoughts are superficial (everywhere man is free, women are in thongs); some are not (if you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance).  The most moving section is the tribute to Mandela, whom Carr describes as a living saint. This was a man, he points out, who emerged from long years of imprisonment preaching non-violence and reconciliation. "Resistance is fertile," Carr concludes.  Elsewhere, the script is less strong and, at 2 hours and 30 minutes, the show is far too long.  "I can be brief," Carr claims at one point, "but I can't be abbreviated."  Maybe so. But he needs someone to be firm with him and cut some of the more self-indulgent and unnecessary moments. There are quite a few of them.







A Stitch In Time For Argo

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rick Matsumoto, Sports Reporter

(Feb. 1, 2005) Embroidering was not a skill that guys aspired to learn in the hard neighbourhoods of Detroit's west side. In fact, some chose not to learn any skills at all.  "If you went there, you'd see a lot of guys just standing on a street corner all day doing nothing," says Argonaut defensive back Chuck Winters.  So there was, naturally, some taunting when friends dropped by the hat store where Winters was a part owner in Detroit's Northland Mall and they saw him wearing an apron and embroidering logos onto baseball caps.  For Winters, who turns 31 on Feb. 7, learning to embroider was simply part of his plan to pick up any skill he might be able to use down the road of life.  And he is using it. He's spending the off-season working for Plain and Simple Sports and Promowear, an Etobicoke-based firm in which Argo head coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons is a partner.  Winters works at a computerized embroidering machine feeding baseball caps, jackets and sweatshirts under the chattering needles that use coloured thread to produce the desired logo. He's the only male in a workroom full of women.  "It's a nice atmosphere. I joke around with the ladies," said Winters.  The women enjoy his presence, too.  "We tell people we work with a big star," said Ubi Doslo.  Winters didn't think he'd ever use his embroidering skills again when his store was sold to another chain and he elected not to remain as a manager. But that was before he decided to move his family to Toronto last summer.  His wife, Lynn, was concerned about Winters being separated from her and their three young daughters, Raven, 4, Lauryn, 3, and Samone, 2, for six months of the year while he played football in Canada, so she suggested the move. He agreed, figuring it would be a good experience for his girls.  When Winters, who recently signed a new two-year contract with the Argos, decided he needed off-season employment he called the Argo front office.

"They asked if I had any skills," he said. "I said embroidering. They thought I was joking."  When Clemons learned that Winters was looking for work he talked to him about Plain and Simple.  "I told (principal owner Brian Green) what I thought of Chuck," said Clemons. "What a motivator he is and how conscientious he is. He's an energizer. He's our emotional leader."  Green said Winters is a perfect fit, especially because he already knew how to operate the embroidery machines.  While many might wonder why a professional athlete, even one earning a modest CFL salary, would want to work in a factory for not a whole lot more than minimum wage, Winters' answer is simple: "Who knows where it will lead to down the road?"  Returning to the clothing business is one possibility.  As a student/athlete at the University of Michigan, where he graduated with a degree in sports management, he had a middle-of-the-night brain wave that got him started in apparel.  Winters was a member of the 1994 Wolverines team that was beaten by visiting Colorado when Kordell Stewart completed a 64-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook on the last play of the game.  "A few weeks after that game the idea came to me one night about 2 a.m. — Last Play. I had a friend draw me a logo. I had it digitized, put it on some sweatshirts and sold about 40 in a week."  The idea of designing clothes stayed with him as he pursued a baseball career as a pitcher-turned-centre fielder with the Massachusetts Mad Dogs of the independent North Atlantic League, after the Kansas City Royals had originally drafted him as a high schooler.  Winters proposed a line of sportswear to a friend's father who ran a clothes-manufacturing firm in New York.  "When you're done with baseball come and see me," was the man's answer.  Winters evaluated his baseball career and decided that he had a better future in the clothing field. His friend's father gave him office space in the factory, but with no experience in marketing Winters found progress slow. His line was being sold in a couple of New York stores, but he couldn't break into the major department stores.  Then in February 1997 he got a frantic call that took him back to Detroit.  "My mom called and told me my brother had been shot," said Winters, after learning 18-year-old Malik Winters had been the victim of a drive-by shooting.

