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NEWSLETTER

Updated:  March 3, 2005

Perhaps we're at the apex of winter and it's all downhill from here right?  Right.  Well folks, in a few weeks it's Easter weekend (early this year!) and I will be off to California for my first real break in almost three years!  So, there will probably not be a newsletter the week of Thursday, March 31.  Just giving you a heads up!
 
Kayte Burgess showcases her latest work at Canadian Music Week tomorrow night, Friday, March 4 - 10:00 pm SHARP - see details below.  Come and check it out.  Don't forget to check out CMW's Urban Summit on Saturday, March 5 - details HERE!  Also, check out the special Oscar section with lots of glam coverage!

Good fortune struck again when I secured the opportunity to interview Mario, in person this time!  Please have a read of this very together, not to mention successful R&B artist - he's riding high on his Turning Point

Tons of Canadian news this week in every category.  Check out the rest of the entertainment news below - MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, and OTHER 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

 

 

::HOT EVENTS::

 

 

Kayte Burgess at Canadian Music Week

Toronto’s Kayte Burgess has put together a hot showcase for the patrons of Canadian Music Week.  Come out and see some of her newest material in the posh setting of Pipers inside the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.  Don’t be late – these showcases are only ½ hour long!

FRIDAY, MARCH 4
Kayte Burgess
Pipers at Fairmont Royal York
10:00 pm
FREE

 

 

 

::EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW::

 

 

Mario’s Turning Point

Once again, BMG/Sony provided me an opportunity to interview Mario – this time in person!  Mario has been on the top of the Billboard charts now for 10 weeks so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I mean, here is an 18-year young man that has succeeded in his career beyond most artists’ dreams.  Maybe this fame and all the accolades that go with it had gone to his head.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  What a walked away with was the impression that this young man could easily become part of anyone’s circle of friends.  This is our interview, amongst the sneezing and sniffling as our Mario was under the weather that day.  Yet he still went on after our interview to do a live performance at MuchMusic. 

 

LE:              Welcome back to Toronto.  Since the last time we talked back in November, things have really taken off for you – with being at the top of the Billboard charts for 10 weeks straight.  Fantastic accomplishment – congratulations.  I know everyone says ‘at such a young age’ but really it’s an amazing accomplishment for any artist.  Any artist would kill be on the Billboard charts for one week, never mind 10!

 

Mario:        But to be a young artist, it shows that you can do anything you can put your mind to.  It’s not about age, it’s about quality, it’s about how hungry you are.  For me, a lot of people say what if you weren’t this successful, what if you didn’t live up to your last song?  You know what?  I really do it for the love of it at the end of the day, it’s what I love to do.

 

LE:              In January 2005, you signed a new management deal with Matthew Knowles of Urban Sanctuary.  How did that come to pass?

 

Mario:        Well, we had been talking for a minute about doing some things together.  I met him a long time ago when I was a little younger.  Basically, management is a tool for you, as an artist, to help you get to where you want to go.  I feel as though being as Matthew has had the experience that he’s had, Sanctuary is known all over the world, overseas, not just in America.  It’s something that I want to conquer, not just being an R&B artist but an all around artist, making music for all types of generations, all types of cultures and ethnic backgrounds.  So, with Sanctuary, they’re a great team I think.  And we’re definitely going to make it happen. 

 

LE:              Sanctuary is known for being global and that in Canada is what we’re about too.  Our nation is full of other cultures.

 

Mario:        I’ve seen that just by coming here.  I first came to Montreal two years ago and I was like ‘wow, these kids speak French.’  That’s crazy to me.  I don’t know one word of French.

 

LE:              Well, it’s definitely not just about making in America.  It’s about Europe, New Zealand, Australia.  It certainly looks like you’re on your way. 

 

Mario:        I’m very excited man.  I’m very excited about the future because touring on my last album I was basically running around all these different places.  But I think I was afraid to let loose and be free.

 

LE:              Were you being instructed a lot on how to ‘be’?  Like ‘I’d better not mess up’?

 

Mario:        Yeah.  Exactly.  But now, I’m like look, I know who I am.  I know what I want people to know about myself and I’m still learning about myself so even if I do make a mistake, who the hell doesn’t make mistakes?  It makes me feel free.  So, when I go to these places now, I want to learn.  I want to be a part of it.  I want people to feel like I’m a part of them.  Not just as an artist but that has a lot to do with having that status. 

 

LE:              What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make since Turning Point was release and skyrocketed in the charts?

 

Mario:        I just want to make sure that I don’t lose who I am.  I try to stay focussed on the whole goal.  My goal is to never lose my love for music and get focussed on the famous part, or the money or all the crazy stuff but really keep my love for it because that’s what brought me to where I am right now.  That’s important to me.  Other than that, I’m enjoying it! 

 

LE:              What are your thoughts with the current trends of the industry?  Do you feel as an artist that you get enough time spent on your talent or do you think it’s more about the next hit or the balance sheets?

 

Mario:        My experience so far has been like a real journey.  As I see the industry like that, I think ‘why does it have to be that way’ but then you realize that it is a business and this is the way it is.  So, as an artist, I put my all into it when I have a chance to.  Once you find where you are and once you find yourself as an artist, and you establish yourself, and you keep going and keep the music out there, and you keep your sanity with your fans, you can’t lose.  It’s just something that I think you can’t lose, if you’re a true artist. 

 

LE:              There’s a lot of packaged artists out there and that’s where you know it’s about business instead of the art.  I guess it depends on what you want out of it.

 

Mario:        It depends on if you have the energy and the time and the motivation and the drive for it.  Then it doesn’t become about love for anyone, it becomes a job. 

 

LE:              What do you think about the current wave of R&B artists?

 

Mario:        I noticed that there’s a lot of creativity and a lot of different emotions that are shown in the songs.  More so now.  I think we’re getting back to the way that R&B used to be. 

 

LE:              I think the fans have had it with the stuff that doesn’t mean anything.  In the end, it’s the fans who drive the art.   I think too it’s important to recognize that.

 

Mario:        That’s for me man!  That’s important.  With this album, all the songs I do, I want to make sure that it’s a song that means something so that in the end, years from now, it can still be played.  Even though it’s not as big as it was, Let Me Love You, you’ll be able to play that 100 years from now, if God willing, planet earth is still here.  It’s going to still mean the same thing.  You can let me love you.  On Valentines Day, on Christmas.  It’s such a simple song but it means so much. 

 

LE:              I noticed a couple of tracks that you can really feel the emotion behind the songs.  Is that harder to perform those that are very close to your experiences?

 

Mario:        All the songs that I have on my album are songs that I can relate to or songs that I’ve experienced that are relevant to my life.  When I’m on stage, I simply go back to that emotion.  I try to every time.  But when I can’t do it that way, I try to just communicate with the crowd.  Kind of like telling them a story.  They’re there to listen and I communicate with my audience.  Look, I’m here to do this for you all, this is how I feel.  How do you feel?  Instead of just going out there and doing the songs. 

 

LE:              What’s been one of your favourite places to perform or visit? 

 

Mario:        One of my favourite places to visit.  Hmm.  Well, I’m going to Japan next week.  And I’ve never been to Tokyo before and I’m very excited about that.  One, the art up there, the whole culture is amazing to me, just from seeing it on TV and pictures, I’m a very artistic person and I love history and things.  I love storylines behind the simple.  Like that photo on the wall right there.  That’s genius to me. 

 

LE:              What’s going on with your acting career?  Are you still trying to pursue that or are you focussing on your music?

 

Mario:        I just had a meeting with Cedric the Entertainer.  He’s producing a movie.  The movie is about a young man who wants to dance.  And he’s like really really – this is his first love.  It kind of takes me out of who I am, being Mario.  It still shows the musician side, you know.  His father wants him to be a preacher.  He’s like, no.  The storyline is a young man growing into his manhood and making his own decisions.  Of course it has a lot of different storylines.  Life, growing up in the urban world.  I think it’s going to be a hot movie.  I have to finish reading the script though.  I haven’t finished reading it. 

 

LE:              OK, so I dropped a couple of Canadian artists names on you last time.  I think that you knew Glenn Lewis and k-os.  I had told you to check out Keshia Chante – did you get a chance to?

 

Mario:        Yes, I have checked out Keshia Chante. 

 

LE:              What would you say if she said she might interested in doing a duet with you?  What would you say to that?

 

Mario:        Oh yeah?  We could work something out.  Absolutely.  One of my dancers used to dance with her, he’s from Toronto.  Marky D.  He was in my first video.  One of my choreographers too.  Luther Brown.  And Little X shot the video for Let Me Love You.  Very good people. 

 

LE:              What are your goals, now that all this has happened.  What do you want for you?

 

Mario:        I definitely want to have my own tour sometime soon.  I’m actually performing on the tour with Destiny’s Child Tour overseas and a couple of tours in the States.  I think that starts in April.  And like I said, I want to do the movie thing.  I have to get into movies.  That’s my next step.  I can’t wait for this new video to come out for How Could You.  It’s incredible.  Benny Boom shot the videos.  Incredible video.  It’s a very strong song.  I want to have my own artists in the future and develop them.  That would have to be far in the future but that’s one of my goals. 

 

                    I always to be known first of all as a humble person, God-fearing.  Next, a real true artist.  You know how they still talk about Sam (Cook) and Marvin (Gaye) and Stevie Wonder and Al Green and Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.  That’s how I want to be remembered. 

 

LE:              I think you’re well on your way.  Do you have a message for your fans in Toronto?

 

Mario:        First of all, I want to say I love Toronto.  I think the women here are absolutely gorgeous and they’re very confident and they know what they want. 

 

                    I’m a single man.  I’m looking for someone to let me love them. 

 

My oh my ladies.  This one’s a charmer which is definitely part of his appeal but he seems to be completely accepted by the guys too – a difficult task.  But Mario’s warm personality and gracious spirit carries him through and leaves a lasting impression.  I predict that in the years to come we will still be singing the songs from his album, Turning Point.

 

Special thanks to Sean Cordner of BMG for this opportunity. 

  

 

 

::THOUGHT::

 

 

Motivational Note:  Falling in Love

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Jewel Diamond Taylor www.DoNotGiveUp.net e-mail JewelMotivates@aol.com

Falling in and out of love can make you dizzy. It’s a sign that you are addicted to some kind of crazeeeee love. Maybe it really isn’t love. Some people just like the idea of being in love. If you’re FALLING in and out of love, stop and check yourself. If you’re falling, is that love? If the one you love causes you to fall and isn’t lifting you up…it ain’t love! If the one you love doesn’t come home…it ain’t love! If the one you love doesn’t answer the phone… it ain’t love! If the one you love is using and abusing you ... it ain't love! If your life is on hold and you can’t eat, sleep, work, study or pray...it ain’t love! If the one you love ain’t loving you in return, stop in the name of love. Love yourself before you give your heart, body and soul away again

 

 

 

::MUSIC NEWS::

 

 

Interview with Sol Guy

Excerpt from www.hiphopcanada.com - By: Sue Ferreira [contact]

(Feb. 24, 2005) Two years ago, Sol Guy and Joshua Sage (known collectively as Direct Current Media) set of on a multi-continent journey in search of truth, beauty, strength, hope, and hip-hop: 4REAL. Their journeys have taken them from North America to South America, Africa, and Europe, and the remarkable people and stories they were fortunate to encounter along the way has come together in the form of a series of 30 minute documentary films. Currently in the midst of production, these films bring internationally renowned hip-hop artists in touch with; simultaneously forging a oneness with the communities portrayed, and putting our own taken-for-granted Western privileges in check. The first of the series, "4REAL: Kenya", featuring Somali-born emcee K'naan, is being screened this weekend as part of The Harbourfront Centre's Kuumba celebrations. All proceeds from the screening and live performance will go towards supporting Carolina for Kibera, a non-profit organization based in Kenya. HHC recently caught up with Sol to discuss his travels and his experiences with the 4REAL project.

HHC: So how did this project first come together?

It's a two-part thing, because I have a partner in this project named Joshua Sage. Without him, this wouldn't be manifesting. For me, it really started with my first trip to Africa, to Sierra Leone. That was at the end of 2001 with Rascalz and MuchMusic and War Child. We went out there and were looking at the war that had been going on for ten, fifteen years over diamonds and so forth. Child soldiers and amputees and all these things that I was struck with on my first trip to Africa, alongside the beauty and the unbelievable, overall character of people and the integrity… it was more than I had ever seen in my life. When I got back from that, I was living in New York at the time, and I was working with Bad Boy. Bling was the thing, and diamonds, and it didn't work with me. That kind of kick-started a process for me of trying to find a new way to do my work and to balance it out.

Fast forward, Josh and I grew up together, and as much as I had been in the music industry, Josh had found himself as a documentary filmmaker, working on media, working with young people on how to organize and how to raise awareness for issues. He traveled the world, was known in those circles, and was very successful. Long story short, we thought: what can we do, how can we build a bridge between our worlds that can create something that raises awareness and challenges people and reflects amazing people around the world doing inspiring work? We thought it would be really cool to make it accessible, and usually when those two things try to meet it's pretty corny. The best bet is a 'We Are The World' or something like that-a hit that people feel maybe for a moment, but it seems to be kind of fleeting, and kind of formulaic. So we said, 'How can we create something that touches on the things that matter to us, but at the same time is so cool and so entertaining?' So, that's what sparked us off…

We had the concept: bridging entertainment, celebrities and artists check in with young leaders around the world who under extreme circumstances are doing the most important, revolutionary change on the planet, but their stories are, outside of their immediate surroundings, untold, yet they're tangibly making a difference every day for hundreds to hundreds of thousands of people, depending on the people we focused on and we've met.

HHC: When did you first set off?

February 2003, two years ago. And it was of our own volition. Josh sold his van, and I took some money I had made working down in Miami working on this Lauryn Hill project, and we just kept finding different projects that would allow us to be on the road and tour and be in all these places, but at the same time allowing us to develop our concept.

HHC: What are some of the things that happened when you first started traveling?

Well, our first stop was Brazil. First we went to Brazil, to Rio, and just connected. We went down to Salvador de Bahia, Carnival, we did all that stuff, and then we came back. That was really just a reflective mission, and Josh and I were just getting a feel for the place. Later on that year, in June, Josh was going back to finish up work on a documentary he was working on, on the rainforest, called "Yawa." It's about the Yawanawa people who live in the North-West corner of the Amazon rainforest, and that was one of our first trips. And then we just kept going…

We went to Peru. We spent time with a young medicine man, a healer, by the name of Puma Singona, a Quechua native of Peru. He's a medicine man and a guide on the Inca trail, and he took us on two journeys. One, to 15,000 feet above sea level, to the Andes mountains, for a festival where 80,000 Peruvians climb a glacier for four days of traditional ceremony and dance and prayer. We went on this crazy mission and just shot all that. Then he took us to Machu Picchu, and because he is so tuned into what's going on there, I mean this kid was struck by lightening when he was five years old and the elders were like, "yeah we know who you are" and they trained him in the ancient traditions. He's just a beautiful, beautiful man that gave us so much. He's another one of those young leaders we'll focus on in the show.

We split from there, came back for a bit, and went to Kenya with K'naan, and along the way shot the video [for 'Soobax'] and shot his first return to East Africa. He couldn't go back to Somalia because it was too dangerous. It was his first return in 13 years, and that's the piece we're going to show on Saturday. Along the way we met another young hero, Salim Mohammed, who's just awesome and doing this unbelievable work in this area called Kibera. There are a million people in the slum, there are a lot of slums in East Africa, and he runs a sports programme and a medical center. The sports programme has over 5000 kids in it. He's the shining light in a place that most people reserve for pity and feel bad, and he's not feeling bad. He's just moving along.

After that we went to India, to the World Youth Leadership Jam, and Joshua was one of the original founders of this thing. 30 young people all under 30 years old, there were people from 25 different countries there. There was a ten day jam with all of these young leaders, who are some of the most dynamic people on the planet, and every story is phenomenal. A lot of these people are really alone in their work, and being there, they find a lot of peers. So, we checked that out, then we came back, and we went out to Barcelona.

This guy had done this research, and tried to find out the number one thing young people were using to motivate and affect social change in their communities around the world, and what he found was hip-hop culture-no surprise to us. And so they brought hip-hop artists-slash-activists from all over the world to Barcelona to their annual UN summit, and to try to raise awareness internally to fund a lot of these people's projects. You had my man MV Bill, who's from Brazil, the City of God, who is just this ridiculous cat doing amazing work in his community center, in the favelas, with childcare and you can make beats there and stuff. He's a huge artist in Brazil, and he sells half a million records every time he comes out, but he puts all his money back into the hood. Women like Godessa from South Africa, whose hit songs have been credited with lowering the AIDS rate in Cape Town. Just, on and on. So, that was a research process, and along the way we got involved with the NFB, who is helping us produce the first three segments of 4Real.

The whole thing is to take the artists to these places and have the show focused on them in these places. So, we're going back. That was all research. The only piece we really produced, within this concept of 4Real, is what we're going to show on Saturday. We got all this amazing footage and we just wanted to start sharing some of it, because we promised Salim, when we took our cameras into his world, that we would create something that would help raise some funds. All the money that is generated at the door on Saturday night is going directly to Salim's organization, Carolina for Kibera.

HHC: What was the focus of your experience in Kenya?

We had a couple things that we were really going for. One, to reflect the beauty of Africa, the beauty of Kenya, the beauty of Nairobi, and the beauty of the people. The poverty is always what you see. When you think Africa, you think dying kids with flies in their eyes. Of course, there's hardcore situations there, but the beauty of the people is rarely reflected. Through Salim, we were able to get really on-the-ground access to some of the roughest, toughest neighbourhoods. Through K'naan's music-Soobax, which is a protest song to the Somali warlords and gunmen-when the Somali refugees who were in Kenya heard the music, they couldn't help but connect to it. We had the warmest most beautiful reception from people, and we captured people laughing and dancing and loving and enjoying life, as you do, even though you're poor. So, that was one of our main goals, was to show that beauty, and I'm really proud that we captured that. The other goal was to connect to the hip-hop community, and to show people that there's a THRIVING hip-hop scene in Nairobi. I mean, huge. Three, four radio stations, video stations, tonnes of artists, huge concerts, hip-hop booming out of every little dollar cabs with paintings of Pac and Busta Rhymes. It's just ridiculous how they love hip-hop. It is THE shit over there. They love classic, North American hip-hop, but they love Kenyan hip-hop more.

HHC: Among the many lessons you've learned on your travels, which would you say was the most surprising?

I think the most surprising thing would be the level of love and light that exists, no matter what your circumstance is. People live proudly and with dignity, whether you're poor doesn't matter. You have relationships, people are born, people are buried, you sing, dance; just because you're poor doesn't mean you're waiting to die.

 

 

 

Lowdown: T.O. rapper D-Sisive Returns

By Karen Bliss for Lowdown

It may seem like rapper D-Sisive dropped out of sight after being named best unsigned artist of 2002 by Toronto's Now magazine and earning an industry buzz for his Pythonesque hip-hop shows dubbed D-Siggy's Playhouse, but he's actually hooked up with major U.S. management and is about to launch a five-month tour with U.K.-based DJ Format.  D-Sisive, whose real name is Derek Christoff, is now represented by Los Angeles-based Core Entertainment, a new partnership between Bill Siddons (Jerry Cantrell, Slow Motion Reign, signed to Serj Tankian of System of a Down's label) and Howard Lapides (Tom Green, Scott Thompson).  "They've got me straight contractually with a lot of people and got me hooked up with a good lawyer (Jay Cooper, who represents Jerry Seinfeld and Sheryl Crow)," says D-Sisive. "They flew me out a few times, and just introduced me and got the word out, so they've sparked a bit of interest Stateside. Once I get back from this tour, I'm capitalizing on that."  D-Sisive met Lapides at a taping of "Open Mic With Mike Bullard," when the since-cancelled Canadian talk show was still broadcasting from Toronto's CTV building. The rapper had a production deal with Orin Issacs, who at the time was the music director on "Open Mic." Lappidis represents both Bullard and his guest that night, Tom Green.  "I went downstairs to meet Tom Green with two of my friends, and when they were speaking with Tom, I just started speaking with Howard," says D-Sisive. "At that time, he was merging with Bill Siddons who used to manage The Doors and Crosby Stills & Nash and they were forming a company together because Howard's big on the television side and Bill on music, so they created The Core and I was their first artist."

Lapides remembers the meeting with some humour. He recounts how Issacs had said three young guys were big Green fans and wanted to say a quick hello. "They met Tom and walked out, single file. They walked past me. The last guy in line stopped, walked back to me, looked me in the eye and said, 'I'm coming for you. I know who you are, and what you have done for Tom and Mike -- and I'm comin' for you.'"  That last guy was D-Sisive. "I saw he wasn't carrying any deadly weapons, so I laughed and we started to chat," Lapides continues. "Orin was behind him and was giving me the okay sign. Derek couldn't see that, but if Orin gave him an okay, I was in."  After developing a phone and email relationship, D-Sisive sent Lapides a demo of his song "Whatever Happened To The Music." "I couldn't get enough of the CD, rough and all," Lapides says.  Before the new offices were even ready, he drove across town to play it for Siddons. "The song blew the office away and D-Sisive became the first joint client of the new and now thriving management firm, The Core."  Born in Toronto, D-Sisive first started performing at age 16 in 1996. He dropped his first independent EP, "J.A.C.," in 1997, including the debut single, "Lost Sight," featuring Toronto MC Abdominal. The following year, he began working with Issacs, eventually signing to his Bassmint Productions (now Moca Music).

The rapper appeared on two Juno-nominated albums, Len's 1999 platinum-selling "You Can't Stop The Bum Rush" and DJ Serious's 2000's "Dim Sum," and in 2001 landed a deal with EMI Music Publishing Canada, through Isaacs' production company.  While D-Sisive worked on his solo material, among his other accomplishments were a spot on Mastermind's compilations Vol. 49 and 50, a writing gig on Mike Bullard's "Stick To Comedy" album, and a feature role on Popstars winner Sugar Jones' remix single, "How Much Longer."  But it was after he debuted his D-Siggy's Playhouse stage-show at Toronto music festival North By Northeast in 2003 that the industry started taking notice. Who wouldn't be talking about an 11-piece hip-hop theatre show that included a Remy Shand impersonator and Chucky The Sodomizing Chicken? Think Monty Python meets Eminem meets Pee-wee's Playhouse.  When he did the much-anticipated follow-up for a Toronto Star showcase, headlining a bill that included Graph Nobel and the Russian Futurists, D-Sisive says, "I was just bored. And I rushed it. Personally, I got caught up in the gimmick of it. I found myself not very inspired. The whole Playhouse concept, I was getting a lot of attention for it, but I was getting tired of it."

 

 

 

Edmonton Brings Out The Bounce

TORONTO - CHUM Limited, in partnership with Milestone Media Broadcasting Ltd., launched its new FM radio station in Edmonton yesterday. 91.7 THE BOUNCE hit the air at 4:00pm MT playing a mix of today's hottest Urban rhythmic top-40 music. "We are ecstatic about being on the air," said General Manager/Program Director James Stuart. "Our team has literally been working around the clock to prepare a product that we are all passionate about and proud of. We all love great radio and we are excited to be a part of the Edmonton radio market. It is our goal to deliver a quality product for our listeners and advertisers." 91.7 THE BOUNCE will offer 40% Canadian content providing mainstream media exposure to local and Canadian musicians. Additionally, the station will undertake $4 million worth of Canadian talent development initiatives during the term of its licence.

