Monday, January 08, 2007


New Year, New Minds, New Chips - go for yours. We wish you a great '07 and are back again to help set things off right. The A-List...Issue #49.

NOTHING BUT A MAN...TV One is tackling a subject often overlooked or maligned by mainstream media--the black male. In the new original series "Black Men Revealed," premiering Jan. 14, brothers of various ages, educational backgrounds, and economic strata chat in a swank Hollywood Hills loft about everything from police abuse to marriage. Comedian David Arnold has been hired as host to keep to conversation flowing and fun. The premiere episode, “Going to the Altar. . .Kicking and Screaming,” examines black men and commitment phobia. Participants include comedian and former Vibe TV host Chris Spencer; marriage therapist Arthur Day; TV One Access co-host and Access Hollywood producer Jamal Munnerlyn; and businessman Ricky Hill. Executive producers for the eight-episode, one-hour series are Monique Chenault and Alex Chenault from MacVision, Greg Shelton from Another Bright Idea, and Marcus King of King Artist Management. This should be a good one--seems to have a good mix but only time will tell whether average Joe Black will be able to identify with these "authorities." Hurray for TV One doing more original program. Set your TiVo's, Kidz.

THE SCHOOL OF SNIPES...Another celeb is opening up a school in Africa. While not as elaborate as Oprah's $40-million South African school for girls, Wesley Snipes has just announced his launching of a film school in neighboring Namibia. Snipes, who just wrapped filming of Gallowwalker there, opened Namibia's first On-set Film Training project before returning to the States to fight tax fraud charges. The project will run by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Film Commission of Namibia and the Pan African Centre of Namibia. One of the first goals is encourage Hollywood and other film industries to employ locals instead of bringing in foreign film crews. Let's hope this is the beginning of more African American filmmakers connecting with African filmmakers and the African movie market. However, the last time we looked we noted that there is still work to be done here as well on the equality front. The "winner" will be those who can think globally and connect the dots.

CAREER SPIKE...He's been a busy, busy fella. Now he's going to be even busier as we all know by now . Spike Lee has signed on to direct a bio pic about James Brown. And, according to insiders, he's also trying to get a film called Selling Time into production. We're told it's a pet project of Lee's and is about a man who shaves time from his life to change the worst day of his life. As Hollywood cycles go, Lee seems to be one of the few African-American filmmakers who stays in the loop.

CAPTURING SOUND...After the major success of Happy Feet, Earth, Wind & Fire is now about to embark on another musical project, Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth, Wind & Fire, the group decided to film the making of the CD, which includes renditions of EWF hits "interpreted" by the likes of Angie Stone, Mint Condition, Meshell N'degeocello, Lalah Hathaway, Musiq, Chaka Khan and Kirk Franklin. In this age of reality TV, we'll probably see more and more music artists taking advantage of the phenomenon--making for a marketing dream. We'd love to be an insider to see the making of the music--but we'll have to wait for the DVD.

A SOLDIER'S STORY…You may not have heard much about him, but director Richard Willis, Jr., CEO of NYC-based production company Mozell Entertainment Group, is hoping his new documentary style film, Prison Body--Freedom Soul: The Saga of Robery Coney, will shed light on the plight of a little-known African-American man, a WWII and Korean War vet, who spent 44 years in prison for a crime he did not do. He also escaped eight times from maximum security just to see the love of his life, his wife Shirley. As we always say, there are so many compelling and untold stories still to be told about Black America. Hopefully, Hollywood will wake up. Be on the lookout for this gripping story.

LOVE LOST...A little bird tells us that actress/comedian Loni Love (Soulplane) isn't getting any love from a former publicist who can't seem to get paid. Let's hope the mess doesn't wind up making her a jester in court.

COLLEGE CASH...While we had the hot backstage scoop on this earlier this summer with pics ands a play-by-play, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) has announced the 28th annual "An Evening of Stars Tribute to Aretha Franklin" to be broadcast nationally Jan. 27 and 28 on BET, SuperStation WGN, and other top media markets. This historic three-hour special marks the first time a woman has been honored for her longstanding support of UNCF. So, dial in your donations and make the late Lou Rawls proud.

