To ensure delivery of The A-List to your inbox (not bulk or junk folders),For the grown and sexy, exclusively...Issue #23
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OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
PRIVATE DANCER...If you're looking for a new theater experience, you might want to check out the new Off-Broadway musical River Deep, A Tribute to Tina Turner at The Peter Jay Sharp Theatre. It'll hit the stage for a limited engagement, July 5-29, and will cover the highlights of singer-actress-icon Turner's life and career. Directed by Gabrielle Lansner. For info, hit www.gabriellelansner.com. We can guarantee they'll be a whole lotta shakin' going on.
MEDICAL ADVANCES...Did you know that Denzel Washington and his wife, Paulette, hope to help cultivate the next black neurosurgeon. The Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience sponsors internships for two students annually to work with Dr. Keith Black of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A., one of U.S.'s top brain surgeons and researchers. Last week, the Washingtons presented scholarships to Freya Elena Marshall and Christopher Urban at the James A. Foshay Learning Center in Los Angeles. Nice to see folks using their money and celeb status to pump up blacks in the sciences.
ACTORS ON THE TAKE...John Leguizamo, Tyrese, and Rosie Perez have all opted in for The Take, a drama about a armored transport security employee (Leguizamo) who finds himself caught in the middle of a heist and becomes the prime suspect. The drama, we're told, ensues when he tries to find the real thieves. Production begins in July; Brad Furman directs. Thank God Leguizamo is back in the saddle again. Let's see if he's still got the goods.
LA DOLCE VITA....Believe it or not, after all the great films and actors who have hailed from Rome, the city is just now getting its first international film fest, the RomaCinemaFest (www.romacinemafest.com). Organizers say there will also be some sort of tie-in with Robert DeNiro and his Tribeca Film Festival when the fest takes place October 13-21. Many screenings will be open to the public, and the 200,000 Euros ($252,000) prize for the festival's best picture will be selected by a jury of "50 regular, everyday moviegoers." The total budget for the event will be 7.5 million Euros ($9.5 million) and 80 films will be screened from five categories: 14 in competition; 7 premieres; the Actor's Craft category; Extra, an experimental film category; and Alice in the City, films for young people. So, get those phrase books, dust off your passports and mark in your agenda. FREEDOM & FILM...Celebrate Juneteenth and see a few films while you're at it instead. Dallas's 3rd Annual Juneteenth Film Festival (www.juneteenthfilmfestival.com) now provides that opportunity. It will offer screenings, including new shorts by Spike Lee (Jesus Children of America) and Charles Burnett (Quiet As It's Kept); awards; and tribute to Mr. Shaft himself, actor Richard Roundtree. The festival, which takes place June 15-18, will be hosted by actor Obba Babatunde and Kiki Shepard (“Showtime At The Apollo,” “Bid Whist Party”).
PURPLE PRIZE...While the Oprah Winfrey-produced Broadway musical The Color Purple only took home one Tony Award from its 11 nods, it was a big one--Best Actress in a Musical for veteran stage performer LaChanze, who won for her portrayal of Celie. Obviously, better received than the film version of the Alice Walker novel. So, hats off to Ms. Winfrey.
SPREADING THE SOUL...Our friends over at Neo Soul Cafe (www.neosoulcafe.com) wanted us to pass the word that their soul music TV show, hosted by Rome, will air on The Black Family Channel starting this July. It's are already on UATV and Colours TV. NSC founder, DJ Frances J, has been working it since first launching the weekly music program on the Internet.
NO LAUGHING MATTER...According to a new NAACP report, while there are more blacks in TV dramas, the organization is worried that there are no sitcoms on the four major broadcast networks starring African-American actors. “I feel that we are losing important ground. The lack of African-American leads in sitcoms is unconscionable,” said NAACP President Bruce Gordon in a press statement.
CITY CINEMA...Just got word that the Urbanworld VIBE Film Festival (www.urbanworld.org), June 21-25 in NYC, has chosen actor Anthony Mackie (Million Dollar Baby) as its inaugural NEXT Award honoree. Don't fret, there are more surprises. Watch for candid info coming from panels such as "Content On The Go: Opportunities in the Mobile Arena" as well as "Transcendent Independent: How to Package Your Indie Film." And of course, there are the films--and plenty of them. Be prepared for a jam-packed four days in the Big Apple.