A Local Advisory Board has been established to ensure programming that is responsive to Edmonton's culturally diverse community. The Advisory Board is being chaired by former VisionTV President and CEO, Fil Fraser, and comprised of educators, local business and community leaders, and representatives from local multicultural communities.  91.7 THE BOUNCE's interactive street-level studios are located in the Bay building opening onto Jasper Avenue - the same environment which will be home to a number of CHUM's television services including A-Channel Edmonton, Canadian Learning Television and ACCESS.  CHUM Limited (TSX: CHM/CHM.NV.B, www.chumlimited.com) is one of Canada's leading media companies and content providers which owns and operates 32 radio stations, 12 local television stations and 21 specialty channels. CHUM's original content is seen in over 120 countries worldwide and is distributed via new media platforms, including interactive television, wireless services and exclusive CHUM-branded Internet properties.

 

 

 

Edwards Dreams Of Escaping

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Guy Dixon

(Feb. 25, 2005) Kathleen Edwards' mind is back in a small town. There's not much more than a main street and strip mall, the kind of place that's enough to make some folks in town pine for life somewhere else. There are probably some bars out by the highway where people go to spend a few hours away from their houses, which are filled with one man's junk, another man's treasure. Picture an old Valentine's card stuck in the corner of a mirror, a pair of motorcycle boots and a record player playing Tommy by The Who, all things that Edwards sorts through in her song Pink Emerson Radio. Mainly, the town that her new album, Back to Me, evokes has Lucinda Williams-like gravel roads with couples living at the end of them goading one another to leave or quietly pleading to stay another night. In Edwards's light voice we're hearing it from her perspective, one that is often conflicted, as her voice thins with longing or when it strains against a lover who is stuck in his own ineffectual dreams. "Life could be cruel/Life could be sweet, if I want it to be," she sings in a cover version of singer-songwriter Jim Bryson's lament to small-town life, Somewhere Else. The line perfectly sums up Edwards's persona on the album: caustic one minute, longing the next, revealing herself with songs couched in small-town stories.

"I heard Shania Twain say once that she doesn't write about her personal life," Edwards says, sitting in a Toronto pub. "I forget what the quote was. But it was something like, 'I don't put my personal life in songs. That's my private life and I just write songs separate from that.' "And I thought, what a joke. What's the point of writing songs if you have none of your personal life to give within them?" Edwards asks. Still, her recent popularity has given her a new appreciation of how hard it is for a big act like Twain to make it. After exhaustively touring her 2002 debut album Failer, Edwards, who is now 26, would have liked to retreat to Wakefield, Que., a town that's an hour's drive from Ottawa where she lived for a while before Failer became a hit. But the album took her on the road for months, building wide acclaim, which, rightly or wrongly, lumped Edwards in the same category as Sarah Harmer, whose depiction of small towns is more settled, a little dreamier. Edwards's persona is more assertive, and it plays to audiences well -- particularly when she played an opening set at the 2003 SARS mega-concert in Toronto. Her appeal is that, however beautiful her voice, she tells it like it is. "It's probably the Irish blood in me," she jokes. But the irony is that for all her plainspoken hurt and small-town desires, Edwards isn't really a small-town girl. Despite her attachment to Wakefield, Edwards grew up in Ottawa, the daughter of a high-ranking civil servant, Leonard Edwards, and spent some of her childhood in Switzerland and Korea.

Now living in Toronto with her guitarist, producer and husband Colin Cripps, her itinerary regularly keeps her on the road. Part of the reason Back to Me is full of songs about being home or in a small town, Edwards says, "is because I knew secretly that when I did finally come home from the [last] tour, I knew I wasn't going to go back to what I knew was home [Wakefield or even Ottawa]. It was going to be here [in Toronto]." The songs are based on a sense of longing for small-town life, she says. She makes it plain that she is only living in Toronto because of her personal life. She would love to return to Wakefield or a similar-sized town. But Toronto has been kind to Edwards. While we talked, a fan, who introduced himself as a candle-maker, presented her with an enormous candle. Later, a woman stopped to tell Edwards how much she loves her music. The compliments broke the intensity of Edwards's conversation. She seemed at a loss for words and responded with girlish thank you's. A small town is easier. There aren't those kinds of surprises. Yet, for all of her songs inspired by Wakefield and other imagined towns, she says she'll stay in Toronto for her husband's sake, at least for now. "I wish he'd get it! He produced the record. You'd think he'd know what I'm trying to tell him!" she jokes.

 

 

 

'O' Puts Omarion On Top

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Margo Whitmire, L.A.

(Mar. 2, 2005) Former B2K frontman Omarion's solo career makes a grand entrance this week, as the debut album "O" bows on top of The Billboard 200. The T.U.G./Epic/Sony Music set sold 182,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, 72,000 more than last week's No. 1, Ray Charles' "Genius Loves Company" which falls to No. 2.  With his since-imploded R&B/pop boy band, Omarion went as far as No. 2 on the album chart with B2K's 2002 self-titled debut, which started with sales of 109,000. The group's best-selling album to date is that year's follow-up, "Pandemonium!," which has sold 1.2 million.  It's not all album glory for Omarion, as the set's title track is climbing Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and Hot 100 charts, reaching No. 13 and No. 35 this week, respectively.   After a historic move to No. 1 following a triumphant Grammy Awards that saw "Genius Loves Company" take eight awards, sales of Charles' final Concord/Hear Music studio album slid 51% last week to 110,000.  Green Day suffered a similar fate at the cash register, as "American Idiot" (Reprise) came up 46% lighter at 109,000 units and falls to No. 3.   The Game sees his Aftermath/G-Unit/Interscope debut "The Documentary" drop to No. 4 on a 20% decline to sales of 105,000. The rapper is newly embroiled in controversy as mentor 50 Cent publicly dropped the rapper from his G-Unit crew during a New York radio interview on Monday, which may have led to the shooting of an unidentified man in 50 Cent's entourage.  Buzzing in at No. 5 is Tori Amos' second Epic effort, "The Beekeeper." The set's first-week sales of 83,000 copies are not the songstress' highest, as 1996's "Boys for Pele" started at No. 2 with 109,000. That Atlantic album has sold 1 million to date, while her best-selling album remains 1992's "Little Earthquakes" at 1.9 million.

Taking a 7-6 move, John Legend's "Get Lifted" (Columbia) squeezes in between this week's two top 10 entries despite a 12% sales dip to 80,000.   The other top tier debut is Kidz Bop Kids' "Kidz Bop 7" (Razor & Tie) at No. 7. At 74,000 copies, the 18-track compilation -- which includes covers of Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me," Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started" and the Usher/Alicia Keys duet "My Boo" -ñ scores the franchise's biggest sales week and highest chart position so far.  Last year's "Kidz Bop Kids 6" opened at No. 23 with 37,000. To date, the franchise has sold 4.2 million units.  Rounding out the top 10, Eminem's "Encore" (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope) holds at No. 8 for a second week despite an 11% slide to 70,000; 3 Doors Down's "Seventeen Days" (Republic/Universal) falls 6-9 on a 35% drop to 68,000; and Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" (RCA) is No. 10 for the second week even though it suffered a 15% dip to 64,000 units.  Further down the chart, New No Limit/Koch rap act Tru's "Truth" enters at No. 54 with sales of 20,000 copies. As part of Master P's original No Limit label, the trio scored its highest bow in 1999 with "Da Crime Family," which entered at No. 5 with 139,000 copies and has sold 850,000 to date.   Tru labelmates Layzie Bone and Bizzy Bone also enter this week at No. 60 with "Bone Brothers," which moved 18,000 copies.   Kings Of Leon's long-awaited sophomore set "Aha Shake Heartbreak" (RCA) earns the band its highest Billboard 200 bow at No. 55 with 20,000 units. The Tennessee quartet made its full-length debut in 2003 with "Youth & Young Manhood," which started at No. 113 with 11,000 units and has sold 126,000 to date. The group is headlining U.S. dates through March.   Other Billboard 200 bows include the Side One Dummy compilation "Atticus: Dragging the Lake Vol. 3" (No. 63); Los Lonely Boys' "Live at the Fillmore" (Sony, No. 69); Thievery Corporation's "The Cosmic Game" (Eighteenth Street Lounge, No. 94); and Chely Wright's "Metropolitan Hotel" (Dualtone, No. 96).  Overall U.S. album sales were down 12% from the previous week at 11.2 million units, down 11% from the same week last year. At 8.9 million units, 2005 sales are 10.5% below 2004.

 

 

 

Mariah Carey's The Emancipation Of Mimi  Set For April 11 Release

Source:  Universal Canada

(Feb. 24, 2005) Island / Def Jam recording artist Mariah Carey's eagerly anticipated new album, The Emancipation Of Mimi, is shaping up to be one of the early success stories of 2005; its first single pick, "It's Like That," written by Mariah and co-produced by über-producer Jermaine Dupri, continues its ascent at radio.  The new single, "It's Like That" is now #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, #12 on the Rhythm chart and #19 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart with over 52 million in audience this week.  The song was #1 most-added at pop and urban radio in its first week, with over 200 stations combined, including major U.S. markets New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington DC, St. Louis, Miami, Detroit and Denver. The music video for "It's Like That" has been shot by Hollywood A-list director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon).  Ratner last worked with Mariah in 1999 on the #1 Pop/ #1 R&B "Heartbreaker" clip. The Emancipation Of Mimi, Mariah Carey's 10th studio album, is set to arrive in stores on April 11th (and on April 12th in the U.S.).  It is the long-awaited follow-up to 2002's RIAA platinum Charmbracelet, Mariah's IDJ debut, which hit #2 R&B and #3 Pop.

The new album finds Mariah's broad range of musical talents on full display, as every one of its 14 songs bears her signature as writer and co-producer.  Carey continues to work with today's top R&B and hip-hop producers, such as the Neptunes, who lend their signature production style to two tracks: "To The Floor" (featuring Nelly) and "Say Somethin'" (featuring Snoop Dogg).  The album's other featured guest is Twista, who shows up on "One and Only".  The first single, "It's Like That", is one of four songs co-produced by Mariah and Jermaine Dupri, along with "Get Your Number", "Shake It Off" and "We Belong Together".  Fellow Def Jam artist Kanye West collaborates with Mariah on "Stay the Night".  On other tracks she works with Scram Jones ("Your Girl"), Mahogany ("When I Feel It") and James Poyser ("Mine Again").  Three tracks are co-written and co-produced by Mariah and James "Big Jim" Wright (of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis' Flyte Tyme Productions), including "I Wish You Knew" "Circles" and "Fly Like a Bird". Mariah Carey is an award-winning megastar who holds the title of #1 Female Artist of the '90s - the only artist to have topped the charts in each year of that decade.  With cumulative total sales of her albums, singles and long-form videos in excess of 75-times platinum in the U.S. and over 150 million in sales worldwide, she is simply the top-selling female artist in history.  With a record 15 #1 singles, two Grammy Awards, eight American Music Awards, Billboard magazine's Artist of the Decade Award, and the World Music Award as World's Best Selling Female Artist of the Millennium - Mariah Carey's ongoing career remains an unparalleled success story in the history of contemporary popular music.

 

 

 

Can 50 Cent Do It Again?

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - By Gail Mitchell

(Feb. 25, 2005) Fans have been counting the days until the March 8 release of "The Massacre," 50 Cent's highly anticipated Shady/Aftermath/Interscope sophomore album. They'll have to count a little less with this week's announcement that set will be released five days earlier on March 3 in response to recent bootlegging.   No matter when the album arrives, industry observers will learn the answer to the latest question du jour: Can 50 Cent and Interscope repeat their chart-topping history?  Two years ago 50 Cent triggered a seismic surge in R&B/hip-hop popularity with "Get Rich or Die Tryin'." His first album not only entered at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 but also notched the largest opening week for a major-label debut (872,000 units).  The album spent six weeks at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and eight weeks atop the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Among its singles were the mega-hits "In Da Club" and "21 Questions."   To date, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" has sold 7.1 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  Those are formidable numbers for anyone to wrap his head around, even 50 Cent. Despite his tough guy persona, the rapper admits he felt the attendant pressure to produce a worthy follow-up.

"I can usually create a direction without the music and just start making songs," he recalls of going back into the studio. "This time I had no idea."  Closing himself in the studio for three days of non-stop recording yielded 11 songs —- and a return to form.  "It only takes me 25-30 minutes to do a record when I'm in a zone," says the artist born Curtis Jackson. "After doing seven or eight songs I was confident in, I found myself back in a comfort zone. Once the pressure was off, I started having fun."  50 Cent says the difference between "Get Rich" and "The Massacre" boils down to one song in particular: "Baltimore Love Thing." Addressing heroin addiction, 50 Cent gives the drug human characteristics in the song to portray the love/hate relationship an addict has with the drug.  "I wanted songs that represented growth from the last album to this one," 50 Cent says. "On 'Get Rich or Die Tryin',' I would have written that song like I was selling heroin. But on 'The Massacre,' I'm dealing with deeper issues. The way I choose to express myself is new. I picked up the pieces I missed on the first album."  Among those pieces is the Dr. Dre-produced first single "Candy Shop." The midtempo erotic concoction picks up where 50 Cent's suggestive "Magic Stick" with Lil' Kim left off. But this time there's a new duet partner, freshman G-Unit clique member Olivia.   "'Candy Shop' is sexy without overdoing it, without being obscene or disrespectful," 50 Cent says. "BET did chop me to pieces though on the video," he adds.  Another song, "Piggy Bank," discourses on the rapper's ongoing beefs with several rivals, most notably Ja Rule. "Hip-hop is competitive," he says. "Everyone wants to go after you. I was subjected to a lot of things said about me after the success of my first album.

"Generally, people love trouble; they will sink their teeth into these kinds of tracks. If I don't address it, it may encourage [rivals] to be more disrespectful."  In addition to Dr. Dre, "The Massacre" features production by Scott Storch and Hi-Tek, among others. Guest artists include Jamie Foxx.  It also helped build anticipation for "The Massacre" as did his guest stints on labelmate the Game's "How We Do" and his latest single "Hate It or Love It."   A run of 250,000 limited edition packages will come in a Digipak with a CD key that unlocks special content, including one bonus track, a trailer for upcoming 50 Cent videogame "Bulletproof," game-themed wallpaper and uncensored photos.  The limited edition also offers a chance to win the Ultimate G-Unit Soldier contest. Ten of the sets will contain a winner's confirmation. The 10 lucky consumers will receive G-Unit clothing and footwear as well as a G-Unit dog tag designed by Jacob the Jeweler. They will also receive the rapper's grape-flavoured vitamin drink, Formula 50, and an autographed picture.  The rapper, who will tour with Eminem this summer, is also branching out into acting with a role in the film "Hustler's Ambition." It begins shooting in New York in April before moving to Toronto for 21/2 months. There's also a just-launched women's clothing line and the forthcoming videogame.  Still, 50 Cent says, "the only thing better than [these projects] is music." He says G-Unit is back recording a new album, while member Tony Yayo's solo outing is due in the second quarter. Another project under his purview as head of the G-Unit label is singer Olivia. The former J Records artist is slated to make her debut as the first female member of the G-Unit family in May.  "I understand exactly what she went through; they didn't know what to do with her," 50 Cent says, alluding to his own pre-Interscope stint at Columbia. "For me, it's a big opportunity to be diverse, to do something so different from the aggressive music we do."

 

 

 

50 Cent Boots Platinum-Selling Protege The Game From G-Unit Clique

Source: Canadian Press - Nekesa Mumbi Moody

(Mar. 1, 2005) NEW YORK (AP) - Another day, another feud for 50 Cent. This time, he's beefing with his own protege, the best-selling rapper the Game.  Actually, make that former protege. In an interview on hip-hop radio station Hot 97 Monday night, 50 announced that he was kicking the Game out of his G-Unit clique because of disloyalty - for refusing to take 50's side in his latest battles with high-profile rappers. Then a shooting occurred outside the radio station, wounding one man, police said.  Investigators, still trying to sort out the chaotic scene, suspected the comments were heard on the radio by associates of the Game, including the shooting victim. The associates allegedly went to the radio station, where they were met outside by members of 50 Cent's entourage and the violence erupted, police said.  At the time, 50 Cent was inside; he was not harmed. It was unclear whether the Game was directly involved, police said.  No arrests have been made. An unidentified, 24-year-old Los Angeles man was in stable condition with a gunshot wound to the upper thigh.  Representatives for 50 and Hot 97 (WQHT-FM in New York) had no comment when contacted by The Associated Press on Tuesday.  All this comes as 50 prepares to release the album The Massacre on Thursday. It's the followup to 2003's Get Rich or Die Tryin', which not only made the bullet-scarred, brash rapper an international superstar, but an empire. The rapper's debut sold more than eight million copies, and his G-Unit umbrella has launched the careers of three top-selling rappers - the Game, Young Buck and Lloyd Banks. In addition, there's a G-Unit fashion line and other enterprises.

The Massacre was scheduled for release March 8 but was moved up to Thursday because it's so hotly anticipated. The first single from the album, Candy Shop, is already No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  50 Cent built much of his stature on feuds - his battle with Ja Rule helped demolish Ja Rule's star power. As his new album approached, he's also picked feuds with Fat Joe, Nas and Jadakiss.  The Los Angeles-based rapper the Game seemed to be following in 50's footsteps. Like 50, he was a former drug dealer, had been shot several times and used rap as his way out of a life of crime. And like 50, who was introduced under the wings of Eminem (news - web sites), the Game rode 50's coattails into the rap world.  The Game's album The Documentary debuted at No. 1 when it was released in January and features 50 on several songs, including the album's hit How We Do.  The Game apparently drew 50 Cent's ire after an interview appearance on Hot 97 Saturday night, in which he supported 50's enemies.  "I ain't gonna turn on my friends and Nas is one of my friends, and Jada's really a homie ... 50's beef is 50's beef and I really don't know where all this stems from."  On Monday's show, 50 said the Game was no longer part of G-Unit and claimed responsibility for his success.  "Every record he's selling is based on me being on his record with him," he said.

 

 

 

Rapper Lil Zane Wears New Hat

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Lynn Allen Jeter & Associates / lajass@comcast.net

(Feb. 28, 2005) LOS ANGELES, CA – Zane Copeland or "Lil Zane" as he’s known to his legion of fans worldwide has announced his latest venture 3 Mill. Entertainment, a new urban record label dedicated to artist development, producing television and film projects and product brand management relating to the urban/hip-hop genre. The Atlanta bred rapper and 3 Mill. Entertainment cofounder will serve as President of the fledgling label while his business partners Tai Savet and Corey Crimson will serve as Chief Operations Officer and Chief Executive Officer respectively. Beginning in the rap game at the tender age of 10, Zane helped form the teen rap group Kronic, a venture that would eventually land him a guest spot on 112’s track: Anywhere.  This breakout performance garnered him a contract with Priority Records and quickly led to a spot on Ice Cube’s: Next Friday soundtrack released in 1999.  From here, the blueprint was laid and Zane was ready to go on to do big things, starting with his critically acclaimed debut album Young World: The Future which went on to make Lil Zane a double platinum artist by the age of 19. "I remember the drive and determination I had to get into this music business and I didn’t do it by myself," recounts the diminutive entertainer, currently at work on his next album slated for a spring release. "I just want to continue working hard, count my blessings and continue building on the success I’ve had thus far and try to help others come up and realize their visions." 3 Mill. Entertainment also plans to produce television, film and video projects, acting being very close to Zane’s heart.  Featured in the films Finding Forrester, Dr. Dolittle 2 and The Fighting Temptations along with several television appearances, Zane plans to develop projects with stories his fan base will identify with ensuring 3 Mill. Entertainment  a place as the next independent "mini-major" production company. "It feels good to have total creative control of my music,” explains the up and coming mogul. "It’s something every artist should strive towards."

 

 

 

Fat Daddy Signs Distribution Deal

For more information on Fat Daddy Records or Habitt, contact The Robertson Treatment at 770-427-2878 or pr@robertsontreatment.com.

(Feb. 28, 2005) Atlanta, GA - Since forming what is sure to become a West Coast powerhouse some five years ago, Fat Daddy Records - the brainchild of Jerome and Yvette (Wilson) Harry – has attracted some of the finest talent in both Northern and Southern California. Among the label’s rapidly growing stable, is Oakland rapper Habitt, whose debut album – Talk of the Town – originally slated for a February 22nd release, will momentarily be postponed until May 24th for favour of a recently settled distribution deal with Southern based Select-O-Hits National Independent Distribution.  Already acknowledged as “the best album from the left coast this year” by the highly praised radio industry trade magazine, Urban Network, and having recently garnered the attention of XXL, allhiphop.com and MURDER DOG, the appropriately dubbed project is easily one of the best this year – regardless of the coast. With minimal guest appearances (The Luniz and Knoc-Turn’al) and production courtesy of the Elements (Black Eyed Peas, the Wu Tang Clan, Pete Rock - featuring CL Smooth, Will Smith and Mariah Carey), Talk of the Town promises to turn heads this summer.  Wilson, whose star has enjoyed the success of both the silver screen and television (Friday, Moesha and the Parkers), is convinced that the recent turn of events is a “blessing.” Her husband and business partner, Jerome agrees. “It opens up the door not only for the CD sales of our artists, but also up and coming DVD video for comedy and independent movies as well,” offered the music industry veteran. “Now we can have other independent labels that don’t have distribution deals go through us. So we’re kind of in the driver’s seat. No more middle man. Now we have the direct hook.” “You gotta go where the people go,” Wilson added. We plan to utilize our resources to market our talent as effectively as the majors.” The month of March will mark Habitt’s first official promotional tour, beginning with a comprehensive promotional tour that will hit Richmond, Fresno, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Beyond that, Fat Daddy plans to attend every record pool, mix show and special industry events to brand both their label and artists.

 

 

 

Usher, Alicia Keys Dominate Soul Train Awards

Source: Associated Press

(Mar. 1, 2005) Los Angeles — Fresh off their Grammy success, Usher and Alicia Keys dominated the Soul Train Awards, with each winning two individual awards and sharing the prize for best R&B-soul single by a group or duo. R&B sensation Usher picked up the award for best male R&B-soul single for Confessions Part II, as well as the prize for best R&B-soul album by a male artist for Confessions. Keys got a nod for the best female R&B-soul single for her hit If I Ain't Got You and was honoured for best female R&B-soul album for The Diary of Alicia Keys. The two singers already shared a Grammy for their chart-topping duet My Boo. Keys won four Grammys last month, while Usher had three. The awards, named after the long-running television show, honour recording artists in R&B, hip-hop, rap and gospel music. The awards are chosen by a group of radio station professionals, talent managers and performers. The ceremony was held at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. Usher also earned an award for best R&B-soul or rap music video for his work with rappers Ludacris and Lil Jon in the song Yeah! Other artists picking up awards were Destiny's Child, for Destiny Fulfilled, and the sexy newcomer Ciara, who won for best R&B-soul or rap new artist for her album Goodies. Rapper Jay-Z picked up an award for best R&B-soul or rap music video for 99 Problems.