"My brother was in a car with some friends and they had an altercation with some guys in another car," said Winters.  "The other car came back and someone fired shots at the car he was in. He was the only one hit."  Malik Winters died while his older brother was en route to Michigan.  Winters returned home to support his mother, Earthy, whom he calls "the strongest influence in my life."  "I'm the second person in my family to get a university education," he said. "She was the first. She's the one who got me into baseball. She supported me in everything I did."  His deep affection for his mother led to a night in jail during his senior year at Michigan. He returned home one weekend and found his mother being confronted by her ex-husband. Winters hit his stepfather, who was armed with a crowbar, with a baseball bat on the street.  "He was a very abusive husband and had just come out from spending four years in jail," recalled Winters. "I spent the night in a holding cell, but they let me go the next morning. I wasn't even charged. I was just protecting my mom. She means everything to me."  Winters' stepfather apparently got the message, and hasn't contacted his mother since.  In 2000, the Arena Football League placed a team in Detroit and Winters decided to try out at age 27 despite not having played since college. He made it and began working with current Argo defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler, who held a similar position with the Fury. When Stubler returned to the CFL with the Argos in 2003, Winters joined him.  "He's one of those guys who appreciates everything in his life," said Stubler. "His wife, his daughters and just the fact he's alive. And he loves to play football. Wherever I go (as a coach), he's the first guy I'd take with me. Frank's the ultimate team guy."  Frank?  "We had three guys named Chuck, so to differentiate between them I gave him each one of them a different name," deadpanned Stubler. "No reason. Just a name."






Toronto To Be Named A Cultural Capital Of Canada

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By James Adams

(Jan. 27, 2005) The federal government plans to name Toronto a ''cultural capital of Canada'' and give the city $500,000 for that designation, effective this September through August, 2006. Heritage Minister Liza Frulla was to have made the announcement tomorrow at City Hall, but she was forced yesterday to cancel her appearance to prepare for an emergency visit to Paris, civic officials said. No new date for the announcement has been scheduled, a spokesman in her Ottawa office said. Last September, Mayor David Miller announced that in 2006 the city would celebrate a yearlong festival of the arts, pegged to the expected completion of new buildings for the Canadian Opera Company, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art.  "In addition to drawing people out to the galleries and theatres, we plan to bring free and affordable artistic activities to the people of Toronto -- in neighbourhoods all over the city, in parks, squares and other public places. We want to engage as many partners as possible in this massive event, so that all Torontonians get a taste of the rich diversity of creative expression that exists here," Mr. Miller said when he announced the event. The mayor also spoke of the importance of arts in Toronto. "Our artistic community gives . . . a vibrancy that makes our city more appealing to businesses and individuals who choose to locate here. On a more personal level, our artists keep our minds active, nourish our spirit, and help give our city its soul. Artists make us rich in every sense of the word," Mr. Miller said. The federal money comes from a program announced by the Liberals in 2002 that supports "special activities" in municipalities "harnessing the many benefits of arts and culture."

The federal government has already provided a total of $57.5-million toward construction of the three buildings under way in Toronto. The Canadian Opera Company revealed this month that it has raised $133-million for its Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, under construction on Queen Street West. The announcement shows the COC's fundraising success taking the company nearly three-quarters of the way toward its $181-million goal for the opera house. There had been fears that the COC might be hard pressed to pay for its new building when the Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum and Royal Conservatory of Music are all involved in construction projects.  The season planned for 2005-2006 includes the third instalment in the COC's continuing production of Wagner's Ring cycle, as well as new productions of Verdi's Macbeth, Bizet's Carmen and Handel's Rodelinda. The COC will also reprise its own productions of Bellini's Norma and Berg's Wozzeck. The ROM's 174,000-square-foot (16,000-square-metre) renovated space is due to open in December. It will house six new galleries: Dinosaurs; Early Mammals; Africa, Pacifica and the Americas; West and South Asia; Textiles; and Contemporary Culture. An 18,000-square-foot (1,600-square-metre) exhibition hall will be created beneath the new Bloor Street entrance lobby. The Royal Conservatory of Music's Telus Centre for Performance and Learning is slated to open next year. The new facilities will include a 1,000-seat concert hall, a new media and broadcast centre, fully wired practice and teaching studios and a comprehensive music library.