LOVE LESSONS...Newest in Urban DVD releases is the romantic comedy Flip the Script, being released August 22 from Codeblack Entertainment and which also opened this week's Hollywood Black Film Festival. Starring Miguel Nuenz (Juwanna Man, Nutty Professor II), Robin Givens, and Mel Jackson (Deliver Us From Eva), Flip the Script professes to be an Urban take of the 1980s big screen Baby Boomer classic Big Chill. Written by Tiayoka McMillan and directed by newcomer Terrah Bennett Smith. Buzz seems to be building for the Flip DVD.NEWS DIVERSITY COMES TO THE BBC
The BBC has just appointed a diversity executive to portrayal of ethnic minorities and disabled people in its programs. Black exec Mary FitzPatrick (pictured above), who was previously editorial manager of cultural diversity for Channel 4, has been tapped to ensure BBC shows are "culturally authentic." According to the BBC, FitzPatrick will review and track on-screen content to see how black, minority ethnic, and disabled people are portrayed on screen. In a press statement, FitzPatrick, who began her career as a director and producer at the BBC, said she hoped to further develop the BBC's relationship with all its audience by "opening it up to diverse talents and voices." She further explained: "The emphasis will not be on quotas or box-ticking, but on focusing minds on the fact that television audiences are hugely diverse and they rightly expect to see themselves and their life experiences reflected on TV." Added BBC director of TV Jana Bennett, "Mary FitzPatrick has a formidable track record in marrying outstanding diverse talent with a range of genres and great productions. This... makes her the perfect person to drive this new role."FEATURE
FIGHTING THE POWER?
EXAMINING THE STATE OF HIP-HOP TV
Rap has invaded the world--you have hip hop from Africa to Iceland--yet you'd be hard-pressed to find hip hop-inspired TV programming in the place the culture calls home. There was a time when American TV seemed to actually be open to the possibility of diversifying their lineups with some hip hop-lifestyle flavor--with such shows as "New York Undercover," "In Living Color." But nowadays, much of the programming is not only relegated mainly to two networks--BET and MTV--but are also sadly heavily dominated by only certain producing gatekeepers time and time again.
Mainstream networks seem more afraid than ever to touch hip hop--need we mention the Oprah hip-hop debacle? But why? "The broad irony of black visibility in the post-civil rights, post-affirmative action, post-industrial, neo-liberal media environment, is that the sign of blackness and its pervasive cultural contributions and influences in film, music, fashion, dance, stardom, athletics, vernacular language, and so on, are everywhere on America’s media screens and digital devices. Paradoxically, however, while black visibility in American commercial image culture, works overtime to represent black people as full participants in the ‘American Dream,’ social and material indexes and data measuring the conditions of black life, especially statistics concerning ‘hip hop youth,’ tend to persistently argue otherwise," notes Ed Guerrero, professor of Cinema Studies, Africana Studies at New York University. "Inasmuch as the signs, fashions, music and images of hip hop can be profitably co-opted and circulated, hip-hop culture will appear on TV. But, because network TV, and in many instances post-network cable TV, are perceived more than other media as ‘family’ venues, hip hop’s general representation on television will be stripped of its more insistent 'black' political and cultural meanings...as long as hip hop makes money, crosses over to a broad market and dominates the imagination of the biggest segment of that market, 'youth culture,' it will be a persistent, though a contained player, in media programming." The result is that the few semi-organic offerings are only on two networks dominated primarily by the same players.