———

Complete list of winners:

R&B/SOUL SINGLE, FEMALE: "If I Ain't Got You," Alicia Keys.
R&B/SOUL SINGLE, MALE: "Confessions Part II," Usher.
R&B/SOUL SINGLE, GROUP, BAND OR DUO: "My Boo," Usher and Alicia Keys.
R&B/SOUL ALBUM, FEMALE: "The Diary of Alicia Keys," Alicia Keys.
R&B/SOUL ALBUM, MALE: "Confessions," Usher.
R&B/SOUL ALBUM GROUP, BAND OR DUO: "Destiny Fulfilled," Destiny's Child.
R&B/SOUL OR RAP NEW ARTIST: "Goodies," Ciara.
R&B/SOUL OR RAP MUSIC VIDEO: "99 Problems," Jay-Z.
R&B/SOUL OR RAP DANCE CUT: "Yeah!," Usher, featuring Ludacris & Lil Jon.
GOSPEL ALBUM: "Live from Another Level," Israel & New Breed.

 

 

 

Soul Train Awards Held

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 1, 2005) To absolutely no one's surprise, the winning continued last night for Usher and Alicia Keys. Picking up where they left off from their Grammy successes, the two artists dominated the Soul Train Awards, with each winning two individual awards and sharing the prize for best R&B-soul single by a group or duo.  Usher walked away with the award for best male R&B-soul single for "Confessions Part II," as well as the prize for best R&B-soul album by a male artist for "Confessions." Keys got the best female R&B-soul single for her hit "If I Ain't Got You" and was honored for best female R&B-soul album for "The Diary of Alicia Keys." The two singers already shared a Grammy for their chart-topping duet "My Boo." You may recall that Keys won four Grammys last month, while Usher had three. Usher also earned an award for best R&B-soul or rap music video for his work with rappers Ludacris & Lil Jon in the song "Yeah!" Other artists picking up awards were Destiny's Child, for "Destiny Fulfilled," and the nimble-legged newcomer Ciara, who won for best R&B-soul or rap new artist for her album "Goodies." Jay-Z was awarded best R&B-soul or rap music video for "99 Problems." The 19th Annual Soul Train Music Awards ceremony was held at Paramount  Studios in HollywoodIt will be broadcast  in first-run national syndication beginning  March 12, 2005. Check local listings  for air date and time.

 

 

 

The Record Industry Is Terminally Ill: But The Music Industry Is Alive And Well

Source: PRNewswire

'The billions of songs downloaded from the Web monthly have shown that the digital music revolution is well underway. The Future of Music shows us where this is all headed and how music fans and artists are going to benefit from the new paradigms and new business models that are emerging.' -- Ted Cohen, Senior Vice President, Digital Development & Distribution, EMI Music

(Mar. 1, 2005) BOSTON -- In The Future Of Music:  Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution, David Kusek, a music industry entrepreneur and Vice President at the Berklee College of Music, and Gerd Leonhard, music futurist and founder of ThinkAndLink, analyze the music industry and explore how it needs to adapt for the future.  From free music downloads on Kazaa to legal music downloads on iTunes and Napster to other forms of free music online, the book charts a music industry destined to embrace digital music, or so it seems. What will become of the music business, the music store, the independent and major record label, artists, writers, publishers, managers and others in the age of music downloads? Is there a better way for the industry to proceed? Artists, writers, composers, and producers will all prosper in this new landscape, both creatively and financially. In The Future of Music, the music industry is redefined as fairer, bigger, and better. Fans, artists, and all kinds of music communities drive the business, rather than being driven by corporate powers. According to Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law, Stanford University and founder of Creative Commons, "I know of no other text that as beautifully and concisely presents the fundamental challenge that music now faces. This book is essential for anyone who wants to understand what is at stake in this debate." Ultimately, Kusek and Leonhard explain, music will flow like water -- fluid and (almost) free.  Consumers will be billed much the way they are for electricity or oil or telephone -- directly, or as an addition to the fee they pay to their Internet service provider.  Much like telecommunications companies that embraced technology and gave birth to the cell phone industry, the music industry must do the same. The Future Of Music is published by Berklee Press.  More information is available at http://www.futureofmusicbook.com.

 

 

 

Rahsaan Patterson Stretches Out

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 2, 2005) *At 31 years of age, Rahsaan Patterson is already a veteran in the game.  His God-given musical talent, thoughtful lyrics and willingness to swirl R&B, jazz, hip hop and gospel into his work puts him in the bittersweet state of being critically acclaimed, yet virtually ignored by the youth-driven urban radio market and its penchant for Pharrell beats and Missy lyrics.    Patterson’s music – good ol’ organic R&B – is considered “adult contemporary” by industry standards; shoved into the narrow parameters of the new Neo Soul category that he ironically pioneered with his 1997 self-titled debut for MCA, and its follow-up two years later, “Love in Stereo.”     His latest CD, “After Hours,” percolates with the same genre-crossing textures of Patterson’s earlier albums, but the drama and emotion surrounding the project’s creation makes this effort perhaps his most personal to date. “My father had passed away a month after I started [work on the album],” Patterson tells EUR’s Lee Bailey. “That took a toll emotionally and took my mind of out of the loop for a while. Luckily, for MCA, I had the opportunity to release a couple of singles on different soundtracks and compilations just to keep me out there.”

But soon, the luck with MCA would run out, as executive changes saw the exit of the label’s president, and subsequently, Patterson being released from his seven-year, seven-album contract, which was due to expire at that time anyway.  A blessing in disguise, the action freed him to join four other partners to launch his current independent label, Artistry Music. “‘After Hours’ was made with MCA knowing that I was no longer going to be with them when the music finally got out,” says Patterson.  They paid for it, but I didn’t know they would give it to me after I was gone.”  Released in October, the CD’s first single “Forever Yours” would soon make its mark on Adult Contemporary stations around the country. While Patterson made a point to crank up the energy on this set - to prove that he’s not as “adult contemporary” as the industry would have you believe – there are also tracks such as “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” and the ballad “Don’t Run So Fast” that were directly or indirectly influenced by the death of his father in 2000.  “‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ was done a month after my father died and I was needing to be in the studio to keep from being alone at home, depressed, and questioning life,” says Patterson.  “Don’t Run So Fast,” came from maybe a year or two of dealing with my father’s death, and looking back on my grandparents who are no longer here, and really looking at the value of the lessons that you’re taught as a child, that you really don’t follow until you’re older and you can look back on what they used to tell you, and really treasure having that guidance.” The Harlem native, named after legendary jazz saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, was surrounded by music during his early years.  

“My father was a singer, as well as an athlete,” he says. “My mother sang in the choir and was an actress. She did off-Broadway theatre in New York and studied with some prestigious acting coaches in her teenage years.  I had an aunt who recorded records with her church. My father’s mother and sisters used to be a gospel group on the circuit on the East coast eons ago, way before I was born.  It runs in the family,” he says of his music talent.   After moving to California in 1992, Rahsaan began penning tunes for the likes of Tevin Campbell, Chico DeBarge, Christopher Williams and Jody Watley.  His biggest hit would be Brandy’s No. 1 smash “Baby,” a collaboration with producer Keith Crouch that went on to sell three million units. While honing his talent as a songwriter, Patterson was making moves as a   vocalist, inspired by such talent as Donny Hathaway, Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan and Prince, to name a few.  These days, he is also moved musically by fellow Neo Soul artist Van Hunt and Lalah Hathaway, both close friends and collaborators. But it’s his family that has proven to be his biggest inspiration. “They’ve always appreciated the music I’ve done,” he says. “They’ve always appreciated the fact that my music was reflective of them as well. They are my family, and everything I express, predominantly comes from having been raised how I was raised; the spirit of my family.”

 

 

 

Oscar Peterson Gets Ultimate Stamp Of Approval

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 25, 2005) Montreal -- Oscar Peterson, who has put an indelible stamp on the international jazz scene, will be honoured with a precedent-setting Canadian postage stamp. Canada Post Corp. is expected to issue the 50-cent Peterson stamp on Aug. 15, the Montreal-born pianist's 80th birthday. "We are recognizing a legendary Canadian, someone whose life work is established," said Cindy Daoust, Canada Post's marketing manager. "His legacy as a pianist and as a composer is solid.” The stamp would be the first in Canada to celebrate a living individual. CP

 

 

 

A Member Of The Gladys Knight & The Pips Passes

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Feb. 26, 2005) *Edward Patten of Gladys Knight & The Pips fame, has died. Patten died at a Detroit area hospital early Friday. He was 65. William Guest, another member of the Pips and Patten's cousin, told the Associated Press that Patten's death was caused by a stroke he suffered earlier in the week. Patten, a cousin of Knight, known for his tenor voice, joined the group in 1959. By 1962, the Pips line-up included Glady's brother Merald "bubba" Knight and Guest. The name Pips came from another cousin, James "Pip" Woods. He encouraged the quintet to sing professionally and became its booking agent -- and by the late '50s, Knight and her  relatives were touring with Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke as an opening act. By 1962, Gladys Knight & the Pips had become famous thanks to the 1961 hit "Every Beat of My Heart." The group really got its legs when they signed to Motown in 1966. They also recorded for Buddah Records from 1973-77. They later recorded for CBS until breaking up in 1989. The group, whose hits included "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "Midnight Train to Georgia," won four Grammys and was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.  At EUR/EURweb press time, funeral plans were still pending.

 

 

 

Mya’s ‘Freak’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

*Mya’s forthcoming album “Control Freak,” will be released sometime this summer. "It's a combination of a Gwen Stefani, because it's energetic, and Lil' Jon, very ghetto," she told “Rolling Stone.” Dr. Dre will begin producing the set next month. "March is my shutdown month - nothing but recording," she says. "It will be out in July... or September, at the latest."

 

 

 

Assassin And Birch Score Again

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Feb. 24, 2005)   Deejay Assassin and producer Christopher 'Langmann' Birch both have reasons to celebrate this week. Their single Step Pon Dem from the Military rhythm has taken over the number one spot on the B-Mobile Mega Jamz Top 20 Dancehall chart. Step Pon Dem removed Elephant Man's Chaka Chaka Dance from the top of the heap where it had taken up residence for eight weeks.  This is the third number one song for Assassin in less than a year. Last year he scored two number one hits, Girls Gone Wild (on the French Vanilla rhythm for producer Michael 'Liquid' Brissett's H20 Productions) and then his Ediat Ting Dat (for the Renaissance label's Steps rhythm) ruled the roost for two weeks.  Step Pon Dem was produced by Birch for his Echo label. Last year the Echo label scored a number one song in Jamaica with Done Already by female toaster Macka Diamond.

 

 

 

‘That’s So Raven’ Suddenly Everywhere

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Feb. 25, 2005) *Walt Disney Records has announced the March 1 release of "Disney's Karaoke Series: That's So Raven," a CD featuring karaoke versions of music from the TV series soundtrack, including the chart-topping Radio Disney single "Supernatural," "Shine" and "That's So Raven (Theme Song)" from the show's star Raven-Symone.  "Disney's Karaoke Series: That's So Raven" includes sixteen tracks, with both the instrumental and vocal versions of such popular songs as "Supernatural," "Shine," "We Are Family," "(There's Gotta Be) More to Life," "Jungle Boogie," "You Gotta Be," and "That's So Raven (Theme Song)".  The disc can also be used in traditional CD players.   *Meanwhile, McDonald's will offer one of six "That's So Raven"-inspired fashion and fortune-telling accessories for customers who purchase a Happy Meal or a Mighty Kids Meal through March 17.  The six items include: Raven's Bag of Fortunes, a stylish handbag featuring an attached clip that doubles as a fortune telling spinner; The Fortune Revealers, glasses designed to decipher hidden messages; Spin Your Fortune, a six-sided fortune-telling top that doubles as a ring; Crystal Wrystal Ball, standard issue for fortune tellers; Psychic Cell Phone, for fashionista fortune-tellers on the run; Fortune Toy, a furry clip that answers questions when turned upside down. If the future isn’t your thing, the Golden Arches have also hooked up a deal with the NBA to instead offer a mini basketball figure sporting one of 30 mini-NBA jersey replicas through March 17.

 

 

 

Foxx’s Album

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 1, 2005) *With a fresh Oscar added to the trophy shelf, Jamie Foxx is now looking forward to his album debut for J Records.  Described by one of its producers Rich Harrison as a mixture of R&B and hip hop, Foxx's CD comes more than a decade after the release of his poorly-received first album “Peep This” in 1994.  "People have to realize the landscape has changed for this guy. I know there was a problem before with people taking him seriously because he was such a good comedian," said Harrison. "A movie like `Ray' has really switched up his own persona, and it has shown people that he's not just a jokester."

 

 

 

Platinum Recording Artist Craig David Is Back

Source: Debra Stolberg / stolberg@comcast.net // Christoph Buerger / christoph.buerger@wmg.com

(Mar. 2, 2005) LOS ANGELES -- Take an ethereal trip into the exotic landscape of the rain forest accompanied by the soulful, groundbreaking sounds of the youngest British male vocalist to hit #1 on the UK charts with the Craig David: Live In Costa Rica-Music In High Places DVD released yesterday.  Music In High Places is seen on MTV and is the ultimate international adventure series that takes top recording artists to the most ancient sites on earth.  Craig David selected Costa Rica as his destination after seeing photos of its captivating rain forests and his musical performance includes acoustic versions of the Top 10 singles "Seven Days" and "Can't Be Messing Around." Craig David's two CD releases, 2001's Born To Do It and 2002's Slicker Than Your Average, have sold over two million copies respectively.  David has toured the world, gaining the admiration of a wide variety of performers including Missy Elliot, J-Lo, Beyonce and Usher and his songs have been nominated for BRIT awards, Grammies and a record six UK MOBO awards. Craig David: Live In Costa Rica-Music In High Places is David's first long-form DVD.  It will be presented in 5.1 audio surround sound and will be available at all retail outlets for the suggested retail price of $14.99.

 

 

 

::CD RELEASES::

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

BILL COSBY The Best Of (Rhino) 
BLACK EYED PEAS Monkey Business (Interscope) 
JENNIFER LOPEZ Rebirth (Sony) 
JUDAS PRIEST Angel Of Retribution (Sony/BMG) 
KATHLEEN EDWARDS Back to Me (Zoe/Rounder/Universal) 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Be Cool OST (TVT) 

Thursday, March 3, 2005

50 CENT The Massacre (Shady Records/Interscope)

 

 

 

::OSCAR NEWS::

 

 

Foxx, Freeman, Rock Rule The Oscars

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Feb. 28, 2005) *Madea at the top of the box office; Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman taking home Oscars; Regina King in this year’s Stuart Weitzman million dollar Oscar shoes; Puffy and Prince presenting; Beyonce singing not one, not two, but THREE Oscar-nominated songs; Halle earning her first Razzie award – and showing up to accept it!?  N**** what?!  Are we dreaming, or did this weekend really happen? It may have been “Million Dollar Baby’s” day in the sun on paper, but the night, as far as we’re concerned, belonged to Jamie Foxx, who won the best actor Academy Award for his starring performance in “Ray.”  Foxx’s supporting actor nomination for “Collateral” was beaten by Morgan Freeman’s role in “Million Dollar Baby,” which also nabbed golden statues for best picture, best director (Clint Eastwood) and best actress (Hilary Swank).     The way things were going, it looked as if “Baby’s” Clint Eastwood might take over the best actor category as well, but it was Jamie Foxx’s name that came out of presenter Charlize Theron’s mouth. When asked backstage the nature of the lengthy whispering between the South African actress and the Terrell, Texas native before he took the podium, Foxx joked: “I said [to her], ‘Can we talk about you and me?’”  “When you see people like Charlize, like Halle, you see how beautiful they are, but it's just great to chat with them about the art,” he continued. “Halle was tapping me on my shoulder saying 'are you ready.'  It's just great to just be in that league." With Halle and Oprah looking on from the audience like proud mamas, Foxx clutched his Oscar and thanked “Ray” director Taylor Hackford, his long-time managers Jamie and Marcus King, his late grandmother Estelle, and his 11-year-old daughter – and Oscar date – Corrine. “She said, ‘Dad after this, can we go to the big awards - The Kid's Choice Awards?’” Jamie told reporters backstage.  “She doesn't know the significance of it right now, but years from now when she's talking to her friends, she'll be like, ‘That night me and my dad...’” Foxx joins Denzel Washington and the legendary Sidney Poitier as the only African Americans to win a best actor award in Oscar’s 77-year history. During Foxx’s acceptance speech, he thanked Oprah for introducing him to Poitier. "He said, 'I give you responsibility.' So I'm taking that responsibility tonight.’ Thanks Sidney,” Foxx said, in his best  Poitier impression.  Foxx also provided the night’s most emotional moment when he talked about his grandmother who raised him.  Tears began to well when he spoke of her being his first acting coach. She taught him to "stand up straight, put your shoulders straight, and act like you got some sense," he said, adding that sometimes she talks to him in his dreams. "I can't wait to go to sleep tonight because we got a lot to talk about," Foxx said.  Meanwhile, three-time Oscar nominee Morgan Freeman, 67, said his first-ever win is “kind of tricky.” “After ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ I became philosophical about the Oscar,” he told reporters back stage. “It occurred to me that winning the nomination is probably the height for me and after that its’ pretty arbitrary. How can any of us be best? But when they call your name, all that goes out the window.” Foxx and Freeman’s one-two punch marked only the second time in Oscar history that blacks earned two of the four acting awards, following Denzel Washington and Halle Berry's lead-acting wins for "Training Day" and "Monster's Ball."

Peppered throughout Sunday’s ceremony were Beyonce’s performances of the Oscar nominated songs, which included the French number "Vois Sur Ton Chemin" from the film “Les Choristes,” “Learn To Be Lonely” from “The Phantom of the Opera,” and  “Believe,” a duet with Josh Groban from “The Polar Express.” Diana Ross-like outfit changes accompanied each performance, and her man Jay-Z soaked in each moment from the audience. And where do we begin with Chris Rock? The comedian came out to a standing ovation, then quickly began slinging stingers toward Hollywood’s elite. He joked about seeing films that made him think the starring actors needed money.  After seeing Cuba Gooding Jr. in “Boat Trip,” Rock said he sent the actor a check for $80.  In another bit urging filmmakers to wait for better talent instead of rushing bad movies into theatres, Rock said: "Clint Eastwood's a star, ok? Tobey Maguire's just a boy in tights. You want Tom Cruise and all you can get is Jude Law? Wait. You want Russell Crowe and all you can get is Colin Farrell? Wait. 'Alexander' is not 'Gladiator.' You want Denzel and all you can get is me? Wait. Denzel's a fine actor. He woulda never made 'Pootie Tang.'"  Some two hours after that joke, Sean Penn took the stage to present the award for best actress, but first took time out to defend Jude Law as “one of our finest actors.”   After the commercial break, Rock immediately addressed Penn’s comment, stating: “Sean Penn, my accountant wants to see you,” referring to the earlier joke about sending $80 checks to actors. After the ceremony, Rock was asked what he thought was his best line of the night. "I don't know, my jokes are like my children,” he said. “I liked the Sean Penn comeback." This Oscar ceremony was the best year ever for African Americans, who earned a record five of 20 acting nominations, including the two for Foxx. Don Cheadle was nominated as best actor and Sophie Okonedo as best supporting actress for "Hotel Rwanda."  It means that Hollywood is continuing to make history," Freeman said backstage. "We're evolving with the rest of the world."  Chris Rock’s take on the presence of African Americans in the Kodak Theater Sunday night?   “It always feels good to see some colour in the room that don't have mops.”

 

 

 

Million Dollar Writer

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Michael Posner

(Feb. 24, 2005) SANTA MONICA, CALIF. —  From the outside, Paul Haggis's house looks comfortable but ordinary -- a two-storeyed, wood-shingled affair, with a picket fence on a corner lot in Santa Monica. By the garish standards of Beverly Hills or Bel-Air, it's nothing special. Only inside are the home's full dimensions, its tasteful but pricey appointments, slowly revealed. "I like things that are deceptive," says Haggis, climbing the front staircase to his wood-panelled office. He shares the home with his wife, actress Deborah Rennard, three daughters from a first marriage and his son James, 6, from the second. Of course, Haggis, 52, is also a little deceptive. Quiet and self-deprecating, with thinning hair, he looks more like the Sears photographer he once was than Hollywood's hottest writing and directing property. But hot he is, largely on the strength of Million Dollar Baby, the much-celebrated, Oscar-nominated Clint Eastwood film about a scrappy female boxer and her crusty manager.  The script was adapted from F.X. Toole's collection of short stories, Rope Burns. Haggis isn't expecting to win Sunday night -- he's up against Alexander Payne's Sideways, among others -- but the mere nomination (for best screenplay based on another work) has given the London, Ont.-born Haggis the sort of cachet he once only dreamed about.

He now has half a dozen high-profile projects on the go. There's Flags of Our Fathers, another project with Eastwood and filmdom deity Steven Spielberg in development, about the six soldiers who raised the flag at Iwo Jima in the Second World War. It'll be shot this summer, with unknown actors. There's another about the aftermath of the Iraq war that will star Eastwood; Haggis will direct. And there's a third "mystery" project he can't talk about that emanates from Spielberg, which Haggis is co-writing and will direct. "It took me a while to get used to not saying 'Mr. Eastwood' and 'Mr. Spielberg,' " he said with a laugh last month over lunch at Montana's, a few blocks from his home. "Just to get to the point of saying: 'Thank you, Steven.' I still can't say it without grinning. And I taped our meeting. Steven talked about the first time he met Fellini. Clint talked about meeting Orson Welles. The icons have icons." And then there's Crash, his searing 36 hours in the life of multicultural L.A, starring Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton. An independent film shot for less than $8-million (U.S.), it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year to critical acclaim and was originally scheduled for release next month. But on the waves of positive buzz, Crash is now expected to be held back until the fall, and the next Oscar-nomination season. Haggis directed, produced and wrote it (with Bobby Moresco). It's taken a while for all of this newfound status to sink in, he allows. "Somebody referred to me in print recently as the Oscar-nominated screenwriter and I went: 'Who are they talking about?'. . . Oh, shit. That's me!' "

It was one morning four years ago, while driving to his office at Sony Studios, that Haggis heard F.X. Toole being interviewed on National Public Radio. "And I just loved his voice, the way he spoke about boxing. I felt the sweat and I smelled the stink. He really had the soul of a poet. So I immediately got the book, read it the next day and then optioned the rights," for $25,000 a year. Determined to leave a successful career in television behind (he'd already won a few Emmys for his work on thirtysomething) and break into feature films, Haggis spent most of 2001 on his first draft, trying to cram four or five of Toole's disconnected stories into one screenplay. "It was a mess," he said, laughing. "I was trying to be really clever and hip." Finally, he summoned Moresco, who helped him refocus it on three main characters. He wrote the final script with the three principals -- Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman -- in mind. A continuing mystery in the film is the cause of Frankie Dunn's (Dunn is the Eastwood character) guilt about his absent daughter. "I wanted to construct a character who simply could not forgive himself," Haggis says, "and since we all have those things we're ashamed of in our lives, and no one knows what they are, I thought I shouldn't tell the audience. Because I love films that let me participate in some way, and you come out talking about it, like Mulholland Falls. So, the only person I told what my conjecture was about Frankie and the daughter was Clint." Originally, Haggis had planned to direct the film as well, but by the time Eastwood read the script, production was about to begin on Crash. "Clint had said he was retired from acting, but then he said no, he wanted to both act and direct and he could do it sooner. I struggled with the decision for a couple of weeks. But as I told my wife, when am I going to get a chance to work with Clint Eastwood again? He'll do a better job of the movie than I will." Haggis developed his love for the dramatic arts early. His father, who owned a small construction company, had built a small professional theatre in London, Ont. Haggis spent summers working for his father, and winters managing the theatre. He even wrote and staged a few plays there. "Very, very bad plays," he says now. "Really atrociously written." One day, when Haggis was in his early 20s, his father said to him: "Construction -- you're no damn good at it, are you?" Haggis agreed that he wasn't. "You really want to be a writer, and be in the movie business," his father said. "So go to Hollywood and give it a try. I'll support you as long as I can."