The CB Brand -- The Dream Fit

Source: AR PR Marketing Firm / 323-330-0555 /

(Feb. 1, 2005) The woman who created Nelly's $30 million Apple Bottoms enterprise introduces the long-awaited arrival of perfect jeans and bottoms for the fashion forward woman with curves: The CB Brand. Leslie Ungar's motivation comes from her everyday effort to find comfortable yet fashionable jeans.  "Not only am I the CEO of the company, I am a client. As a curvaceous woman, I struggle everyday to find jeans and bottoms that have the right fit," said Leslie Ungar. Leslie and her business partner Tessia Thomas former members of Apple Bottoms Executive Team-comprise the Executive Board of The CB Brand.  "I've always seen the problems my friends face in finding a pair of bottoms that shapes to their bodies. I am thrilled we are bringing an answer to these women," said Leslie.  These female entrepreneurs have united under The CB Brand to give the modern woman of every ethnicity, shape and size the opportunity to feel comfortable yet stylish in her jeans and bottoms. Both women on the executive staff is from a different ethnic background. Collectively, they represent their target audience-women of all ages, sizes and ethnicities. Leslie's previous experience in the garment industry, along with her fashion expertise, led to the overwhelming success of Apple Bottoms. She saw to the rise of Nelly's company from 1.8 to 30 million dollars in less than two years. This woman is amazing! Now Leslie, together with Tessia is starting their own apparel enterprise, aiming to provide a more improved solution to finding the perfect jeans to fit the many curves of a woman. Oprah Winfrey was one of the many satisfied Apple Bottoms customers, stating on national television, These are the most comfortable jeans I have ever worn. The CB Brand is to engineer the ultimate high fashion jeans and bottoms for all the curves of a women. Presenting to you the two different CB fits: Cherry B, a jean and bottom cut for the more slender womans curves, and Curved Bottoms, a jean and bottom cut for the more full figured woman with curves. Furthermore, the company plans to endorse the image of the modern woman loving her body regardless of its size. The CB Brand will be hosting an exciting cause related marketing campaign called "It's A Woman Thing" to help women prevent, fight and overcome eating disorders. The company intends to
hold a yearly celebrity charity benefit for this cause. The CB Brand will have a price range from $130 to $210 and compete with companies such as Miss Sixty, 7 For All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, Juicy Couture, and Frankie B. Although the competition promises to be fierce, the products are not comparable. Women all over the world have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of The CB Brand products, Cherry B and Curved Bottoms. Watch out competition, you're about to be blown out of the water.  Every woman has curves. Are you a Cherry B or a Curved Bottom?




Beyonce & Mama Ink Deal For Clothing Line

Excerpt from

(Jan. 27, 2005) *Beyonce and Tina Knowles announce that their clothing line, The House of Dereon, has signed a licensee agreement with the Tarrant Apparel Group - a provider of private label and private brand casual apparel - to collaborate on the design, manufacturing and distribution of House of Dereon brand apparel.  Tarrant and its subsidiary, Private Brands, Inc., have signed the exclusive licensee agreement with Beyond Productions (founded in May 2004 by Beyonce and Tina) and Kids Headquarters.  Named after Tina Knowles' mother and Beyonce's grandmother, Agnes Dereon, the line honours the woman who worked as a seamstress and influenced Tina's love of fashion. Inspired by three generations of women who have joined together in a labour of love, The House of Dereon is expected to hit specialty stores worldwide for the Holiday 2005 season. The young contemporary women's line will feature ready-to-wear, casual sportswear, and denim offerings.  "It is such a rewarding feeling to be part of something that both my mother and I really believe in,” Beyonce said in a statement. “I hope that everybody loves the clothing as much as we do; we have really put our hearts into developing these fashions."




Snoop Wants To Coach Steelers

Excerpt from

(Jan. 27, 2005) *Snoop Dogg coached his 10-year-old son’s little league football team through an undefeated season and eventual championship.  Now the rapper says he’s ready to coach in the NFL.  Look out Bill Cowher, he wants your job.   "My dream is to coach in the NFL, probably for the Steelers," the rapper revealed to the "New York Daily News." "Put that out there for me.”  If that dream doesn’t quite work out, Snoop has a plan B.   "If I wanted to, if I trained, I could be an NFL wide receiver," he said. "'Cause I have the ability to get open." As previously reported, the lanky MC has partnered up with Juba Entertainment to put on the Snooper Bowl, a football game and charity concert in Jacksonville on Feb. 5 that will pit his son’s team against an all-star team from Florida.  "Football has a lot to do with life," Snoop said. "You got to learn how to take your losses. You gotta look out for the team like they look out for you." A few months ago, Snoop also paid a visit to the USC Trojans football team, running drills with both the offense and defense.







Thinner Thighs, Tighter Butt!