"Because network TV, and in many instances post-network cable TV, are perceived as ‘family’ venues, hip hop’s representation on television will be stripped of its more insistent 'black' political and cultural meanings." --Ed Guerrero, Professor of Cinema Studies, Africana Studies, NYU
Filmmaker/screenwrier Barry Michael Cooper (New Jack City) found this out first hand when he was set to do a hip-hop TV show for UPN in 2003. Needless to say, it didn't get on air. "UPN was a great experience, because it was a true education into pitching a reality series, getting the deal, creating a pilot, and then delivering said pilot, and then seeing how the politics play out at a network," recalls Cooper. With rappers Ace Capone and Tim Gotti in mind, Cooper created a hip-hop reality show entitled "Streets, Incorporated." With a colleague and through various connections, they pitched the idea to several outlets, including Ghen Maynard at UPN, who found "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" for CBS. Maynard bought "Streets, Incorporated." "The half hour pilot was really groundbreaking," offers Cooper, who during who filming experienced real life rap drama as a true hip-hop beef got played out in front of the cameras during one location shoot. "UPN...never aired the pilot, and didn't order any eps. Their reason: They didn't want a real-life 'money-shot.' There was also a rumor that they got wind that the FBI, ATF, and the DEA were watching these guys, and they wanted no part of it...that experience taught me that, the reality shows the networks sell to the public are not reality at all--maybe an adjusted reality, but it is a truly controlled environment. When they networks can't control the environment, they will not touch it."LIVE PERFORMANCE REVIEW
Perhaps that is the fear of--and maybe lack of appeal of--true hip-hop programming from an industry standpoint. "The mainstream audience doesn't want to hear about some hip hop beef," says Mad Linx, host of BET's "Rap City." "In order for hip-hop programming to be taken more seriously by the general public, it is going to have to become more newsworthy. Sure, it is part of American culture and you can not see a TV commercial without some hip-hop touch, but the majority of TV audiences don't know how to relate to hip-hop culture; so they aren't going to want to see it beyond a soundbyte or a 60-second spot. It's a lot to understand."
Cooper agrees. "Hip Hop is a complex, multi-headed beast," he says. "So it is a very complex issue, but hip hop is not a monolith. You have gangstas, you have the back packers, and now, with Kanye West, you have the Conscious-Rapper-Who-Carries-A-Louis-Vuitton-Backpack. Revolutionary minds with a Glitterati attitude--what I called the Glitta Kids. TV is not so much afraid, but confused...But when TV gets a handle on it, believe me, Young Joc will be at the Emmys doing the dirtbike dance, while Alan Alda and Barabra Walters will be in the audience leaning, flicking their wrists and screaming at the stage, "It's Goin' Down!"
Professor Guerrero sees it as an even deeper societal issue. "It’s not so much that TV is afraid of hip hop, as it is afraid of those uncontainable critiques and elements expressed by black, hip hop, youth culture, and the social issues concerning 'blackness' in general," he points out. "These issues and critiques are voiced poetically in hip hop as a broad social diagnosis, exploring urban violence and nihilism, post-industrial lack of jobs and meaningful economic futures, the censorship of black vernacular language, class and caste inequalities, the divestment in public education and the rise of the prison-industrial complex, to name a few."
Still it has taken even entertainment networks years to consider hip-hop programming. BET has now zeroed in on the hip-hop audience. "Within our core demographic and all hip young adults, the hip-hop culture is pop culture," explains Robyn Lattaker-Johnson, vice president of development at BET. And they have been airing shows to meet this demo--from "Lil' Kim: Countdown to Lockdown" reality show (which is the highest rated series in BET's history, averaging 1.2 million viewers) to one of the newest lineup editions, "The Chop Up." "'The Chop Up' is a perfect example of how we can make news and current affairs relevant to the hip-hop generation," says Johnson "Just because we like hip-hop music doesn't mean we aren't interested or savvy in terms of politics, world events, and social issues affecting our communities." And BET has more planned, including reality "docudramas" "Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is" and "DMX: Soul of Man," both debuting July 12.
But even as MTV and BET have honed in on a hip-hop audience, outlets considering hip-hop programming aren't going to take any chances. According to Professor Guerrero, there's a reason the Russell Simmons and P. Diddys are always tapped for new shows and ideas--they are a proven commodity. "Much, if not all, of black programming follows the formats and formulas set out by dominant, corporate programming, in that a ‘star’ or celebrity is used to feature and package the product, as well as construct program identification with an audience, market, or demographic," says Guerrero. Adds Cooper, "Because Russell and Puff understand the culture, they are also very, very, astute business men who are not going to waste the network's money/investment, and they themselves are a brand, and so they are magnets for real advertising dollars, the heart of all television. Advertisers know Rush and Puff have a great track record. There are other people who have great ideas for great hip-hop programming, but until they prove themselves on some level with ad dollars and sense, so to speak, the situation is not going to budge that much. It seems unfair, but it's only business. And at some point, we will see others than just Rush and Puff in the mix."