So knowing nobody, Haggis moved with his first wife, Diane, to Los Angeles, rented an apartment with three other couples in Glendale, took odd jobs -- shooting photographs for Sears, church and school groups, and moving furniture -- and started writing. None of his early scripts were ever sold. In fact, it took him three years to get an agent. Ironically, his first TV writing job was for a CBC sitcom, Hangin' In. That led to work on Three's Company, The Love Boat, The Facts of Life, Different Strokes and other shows. "I think they gave me the work just to get rid of me." Eventually, promoted to executive producer of The Facts of Life, he told his boss that he "wanted to do something different with the show . . . I'd like to make it funny. I was only half-joking." His innovations didn't work and so Haggis was fired, and finally segued into TV drama, working as supervising producer on thirtysomething. It was the show's executive producers, Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, he says, who really taught him to write. "I had made a good career out of being a bad writer, but they taught me to write stuff that came from my own experience, that came from inside, from who I was, and actually meant something to me." In the years between then and now, his talents have been variously attached to L.A. Law, Cit (with Valerie Harper), a short-lived show about corruption in urban politics; Due South, the surprise Canadian hit (with Paul Gross); and EZ Streets, an acclaimed but also short-lived police drama. Haggis calls it the favourite thing he's done. In EZ Streets, his technique was to take familiar stereotypes and subvert them. "In America, we love a white hat on one person and a black hat on another," he says. "So I show you the white hat and the black hat, and when you're real comfortable with that, I keep switching it back and switching it back." He does this in Crash, too, a complex tale that grew out of a single event: Some years ago, Haggis and his first wife were mugged on the streets of Los Angeles. Seamlessly interweaving six or seven separate plot lines, the film explores themes of racial intolerance. Most of its characters trace a narrative arc that ends 180 degrees from where they began. The issue of race is omnipresent in L.A., but Haggis says the roots of the script go deeper. "I can remember telling my mother I wished there were more Roman Catholics like us in London, because all the Christians wanted to do was beat me up." Nobody is beating him up today. After Spielberg watched Crash, he called Haggis to talk about their projects together. As he often does, Haggis said he wasn't sure he could bring the scripts off. "I'm in safe hands," he said Spielberg told him. "You can do what you like."

 

 

 

Ryan The Toast Of St-Laurent

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Eilis Quinn, Canadian Press

(Feb. 28, 2005) MONTREAL— Ryan Larkin, watching the Oscars ceremony in his favourite bar last night, jumped out of his seat and pumped his fist in the air when the film about his life won the award for best animated short.  "I heard it but I couldn't quite believe it," Larkin, 61, said as he was mobbed by friends. The cheering in the bar was so loud Larkin couldn't hear Chris Landreth's acceptance speech in which the filmmaker said he won because of "the grace and humility of one guy watching in Montreal. Ryan Larkin, I dedicate this award to you."  Larkin, who lives in a Montreal mission for the homeless, nursed brandy shots and drank beer as he watched the Oscar broadcast at the tiny Copacabana Bar on downtown St-Laurent. About a dozen friends and NFB representatives sat with him — some of fellow animators who sketched him as they doodled on paper.  Larkin was an animation pioneer who created groundbreaking films for the NFB in the 1960s and '70s. He was also a onetime Oscar nominee in the animated short film category for 1968's Walking.  But he later succumbed to a combination of creative block, alcohol and cocaine and is now a panhandler on the streets of Montreal.  Landreth "helped me out, he gave me a ride when I was hitchhiking along the road to despair," Larkin said yesterday. ``Christopher's the one who gave me a lift."  Ryan, a 14-minute-long film, tells the story of Larkin's career and tragic decline using 3-D computer animation to create a cast of skeletal-like characters.  Toronto-based Landreth interviews Larkin along with the people who have known and worked with him, their decaying skin and bone fluctuating according to their emotional and psychological turmoil. In the film he also urges Larkin to stop drinking and get back into the business, but is unsuccessful.  Asked how he spent the day leading up to Sunday night's awards, Larkin said: "I was panhandling on the street because I enjoy it. I have people that expect me to be there in front of Schwartz's restaurant (on St-Laurent street) and I didn't want to disappoint them."  Larkin also said he is working on a script with the working title Spare Change which he described as "my best ever, full of interesting comical things." He said he doesn't know yet who will produce it. "I am a bum on the street that needs spare change, and I still have to meet with producers."  Ryan, a Copper Heart-NFB co-production, was three years in the making and has already won more than 30 international awards, from Cannes to Canada.

 

 

 

Landreth's Ryan Wins

Source: Canadian Press

(Feb. 27, 2005) Canada struck Oscar gold Sunday night as Ryan, an innovative digitally animated short by the National Film Board's Chris Landreth, won in the best-animated short category. "I am here tonight because of the grace and humility of one guy watching from Montreal," the bearded Landreth said in accepting his award. "Ryan Larkin, I dedicate this award to you," he added, referring to the subject of his film, a fellow NFB animator from the 1960s who fell on hard times, succumbing to drugs and alcohol. Currently a panhandler on the streets of Montreal, Larkin was watching the proceedings from his favourite bar in that city. Landreth, from Toronto, also thanked his producers, Copper Heart Entertainment and the film board. "You guys are visionaries in Canadian filmmaking." He also had thanks for his crew, for (Toronto's) Seneca College, where student animators helped complete the project, and for the Canada Council which provided financial support. "And finally to the Academy for continuing to support short filmmaking in all its forms. I cannot tell you how cool that is." One of the major Canadian contenders at the awards was London, Ont., native Paul Haggis who was up for best-adapted screenplay for Million Dollar Baby. But Haggis was the first Canadian to go down to defeat when the award was won by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for Sideways. There was still a Canadian connection, though, since Ottawa-born actress Sandra Oh not only had a major role in the film, but is married to Payne.

Earlier on the red carpet, there was plenty of Canuck-content outside the Kodak Theatre. Mike Myers said "hi" to his mom. Spike Lee expressed his regrets to Canadians who have been denied their NHL hockey. Oprah Winfrey said she loved all of Canada. "Thank you for talking to my country," Toronto-native Myers said to Scarlett Johansson while the two chatted with CTV's Ben Mulroney. "I thought I'd be exiled otherwise," Johansson quipped in return. Myers asked if he could say hello to his mother and brother, and noticed that Mulroney's chin bore a resemblance to his ex-prime minister father's. Later, Annette Bening agreed. Myers voiced the title character in Shrek 2, which was up for best-animated feature. Asked if the Shrek phenomenon was more than he expected, Myers said only that he was happy to have a job. Moments later, while talking to Star Jones-Reynolds on another red-carpet TV show, Myers was asked if he was concerned that Oscar host Chris Rock might step on a few toes. "I think that Chris is a genius. I think that whoever has their toes stepped on are in very good company." Speaking earlier on the red carpet Haggis had praise for star/director Clint Eastwood for whom he's already written what he expects will be Eastwood's next film project. "I'm just grabbing onto his coattails and hanging on as long and as hard as I can. He's an amazing man to work with."

Haggis denied reports he had rejected Sandra Bullock for the lead role in Million Dollar Baby, but "I'd always seen Hilary (Swank) in this role right from when I wrote it. She was a natural athlete ... so I knew she could embody it." Newcomer Hubert Davis, the first-time B.C. filmmaker whose Hardwood was in the running for best documentary short, was also present. Davis did not win. "Hardwood is really a story of my dad who played for Harlem Globetrotters for 18 years, but it's also about my family and their courage to come forward and tell their story," he said prior to the ceremonies. "Keep your fingers crossed," he added, with his father Mel and his Canadian producers Peter Starr of Kitchener, Ont., and Erin Faith Young of the National Film Board in tow. Bening and husband Warren Beatty told Mulroney that they recalled having dinner with Mulroney's dad at the Toronto International Film Festival. "This is my biggest success," Beatty said about his wife's best-actress nomination for Julia, which was produced by Toronto's Robert Lantos.

 

 

 

Lauded Film Fights Obscurity

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle MacDonald

(Mar. 1, 2005) In living rooms across Canada on Sunday night, folks were high-fiving Toronto-based director Chris Landreth's Oscar win for his 14-minute animated short, Ryan. But once the patriotic fervour died down, Academy Award junkies started asking the obvious. Had anyone actually seen this $900,000, lauded short film, made by a virtually unknown 43-year-old director? The answer, sadly, was no. The reality is Canadians are fabulous at producing this kind of creative gold, but because short films rarely make a profit, they often end up orphans on the airwaves, having to fight tooth and nail to get any mainstream exposure on TV or in cinemas. Yesterday, after staying up all night celebrating at the Vanity Fair party and then taking his Oscar to breakfast at Norm's restaurant in Santa Monica, Mr. Landreth said he is now hopeful that the little golden man will propel Ryan onto more channels and into more theatres as a preview to full-length films. "It's a fact of life that short films are damn near impossible to program into theatres," he said. "And that's because people aren't accustomed to the format. In an ideal world, we would go to a movie theatre and see a collection of short films all running together as one anthology. "We hope this award makes people more aware that short films — like short stories — are not an inferior form of art but a really great way to tell stories, in a truly imaginative way," added the director, who was swamped at the Vanity Fair soirée by a gaggle of celebrities including Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Hilary Swank and Cheryl Tiegs, who asked whether she could hold his Oscar.

And Ryan — which has won 35 international awards — was already off to a better start than most shorts. CBC purchased the first-window broadcast rights to Ryan as well as to a 43-minute documentary about making the animated short called Alter Egos. The public broadcaster has aired both films several times since November, and is now mulling giving Ryan more slots in its forthcoming schedule. Alliance Atlantis bought the second-window broadcast licence for its specialty channels, and other broadcast partners include the Sundance Channel in the United States and Canal Plus in Europe. The NFB has also streamed a version of Ryan on its website. The short, which is based on the life of real-life animator Ryan Larkin who succumbed to cocaine and booze and is now a Montreal panhandler, also managed to get some limited exposure in repertory movie houses, such as Montreal's Ex-centris Theatre and Toronto's Cumberland, where it screens in advance of the Bollywood-inspired romance Bride & Prejudice. Thanks to the Academy Award, Ryan producer Steve Hoban is now trying to push the film (a collaboration of Mr. Hoban's company, Copper Heart Entertainment, the NFB and animators at Seneca College) into more mainstream theatres. Yesterday, he said he is close to a deal with distributors in Japan and Britain to pair Ryan with a feature film his company made a few years ago called Nothing. And he plans to pitch Famous Players and Cineplex Odeon to see whether they might talk to a distributor about screening Ryan prior to a main feature. NFB producer Marcy Page said Ryan might never have seen the light of day without the "incredibly generous donation from Seneca College of the entire infrastructure of the film," which she values at roughly $250,000.

"Everyone who makes short films recognizes there is no commercial bottom line. It's an artistic and cultural one," she said. "However, this film [and another Canadian Oscar nominee] Hardwood have secured licence sales better than most.Hardwood for instance was sold to PBS for $25,000 and Ryan has $70,000 in sales, which is unprecedented for a short film. The Oscar nomination and the quality of these films has contributed to the success of selling these short films, and boosting their exposure on a global scale." The only time that shorts typically make money is when they are picked up as a concept for a series, such as the NFB's much-lauded Bob's Birthday. At 14 minutes in length, Ryan is also considered too long as preview material in the theatres where owners prefer shorts under seven minutes, Ms. Page added. "The theatre owners have opted out on showing shorts in favour of advertising and previews of coming attractions," she said, "which in my view is a huge tragedy."

 

Oscars Audience Up In Canada, Down In U.S.

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Feb. 28, 2005) NEW YORK (AP-CP) — With comedian Chris Rock at the helm, the Academy Awards attracted more than five million Canadian viewers on Sunday night — an increase of three per cent over last year's audience, CTV said today.  Figures from Nielsen Media Research suggest that almost 5.4 million Canadians watched the three hour, 14-minute broadcast — easily beating the three million-plus who watched the Super Bowl on Feb. 6.  In the United States, the awards succeeded in their effort to find a younger audience — but perhaps at the expense of other viewers.  A total of 41.5 million people tuned in to watch Million Dollar Baby take the Oscar for best picture. That's down two million from last year's show, which honoured The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, according to Nielsen Media Research.  ABC undoubtedly hoped for better, after preliminary figures released earlier Monday from the top 56 markets were the strongest they were in five years.  The drop in total viewership was an indication that this year's Oscar ceremony was more popular in the big cities than rural areas, more so than an average Academy Awards, said Larry Hyams, vice-president of audience analysis and research for ABC.  Oscar ratings were up from last year among viewers aged 18 to 34 — a prime target for the advertisers who pay millions of dollars for time on what is traditionally the year's highest-rated program after the Super Bowl.  Hyams attributed the boost in young viewership to Rock.  "The academy made a concerted effort to go in a different direction and try to appeal to a younger audience with the Academy Awards, and it appears they have succeeded," he said.  It was the 12th time since 1990 that the Academy Awards drew an audience of between 40 and 46 million people, according to Nielsen. The peak during that stretch was the Titanic year of 1998 with 55.2 million, and the low point was 33 million in 2003, when Chicago won.  Rock said backstage after the Oscars that he hoped to do it again, although "who knows if they would want me again."  He attracted plenty of pre-Oscars publicity, including speculation about whether he would make jokes at the expense of U.S. President George W. Bush (he did) or test ABC censors with curse words (he didn't).  "Put it this way, I don't curse in front of my mother," Rock said. "And my mother was front and centre, you know, right in my view. So I could never curse in front of Rose Rock, so why would I do it on television?"

 

 

 

Million Dollar Baby Knocks Out The Competition

Source: Associated Press

(Feb. 28, 2005) Million Dollar Baby scored a knockout punch Sunday night, picking up Oscars for best picture, as well as best director honours for Clint Eastwood and acting statuettes for Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman. Swank, who previously won the best-actress Oscar for Boys Don't Cry, once again beat out main rival Annette Bening, nominated for the theatre farce Being Julia. Bening had been the front-runner for American Beauty five years ago but lost to underdog Swank. "I don't know what I did in this life to deserve all this. I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream," Swank said. Swank joined Vivien Leigh, Helen Hayes, Sally Field and Luise Rainer as the only actresses with a perfect track record at the Oscars: Two nominations and two wins. Freeman won a supporting actor award for his portrayal of a world-weary prizefighter. As expected, Jamie Foxx won best actor for Ray. "Wow, wow, wow," exclaimed Foxx.

Canadians were also in the winner's circle Sunday, as Toronto's Chris Landreth won an Oscar in the animated short category for Ryan. The film makes innovative use of 3-D digital animation to tell the story of one of Landreth's predecessors at the National Film Board in the 1960s, animation innovator Ryan Larkin, who has since fallen on hard times and is a panhandler on the streets of Montreal. Larkin himself was watching the Oscar ceremonies Sunday night from his favourite Montreal bar. "I am here tonight because of the grace and humility of one guy watching in Montreal. Ryan Larkin, I dedicate this award to you," Landreth said in accepting his award. He also thanked the Canada Council and Seneca College, and called the NFB "visionaries in Canadian filmmaking." The wins by Freeman and Foxx marked the second time blacks have won two of the four acting Oscars, following Denzel Washington and Halle Berry's triumph three years ago for Training Day and Monster's Ball. "It means that Hollywood is continuing to make history," Freeman said backstage. "We're evolving with the rest of the world."

Supporting actress honours went to Cate Blanchett for The Aviator. Besides Blanchett's acting win, Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes epic also dominated the technical awards, cinematography included. Playing Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator, Blanchett had the spirit of the Oscars' most-honoured actress on her side. Hepburn, the love of Hughes's life in the 1930s before she began her long romance with Spencer Tracy, earned 12 nominations and won a record four Oscars. "Thank you, of course, to Miss Hepburn. The longevity of her career I think is inspiring to everyone," said Blanchett. She added thanks to Aviator director Scorsese, saying, "I hope my son will marry your daughter." Oscar host Chris Rock said Blanchett was so convincing that Sidney Poitier, Hepburn's co-star in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, showed up at Blanchett's house for supper. The superhero action comedy The Incredibles won the animated-feature prize, beating 2004's biggest box-office hit, the fairy-tale sequel Shrek 2. It was the second-straight animated Oscar for Pixar Animation, which won a year ago for Finding Nemo. "I don't know what's more frightening, being watched by millions of people, or the hundreds of people that are going to be annoyed with me tomorrow for not mentioning them," said Brad Bird, writer-director of the The Incredibles. The latest win dabs salt on the Walt Disney Co.'s wounds over the looming expiration of its distribution deal for Pixar films, which ends after next year's Cars. The back-to-back Oscars underscore Pixar's growing ascendance and the weakening position of animation pioneer Disney, which has yet to win the animated-feature Oscar with any of its homegrown films and whose biggest recent cartoon hits have all been made by Pixar. Unlike last year, when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King dominated the awards as expected and flat-out front-runners took all four acting prizes, the 77th Oscars shaped up as a mixed bag.

"Boy, am I glad there wasn't a fourth episode of Lord of the Rings," said John Dykstra, who shared the visual-effects Oscar for Spider-Man 2. With no huge hits among top nominees, Oscar organizers worried that TV ratings could dwindle for the live ABC broadcast. The Oscars tend to draw their biggest audiences when blockbusters such as Titanic or Return of the King are in the mix, stoking viewer interest. Producers of the show hoped the presence of first-time host Rock might boost ratings, particularly among younger viewers who may view the Oscars as too staid an affair. Rock had mocked the Oscars a bit beforehand, calling awards shows "idiotic," but he was on his best behaviour in his opening monologue. Rock chided some celebrities by name and included one mild three-letter word, but his routine was fairly clean for the comedian known for a foul mouth in his stand-up act. "The only acting you ever see at the Oscars is when people act like they're not mad they lost," Rock said. He recalled the year when Berry won and fellow nominee "Nicole Kidman was smiling so wide, she should have won an Emmy at the Oscars for her great performance. I was like, if you'd done that in the movie, you'd have won an Oscar, girl." Organizers also tried to spice up the show with new presentation tactics, including herding all nominees on stage at the same time, beauty-pageant style, for some awards. The first prize of the night, for art direction, was awarded that way, with a total of nine nominees from five films spread across stage behind presenter Berry. The Oscar went to The Aviator, whose awards also included film editing and costume design. Sideways won the adapted-screenplay prize for director Alexander Payne and his writing partner, Jim Taylor. "My mother taught me to write, and she died before she could see any of this, so this is for you, mom," Taylor said. Born Into Brothels, which examines the lives of children of prostitutes in Calcutta, India, received the Oscar for feature-length documentary.

 

 

 

Oh Baby, It's Clint

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Feb. 28, 2005) The heart triumphed over the head last night as Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby scored a knockout against Martin Scorsese's The Aviator at the 77th Annual Academy Awards.  Eastwood's boxing drama, made in just 37 days on a shoestring budget with scant studio support, took the top prize Best Picture, along with Best Director for Eastwood, Best Actress for Hilary Swank and Best Supporting Actor for Morgan Freeman.  It was clearly the night's sentimental favourite, even though The Aviator was a more traditional Oscar candidate. Scorsese's epic Howard Hughes biopic had big studio support and budget and it also had the statistical edge with a leading 11 Oscar nominations, normally an indicator of top honours to come. Million Dollar Baby had just seven nominations.  True to his taciturn Dirty Harry image, the 74-year-old Eastwood didn't have much to say as his took to the podium twice in succession shortly before midnight, first for his directing and then for his movie.  He seemed sincere about being "lucky to be here, lucky to be still working" at his age, and also winning his second Oscar for Best Director. The first was for Unforgiven in 1992.  But then he joked about having run into special Oscar honouree Sidney Lumet backstage, and realizing Lumet is still working at age 80.  "I'm just a kid, I've got a lot of stuff to do yet," Eastwood quipped.  He thanked his wife and his 96-year-old mother, both of whom were in the audience at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. He seemed not at all upset that he couldn't make it a hat trick by also winning Best Actor.  And while Eastwood rejoiced, his main rival Scorsese, 62, could only frown at the realization that he had once again been denied an Oscar. His count is now 0 for 6 for converting nominations to wins, including five attempts at Best Director, but The Aviator did win five Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Cate Blanchett. 

Best Actress winner Hilary Swank won her own rivalry. Her second Oscar in two attempts saw her again score a victory over Being Julia's Annette Bening, whom Swank first beat when the first two were paired in the same category in 1999.  Swank, 30, the first female in Academy history to be nominated for playing a boxer, looked like a million bucks in a lush blue gown. But she sounded a lot like her Million Dollar Baby scrapper Maggie Fitzgerald as she vainly fought for extra time to thank a multitude of people and spoke of her early years in hometown Lincoln, Nebraska.  "I don't know what I did in this life to deserve all this," she said. "I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream."  To the surprise of no one, Jamie Foxx won Best Actor for his portrayal of recently departed soulman Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford's Ray, a performance that was as heartfelt as it was uncanny. Two hours earlier, he'd lost his other nomination, a Best Supporting Actor nod for Collateral.  "Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow!" the 37-year-old actor crowed, holding his Oscar aloft.  "I guess we gotta do it again!" he said, reprising the brief call-and-response exchange with the audience that he did last month after winning the Golden Globe for the same role.  "That's to Ray Charles. Give it up to Ray Charles and his beautiful legacy."  Foxx talked about meeting Sidney Poitier, the first African-American to win Best Actor. But he saved his most intense emotions for memories of his dead grandmother, who raised him as a child and supported his acting career.  "She talks to me in my dreams," Foxx said, choking up. "And I can't wait to go to sleep tonight, because we've got a lot to talk about."  It was also a great night for Canadian animation.  Toronto's Chris Landreth scored the Best Animated Short Film award for Ryan, a groundbreaking 14-minute short about Ryan Larkin, an Oscar-nominated NFB animator who fell prey to addiction and depression and who now panhandles on the streets of Montreal — although he made it into a warm bar last night to watched the televised event.  "I am here tonight because of the grace and humility of one guy watching from Montreal," Landreth said. "Ryan Larkin, I am dedicating this to you."