CRITICAL MATTERS...Well, you can stop holding your breath. The ballots are in for the laudatory season kick off. And the envelope please...The African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) has named Dreamgirls as the Best Picture of 2006. The organization (, comprised of African-American media professionals, selected Forest Whitaker as Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland. Helen Mirren earned Best Actress for The Queen. Dreamgirls also captured the most AAFCA 2006 honors, including Eddie Murphy as Best Supporting Actor, Jennifer Hudson as Best Supporting Actress and Bill Condon as Best Director. AAFCA bestowed its Special Achievement Honor to director Spike Lee. And in case you were wondering, the AAFCA's Top Ten Films of 2006 were: Dreamgirls, The Last King of Scotland, The Departed, Akeelah & The Bee, Catch A Fire, Idlewild, Bobby, The Devil Wears Prada, Pursuit of Happyness, Inside Man. Let's see if Oscar gets it right.

WHITAKER FOR THE WEEKEND...If you're in NYC on Jan. 19 and 20th, spend the "Weekend with Forest Whitaker." You can at the Walter Reade Theatre, that it. Whitaker, in a rare move, will hold an onstage conversation preceded by clips from his career. The cinema date will cost ya $40. You also have your choice of a ticket to either Ghost Dog, Bird, or The Last King of Scotland. Visit With the cost of a single movie ticket these days, this sounds like a deal.

ACTIVISM GOES ONLINE...BET's Jeff Johnson is looking to make his mark on the Web with the launch of My Nation Online ( PR diva Candace Reese of Envision ( tells us the social awareness site will kick off Jan. 25th in Atlanta with activities that end Jan. 27th. According to Johnson, he hopes the site fills "a void by creating a non-partisan resource to cultivate leadership and activism among young people, college students, and young adults.

CALL FOR ENTRIES...Get your reels ready. Early-bird submissions for the 8th Annual Hollywood Black Film Festival (June 5-10) are due by Jan. 15. And, final entries must be postmarked no later than Feb. 15. So end in your feature narrative and documentary features, short and student films, music videos and animation. HBFF founder Tanya Kersey also tells us there will be a separate Storyteller Competition for screenwriters. Get submission forms at

INSIDE TRACK...The folks over at Tools of War ( tell us that there is going to be a hot new conference to help people get the jump on that prosperous new year wish. Called "Inside Man Conference: How to Get Jobs in Film," the conference opens with a screening of Spike Lee's Inside Man followed by film industry workshops and informational panels. Price: $25 (refreshments included). Sponsored by the Brooklyn Young Filmmakers Center and taking place at the Spike Lee Screening Room Long Island University: Brooklyn Campus. Visit Knowledge is power.

ACCOLADES FROM EBONY...It may not get as much hype as Vanity Fair's Oscar parties or Hollywood issue, but Ebony magazine is gearing up for the Third Annual Ebony Presents Hollywood in Harlem: Pre-Oscar Celebration on Feb. 22. Oscar hopeful and Golden Globe nominee Forest Whitaker and casting director Reuben Cannon are among the honorees this year. The event will be held at the Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood, so dust those tuxes off.

NIELSEN NUMBERS...For the first time ever the Nielsen companies have released a compilation of “Top 10’s” of the Nielsen brands--and for the most part the results are no surprise. The top three TV programs were: "American Idol," "American Idol," and "Dancing With The Stars." The top films, by box office, were: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead ($423,315,812), Cars ($244,082,982), and X-Men: The Last Stand ($234,362,462). The only top 10 ranking black project came in the documentary category--Dave Chappelle's Block Party ($11,718,595), which placed number three. Congrats to Chappelle, but it would be great to see the Top 10 broken out by certain demographics on who's watching what.