Mad Linx doesn't think hip-hop heads will wait that long. "With Podcasts, the hip-hop community is going to start creating their own shows through such new technology," says Linx. "The hip-hop community is very tech-oriented, fast-paced and this is programming that can be up to the minute and mobile. It's going to open a lot of doors for new forms of hip-hop communication." Cooper noticed this too when filming the UPN pilot three years ago. "Ace and Tim loved using the Nextels--as a matter of fact, that's how I opened the pilot, with a Nextel chirp signaling call coming from a club owner to Ace, saying he didn't want any beef at his club on Delaware Avenue, and Ace with an plotting smile on his face, holding the Motorola mobile RIGHT IN THE CAMERA LENS--and Sprint/Nextel would have made a killing," notes Cooper. So maybe once again, hip hop may lead the way for not only new technology, new programming, new economic opportunity but most importantly new found creative freedom.
Live in DubaiMOVIE REVIEW
...In the heart of the sun and sand of the luxurious Dubai, United Arab Emirates, singer-sometime-actress Mary J. Blige
took to the stage. Gracing these shores with the Queen of Hip Hop Soul,
and let me tell you, she brokethrough!
Dubai was the beginning of her "Breakthrough" world tour and she delivered. She held and kept the crowd suspended in exhilaration with hit after hit from all of her albums such as "Family Affair," "No More Drama," "7 Days," "Love At First Sight," and the latest Mary single joints—"Be Without You," "Can't Hide From Luv," "Hate It Or Luv It," and "One." With just Mary and her band and her presence….she tore it up. Of course, our girl was looking fly--absolutely flawless from head to toe (props to her stylist). She had folks--from Arabs to Indians to the Western cosmopolitan--rockin', poppin', and cryin' in this city on the Persian Gulf. To all the brothers and sisters in the industry, Dubai is the place to come to broaden your musical scope and audience (catch a plane, catch a boat…get here!). I have to also mention the opening act was Canadian Carl Wolf. His array of covers took away from the singer that he is. We know Justin Timberlake and Brian McKnight were sure flattered, but he left his audience confused. And Mirage Promotions organizing this great event that will go down as one of the best performances in Dubai. --By Scoop-E
The Fast and The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift
(Universal)...Okay, so let's cut right to the chase. This film has all the cliches of youth films from objectifying women to over-cool swagger. The dialogue is so weak at times, that the viewer may be left wondering if he/she is watching a "daily." The lead certainly doesn't look young enough to be in high school, and the score is absolutley BLASTING!
But you know what? Despite all of this, Fast still kinda engaging? Is it those wonderfully played out car races that don't overuse the slow-mo so that you really get the point? Is it the nice weaving of an attractive multicultural cast? Is it the allure of seeing young Asians in modern day coolness and not some period piece? Is it Bow Wow's non-stop enthusiasm? Who knows, but if you are looking for a fun summer flick, this could just be it. Sure, it's not for everyone, but the team (director Justin Lin; actors Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Sung Kang, Brian Tee, and Jason Tobin) here sure does make the effort for the audience intended! And the music may be loud, but shout out to the music sup who did a nice job of selecting the right tracks for the right scenes.
Loving that cute little surprise appearance at the end as well. Go on, you might as well strap in and go along for the ride. This flick is waiting for you to jump in. The Fast and The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift
) opens nationwide June 16.
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Stan Lathan, Robi and Andrea Reed, designer Woody Wilson, Jimmy Louis, filmmaker Nnegest Likke, Laz Alonzo, and Mari Marrow enjoyin' the premiere and after party for Waist Deep in L.A.
SHOUT OUT TO SCOOP-E, THE A-LIST'S NEW UAE BUREAU REPORTER. SHOUT OUT TO MR. A-LIST, GIL ROBERTSON IV.