Best Actress winner Blanchett, 35, from Melbourne, Australia, beamed as she won her first Oscar in two attempts, winning the Academy over for portraying acting legend Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.  She described the win as an "indescribable surprise and honour," all the more so because many members of the Academy personally knew Hepburn, who died in 2003, and they'd have had all the more reason to be critical of a poor portrayal.  "When you play somebody as terrifyingly well-known as Katharine Hepburn, it's a collaborative effort and you need all the help you can get."  Best Supporting Actor winner Morgan Freeman, 67, was one of the night's most popular recipients, as he received his first Oscar in four attempts over a long career.  He finally scored for the role of Eastwood's trusty sidekick Eddie "Scrap Iron" Dupris in Million Dollar Baby, a movie very close to his heart: "This was a labour of love."  Freeman also made one of the briefest and classiest acceptance speeches, thanking his co-stars Eastwood and Hilary Swank as well as "everybody and anybody who ever had anything to do with the making of this picture."  But the man who put words in Freeman's mouth, Canadian screenwriter Paul Haggis from London, Ont. failed in his attempt to win Best Adapted Screenplay for his reworking of the F.X. Toole short story that became Million Dollar Baby.  The adapted screenplay prize instead went to Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for Sideways, another one of the Best Picture nominees.  Payne was still hoping to also win for Best Director later in the evening. But he seemed to feel he'd better get his thanks out early, just in case it was the only trophy Sideways won: "I want to share my side of this award with the cast and crew of the film, because we had a lot of fun."  Taylor's dedication was closer to home: "My mother taught me to write and she died before she could see any of this. So thank you, Mom."  In one of the night's few surprises, Best Original Screenplay didn't go to John Logan for The Aviator, but rather to Charlie Kaufman and his co-writers of the innovative love story Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It was the only prize won last night by Eternal Sunshine, one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2004.

Another Canadian hopeful also lost last night. Toronto's Hubert Davis, the first African-Canadian to be nominated for an Oscar was in contention for Best Documentary Short Oscar for Hardwood, a 29-minute look at the difficult love and family issues of being the son of former Harlem Globetrotter Mel Davis. The award went to Robert Houston's Mighty Times: The Children's March, the story of a 1963 march against racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama.  It looked from the start that an Oscar evening might finally go Scorsese's way, after going 0 for 5 in previous attempts, four of those in failed Best Director bids.  Scorsese was spotted grinning from the audience as he watched the first award of the night go to The Aviator for Best Art Direction.  Later he smiled against as his long-time editor Thelma Schoonmaker won for Best Film Editing, beating her Million Dollar Baby rival and giving her a second Oscar — her first was a quarter century ago for 1980's Raging Bull.  "This is really as much yours as it is mine, Marty ...you gave us a dazzling ride on this film," she said.  Scorsese's acting talents went unrecognized last night. The Best Animated Feature prize went to Brad Bird's The Incredibles, beating Shark Tale, in which Scorsese has a major speaking part as a cartoon blowfish.  The Best Documentary Feature award went to Born Into Brothels, by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski, currently playing in Toronto theatres as the story of New York photojournalist Briski's attempts to find schooling and artistic appreciation for the impoverished and neglected children of prostitutes in Calcutta, India.  "We thank the kids, they're watching in Calcutta," Briski said.  Best Foreign-Language Film winner was the Spanish entry The Sea Inside, starring Javier Bardem as a paralyzed man who wants to take his own life. Early in the Oscar stakes, the film had been touted as a possible Best Picture contender.  One of the night's biggest losers, yet also one of the past year's most lucrative movie, was Mel Gibson's Bible epic The Passion of the Christ, which went 0 for 3 for nominated categories.  There are sure to be debates today about rookie emcee Chris Rock's hosting of the event, which was neither as edgy as predicted nor as funny as hoped.

"Welcome to the 77th and last Academy Awards," a visibly nervous Rock said at the start of the four-hour-plus broadcast. It might instead be his last hosting of the awards, if he is judged to have done as poorly as David Letterman did a decade ago.  The criticism of Rock's performance started even before the show ended.  Sean Penn, last year's Best Actor winner and the presenter of this year's Best Actress award, took a shot at Rock for mocking Jude Law's ubiquitous performances last year. Penn called Law "one of our finest actors."  It may not have been the most interesting Oscars ever, but it was one of the most fast-paced and innovative. Producer Gil Cates kept the thank-you to a strict 29 seconds, shooing even Best Actress winner Swank off the stage.  Cates also experimented with moving the camera off the stage and into the audience for some award presentations. Another change was to have entire groups of nominees stand on stage to await the announcement of winners.  The experiment seemed to work, cut down on the tedium of time-wasting walks to the podium and adding eye appeal to the event.

 

 

 

Chris Rocked The Audience Numbers: ABC

By David Germain - Associated Press With Reports From Reuters, Bloomberg And Staff

(Mar. 1, 2005) LOS ANGELES -- Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Jamie Foxx weren't the only winners at the Academy Awards. Preliminary indications are it was a strong ratings performer for ABC. ABC had a rating of 30.1 per cent for the Oscars broadcast yesterday, based on preliminary ratings in its 56 top markets by Nielsen Media Research, the network said in an e-mailed statement. That compares with 29.8 per cent last year and is the highest since 2000, ABC said. Nationwide viewership totals were to become available later yesterday. Canadian ratings were not immediately available. Last year's Oscars were seen by 43.5-million people, a sharp 32 per cent increase over 2003's muted Oscar broadcast due to the Iraq war. Considering the ominous signs of ratings declines for the Golden Globes and Grammys this year, the numbers left ABC executives pleased. "Obviously, Chris Rock as host had an impact in the resurgence of the numbers," said Larry Hyams, vice-president of audience analysis and research at ABC. Producers of Sunday's show hoped the presence of first-time-host Rock might boost ratings, particularly among younger viewers who may label the Oscars as too staid an affair. Rock had mocked the Oscars a bit beforehand, calling awards shows "idiotic," but he was on his best behaviour. He chided some celebrities by name and included one mild three-letter word, but his routine was fairly clean for the comedian known for a foul mouth in his standup act.

Reaction to Rock's performance was mixed, but leaning to the negative. The Globe and Mail's John Doyle wrote that Rock appeared "self-conscious and clearly nervous," while calling his act "ludicrously low-grade and lame." Hollywood Reporter said most of Rock's comments didn't resonate and his taped piece in which moviegoers at a Magic Johnson Theatre in Los Angeles admitted they hadn't seen a single nominated film was "of dubious value." USA Today went further, saying Rock was "loud, snide and dismissive" and "wasn't just a disappointment; he ranks up there with the worst hosts ever." But Variety was more generous, reporting that the comedian "didn't live down to the hype, delivering a funny opening monologue" and that his Magic Johnson Theatres bit was "excellent." Producer Gil Cates's attempt to streamline Oscar tradition -- by having some nominees march out on-stage before the winner was announced and asking other nominees to accept their awards from roving presenters in the audience -- met with mixed approval Sunday. While host Rock joked, "Next year, they're going to give out Oscars in the parking lot. There will be a drive-through Oscar lane," others, particularly those in the crafts area, were not amused. Observed Visual Effects Society president Eric Roth, "It [the groups brought to the stage] clearly looked like a second-class procedure for giving out certain awards. It would have been, I think, more acceptable if they had chosen awards from all different types of categories including quote A-List unquote categories like best actor or actress or director to receive their awards on-stage."

Motion Picture Sound Editors president David Bondelevitch appeared to give Cates the benefit of the doubt. "He has my sympathy," he said. "However, when you only do this type of presentation for some awards, and you only do it for the awards that are considered "technical" categories, you're pretty much segregating them and that marginalizes their contributions. If they did it with an acting award, I would have had no problem with it. It seemed odd that some of the people didn't even go on-stage [instead they were given awards in their seats]." He added, "I did appreciate Chris Rock's comment that next year they'll be giving drive-through awards -- it marginalizes those categories, and the Oscars are about recognizing the art and craft that these people have contributed to the movie." On the other hand, at least one Oscar-winner, Valli O'Reilly, who was honoured for the makeup for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, said of receiving her award in the middle of the auditorium: "It was actually easier. I was wondering if we won how I would go to the stage [in this dress and shoes]. I'm a flip-flop kind of girl." But fellow Snicket makeup artist Bill Corso said of the nominees who were led on-stage like a Chorus Line lineup: "It looked like a beauty pageant. Sometimes, the old-fashioned way is the best."

 

 

 

Hollywood Goes Black

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Mr. Jawn Murray

(Mar. 1, 2005) Looks like African-Americans are the flavour of the month again in Hollywood.  Morgan Freeman Jr. and Jamie Foxx took home Oscars, while the always hilarious Chris Rock hosted the night, much to the dismay of “mainstream” television critics across the country.  USA Today dubbed Rock "one of the worst hosts ever—particularly when you factor in the expectations."  The Hollywood Reporter griped that most of Rock's comments "didn't rankle, nor did they resonate," with the New York Post adding "woefully undistinguished... You could even tell from the audience's reaction that he was flopping."  Occasional Oscar host Whoopi Goldberg has received similar criticism after her stints on the show as well.  Despite how “they” don’t get us, Hollywood had to recognize the power of African-American performances this year, and we can’t forget Sophie Okonedo who was nominated for her supporting role in Hotel Rwanda and the nomination for Tupac: Resurrection in the Documentary Feature category. Now, Hollywood is going to have to recognize the power of the almighty dollar in the African-American community as well.  Two major black films, Coach Carter and Are We There Yet?, made history at the top of the year by being the number one and number two films respectively.  That’s a first-time fete for two black films.  (For more on, go to  www.nydailynews.com/news/gossip/story/276041p-236446c.html)  Now Tyler Perry’s film adaptation of his highly successful touring play, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, upset the box office weekend by grossing $22.7 million.  It beat out Will Smith’s Hitch and was in fewer theatres—only 1,483 theatres to be exact—than all of the other films in the top 10.  All of this despite white critics panning the film!  Those broads Cherryl Dawson and Leigh Ann Palone of TheMovieChicks.com wrote, “Deary Diary, I want to see a better movie than this one, signed an annoyed film critic woman.”  They weren’t the only ones either.  Edward Douglas of ComingSoon.net barked, “Not even Tyler Perry in a dress can save this embarrassing mess of a story!”   I guess they were all somewhere with their jaws in their laps when the box office returns came in.  Now they can understand what it feels like for the small group of black journalists who are regularly invited to cover films (even when it’s a movie like Soul Plane, studios may bring in 50 journalists to cover a film and only eight or so of us are black).  For all of the terrible white films, we, the black media, have had to endure within the last year that “they’ve” adored—did someone say Suspect Zero and De-Lovely—it’s about time that they see one of our stories and see our story could fair excellently without their endorsement.   And Diary, which also proves that churchgoers will go see a movie other than The Passion of the Christ, isn’t the only black film that is doing well.  Here’s a rundown of other films with predominantly African-American casts and what they’ve grossed to date: Are We There Yet? - $76,366,000; Coach Carter - $64,832,813; Ray - $74,883,245; Fat Albert - $47,678,375; and Hotel Rwanda - $16,712,527.

So I guess Hollywood is going to be cranking up the minority quota for some of its upcoming features.  I can hear studio heads on the phones now, “Can you get me Vivica A. Fox and Don Cheadle on the line?!” Also, Hollywood’s film studios need to be on notice.  I’m told AAFCA (African-American Film Critics Association) is keeping a watchful eye on how the black press are being utilized (or exploited depending on who you ask) on the national junket scene.  I wouldn’t be surprised if AAFCA, which has become extremely visible in its second year with high-profile appearances on syndicated radio shows and on networks like CNN, starts issuing non-support notices or their stamp of disapproval for films that don’t accommodate black journalists in the same way that they accommodate their white counterparts.  “Despite the progress at the box office and Hollywood beginning to recognize African-Americans and their worth in this industry, there are some concerns about the way journalists are being treated by publicists at the film studios.  AAFCA is watching these studios carefully and are prepared to take the necessary actions if needed to properly address them,” said Gil Robertson, President of AAFCA. AAFCA recently proved accurate in their predictions for the 2005 Oscars, forecasting the winners for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.

 

::FILM NEWS::

 

 

Canada’s First Double Award-Winning Black Actor!

Source:  E.Quan Entertainment Inc.

(Feb. 25, 2005) Richard Chevolleau is Canada’s first Black actor to win both a Gemini and ACTRA award in the same year!  Richard won a Gemini and ACTRA award for Best Male Performance in a Guest Starring Role in a Dramatic Series for his captivating portrayal of a prisoner coming to terms with being sodomized while incarcerated on CTV’s “The Eleventh Hour” (episode “Hard Seven”).  His emotional, gritty and realistic performance kept the television audience glued to their TV sets.  Currently, he is busy shooting the feature film, “Four Brothers” starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by John Singleton.  More recently, Richard shot the television movie, “Swarmed” with Carol Alt for the Sci-Fi Network (USA) and Space Channel (CAN) and the pilot “Kink In My Hair” directed by Tonya Lee William for Vision TV.  Richard Chevolleau has made Canadian television history in 2005 and the wins have definitely been a highlight for Black History Month in Toronto.

 

 

 

Bride Director Gurinder Chadha

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle MacDonald

(Feb. 25, 2005) The outtakes from director Gurinder Chadha's new film, Bride & Prejudice, seem almost implausibly joyous. Shot in sweltering 35C heat and in places where dust works its way into your fillings, the cast of the Hollywood-meets-Bollywood romantic tryst grin madly as they're caught making missteps and miscues in the crowded streets of India's Amritsar. Here, they compete for screen time with a throng of locals, elephants and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein (who has a cameo). Could it possibly have been all madcap fun making a $20-million (U.S.) film that employed Indians, Brits and Americans, and was shot in L.A., London and Bombay? "Not on your life!" laughs the feisty, candid Chadha, who rose to film fame with her 2002 sleeper hit, Bend It Like Beckham. "But I'm hardly going to put in [a shot] of the cast saying to me, 'You bitch.' " Chadha says 70 per cent of the shoot was "really fun" while the remainder included the typical challenges one might expect when East meets West. "Everything was a negotiation between Bollywood and Hollywood," says the London native, whose film gives a flamboyant twist to Jane Austen. "It was up to me how East and how West we went. The actors had to learn how to work together and that was bloody fascinating." The Americans thought they were better than the Indians, while the Brits felt superior to the whole pack, summarizes Chadha, whose cast includes Bollywood royalty Aishwarya Rai (the former Miss World who plays the heroine) and Miss India, Namrata Shirodkar (as her sister). Said older sister falls in love with the hunky Anglo-Indian Naveen Andrews (a regular on ABC's Lost) while Austen's hero, Mr. Darcy, is played by New Zealand-born Martin Henderson.

Chadha, who worked in India with an ice-cold towel wrapped around her neck, spent the early days cooling tempers and massaging egos. Then she set about creating a film she hoped would introduce a global audience to the genre of exuberant Bollywood, where Western sense and sensibilities do not apply. In her film, English Morris dancers are juxtaposed with a Mexican street band and a hip-grinding Ashanti. It's a bizarre, almost hallucinogenic trip. "I abhor any kind of nationalistic sentiment," says Chadha, sporting a black T-shirt by Desi Wear, a Toronto fashion label that the director describes as "Gap for the diaspora." Diaspora is one of her favourite words. "My movies are not Eurocentric and they're not Indocentric either. They are diasporic-centric, which means I don't agree with a nationalist English way of looking at the world, nor do I agree with the ways Indians look at the world." Married since 1996 to a Japanese-American, Paul Mayeda Berges (with whom she co-wrote this script), Chadha's grandparents are from what is now Pakistan. Born in Kenya, she moved as a young child from East Africa to West London, where she cut her cultural teeth in lower-middle-class Southall, the land of Bend It Like Beckham.  A former BBC reporter and documentary-maker, Chadha's films have two common themes: girl power and the cultural mosaic that is becoming increasingly blended. Her next film is I Dream of Jeannie, set in Persia, circa 200 BC. It's a prequel to the TV show, says the director, who is talking to Kate Hudson about the starring role. Like Chadha's other films, it's the tale of a resilient female, who this time wields a sword instead of a soccer ball. In Bride & Prejudice, Rai's main weapon of devastation is meant to be her mind. But she wasn't crowned Miss World for nothing, and Mr. Darcy would have to be a eunuch not to notice her looks. Before they started filming, the Indian superstar -- who had been injured on a film set months before -- was desperate to lose the weight she'd gained while in a wheelchair. Chadha told her to forget it. "I said, 'Don't lose it! You're playing a nice Punjabi girl in this film. Someone like me.' I liked the fact she was a bit podgy in places. Yup, I basically told Miss World, 'You don't look good. You need to look like me.' " And, once again, she cracks up.

 

 

 

Austen Thrives In Bollyworld

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Feb. 25, 2005) If there's a formula that says you only get as much fun out of a movie as the movie-makers have making it, then Gurinder Chadha has hit on it. To judge by the rollicking cast and crew in scenes running behind the final credits, making Bride & Prejudice was the lark of larks.  It's a movie-movie, Chadha's tribute to Bollywood, Hollywood and Broadway — not to forget Jane Austen — all rolled into one big, blazingly coloured, singing-and-dancing celebration on celluloid. Written by the South Asian-English director and her American husband Paul Mayeda Berges, Bride & Prejudice is the kind of $20-million picture you only get to make after proving yourself at the box office. And that Chadha did with her last film, Bend It Like Beckham.  With a sly cheekiness that never overcomes an affectionate imitation of Bollywood at its most extravagant, Chadha gives a classic treatment to a classic novel, Pride and Prejudice (1813). Cheesy film and TV adaptations of Jane Austen novels have squished her peerless fiction into frames quite beyond sense and sensibility. Who would have guessed that transposing the Bennet family of Netherfield Park in 1790s Britain to a middle-class home in contemporary Amritsar, India would require so little forcing?  "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife," wrote Austen in one of the most famous opening lines in English lit. It is equally true that a mother possessed of four marriageable daughters is universally in search of such a man — four of them, if possible.  Aishwarya Rai, the biggest star in Bollywood, makes her first English-language film appearance as the breathtakingly beautiful Lalita Bakshi, an update of Austen's Elizabeth Bennet. The visitors who set the marital scheming into play are the Londoner Balraj Bingley (The English Patient's Naveen Andrews) and his American friend Will Darcy (Martin Henderson), as in Austen's Messers Bingley and Darcy. Amritsar's answer to Mrs. Bennet is the crassly bourgeois Mrs. Bakshi, who warns her daughters prior to the bachelors' appearance, "don't say anything too intelligent."

Lalita is as much repelled as attracted to the arrogant, wealthy Darcy, as morally ugly an American as Bollywood could produce. He, in any case, is not on her mother's radar as groom material, being a non-Indian. Balraj is swept up by Lalita's sister Jaya, and Darcy is demoted to the sidelines. Lalita, who suffers the intelligent woman's naiveté about charming rogues, falls for Johnny Wickham (Winnipegger Daniel Gillies). She's naïve enough not to notice that he is two-timing her with her sister Lakhi.  Mum has the idea for the perfect arranged husband for Lalita: Mr. Kohli (after Austen's buffoon Collins). Transplanted to California (British actor Nitin Ganatra) has made big bucks as an accountant and fancies himself immigrant America's gift to Indian womanhood. Channelling Peter Sellers in The Party, Ganatra adds a dash of manic humour to this new and improved form of romantic comedy.  Defying her mother, Lalita makes too many intelligent, and quite hostile, remarks to Will Darcy, most of them along the lines of "check your American superior attitudes at the door; you're entering a civilized nation here." Following the Bollywood practice of continually shifting landscapes, Bride takes the girls to London, for some sweeping views of Trafalgar Square, and on to Beverly Hills. There Will's snobby hotel-owning mother who makes it clear the American class system is no less an impediment to marriage than was the stratified society of Jane Austen's England.  Ashanti's singing, Anu Malik's catchy tunes and many dancing sequences, including a laugh-out-loud funny scene of a Bakshi sister performing her "cobra dance," give Bride a place alongside made-for-the-screen musicals such as Oliver! and Fiddler on the Roof.  Chadha also gives a nod to Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles with a surrealistically funny scene in which an R&B-singing gospel choir suddenly materializes out of nowhere. The lip-synching, the spontaneous dancing and the neon-coloured, hyper-artificiality of sets and props are all true to Bollywood. But Chadha, in the spirit of happy-ever-after matrimony, has forged a pleasing alloy by matching those elements to North American cinematic form.  Apparently anticipating a longtime franchise even greater than Bend It, the producers of Bride will release the DVD next month. They offer it for sale on a website where new converts to Bollywood styles can pick up some fashion and dance tips. We doubt Jane Austen would mind.

 

 

 

Tyler Perry- Through the Fire

Source:  The Robertson Treatment: (America’s Premiere Lifestyle Column) Volume 8, Edition 4; Visit www.Robertsontreatment.com

Tenacity like Tyler Perry’s is hard to come by.  With absolutely no reservation, he takes the first opportunity he gets and refers to the first 28 years of his life a “living hell,” primarily due to his and his father’s strained relationship. Therein, the circumstances were oft times predicated by the abuse Tyler’s mother suffered at the hands of her husband. As he readies himself for the night’s main event, the directorial debut and premier of his first major film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Perry’s mind can’t help drifting to his unpleasant past.  He remembers his mother having once lost her sight due her case of diabetes and how her condition frustrated his father so. It irritated him so much that on days when she had to visit the doctor, Papa Perry would drop her off at the front doors of the hospital, leaving her there to fend for herself. At the thought of such a heartless scene, Tyler’s emotions remain in tact, firm and unmoved, as he explains how God’s watchful eye and the kindness of strangers saw her through. His position remains so as the story progresses, finding his mother cured after only three short months, her temporary handicap just that. Its climax comes as Perry’s father is building a fire in the backyard. A battery explodes and the blast hurls two pieces of metal directly into his old man’s eyes, ultimately blinding him for the same amount of time that Mama Perry had just endured.  “I said to her, ‘Here’s your opportunity to show him how you felt, what are you going to do?’” Perry remembers, citing the cruel and unusual action his father would have likely taken. “[Instead] she nursed him to health. She helped him. She walked him all the way up to the doctor. She could not leave him there. And that just showed me a woman’s unconditional love.”  “It’s something about women 20-30 years ago and their mentality of where they were for their men that is absolutely amazing, and I was privileged enough to have grown up at her hip and have some insight into that.”  While his soon to be breakout film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman appears contemporary; the old school message is obvious and blatantly encouraging. Through Helen (Kimberly Elise) and Charles McCarter (Steve Harris), it is clear that Perry absorbed more than enough good along the way to balance out the bad. Of his 7 productions (five in which he’s produced, directed and acted), Diary of a Mad Black Woman, is the New Orleans native’s most familiar and longstanding – obvious reasons for a coming out party.  “It offers our people an opportunity to have hope,” he says. “Whatever situations they’re going through, to let people know that seasons change and everyday is not always dark. You can forgive. You can love again. You can move on. There are so many great messages… Don’t give up on family. If just one person gets a little bit of each lesson, then I feel like I’ve done what I’m supposed to do.”