By Joyce Vedral, Special for eFitness

(Jan. 31, 2005) Women have their trouble spots from the bottom up: hips, butt, thighs and so on. Yet, often we can't do the work we need to do to fix those trouble spots because we think we must do endless lunges.  Until recently I drudged my way through lunges thinking, "There's no other way." Well, I tore the cartilage in my knee and lo and behold I could neither squat nor lunge. What was I going to do? I had new videos coming out in three months. Well, I figured out a way to work around it, and my hips, butt and thighs looked better than ever in my life at 59 plus!  Here's the deal. You don't actually have to lunge to get your thighs in shape as long as you put the "work" part of the exercise on the spots that need reshaping. To get your front thighs in shape, you can accomplish the same thing as a lunge by doing a lying leg lift. To get your inner thighs and outer thighs in shape, you can do the Frog Leg Lift.  To get your butt in shape you can do the lying scissors. Do the following three exercises, 15 repetitions each, one after the other? Then rest 15 seconds and repeat two more times.

The Lying Leg Lift

Start Position: Lie flat on the floor with your left leg bent, the sole of your left foot flat on the floor and your arms straight at your sides. Your right leg is straight out in front of you with or without an ankle weight.  Movement: Flexing your working thigh muscle as you go, and keeping your knee locked, raise your leg until it goes past your other knee. Give your thigh an extra hard flex and return to start position. Repeat the movement until you have done 15 repetitions. Repeat for the other leg then without resting move to the...

Frog Leg Lift

Lie flat on your back with your arms extended and parallel to your sides. Bend at the knees and let the heels of your shoes touch, so that your knees are about 20 inches apart.  Movement: Flexing your inner thighs as you go, extend your legs upward until your knees are locked and your legs are completely together. Repeat the movement until you have done 15 repetitions. Without resting move to the...

Lying Scissors

Lie flat on your back with your legs together and raised about eight inches off the floor. Movement: Keeping your back flat to the floor, scissor your legs apart until you cannot go any further, all the time flexing your hip-butt thigh area. Repeat the movement until you have done 15 repetitions. Rest 15 seconds and repeat this series two more times. 

How long does it take? In three weeks you'll see your hips, butt and thighs lifting and becoming more firm.  For more exercise combinations for these body parts, and exercises to tone the rest of your body, visit




EVENTS –FEBRUARY 3 - 13, 2005




KUUMBA at Harbourfront Centre

(Jan. 18, 2005) KUUMBA means Creativity in Swahili.  This year's edition of Kuumba at Harbourfront Centre celebrates African Heritage Month with two jam-packed weekends of music concerts and dance premieres, engaging and provocative readings and panels, a film series curated by the Get Reel Film Festival, a visual arts exhibition premiere and a variety of family activities.  Kuumba's full tenth anniversary activities begin on February 5 and February 6 and continue February 12 and February 13, 2005. All events, except where noted, are free admission and appropriate for all ages. Complete Kuumba program below: The Kuumba cultural programme is also part of Harbourfront Centre's Winter exploration of HE. The changing nature of the male identity and shifting notions of man's role in society are embedded as sub-themes in select Kuumba events. For more information the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit .  All Kuumba events are located at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto).




The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




Kabin Club (formerly Jai Bar)
214 Adelaide St. W.-
For tickets/ Group rates call Benjamin 416-320-5907 or e-mail

EVENT PROFILE:  Do you like to have fun?  Do you like to eat free food?  Would you like to be apart of an A-list event?  Are you going to watch the big game? If you said YES to all of these questions than you need to join 4th and 1 Events on Sunday, February 6th, 2005 for the Super Bowl Party of the year!!  Come down to the new Kabin Club (214 Adelaide St W-formerly Jai Bar) and enjoy the game on a large game screen, 2 Plasma TVs, free catered food, VIP Service and a bikini contest.  Enjoy the ultimate sporting experience alongside your host Much Music VJ Matte Babel and the beautiful girls from Molson's.  There will be giveaways ALL night a DJ and after party all for ONLY $10.00  Admittance to this event is by ticket only.




College Street Bar  
574 College Street (at Manning)  
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French.




Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.
10:00 pm
EVENT PROFILE: Monday nights at IRIE continue their tradition.  Carl Cassell’s original art and IRIE itself will be featured in the January 2005 issue of Toronto Life!  It’s no surprise to me that Toronto Life has chosen Carl Cassell, in their quest to reveal those restaurants that also offer the unique addition of original art.  Let Irie awaken your senses.  Irie Mondays continue – food – music – culture.




Revival Bar  
783 College Street (at Shaw)  
10:00 pm  
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Rich Brown, Joel Joseph and Shamakah Ali with various local artists. 




The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar
574 College Street (at Manning)
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French




Have a great week!  

Dawn Langfield   
Langfield Entertainment