By his own admission, since the stage interpretation eventually found success, the silver screen version permitted for a more rounded story, which takes place in Perry’s adopted hometown of Atlanta. Where the play could only capture sparing moments of the characters lives, the movie served as a tool to uncover countless more details.  “[Onstage] I couldn’t show too much passing of time,” he offers, “and I couldn’t show Helen finding her way through all of this stuff. So it was a story that I left more stuff on the shelf with that I wanted to go back and get.”  As he now readies himself for Madea’s Family Reunion and a handful of other projects, Perry appears to be one of the hardest working men in the film industry. If not for the fact that he regularly functions as a director, producer and actor, then perhaps he’ll eventually hold claim to that title because of his undying work ethic. And with Perry, inspiration comes from just about anywhere. Whether he’s ear hustling in a grocery store, or at a roundtable in celebration of his first major flick, he has a knack for recognizing the timeless moments therein. It’s his learned wisdom and determination though, that turns those moments into magic.  “That’s my life,” he says. “The difficult thing for me is to stop working. A vacation, if it’s more than a week, I’m in trouble because I’m pulling out the computer and I’m trying to work on something.”  Even as his close friends attempt to divert his attention, Perry’s mind state is regularly focused on the next endeavour. Knowing that he’s survived abominable times, which once included a verbal beatdown by his own mother, Perry ultimately realized that if he wanted his dreams to come true, then he’d have to make them. So he did.  In the ‘90’s, while he struggled mightily to envision his most beloved and outrageous character – Madea – hit the big screen, Tyler put his entire savings into Atlanta’s 14th Street Playhouse for a weekend that only saw a total of 30 people out of an expected 1,200. Ultimately exhausting all of his funds and resources, Perry slept in his car for three months. Needless to say, he prayed for a better day and finally found his way through the fire some six years later. And especially today, as he opens yet another chapter, Tyler Perry’s outlook is steady.  “Spirituality is what keeps my balance,” he says. “There’s nothing like the Black church. To get in there and get some good word, some good ministry and good singing, that’s the thing that keeps me on point and on the right path.”

Prompted chiefly by his unusually bold preference to do things his way, Lions Gate Film met Perry on his terms, offering him total freedom on a succession of films. In that vein, Diary of a Mad Black Woman features the aforementioned Elise, Harris, Perry (Madea, Brian and Joe), Shemar Moore (Orlando), Lisa Marcos (Brenda), Tamara Taylor (Debrah) and Cicely Tyson (Myrtle). He also nabbed longtime BET mainstay, Darren Grant as Director and Hollywood casting director, Reuben Cannon to aid in production.  “Lions Gate Films was a big enough studio for me to get my movie everywhere and small enough where I can call and get the president on the phone,” Perry says, citing a modest 5.4 million dollar budget for the film. “They’re a great company because they step back and let the artist be the artist.”

 

 

 

Diary Of A Mad Black Woman Shocks Box Office

Source:  Reuters By Dean Goodman

(Feb. 28, 2005) LOS ANGELES -- The top spot at the North American box office this weekend went to a film by a formerly homeless playwright little known by movie fans. Diary of a Mad Black Woman, a low-budget African-American revenge story based on a play written and produced by actor Tyler Perry, opened at No. 1 with estimated weekend ticket sales of $22.7-million (U.S.), Vancouver-based distributor Lions Gate Films said. The Will Smith romantic comedy Hitch slipped to No. 2 with $21-million, after two weekends at No. 1, followed by Keanu Reeves' satanic saga Constantine with $11.8-million in its third weekend. Two other new entries rounded out the top five. The horror film Cursed opened with $9.6-million, and the Tommy Lee Jones sorority comedy Man of the House with $9-million. Diary of a Mad Black Woman, budgeted at about $5.5-million, stars Kimberly Elise as a woman thrown out on the streets by her philandering rich husband.  With the help of her grandmother Madea (one of three roles played by Perry), she plots revenge. Darren Grant directed the film.

While Perry, 34, is arguably the best-known black playwright in the United States -- with sold-out shows in virtually every city for his Madea plays -- he is barely a blip on the radar of mainstream movie audiences. Lions Gate, a unit of Canada's Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., hopes to change that in coming weeks, building on the big opening to get the film exposure on key television news and talk shows. Part of Perry's story will include the times he was homeless after he used all his savings to finance early plays that bombed in his Atlanta hometown. Now he lives in the mansion that was used as the setting for the film. The core audience was black women over 25, but the film played equally well to all demographics, the studio said. Even though Hitch lost its crown, the film remains a popular draw and has earned $122-million after three weeks. 

Director Wes Craven's Cursed (see review above), started shooting in 2003, but underwent major changes because it was not scary enough.

 

 

 

Tyler Perry Signs 7-Dvd Deal With Lions Gate

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 2, 2005) *In the wake of the No. 1 box office bow of Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” the home entertainment arm of the film's distributor Lions Gate has acquired the home video distribution rights for all of Perry’s works in a new seven-DVD deal.   The plays include: "Madea's Class Reunion," "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," "Madea's Family Reunion," "Meet the Browns," "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea Goes to Jail." One additional title will be named later. Four of the DVD's in the agreement will be released in conjunction with Lions Gate's early summer 2005 home video release of “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”  "Tyler Perry is a huge talent with an enormous grass roots following who, until last weekend's release of our theatrical box office hit “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” was largely unknown outside the African-American community," said Lions Gate Entertainment President Steve Beeks. "We believe that the DVD releases of these seven plays will complement our feature films in bringing Tyler Perry's humour, faith, compassion and popularity to a greatly expanded national audience, building a remarkable new franchise in the process.” A film adaptation of “Madea’s Family Reunion” is slated for a February 2006 theatrical release.

 

 

 

Gary Sturgis Is The Critic's Choice

Source: Sharon Pinnix-Townsend / Reid Johnson / 323-848-2109 / SPinnixTownsend@aol.com

(Mar. 2, 2005) (Los Angeles, CA) Gary Sturgis delivers a show stopping performance as “bad boy” Jamison Milton Jackson in Tyler Perry’s 2005 motion picture release “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” The movie knocked Will Smith's "Hitch" out of the number one slot at the box office when it opened last weekend, Meanwhile,  the buzz on Sturgis's performance in "Diary" is growing. Sturgis’ powerful portrayal of the menacing Jackson captivates the audience and leaves a lasting impression long after he has left the screen. Before his face is revealed, Sturgis’ ominous voice captures the audience’s attention and has them asking the question “Who is the man behind that voice?” His other film credits include “Blaze,” “Virtuosity,” “Volcano” and “The Big Easy.”  Filled with a mix of comedy and drama, the film “Diary of Mad Black Woman” is based on the immensely popular play of the same name written by Tyler Perry.  The all-star cast includes, Kimberly Elise, Shemar Moore, Cicely Tyson, Steve Harris and Tyler Perry as the pot-smoking, gun-toting and much beloved grandmother figure Madea. Charismatic and driven, Sturgis began his pursuit into the entertainment industry with the expectation of achieving stardom solely as an actor. However a twist of fate gave him an opportunity to put his voice, called aggressive, sharp, menacing and beautiful all at once, to good use. Sturgis says, “I had no idea a living could be made from voice acting, but once I started, jobs began coming in.”  Voiceover credits include eight years as the UPN Monday night line up announcer for such shows as “Girlfriends,” “Moesha,” “The Parkers” and “The Hughley’s." Commercial spots include Ford, Disneyland, AT&T, Dodge, PacBell and Skittles. Motion picture spots include “Kill Bill,” “The Others,” “Two Can Play That Game” and “Bones.” Animation spots include the voice of Ebon in “Static Shock,” “Batman Beyond,” “Scooby Doo and the Phantom Virus” and “Extreme Ghostbusters.”  A multi-talented artist, Sturgis voice-over and acting successes have paved the way for other entertainment ventures. In 1998 he released his first CD “Mass Appeal as rapper “Illuminati.” He is the CEO of Predator Records, which currently has five artists on it roster with scheduled summer 2005 releases. In addition Sturgis teaches voice-over classes for aspiring voice-over artists.

 

 

 

From Outkast To Movie Star

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Stephen Hunt, Special to The Globe and Mail

(Mar. 2, 2005) Los Angeles — The Best Dressed Man in the World enters the room at the Century Plaza Hotel on a cloudy Grammy Sunday morning in February wearing a straw hat, lime-green shirt, a checkered tie, a goatee and an easy, Sunday-morning manner. We're not at church -- unless you consider the Century Plaza one of the high temples of popular culture -- but Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000) wouldn't look out of place in a real, live church congregation, circa 1937 or so.  Among the bevy of stars cast in Be Cool -- John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Harvey Keitel and The Rock -- the coolest guy in every room he walks into almost gets overlooked in a movie that's comically obsessed with not much more than its own brand of coolness. Not that Benjamin minds all that much: Like the present Governor of California -- an icon in one business who transitioned seamlessly into another -- Benjamin is relatively at ease occupying something less than top billing for his Hollywood debut. In Be Cool, Benjamin plays -- no surprise here -- a gangsta rapper named Dabu (a name thought up by Cedric the Entertainer when director F. Gary Gray offered $200 to whoever could come up with the "most ghetto" name imaginable). Dabu is little more than a member of the gangsta-rapper chorus -- in fact, Benjamin initially turned down the part. "I didn't want to play a rapper," he said. "That was the obvious thing to do. But he [Gray] said, 'Well, let's have a meeting man, let's talk about it.' So we talk about it and he says, 'Think about it: You play a rapper but it's against type -- people don't see you as that [kind of clichéd rapper]. And besides that, it's a parody, way over the top, baggy pants down to your knees, two-ways and all these platinum chains and stuff. And on top of that, how in the hell can you turn down bein' in a movie with these people [Travolta, et al.]? That would be great for your career.' And I said, you're right. Let me try."

Benjamin, 29, grew up in Atlanta, where he formed Outkast in the early 1990s in high school with partner Antwan (Big Boi) Patton. In the decade since they released their first CD, the duo have won a number of Grammys, sold tens of millions of CDs, all while evolving their sound from pure, old-school hip-hop to something else entirely -- something new. Like all of the most original of artists, from John Lennon to Jimi Hendrix (whom Benjamin is trying to play in a film about Hendrix's life) to Prince, Benjamin has about him the quality of a restless intellect -- someone who sees the connective cultural threads between all the sights and sounds that make up pop culture. He has said in the past that the thing he does best is find great melodies. Anyone who has ever listened to Outkast's hits, such as Ms. Jackson or Hey Ya!, two of the most purely catchy songs of the last few years, would agree: Benjamin writes hooks that rank right up there with the Beatles or old Elton John or Marvin Gaye for sheer musical irresistibility. Question: Can that translate into acting? Benjamin, a musician equally at home channelling the funk grooves of Bootsy Collins or the Smiths' Morrissey, can't help but put a spin on the character of Dabu: He's a gangsta rapper who hates guns (he even begs his bosses not to let him carry one); he sips tea like the Queen -- one pinky pointed to the sky -- from fine porcelain, using his gun as a saucer. No matter how tough he tries to act, you can't help but be charmed by Dabu; as a result, Benjamin manages to steal just about every scene he's in. Cloaked in baggy jeans, 12 pounds of platinum jewellery and a throwback jersey, Benjamin almost dares us to take him for nothing more than the typical thug.

"I don't think I'm funny," he said, "but if other people think I'm funny, I guess it works." Since deciding to pursue acting seriously a little more than a year ago, Benjamin has landed a number of choice roles. He's currently shooting Four Brothers, with Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson and Garrett Hedlund for Boyz in the Hood director John Singleton in Toronto. It's the story of four adopted brothers whose mom gets shot to death at a convenience store in a seemingly random event. He shot Revolver with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels director Guy Ritchie, and recently wrapped filming of the Untitled Outkast Project -- a 1930s prohibition musical, in which Benjamin plays a mortician whose family gets involved with some rum runners. All of this would be great for any actor, but it's downright amazing considering Benjamin's dislike (to put it mildly) of the audition process. "It was natural for me to get into film, but the acting process is unnatural for me -- because I'm good on the screen, but terrible at auditions," he said. "Being in a small room with five producers and they say 'go'--that's so strange to me," he said. And the fact that he won some Grammys doesn't always cut it with studio executives, who are notoriously insular. "As far as [getting cast in] Four Brothers, Singleton knew he wanted me to play the part," Benjamin said, "but as far as studio execs go, they don't always know you. There were a lot of great actors up for the part. I was shooting a Guy Ritchie movie called Revolver and didn't have time to audition. So what they [the producers] did was, Gary Gray showed footage of this movie [Be Cool], Bryan [Barber] showed them footage of the My Life in Idlewild movie, and I did an episode of [the TV series] The Shield -- so that became my audition."

It worked. Be Cool, which opens on Friday, has a looseness to it that will no doubt annoy some; director Gray gave the actors one take to improvise each scene and judging by the final product, used a few of them. In many ways, Be Cool -- with its star-studded cast of show-business heavyweights -- is a 21st-century version of Murder by Death: one of those 1970s star-studded comic thrillers filled with snappy lines, crisply delivered by actors who do it with a wink, all the while maintaining a proper air of serious business going on here. None of which was lost on Benjamin, who cites, as his acting role models, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall and Jeffrey Wright (Basquiat, Angels in America). "I was most excited to meet Harvey Keitel," Benjamin said of Be Cool's cast, most of whom have a better-than-average chance of turning up one day in a Hollywood wax museum. "I've been a fan of John Travolta's since going way back to Welcome Back, Kotter, and Uma [Thurman], for sure. Vince Vaughn." And you begin to get a sense that the hip-hop star and fashion icon has morphed into something else: a talented -- if a little raw -- up-and-coming film actor. "But you gotta imagine," he said, "I'm only a beginner, and I show up to work and I'm really tip-toeing, trying not to make mistakes -- trying to be perfect -- and in acting that'll kill you, [if] you start thinking about it too much. So I had to ease into it, and just sit down and talk to John [Travolta] -- he's just a normal person -- about flying airplanes. And Cedric [the Entertainer], man, we tripped the whole time. You become a whole little family and don't think about it too much."  And with that, the Best Dressed Man in the World (Esquire Magazine, 2004) stops talking. "That's the whole thing," he repeated, almost as if to remind himself. "Don't think about it too much."

 

 

 

Berry Accepts Her Razzie In Person

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Feb. 28, 2005) *Before gracing the Kodak Theater with her presence at the Oscars Sunday, Halle Berry held to her word and showed up at the Razzies in Hollywood Saturday to accept the organization’s award for worst actress of 2004 for her performance in “Catwoman.”   With her Academy Award in one hand and the Razzie in the other, she fake-gushed to the audience: “Omigosh, oh my God. I never in my life thought that I would be here, winning a Razzie. It's not like I ever aspired to be here, but thank you."  In a simple black dress, she later told folks why she decided to become the first actor to accept a Razzie in person since Tom Green did so for 2001’s “Freddy Got Fingered.”   “When I was a kid, my mother told me that if you could not be a good loser, then there's no way you could be a good winner," she said. However, she added, "I hope to God I never see these people again!  "Catwoman," also took the prize for worst film at the 25th annual Razzies, an annual event held a day before the Oscars by the Golden Raspberry Foundation to point out the most awful movies of the year.  President Bush won the worst-actor award for his appearance in news and archival footage of Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was voted worst supporting-actor for "Fahrenheit 9/11," while Britney Spears bubble-gum-chewing cameo in the documentary brought her the worst supporting-actress award.

 

 

 

Surprise Winner At French Césars

Source: Associated Press

(Mar. 1, 2005) PARIS -- L'Esquive (The Dodging), a small-budget drama about alienated suburban teens, was the surprise winner Saturday at France's top film honours, the Césars, scooping up the awards for best French film and best director. Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation won the César for best foreign film, while Ken Loach's Ae Fond Kiss and Emir Kusturica's Life Is a Miracle shared the award for the best film from the European Union. L'Esquive also won the best screenplay award for its Tunisian-born director, Abdellatif Kechiche, and his co-writer Ghalia Lacroix, and the female newcomer award for Sara Forestier. The $1-million (U.S.) film, shot with a largely amateur cast of teenagers, fended off strong competition from high-profile films including Jean-Pierre Jeunet's First World War drama, A Very Long Engagement, the police thriller 36 Quai des Orfèvres, starring Daniel Auteuil and Gérard Depardieu, and the small-budget box-office triumph of the year, The Chorus (Les Choristes).  The Chorus team, which flew to Los Angeles only to miss out on a best-foreign-language film at Sunday's Oscars, was disappointed to win only two of the eight César categories the film was nominated for -- music and sound. Engagement, which was nominated for 12 Césars, including best film, director and actress for Audrey Tautou, won none of the major honours, but swept up five awards -- for cinematography, production design, costume design, supporting actress for Marion Cotillard, and male newcomer for Gaspard Ulliel. The film was vying for two Oscars Sunday. Mathieu Amalric won the best-actor César for his role in critical favourite, Rois et Reine (Kings and Queen), while Yolande Moreau was named best actress for When the Tide Comes in. Moreau, who also co-scripted and co-directed the film, shared the César for best first film with Gilles Porte. American actor Will Smith was awarded an honorary César at the ceremony at Paris's grand Théâtre du Châtelet. Veteran French actor-singer Jacques Dutronc was also awarded an honorary César. The César Awards are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year.

 

 

 

Glover’s New Film Co. Has Serious Issues

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 2, 2005) *Frustrated with the lack of films dealing with social issues in today's cineplexes, actor Danny Glover has decided to start his own movie production company to generate such material. New York-based Louverture Films, founded by Glover along with producer/screenwriter Joslyn Barnes and Glover’s Los Angeles publicist, Arnold Robinson, said Tuesday that the company will develop and produce movies of historical relevance, social purpose, commercial value and artistic integrity.  In all its ventures, Louverture Films "will support the employment and training of cast and crew from the African Diaspora, minorities and/or marginalized communities," the announcement said.  Six independently financed feature and documentary films are in the Louverture pipeline to be produced over the next three years. Glover will direct Louverture's historic action epic "Toussaint," based on the Haitian Revolution (1789-1804) and the life of Toussaint Louverture, a former slave who rallied blacks. Another project is "God's Bits of Wood," based on the African literary classic and written by filmmaker Ousmane Sembene. It's about the 1947 strike on the Dakar-Niger railway that ignited the independence movement in West Africa.

 

 

 

::TV NEWS::

 

 

Blue’ Fades To Black

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Feb. 28, 2005) *After tomorrow, “NYPD Blue” ends its 12-year run with a 2-hour send-off hosted by Jimmy Smits, who played Det. Bobby Simone from1994-1998.  A number of actors have picked up and turned in badges in the fictional 15th squad, and Dennis Franz’s Andy Sipowicz has seen them all come and go. The beloved veteran cop wasn’t always so likeable during the show’s early years – as Sipowicz was known to spew bigoted comments toward black perps, as well as his former black lieutenant Arthur Fancy, played by James McDaniel.  Franz says he never saw Andy’s character flaw as an attempt by show creators Steven Bochco and David Milch to make him the program’s stereotypical ‘bad guy.’  “I never thought about it that way,” says Franz. “I just always felt that over the lifetime of a show, [the aim] was just to keep him real, but to let him change. Most people do get changed by time, but it’s a real slow and incremental process. One of the things I’m most pleased with in this show with all the characters is that we were patient, so that the kinds of changes that they went through were credible lessons, pounding your head against the wall a certain way time and time and time again.  And finally you learn, grudgingly, that there’s got to be a better way to do this.  And if you have the patience to do that, that in and of itself becomes the stuff of good stories.” Since its network debut in September 1993, the series has won 20 Emmy awards out of 82 nominations – impressive for a show that some ABC affiliates refused to air during its first several weeks because of its “adult content.”  The show quickly became known more for its depiction of the characters’ bare asses than their crime solving.

The censors had been pretty lenient with the nudity and coarse language that fuelled the critically-acclaimed drama – that is until Justin Timberlake ripped away Janet Jackson’s boob flap during the 2004 Super Bowl and exposed the world to the wrath of the FCC. “It certainly was a tipping point for what we were used to doing and, really, could no longer do,” Steven Bochco said of Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. “I mean, we fought with ABC broadcast standards in the past year over things that we hadn’t fought about for 10 plus years.” Bochco says the biggest issue with the censors in the past year were over nude scenes, which had to be modified after Standards and Practices saw what was going on. “You’re told you just can’t do certain scenes the way you used to do them,” Bochco said. “So, you know, you stop doing them.  At some point, you have to acknowledge that it’s a long-term battle.  And it’s not that the clock has been turned back.  It’s a setback.  I’ve been working in television long enough over the course of 35, almost 40 years to know that you’re never going to put the genie back in the bottle.”   In terms of putting “NYPD Blue” on the shelf, Bochco says tomorrow night’s final episode won’t be wrapped up with a nice, pretty ribbon. “We’re not blowing up buildings and we’re not killing anybody off,” he says. “I think, particularly for the people who have stuck with us all these years, we want that audience to feel as if it’s a well-earned end to the show.  For a story point of view, and a character point of view, that speaks more to letting things organically evolve rather than ending things. In other words, I don’t think at the end of our last episode you’ll feel that the life of this precinct has stopped or ended.  You know, it will continue on, but you just won’t  get to visit it every week.” As for the tall drink of water Henry Simmons, who has played Det. Baldwin Jones for the past five years, the 34-year-old says he’s looking forward to new opportunities now that the show has wrapped. “I figure I’ll probably take a little break, and I’m talking about just a week,” laughs the actor. “Because in this business you can’t take too long of a break.  And then after that, I just leave it in God’s hands; see what happens from here.”

 

 

 

Stacie J. -- Life Beyond The Apprentice

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Deardra Shuler

(Mar. 1, 2005) Stacie Jones (a.k.a. Stacie J) seldom watches television so she never even considered the possibility of auditioning for a reality show.  Bored one night she watched one episode of The Apprentice while in Miami on a modeling assignment.  The show sparked her interest especially when she realized it was taped in New York.  Having always admired Donald Trump, for the first time she considered the prospect of auditioning for a reality show; especially since it offered the opportunity to work with Trump, whom Stacie considered to be a business mastermind and genius. Little did she know that her joy at winning a spot on the show would change by the third episode as would her starry-eyed opinion of Donald Trump. Stacie J has always had an entrepreneurial spirit.  At 16 years old, she sold rock candy with her sister Rachelle while living in Colorado where she grew up, although she was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Stacie attended Emory College in Atlanta and holds an MBA in marketing.  At age 20, the enterprising student established a telemarketing company and ended up employing 17 staff members.  After graduation, she opened a jazz club/ restaurant called Jazzmin’s, located in downtown Atlanta.  Eventually she sold the restaurant to the Shark Bar in Atlanta.  Stacie, who believes in diversification, also started a modeling career after having been chosen as one of two people to model for Elite NY.  She modeled in Miami, Europe and Africa, eventually returning to Atlanta to finish her education and pursue her interest in business.  Currently juggling a modeling, acting and business career, Ms. Jones is presently with Ford Model Management in New York.  She also works with Model Management (Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta).  She has posed for campaigns such as Revlon, Clairol, Avon, etc., and performed catalog work for department stores such as Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Sears and K-Mart.  She has appeared in magazines the likes of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Essence, Redbook and Marie Claire.  The budding actress has also appeared on “As the World Turns;” “Guiding Light,” “The Dave Chappelle Show” and in a short film entitled, “Who is Cinderella.”  She was involved in the Def Jam Production of “This is How We Do It” and she continues to secure both acting and modeling work. Pursuing her love for business, Stacie took advantage of what she learned while operating her restaurant in Atlanta and decided to open a Subway Sandwich franchise in Harlem.  So, is it any wonder when the young business dynamo saw the opportunity to audition for The Apprentice show she jumped at the chance.
 
“I had a lot of respect for Donald Trump and viewed him as someone at the top of his game.  Also, I am very interested in the real estate business.  I looked up NBC on the Internet and saw the application for The Apprentice show was due in three days.  I figured if I got the opportunity to work for Donald Trump that would be wonderful and if nothing else, I could put myself on The Donald’s rolodex in terms of his network of people.  I thought who better to have as a mentor in the real estate business than Donald Trump. As an African American, I feel that I have only had one serious mentor.  You know, black people are only a couple of generations out of college.  It’s always been hard for me to find someone who would say “Let me take you under my wing and teach you how to go to the next level.”  Although, I have achieved a lot in my life, it has been primarily as a result of book smarts, my intuition and hustle.  My ultimate goal is to build my empire.”  Stacie’s stint on The Apprentice was short lived.  “From the first meeting of my Apprentice peers, I found the men to be nice and the women rather catty.  The living situation with the women was difficult because they were into that girly sorority behavior.  I have never been into that.  So, while I was off in my room doing business they were conspiring.  It was clear that I wasn’t someone that would fit into their inner circle.  Already, by the second time in the boardroom, I saw the women were out to get me, especially the Asian girl Ivanna, who actually saw herself as white.  She was very crafty and knew how to manipulate the weaker ones.  And like life, the weak ones always ban together to get rid of the stronger one.  I guess I didn’t really take them seriously and thought Mr. Trump would see right through them.  There was no way I thought I was going to get fired” claimed the young business exec.  However, during her third trip into the boardroom, Trump bought the ‘crazy’ hype that had been perpetrated against Stacie and fired her.   “I had put Mr. Trump up on a pedestal but I found through my firing, that Mr. Trump has flaws just like the rest of us humans.  I lost a lot of respect for Mr. Trump as a result. I felt my firing was not based on merit but rather complete slander and defamation of character.  Like most African Americans, I have worked extremely hard for every single thing I have.  Having entered the show at one level hoping to rise to another only to end up at an even lower ebb, was disappointing.  What happened to me on The Apprentice, no person should have to endure.” People who wonder whether reality shows are contrived can rest assured that everything that happens on these reality shows does happen.  While the producers may not be telling contestants what to say, manipulation is certainly part of the game.  “This is how they script the reality show,” explained the former Apprentice star. “All of a sudden they take you off to the side and ask you questions.  For example, in my case, everyone was playing with the 8-ball.  Unexpectedly, the producers started asking me: “What’s up with the 8-ball?”  They asked whether I was nervous that the team members didn’t like that I played with the 8 ball.  And, they mentioned to me that I was getting excited.  I was amazed and started wondering “What are they talking about!  The 8 ball was nothing!  It was stupid. Everyone was playing with the 8-ball.  Yet, that issue kept being pressed. I wondered why they were even talking to me about such a trite matter.  Now, that I look back at it, I see they were coaching a storyline along and were trying to invent character.  So to anyone doing a reality show, especially an African American, I warn you to be very, very careful because they can take your personality and switch you around 360 degrees,” cautioned Stacie.

“When you go on these shows, you are put through a hard core audition process; mental tests, IQ tests, therapist tests, emotional tests, background checks…everything.  I beat out a million applicants.  What ended up happening to me as a result of that whole 8-ball thing was I got the stigma of being crazy.  And, that is absolutely not true!  That is why I say its slander and defamation of character.  All these lies were being told.  I can guarantee had they had any footage of me lying they would have aired it.  People like Ivanna, the Asian woman, lied consistently on camera.  If you compare her to Omarosa, she lied way more than Omarosa.  But because race is deep in America, and because of the color of her skin, people aren’t even saying “Ivanna is far worse than Omarosa” continued The Apprentice ingénue.  “I think where Omarosa messed up and lost support was the situation with Kwame.  She should have rethought that one.  Omarosa got a lot of people upset with her so she ended up coming out with a negative.  I think in my case, I came out with sympathy.  I think people actually liked me. However, my being smeared by the women as being crazy has labeled me.  Can you imagine how that feels to be slandered like that in front of the entire nation with people continually wondering about my sanity?  Although the intent may be to make The Apprentice a #1 show they are doing it at anyone’s expense and I guess I was a product of that.  Although, Trump, did apology to me on the 9th show” recalls Stacie. Though Stacie J feels she was slandered and definitely experienced some negative repercussions as a result of the show, she does acknowledge the positive side.  “I wasn’t known all over the United States prior to going on the show.  I didn’t have the endorsements that I now have before the show.  I didn’t have the exposure. I now have more of an opportunity to build on my recognition.  Media is powerful in that way. I could allow myself to be defeated because of what happened to me or I could make the best of this opportunity.  I plan to make the best of it. I may even do a book down the road.  However, since the show I have won 3 endorsements.  I am shooting two pilots right now.  I have a few show ideas and I plan to use my business opportunities to build my empire.   “Right now, I am going to seize all the opportunities available to me.  Life is good. I am learning that when you have a lot of choices, make sure to make the right ones. I am living and I am learning. I am learning to have a couple of good friends, have a couple of good enemies, keep my enemies close and my friends closer.  I am learning to have fun in life, work hard and always stay close to God.”

 

 

 

Slender Hopes And Fat Chances: New Series Spotlight Hollywood Cruelties

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon, Special To The Star

(Mar. 2, 2005) At the Academy Awards, Hilary Swank paused on the red carpet, struck a pose in her spray-on gown and generously thanked her fifth-grade teacher.  She recalled a school performance and told the world about this encouraging teacher who helped her, in effect, "find my calling."  When you think about it, though, this romanticized notion of a "calling," of intertwined fate and destiny that leads to riches and Oscar glory, is but a Hollywood myth.  For every Swank, there are a thousand aspiring actors who flock to sunshiny California each year, determined to realize their calling as they await a Big Break.  Alas, the only waiting they end up doing is on well-heeled patrons at Melrose Ave. bistros. As for calling? Most are lucky to get a call-back.  Despite the illusion of instant fame created by "reality" television, the odds of becoming the next Tom Cruise or Meryl Streep is roughly equivalent to being born with three arms. When it comes to shattered dreams, there is no business like show business.  Two new comedies arrive next week and explore the scruffy underbelly of Hollywood, the side rarely glorified on Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood.

Unscripted (TMN, Sunday, 8:30 p.m.) yanks back the glitzy curtains and follows three young actors — Krista Allen, Bryan Greenberg and Jennifer Hall — as they struggle to penetrate Hollywood's exclusive fortress.  "We wanted to do a show that really exposed the humour and pain that goes with being an actor," says executive producer Grant Heslov.  Produced by Section Eight, the company founded by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, Unscripted plunges into Hollywood's murky abyss, taking us into auditions, casting sessions, agent meetings, acting classes.  "The reason we think this could be compelling is that the idea of chasing a dream is something everybody can identify with, regardless of what you're doing in your life," says Heslov.  "That's basically what these kids are doing. They're chasing a dream and they're taking it on the chin most of the time."  Heslov, Clooney and Matt Adler, another executive producer, arrived in Los Angeles at about the same time and, years later, can point to varying degrees of success.  Their draining experiences, along with those of the show's three stars, who essentially play real-life versions of themselves, drive the show's storylines.  "As you grow up as an actor — I started acting professionally when I was about 18 — you come up with a group of guys and you see them at all the auditions," says Heslov.  "And then as you get into your 30s, people start dropping away. When you get into your 40s, there have been a lot of casualties."  About half of Heslov's theatre school friends found work in the entertainment industry, though few made it as actors. The other half, he adds, eventually admitted defeat. They returned home to pursue less glamorous vocations.  "There's a sadness involved in trying to become an actor," says Heslov, whose credits include The Scorpion King, True Lies, Enemy of the State and Dante's Peak.  "But I would say — and I'm just throwing out a number here — that 80 to 90 per cent of all people, not just actors, are not doing what they dreamed about doing when they were younger."  Like most creative fields, Hollywood offers no certain paths.  "There are so many talented people who will never work," says Heslov. "And there are so many untalented people who get lots of work. The truth is, luck just plays a huge part in all of this."  Even if you defy the odds and make it as an actor, you never know when it will suddenly vanish; struggling to become an actor is often not as hard as struggling to remain an actor.

Fat Actress (TMN, Monday, 10 p.m.) stars Kirstie Alley and revolves around her struggle to find work as, yes, a fat actress.  "When we were shooting the series, we were very moved, as well as entertained, by the truth of it all," says Sandy Chanley, an executive producer.  "We were very moved and supportive of what a great and courageous actress Kirstie is."  Created by Alley and Brenda Hampton, Fat Actress is brutally honest and, at times, scathingly funny. It is a pointed rejoinder to the braying tabloids that hounded the former Cheers star as her body ballooned and her career shrank.  The comedy is, thus, about self-acceptance in a world where any kind of acceptance is rare. Like Unscripted and HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, the dialogue is improvised. This gives Fat Actress an added dimension of authenticity as Alley interacts with Hollywood friends and associates, including John Travolta, Merv Griffin, Carmen Electra and NBC head Jeff Zucker.  "My sense is that Fat Actress has a pretty big demographic in that it may be funny to many different kinds of people across the United States and Canada," says Chanley. "My hope is that it makes people laugh."  It will.  Unless, of course, you're a struggling actor.

 

 

 

Tate, Lennix Book Network Gigs

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 1, 2005) *“Ray” co-stars Larenz Tate and Harry J. Lennix have been cast in separate television projects.  Tate, who played Quincy Jones in “Ray,” joins the cast of CBS’ “Love Monkey,” which follows the lives of four male friends in various stages of dating and marriage through the eyes of a single music executive, played by “Ed” star Thomas Cavanagh.  Lennix, who starred in “Ray” as the music legend’s manager Joe Adams, has been cast in ABC’s two-hour movie “Commander in Chief,” which centers on the first female president of the United States. Lennix will play the outgoing chief of staff. "Homicide: Life on the Street" vet Kyle Secor will play the prez’s husband.    

 

 

 

::SPORTS NEWS::

 

 

Fearless Hanna Rocks The House

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Brian Mcandrew, Staff Reporter

(Feb. 27, 2005) ST. JOHN'S—Jenn Hanna knows no fear and that attitude has carried her to today's final of the Canadian women's curling championship.  The Ottawa skip plays Manitoba's Jennifer Jones in the championship game of the Scott Tournament of Hearts.  Hanna took control of the second half of a semifinal playoff for a 9-7 win yesterday against Kelly Scott of British Columbia.  Making her first appearance at the event, Hanna wasn't given much of a chance at getting this far in a field full of past Canadian and junior champions. But she made a name for herself early when she beat defending champion Colleen Jones and ended the round robin in a four-way tie for fourth place.  It was a similar scenario to how she won the Ontario championship, when she also finished in a tie for fourth.  She has won four games in a row and one more win means not only a national title, but a trip to the Olympic curling trials in Halifax next December.  Hanna's previous best was a second-place finish at the 1998 Canadian juniors. She managed to beat not only Scott, a past Canadian junior world champion, but Stefanie Lawton, a former national junior champion who finished third in this event.  In Jennifer Jones, she faces another past junior champion who, at 30, is the oldest skip in the playoffs and an indication of how a new generation of curlers are finding their way to the main stage.

Ontario last managed to win a national women's championship with Marilyn Bodogh in 1996.  Jones has a pair of past champions on her team in third Cathy Overton-Clapham and lead Cathy Gauthier, who won in 1995 playing for Connie Laliberte.  Despite their lack of national experience, Hanna and third Pascale Letendre, second Dawn Askin and Stephanie Hanna, the skip's sister, at lead have managed to keep their dreams alive and go into today's game full of confidence.  "I guess it's playing with no fear," Hanna explained. "We play like there's no next game. I look at this as maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience ... and I don't want to leave anything undone here. We're putting it all out there."  That doesn't mean she doesn't need to work at keeping her emotions under control.  "I was nervous inside," she said about the semifinal match. "My stomach was doing flips, but you have to take that back so it's not in your hand when you go to throw the shot. When the nerves get into your fingers you're in big, big trouble."  Hanna remained calm despite dropping a three-ender early in the game to Scott. She battled back in the second half, taking two points in the turning-point eighth end.  Scott tried to blank the ninth to go into the last end with final shot but she left her rock in the rings on a takeout shot to score one and tie the game 7-7.

"Something inside me said she was going to nose that rock," Hanna said.  "It was a little bit of relief."  With an Ontario and a B.C. stone both in the four-foot in the final end, Hanna placed her first rock into the top of the same ring.  It was a risky call. Anything but perfect placement could have allowed Scott to steal the winning point.  "That last shot was killer. Those two sweepers put it exactly where we needed it and we knew if we put some pressure on she'd have to make a very, very good shot for me to have to throw my last one," Hanna said.  Scott's attempt to draw to the button rubbed against a long guard and Hanna did not need to throw her final stone.  "I almost cried out there when that last shot came down," Hanna said.  Said Scott: "Sometimes your rocks end up in the perfect spot and sometimes they don't. ... She pretty much took our chance away with making the greatest first rock that she could."  Jones expects an aggressive game with both teams putting plenty of rocks in play.  "We played that way all year and it won't change. It will be a great game," said Jones, who beat Hanna in the round robin.

 

 

 

Jalen Rose Named Player Of The Week

From Canadian Press

(Feb. 28, 2005) NEW YORK — Veteran guard-forward Jalen Rose, who averaged 24 points in leading the Raptors to a 3-0 record, has been named the NBA Eastern Conference player of the week.  It marks only the second time in Rose's 11-year career that he has won the award. He is only the third player in Raptors history to receive the honour, following Vince Carter and Chris Bosh.  Rose scored 30 points against New Jersey, 16 against Milwaukee and 26 against the Lakers.  He is averaging a team-best 17.1 points, with 3.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 30.8 minutes in 55 games this season.  Rose hurt his finger diving for a loose ball yesterday in the win over the Lakers but was back at practice today. The Raptors open a four-game road trip in San Antonio on Wednesday.  Mike Bibby of the Sacramento Kings was named the Western Conference player of the week.

 

 

 

Ursh Buys Into NBA Team

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

*Usher is the latest artist from the hip hop generation to swoop up some NBA property.  According to the Bloomberg News and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the singer is part of an ownership group led by Dan Gilbert, who recently moved forward with plans to purchase the Cleveland Cavaliers for $375 million. Mr. Raymond follows in the footsteps of Nelly, a minority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats; and Jay-Z, an investor in the New Jersey Nets.

*Usher appeared at a press conference officially announcing his new co-ownership of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA franchise.  With his Grammy-winning song “Yeah!” pumping through speakers, Usher sat next to co-owner Dan Gilbert, the chairman and founder of Quicken Loans, to officially assume control of the team that his group paid $375 million for. As previously reported, Gilbert heads a principal ownership group that includes Usher, business partner and first cousin David Katzman, and Gordon Gund, who has owned the team since 1983 and is retaining nearly a 15-percent share.

 

 

 

::OTHER NEWS::

 

 

COBA's Dynamic Collective Identity

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(Feb. 26, 2005) If you really want to stir it up, to invoke Bob Marley, take a strong measure of Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe's Afro-fusion and apply it to the COBA (Collective of Black Artists) mix of Afro-Caribbean-Canadian dance.  BaKari Eddison Lindsay, Charmaine Headley, Debbie Y. Nicholls and Julia Morris perform at a pace to bring on a sweat from just watching them in Mantsoe's Bodika/Sessions. The jump-up dance is set to Japanese music reminiscent of the Kodo Drummers. Mantsoe marries Asian martial arts to Balinese hand and arm gestures, West African footwork, ballet positions and Tai Chi configurations.  Bodika is the word for initiation sessions that welcomed youths into the South African Pedi tribe. Mantsoe employs the physical language of ritual to construct a dance that opens under shadowy lighting, as if in a clearing in the forest. The dancers wear black cotton pants, with boldly coloured appliqués to accentuate their lines and suggest symbolic identities. As they move in ever more frenzied fashion, they form rapidly mutating shapes, as if seen through a kaleidoscope.  Mantsoe is a South African choreographer and dancer who electrified a DanceWorks audience in 2002 with a series of powerfully spiritual solos.  He started dancing on the streets of Soweto, and parlayed his talent into a place as resident choreographer for the Johannesburg company Moving Into Dance. Now he lives outside Vichy, France, and takes commissions all over the world, from Israel to Sweden, to Montreal and New York. He has collaborated for the last four years with dancers in Japan.  Mantsoe's philosophy of preserving ancient African belief systems by extending them into the present serves his choreography well. Bodika/Sessions is an aggressive, almost combative piece, with a historical dimension: It reminds us that African dance in the New World evolved as a form of resistance.

Lindsay took the first part of his title Ho's N Head-wraps/Cheque Yo Soul from a poem by True Daley that inspired a dance about the commodification of indigenous culture. Headley is the woman at the market, shopping for an exotic look, and picking up shell jewellery, a dashiki, head wrap and skirt until she is the image of the African woman. She literally dresses up in her off-the-rack identity.  Behind her in black leotards, a ghostly ensemble of women dancers chant, "Conscious costumes won't bring your soul back," and strike poses like mannequins.  The music is Zap Mama and Femi Kuti, artists with strong opinions about the exploitation of Africa and Africans. The most modern-looking piece on the program, Ho's N Head-wraps blares its politics a little too loudly, but not at the expense of some beautiful movement from Headley and her insidious companions.  The five-member COBA drumming ensemble intensifies the sense of authenticity in an evening honouring the past without enshrining it.

 

 

 

Thien Le Is Not At The Oscars But His Dress May Be Life Of The Party

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rita Zekas

(Feb. 27, 2005) Designer Thien Le doesn't care if he goes to the Academy Awards tonight. It's enough that one of his gowns is going to be there, on the back of actress Terri Hawkes, wife of Jeff Sackman, whose company ThinkFilm is a distributor of two contenders: Being Julia, whose star Annette Bening is up for an Oscar, and The Story of the Weeping Camel, up for the best documentary trophy.  The dress, a dark-red silk iridescent taffeta with black tulle on the bottom from Le's spring collection, references one of his favourite eras, the `40s. "My favourite period is 1930 to 1950, the elegant period," he states.  Go figure. He just turned 28.  Le is no award-show neophyte. He has dressed actresses Polly Shannon, Shirley Douglas, Jessica Paré, Elisha Cuthbert and Brooke Nevin for everything from the Canadian Walk of Fame to the People's Choice Awards. Wendy Crewson has picked up armfuls of hardware — Genies, Geminis, special humanitarian awards — in his fabulous creations. When Crewson won her Gemini in 2003 for The Many Trials of One Jane Doe, she wore a knockout white gown he had made for her. Twice. The first version of the white gown went up in flames.  "I had to remake it from scratch," he recalls wryly. "I was trying to burn some ribbon off the dress with a cigarette lighter while I was on the phone. I forgot there was cleaning fluid on it and it went up in flames pretty quick. I did the `stop, drop and roll' thing with the dress. Then I sat on it — oh, that's hot. Wendy's fake boob went flying and later I had to look for it."  It is only his fifth year as a designer, yet he has customers from all over the world navigating the rustic elevator up to his John St. studio. Le is doing the uniforms for Bombardier, bridal gowns, coats and a men's line.  "My spring collection is very retro with full skirts, flowered dresses, short cocktail dresses and swing coats," he says. "I rarely do short (skirts) but I'm in the mood for it."  Tia Carrere was his first celeb client. They met when he worked on her movie Meet Prince Charming and they became fast friends.

Le studied at the International Academy of Design but is no slave to current trends. "I have no `muse.' I'm trying to fill my customer's closet; I know exactly what they need and what they are missing."  Though his whole family is in the business, Le had intended on being an art teacher and took a job at The Bay doing window display. When he saw a dress by Christian Lacroix, he simply had to deconstruct it.  "How do you build that stuff? I had to know. I took sewing for a year and a half."

 

 

 

From Jeans To Oscar Dress

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Chris Young, Staff Reporter

(Feb. 27, 2005) She stepped out of the limousine and onto the red carpet. Her name was called over the loudspeaker. "Nominated for achievement in a short-form documentary, Erin Faith Young." The photographers trained their lenses on her as she wobbled on her high heels.  "Hey," someone called out, "there's Cate Blanchett."  "All those cameras that were focused on me swung away like they were on a swivel," recalled Young of the nominees' luncheon earlier this month in L.A. "I mean, I can just imagine what they were thinking of me: Who is she?"  The answer: Young is 28 but looks younger. She's not even four years out of school. She's the proud collector of her first screen production credit with Hardwood, working with first-time director and friend Hubert Davis. And, oh yes, she'll be at tonight's Academy Awards. The 29-minute documentary, co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada, was nominated last month, setting off a minor frenzy in the Forest Hill apartment she shares with fiancé and film editor Andrew Schiller.  So the paparazzi don't know her, but the kid stays in the picture, definitely. At the luncheon there was face time with Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Jamie Foxx. She met a couple of big-time Hollywood producers (and emerged with fingers intact).  Seated next to her was a special-effects nominee. What's the title of your film? she asked.  "The Prisoner of Azkaban," he said.

"I don't know it," she replied. "Is it a documentary?"  Young tells the story with gusto. She might not be up on her Harry Potters, but she's having a lovely time at her Oscars.  Five years ago, while taking film and television at Sheridan College, Young put on an Oscar-night party where everyone came dressed for the red carpet. The host opted for a gold gown with wings.  Now that the real deal is here, it's also plain that this is, as these things tend to be, a completely unexpected and exhausting bonus.  Through Hardwood's early stages, production meetings took place in the waiting room of Princess Margaret Hospital, while Young's mother, Wendy, underwent treatment for multiple myeloma. Later, as the film began its run on the festival circuit, she went around the world on her next project, a travel series aimed at teens called Get Outta Town!, which debuts on TVO on April 2.  Hardwood, she says, is "Hubert's family's story on screen, but the back story, with my mother having cancer, means there's a back story for me, too, and makes it very much a family thing for me. Those were the hardest, most stressful moments — wanting to spend every moment with her but having to keep things moving forward at the same time.  "I guess I kept going with it because I knew it made her happy to hear about her kids doing well and being successful. She always wanted to hear everything that was going on, and I think it helped her focus on getting better so she could share it with us."  Today, Wendy is in remission, and she and Young's father, Paul, are spending the winter in Mexico. With Young's younger sister Julie coming down from Victoria, the entire family plans to be in Los Angeles for the festivities, even if tickets for all of them will be nigh on impossible to come by.  Almost as tall an order are the clothes. You don't want to walk down that red carpet in the one power suit you have in your closet, and the jeans/T-shirt/sneakers ensemble Young favoured during her world travels won't cut it, either.

So there have been fitting sessions at various Toronto designers' studios, with a gold Crystal Siemens number ending up as the final choice. The jewellery will come from her uncle's Toronto shop.  Hair will be by whomever. "I don't know any hairdressers in L.A.," she says. "Not sure what to do there."  The only thing Young really worries about is her second spin down the red carpet and, perhaps even more, taking it in those heels.  She never wears them — doesn't even own a pair — so one recent Saturday she spent a couple of hours practising walking in them at home.  "It's very crazy," she says.  "For two years, this (movie) was my life. Hollywood has always been this kind of fiction to me. Now it's here. And we're there. Surreal, it is."

 

 

 

Burtynsky Makes TED Honour Roll

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Christopher Hutsul, Entertainment Reporter

(Feb. 24, 2005) To be granted three wishes might sound like the stuff of fantasy, but for one Canadian artist, it's become a reality.  The Technology Entertainment Design Conference, happening this week in Monterey, Calif., has awarded Toronto photographer Edward Burtynsky one of three TED Prizes — and will attempt to make those wishes come true.  Beginning this year, a special TED committee is granting the prize to persons whose three wishes have the potential to "positively impact life on this planet."  The nature of his three wishes are being kept secret until tonight, when they'll be revealed in a special ceremony.  The TED community has devoted $100,000 (U.S.) for each of the recipients to help them realize their visions, whatever they may be.  Burtynsky, known for photographs that document the effect of human life and industry on the planet, shares the 2005 honour with U2 frontman Bono and inventor Robert Fischell.  Last year he published Before the Flood, a catalogue of photographs he took during the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China.  "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Burtynsky said yesterday on the phone from California. "I hope I can put my ideas out there and do something good for the world."  He'll also spend the next few days hob-knobbing and fostering alliances with some of the world's most influential and progressive thinkers and businesspeople — which is exactly what the conference is designed to facilitate.  Now in its 20th year, the TED conference has become the place to see and be seen for artists, geniuses and business mavericks. About 800 of the world's intellectual elite are expected to gather for "learning, laughter and inspiration."  All that fun does comes at a cost: those lucky enough to be invited to the four-day conference must cough up $4,400 for the honour. 

It's money well spent for artists, inventors and visionaries looking to partner up with big business. Inversely, corporations can have first looks at the creative world's freshest ideas.  Apple unveiled its Macintosh at a TED conference and Sony did the same with the compact disk.  "The conference is a big think tank, where ideas are brought forward," said Burtynsky. "People come here to catch up on what the newest stuff is and what the newest thinking is."  Burtynsky, 50, is attending for the first time. So far, he's fit in quite nicely. On Tuesday night, he partied with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Last night, he exhibited his photographs at a shindig hosted by General Electric.  While most of his time at the conference will be devoted to his three wishes, Burtynsky also sees an opportunity to showcase his art to throngs of movers and shakers.  "The organizers feel that this is a way for me to build a bigger audience for my work. This is a way to get the art outside of the art public to a larger public."

 

 

 

‘Suede’ Magazine Shuts Down

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Feb. 25, 2005) *High production costs have led to the end of “Suede,” a fashion magazine from Essence Communications that targeted young women of colour.  "It has become clear that more time and resources would be needed to further develop this brand," Ed Lewis, chairman and chief executive officer of Essence Communications, said in a statement.  While Lewis referred to the shutdown as “going on hiatus,” other executives are reportedly not as optimistic that the magazine will ever be revived.  One said the title had failed to attract significant advertising interest.  Three issues of the magazine were published during its run. The April issue, the fourth, is at the printer now, reports the “New York Times.”

 

Setback For A Star

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 25, 2005) New York — High-flying Canadian magazine editor Suzanne Boyd crashed to earth yesterday with the news that Suede, the multicultural women's fashion glossy she launched for Time Inc. last fall, is going on hiatus after only four issues. The closing announcement late Wednesday surprised the more than 40 staff members at the magazine. One source said Ms. Boyd herself had no idea it was coming. Last year, top bosses at Time wooed Ms. Boyd away from her post at Flare magazine, which she'd led for eight years as a flashy nightlife-loving editor-in-chief whose own press sometimes threatened to outshine that for her magazine. She moved to New York from Toronto and started work in March, developing Suede, which began publishing intermittently with its September issue. The magazine's April, 2005, issue, which is currently at the printers, will be its last. Ms. Boyd had quickly become a high-wattage presence on the New York fashion and media scene, swanning in and out of A-list parties and lighting up the front rows of fashion shows. She cut a swath through the fall, 2005, fashion previews in New York this month, wearing a lush Valentino fur at one show and sitting among celebrities such as Ashley Olsen, Carson Daly, Shannen Doherty and the rapper Lil' Kim at another. Born in Halifax and schooled in the Caribbean, Ms. Boyd presented a sizzling polyglot fabulousness that challenged the stiff British ice queen of the New York fashion magazine world, Anna Wintour. And she was making points in high places. The New York Times buffed her reputation with a flattering profile last December in which writer David Carr referred to her as Suede's “muse.” As recently as last month, Time Inc. editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstein, who oversees the company's stable of magazines, offered high praise for Ms. Boyd's baby. “I think Suede is one of the freshest, most exciting magazines to come out in years.”

None of the tastemaker opinion mattered when it came to wooing advertisers, who apparently had better places to throw their money. The first issue boasted only about 37 pages of ads out of more than 228 pages. The current issue, March, 2005, has a similarly low ad-to-editorial ratio. The magazine got off to a rocky start with its September, 2004, issue when cover girl Alicia Keys cut off the photo shoot before its conclusion, forcing Suede to use a low-quality stock shot. Other Canadians whose professional fates are now up in the air with the magazine's closing include former Flare staffers Ian Hylton and Ying Chu, who served respectively as Suede's editor-at-large and beauty director, and Suede's executive editor Serena French. Part-time photographer Bryan Adams, with whom Ms. Boyd worked at Flare and signed as a contributor to Suede, already has a day job as a rock star. Suede was conceived as a smart mid-market magazine for black women that could blend the catwalk and the street corner. It boasted a busy design sense that fused psychedelic with classical elegance. Ed Lewis, the chief executive officer of Essence Communications Partners, the Time Inc. subsidiary that publishes Suede, hinted that the magazine wasn't completely dead. “Suede's unique approach to fashion defined a new category,” he said. “The magazine is smart, exciting and provocative. However, although some of our most talented people have been working on Suede, it has become clear that more time and resources would be needed to further develop this brand.” Yesterday Essence said that Ms. Boyd has a standing offer to stay with the magazine as it is retooled. But it would be highly unusual for Suede to re-emerge. Magazine companies that believe they have a broken product that can be fixed usually prefer to tinker from issue to issue rather than shut down and lose the accrued reader and advertiser loyalty.

 

 

 

Real Hip Hop Art Comes Alive

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Karu F. Daniels (New York, NY)

(Feb. 25, 2005) The “Art” & Soul Of Hip-Hop: Hip-hop media architect Bill Adler is now a curator of art. Well, in a sense, the Detroit-reared hip-hop connoisseur has always been a keeper of the culture.  As hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons’s first and foremost public relations practitioner, Mr. Adler has always had his finger on the pulse of  what’s hot. Nowadays, he’s cultivating it– as opposed to unscrupulously hawking it. The beloved husband of one of my favourite Food Network personalities, chef Sara Moulton, is the founder and proprietor of the Eyejammie Fine Arts Gallery in the West Chelsea district of New York City. It’s at the low-key art-house where his passion for hip-hop comes alive in a non-musical way.  “It just seemed like a relatively inexpensive way to showcase the work of the photographers and other artists whose work I admired, Mr. Adler told “The RU Report” this week. “I hope to develop an art market for hip-hop-influenced art, to have fun doing it, and to make enough money to stay in business for years to come.” The former “Boston Herald” pop music critic invited me to a private showing of his latest exhibition; Jackson Brown’s captivating “Follow The Leader: Portraits of the Hip-Hop Avant-Garde,” now showing through April 2. The works are comprised of larger-than-life paintings and drawings of such notable figures of hip-hop such as Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Fab 5 Freddy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Russell Simmons, Run-DMC, KRS-One, and Flavour Flav,   “Follow The Leader” is Mr. Brown’s love letter to hip-hop. And it’s a damn good one. The exhibit, which is a world premiere, is a rich and vibrant walk through time.  He says the artists painted were chosen for their uniqueness. 

The works would be perfect as a traveling exhibit, and because hip-hop transcends cultures it can even do well overseas.    “Rap music made me think I wanted to be a deejay,” Mr. Brown revealed about his motivation. “But, like a lot of families in the 80s, mine was broke, so dee-jaying was out of the question.  Also, I was too laid back to rap.  So the next closest thing was graffiti -- and that became like dee-jaying to me.” Mr. Brown (born Michael Jackson Brown) is a native of the Flushing section of Queens, New York. The 29-year-old has been an artistic fixture in New York City's renowned nightclub scene, creating large paintings live at parties for nearly a decade. He was the "artist in residence" at the G-Force parties held at the Chameleon Lounge between 1995 and 1997 and then at the infamous roving Bang the Party events held from 1997 to 2003. In some of his masterpieces, influences from artistic greats such as Picasso, Basquiat and even the famed Surrealist painter Salvador Dali are clear. But rap is the would-be lawyer’s driving impetus, despite the current crop’s lack of distinctiveness.  “Where’s the individuality?” Mr. Brown asks.  “Rap used to be about ingenuity.  Today everybody looks and sounds the same.  I can’t tell State Property from the G Unit.  I don't mean that it’s all shit.  But I do think that there’s something fundamentally wrong.” Well an artistic expansion of expression for the art form and genre is the right way to go. And we can’t be mad at that.

“It feels good to know that someone has faith in my work,” Mr. Brown, who’s currently painting pieces on Public Enemy and Kool G Rap, added. The works are available for purchase with prices ranging from $195 to $340 for prints.  Mr. Adler said that the next exhibit he will mount is a 20th Anniversary retrospective of Def Jam Records. He also plans to continue the Eyejammie Books publishing imprint, which saw the release of last year's "Frozade Moments -- The Street Photography of Ricky Powell."   “There will be more books, t-shirts, posters, and, of course, more exhibits,” he concluded.   Eyejammie Fine Arts Gallery, 212-645 0061 (www.eyejammie.com)

 

 

 

Schafer's Patria Cycle Gets A Wild New Home

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - William Littler, Music Critic

(Mar. 1, 2005) A permanent home has been established in the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve for the outdoor works of R. Murray Schafer's Patria Cycle, the most ambitious body of music theatre ever devised by a Canadian.  In making the announcement yesterday, accordionist Joseph Macerollo, president of Patria Music Theatre Projects, said he hoped the site would become Schafer's Bayreuth, alluding to the home of Richard Wagner's annual opera festival in Germany.  The site includes a lake and forest within the 60,000 acres of what is known as Canada's first certified sustainable forest. Peter Schleifenbaum, owner and operator of the forest reserve and a long-time Schafer supporter, wants the initial five-year agreement to be extended.  Located south of Algonquin Park, about 215 km northeast of Toronto, the site will play host August 24-28 and August 31-Sept. 2 to a remount of The Enchanted Forest, part nine of Schafer's 12-part cycle, with The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix (2001), The Princess of the Stars (1981), The Greatest Show (1988) and a revised version of And the Wolf Shall Inherit the Moon slated for succeeding summers.  The refuge has already been the setting for Schafer's Wolf Project, an annual gathering to produce a week-long ritual drama and a 1997 production of The Princess of the Stars.  In explaining his need of such a site, Schafer said the big revolutions in (musical) history are not changes of style, they are changes of context. "Take music out of the concert hall and put it in the wilderness environment and everything will change ... When you perform outdoors, every day is a premiere ... I've lived outdoors on a farm for 25 years because I need the contact with nature."  The Enchanted Forest follows a group of children searching for their friend Ariane, who has been lured into the forest by an evil wizard. Performed at night, its audience is limited to 200 because the audience joins the children on their journey.  Directed and choreographed by Robert Desrosiers, with sets and costumes by Jarrard and Diana Smith and musical direction by Michael Newnham, music director of the Peterborough Symphony, the production typifies Schafer's ideal of performing within nature without adversely affecting it.  Plans in future years call for the addition of concerts and recitals, the development of an 800-seat amphitheatre on the lakeshore and the construction of sheds and a small museum to house the sets, costumes and artefacts of the Patria Cycle.  "A more beautiful location to present the Patria Cycle would be hard to find," Schafer said. "It is a quiet, meditative place, where audiences and performers alike can feel transported into a magical realm."

 

 

 

Vancouver Writer Montgomery Wins Charles Taylor Prize

Excerpt from The Toronto StarAnne-Marie Tobin, Canadian Press

(Feb. 28, 2005) Charles Montgomery won the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction today for his book The Last Heathen: Encounters With Ghosts and Ancestors in Melanesia.  Montgomery, 36, a Vancouver freelance writer, was presented with the prize at a luncheon where three others were on the short list: Christopher Dewdney, Patrick Lane and Paul William Roberts.  "My instant reaction was a feeling of immense guilt," Montgomery said later as he described how he felt when his name was called. "Because ... I'm an admirer of these three writers but particularly Paul William Roberts. This is someone who has been through hell, and brought a piece of that back for the rest of us."  "I hope to continue to learn from writers like him."  Roberts was an eyewitness to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and wrote about it in A War Against Truth: An Intimate Account of the Invasion of Iraq.  Montgomery's book is part travel and part family history and "engages with the religious fervour of missionaries, mystics, gods, and believers in Melanesia," the prize jury said.  "My great-grandfather was a missionary who tried to bring his version of light to people he thought were living in darkness in the South Pacific in the 1890s," Montgomery said. "I discovered his diaries as a child and his — what I would call mythical descriptions of savages and cannibals and sorcerers have inhabited my dreams for years."  Montgomery said his own journey to the region was an attempt to trace his ancestor's legacy and "see if there was anything left of the world he set out to destroy."  The journey began with Montgomery feeling ready to judge the man and the missionary project.

"After four or five months in the South Pacific, what I have learned is that there are many versions of history and that I have no place judging anyone who is being guided by a faith story. Because in the end we all are."  Dewdney was nominated for Acquainted With the Night: Excursions Through the World After Dark, while Lane's entry was There Is a Season: A Memoir in a Garden.  The prize is named for the late Charles Taylor, an essayist and prominent member of the Canadian literary community. It's given to an author whose work combines an "uncommon command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception."  Montgomery said he'll use the prize money to help finance future writing endeavours. He's currently spending time in Mexico City examining the contradictions brought about by neo-liberalism — "looking at the lives of people like myself who move with ... such privilege, we move as easily as capital across borders, and comparing that with people who are moving simply in order to eat."

 

 

 

T-Boz Launches Clothing Store for Kids

Source:  THE ROBERTSON TREATMENT: (America’s Premiere Lifestyle Column) Volume 8, Edition 4; Visit www.Robertsontreatment.com

Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, founding member of TLC, the #1 selling female group of all time has opened a high-end children’s clothing store in the exclusive River Oaks neighbourhood of Houston called, Chase’s Closet. Featuring pint size garments with designer names like D&G Junior, Rocky T, Ms. Blumarine, Moschino, Ralph Lauren Layette and shoes, The English Roses, Von Dutch Baby and much more to satisfy any young tyke.  Chase’s Closet also features a fabulous gift department, featuring custom-made gift baskets that include complimentary gift wrapping, delivery and shipping. This Friday, Watkins will host a trunk show at her home for the glitterati in Atlanta with proceeds going to Hands On Atlanta, a non-profit organization that works to better the community and meet critical needs in schools, parks, senior homes, food banks, pet shelters and low-income neighbourhoods in the Atlanta area. 

 

 

 

Queen Latifah Brings Dress Barn In Style and More

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Feb. 25, 2005) Ruminations:  Get a load of Queen Latifah on the cover of the March edition of “In Style.”  To appear on the cover of the ultra-mainstream fashion and cosmetics magazine is an accomplishment for a career that has only gotten more blessed with time.  While the plus sized hip-hop superdiva and Cover Girl spokes-model wears a form fitting Zac Posen gown accentuated with bracelets by Daniel K on the white back-dropped cover shot, she’s adorning a black polyester frock by Dress Barn for the inside colour shots.  In true Jersey girl fashion!  But she sure dresses it up well with a Doris Panos 18kt white-gold-and-diamond pin and chandelier earrings.  Photographed in New York City by Norman Jean Roy, the sometimes Miss Dana Owens looks fierce and fabulous. Although the bulky 540-page periodical contains more fluff than stuff (translation= light on editorial, heavy on ads), it’s worth picking up just to hail to The Queen. 

 

 

 

LL Cool J Suing Owners Of Fubu

Excerpt from www.allhiphop.com - By Nolan Strong

(Feb. 23, 2005) LL Cool J and Fubu are going to court.  A lawsuit filed with the New York County Supreme Court by LL, born James Todd Smith, claims that the owners failed to adequately compensate him for endorsing the clothing line and helping sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of clothes.  Fubu was founded in 1992 by CEO Daymond John in Hollis, Queens. John started selling the company’s first tie-up hats, then a fashion trend popular in hip-hop circles and quickly realized he was on to something. John took out a $100,000 loan against his house and started producing the clothing line with partners Carl Brown, J. Alexander Martin and Keith Perrin. In 1993, the owners convinced LL Cool J, who is also from Hollis, to wear the fledgling clothing line. By 1999 company revenues had reached over $200 million per-year and the company grossed an estimated $380 million dollars last year. The rapper was prominently featured in the clothing line’s advertisements and frequently wore Fubu branded clothing. LL was also featured on Fubu’s FB Entertainment release, The Good Life, which spawned the hit “Fatty Girl” the featured LL, Ludacris and Keith Murray.  LL, whose first venture into the clothing world was with a line in the mid-eighties called Troop, is also working on a clothing line, James Todd Smith. In a previous interview with AllHipHop.com, the legendary rapper said the line is expected to include button ups, suits, t-shirts, jeans and “classy gear,” that will be sold in upscale clothing stores. Fubu representatives were not available for comment as of press time.

 

 

 

::FITNESS NEWS::

 

 

4 Steps To Fab Abs!

By Raphael Calzadilla B.A., ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

(Feb. 28, 2005) A while back I wrote "Pro Tips For A Tight, Flat Tummy." The article was designed to be an educational lesson. My goal was to teach you that in order to get a flat and tight mid-section, you need to reduce body fat through a calorie reduced nutrition program and incorporate weight training and cardiovascular exercise to stimulate the metabolism.

If you think one hundred or one thousand stomach crunches per day will flatten your mid-section, then please re-read the paragraph above. I sometimes over-emphasize this point, because of all the myths we're bombarded with concerning how to actually flatten the stomach.

This article will focus on an abdominal routine that will strengthen and tighten your abs. No anatomy lesson today, just the routine -- direct and no nonsense.  There is also one very special exercise that actually helps to pull the stomach inwards. Oh yes, I've included it in the routine!  After providing a description of each of the exercises, I'll explain exactly how I want you to perform them -- as well as how frequently. The key to the effectiveness of any exercise is based on proper technique, sufficient intensity and intelligent frequency.  Let's get started!

1. REVERSE AB CURL

This exercise is for the lower abdominal area. I’m always amazed at how many people start their abdominal routine with some sort of a crunch movement for the upper abs (even though most of the complaints I receive pertain to the lower portion of the abs).

To perform the exercise, lie on a mat with your back relaxed and your hands on the floor by your hips. Keep the upper back pressed into the floor throughout the exercise.

Contracting your abs, raise your butt and gently roll your hips off the floor, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the abdominals and can no longer lift your hips. Slowly return to the starting position.

Exhale while lifting your hips, and inhale while returning to the starting position. Don’t focus on your legs pulling inward. Instead, place all your focus on the lower abs pushing up. It may be difficult to initially concentrate on the area, but you’ll really feel the area being worked once you practice it enough with the correct mental concentration.

2. DOUBLE CRUNCH

The Double Crunch is a great exercise, because it focuses on both the upper and lower abdominal region when performed correctly.

Lie on a mat face up. Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Place both hands crossed gently over your chest or on the sides of your head with the fingertips touching gently.

Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Crunch hard and tight. I want you to hold the contraction at the top of the movement for one second. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor. Exhale while rising up and inhale while returning to the starting position. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck.

3. BICYCLE MANEUVER

Research consistently rates the Bicycle Maneuver as one of the most effective abdominal exercises.

Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Place your fingertips on either side of your head by your ears. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle.

Slowly go through a bicycle pedaling motion -- alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.

This can be a more advanced exercise. Do not perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back. Do not pull on your head and neck during this exercise. The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your abs have to work.

4. ABDOMINAL VACUUM

The Transverus Abdominis muscle is the real deal. It’s the muscle that holds your gut tight and flat. It’s a thin sheet of muscle running along the sides of the abs that joins connective tissue behind them. Think of it as your body’s natural corset! When you suck your stomach in, you have just used your Transversus. This is the only muscle that can help pull the stomach inward.

In order to do the abdominal vacuum, get on all fours and position the palms of your hands under your shoulders -- and the knees directly under your hips. Keep your back flat and maintain this position throughout the exercise.

Start by exhaling absolutely every bit of air from your lungs. Then, relax your abdomen and let it hang like a loose sling (but don't increase the arch in your lower back). Next, pull the navel towards the spine as if I just told you to suck in your stomach. If your rib cage moves, you are not isolating the Transversus.

Continue to breathe lightly through your nostrils, but make sure you're pulling your abs in as if you are attempting to make your abs and back meet or touch. You must hold the contraction very tight for at least 40 seconds. If you can’t hold the contraction for 40 seconds, just practice and your time will eventually improve.

Before performing the Abdominal Vacuum, all my clients always say to me "that’s the whole exercise?" Then, after correctly performing it, they say, "Oh yeah, that’s a good one."

FREQUENCY:

If you're a beginner, perform each movement slowly and at your own pace. Try for 15-20 repetitions on each exercise (except for the Abdominal Vacuum), and take your time moving from one exercise to the next. Perform only one cycle.

A cycle is defined as performing all four exercises in order. Attempt the routine three days per week on alternate days of the week. Don't worry if you can’t get the recommended rep range. Do as many as possible with good form and try to increase from week to week.

For those with more experience, perform three cycles with one minute rest between each cycle. The key is to keep the intensity level high and keep a constant contraction on the abs. As you progress, you’ll be amazed at how many reps you can perform and how hard and tight your abs get. Perform the routine three days per week on alternate days of the week.

Remember, work at your own personal fitness level and focus on perfect form to avoid injury (and in order to isolate the muscle).

This routine is effective and produces results when you're consistent on your nutrition plan and overall exercise program. It's all about balancing all the components to achieve the body you rightfully deserve.

 

 

 

EVENTS –MARCH 3 - 13, 2005

 

 

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 4
Kayte Burgess
Pipers at Fairmont Royal York
10:00 pm
FREE

EVENT PROFILE
: Toronto’s Kayte Burgess has put together a hot showcase for the patrons of Canadian Music Week.  Come out and see some of her newest material in the posh setting of Pipers inside the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.  Don’t be late – these showcases are only ½ hour long!

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 5 AND SUNDAY, MARCH 6
THE A-TEAM
The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
$8.00   
 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 6
SOULAR
College Street Bar  
574 College Street (at Manning)  
10:30 pm 
$5.00   
  
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French.

 

 

 

MONDAY, MARCH 7
IRIE MONDAY NIGIHT SESSIONS
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.

 

 

 

MONDAY, MARCH 7
VIP JAM WITH SPECIAL GUESTS  
Revival Bar  
783 College Street (at Shaw)  
10:00 pm  
NO COVER  
  
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Rich Brown, Joel Joseph and Shamakah Ali with various local artists. 

 

 

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 8
SYREETA NEAL
Trane Studio
964 Bathurst St.
First set kicks off at 9:30pm

EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Syreeta Neal, Adrian Eccleston, Daniel Stone

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 12 AND SUNDAY, MARCH 13
THE A-TEAM
The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
$8.00   
 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 6
SOULAR 
College Street Bar
574 College Street (at Manning)
10:30 pm 
$5.00
 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French

 

 

 

Have a great week!  


Dawn Langfield   
Langfield Entertainment  
www.langfieldentertainment.com