PERRY ON THE PROWL...Get ready for an other Tyler Perry production to invade the theatres. Daddy’s Little Girls ( premieres February 14 with Gabrielle Union, Lou Gossett, Melinda Williams, Tracee Ellis Ross. The Lionsgate movie is about a single father (Union) of three looking for love. It'll be interesting to see if the Perry formula strikes box office gold again.

O-VER EXPOSED...If you've had a moment to take a breath from all the Oprah South Africa school coverage you may realize that not a more noble effort become a media circus. Just what, for instance, do all the U.S. celebs at the opening have to do with the price of beans at the opening for this school ? Will they be guest teachers? Why, and speaking of teachers, have we seen no coverage of the teachers with O, the principal, any soundbites of laudatory comments from the government, or anything else substantial? Plus some have been asking about uneducated, needy black people in the States--where is their school of leadership? Unfortunately, this media act, not the building of the school itself, mind you; seems to be yet another step in the near deification of O. Now, can you imagine other "do-gooders" such as Ghandi doing G magazine with dude wrapped in different traditional dress each month by top designers and then supporting the Indian print edition with a special one in South Africa? Or better yet, Mother Theresa paying for and flying a gang of media over to cover the first time she fed starving young girls. Sometimes donations done in silence are best unless there is a pure end goal of awareness and directives for greater donations. It's the '07, dear intelligent readers. Let us not be duped by the new form of the PR machine swathed in charitable garb. Some of most compassionate acts will never be known about en mass. And it may just be better that way.


It was a history making year for BET Networks in 2006. With new original programming that drove record ratings, the emergence of BET J, the re-launch of BET International and further expansion into broadband and mobile content, BET Networks maintains its rank as the #1 cable network in Total Day and in Weeknight Primetime among Black Households.

The company had its highest-rated year in its 26-year history. “It has been an exciting year, fueled by a solid business plan and a strong executive team more than capable of executing that plan,” said BET Chairman/CEO Debra Lee. “In addition, the programming direction mapped out by President of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin has not let us down. Hit program after hit program has proven that BET is in a new era and the sky is the limit.”

Topping the list of a string of hit series was "American Gangster," cable’s #1 Weekday original series among Black Households and Blacks ages 18-34 for 2006. Rounding out the list of the top five original series in BET history – all airing in 2006 – were "Lil' Kim: Countdown to Lockdown," "Keisha Cole: The Way It Is," "College Hill: Season 3," and "DMX: Soul of A Man."

BET also took full control of its interactive arm,, with the cash buyout of its original investment group. This led to content that resulted in 56.9 million page views in November ‘06, an increase of +424% vs. November ‘05 according to Nielsen/NetRating (Nov. 2006) and 3.7 million registered users.

Other 2006 successes for BET Networks included: The launch of BET International and the introduction of BET programming on three continents – Africa, Europe and Asia – and on three separate platforms – broadband, digital radio and television; the creation of BET Animation and Business Affairs departments to expand original programming and strengthen BET’s relationship with the Hollywood entertainment community; the launch of BET Interactive’s BET on Blast, the first broadband player targeted towards African Americans that offers a mix of web-only original programs and live streaming special events; the convergence of and BET News to create a 24/7 newsroom that provides users with a constant stream of breaking news, exclusive content and alternative points of view with streaming video, news blogs and interactive polls;· BET Mobile’s debut on iTunes featuring top-rated original programs AMERICAN GANGSTER, LIL’ KIM: COUNTDOWN TO LOCKDOWN, DMX: SOUL OF A MAN, BEEF: THE SERIES, BET COMIC VIEW and THE CHRISTIES: COMMITTED. Within the first week, the BET docu-drama AMERICAN GANGSTER became one of the ten most-downloaded cable TV shows on iTunes and garnered a four out of five star rating from iTunes users; continued recognition of BET’s Rap-It-Up initiative, the largest HIV/AIDS effort in the country targeting African Americans, with multiple Cable Positive POP Awards; and increased growth for the BET Foundation with the introduction of “We Can For Wellness,” the Foundation’s second youth-focused initiative.

Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom, Inc., recently announced the launch of a mobile phone portal to deliver content to mobile devices and act as a platform to promote theatrical and DVD releases. Visitors to the mobile movie sites will be able to browse and purchase movie-related content from their mobile phones, and opt-in to receive alerts about Paramount Pictures. Crisp Wireless, a provider of mobile content management solutions, was selected as the content management software partner.

“We are delivering a movie destination site that will enable users to learn about new releases, find theatres, purchase content, buy tickets and participate in promotions,” said Sandi Isaacs, Senior Vice President of Interactive & Mobile for Paramount Digital Entertainment. “Paramount Pictures will now have a direct-to-consumer relationship to deliver revenue generating content, innovative mobile campaigns, tailored promotions, DVD/retail tie-ins and collaborative partnerships with technology and media partners.”



The birth of a new star is a wondrous experience. Watching the buzz grow around a new talent is always exciting, however, given the precarious nature of the industry, what’s far more interesting is watching that career---will grow up against the pressures of stardom or super nova back into oblivion?

Which brings us to Jennifer Hudson. Last seen as a runner-up on the popular TV show “American Idol,” the Chicago native has nevertheless gone on to catch the real top prize when she won the coveted role as “Effie” in the much sought-after and long-awaited screen version of the seminal Broadway musical Dreamgirls. With boundless raw talent and personality, Hudson, a Golden Globe and SAG nominee, is the best reason to see this film. We happened to catch up with her as she makes her media rounds during pre-award show madness.

Q: Can you talk a little about your preparation for this role? Did you speak to any of the Broadway folks behind the production?

Jennifer Hudson: "No, I didn’t have a chance to speak with any of them, but I researched the Supremes and read books about them and footage and watched the DVDs of their old performances. I would sit and study Florence Ballard, who Effie is patterned after."

Q: Was this a nerve-wrecking experience for you given that it’s your first film and so much of the weight was placed on you?
JH: "Well, I didn’t realize how much weight was on my shoulders until after I saw it. Thank God I didn’t know because then I think I would have been a nervous wreck. But I was so excited and so happy to be a part of the project that it never occurred to me that Oh God, you have a lot to do here and this is your first film and in it with all of these all stars."

Q: Did you think you’d be winning Grammys before Oscars?
JH: "Yeah! I thought I would have an album out. I don’t know if I even thought of myself as an actress. And I didn’t pursue acting actually to be honest. I’ve always been following a musical path. And to get my big break in acting and then to hear that, it’s like omigod! So, I can never get used to hearing that."

Q: What challenges does fame present for you?
JH: Well, to whom much is given, much is required—you know what I mean? I don’t think of it like that—like Oh My God, what am I going to do next—I don’t put limits on God. But, I feel like my main problem is how am I going to balance both worlds because I’ve been thinking that I am just going to sing for years. And then now I’m in between both industries. So now my main issue for myself is to decide on making the right next decision, the right move and how am I going to go between movies and music and balance them out. That’s my biggest concern."

Q: Everyone is talking about you and the golden boy. All of this Oscar buzz. How’s that make you feel internally—excited, nervous?
JH: "I can’t believe it! I’m like are they serious?! People are really serious, they’re not joking! I feel very honored because that’s such a high accolade to receive and to think back to last year when I just got the part, it never crossed my mind. So, to be here today and hear that, I can’t even grasp it all."

Q: What is your next move? What do you want to do next?
: "Record my album will be next because I did just signed my record deal, which is very fresh and we haven’t started the whole process and know what kind of material I have. But my album is next and then I’d like to do another movie behind it. I don’t know what that will be yet, but that’s how I feel." --Gil Robertson for The Robertson Treatment (


For fun, we decided to look into the future and do a little predicting of our own. Here's what some of our writers came up with. Check in Dec. 2007 to see if we're right.

If someone asked me several months ago what I saw in the upcoming year for Oprah, I would have tapped into my mystical powers of seeing into the future and told them she would expand. I'm sure many would scratch their heads, perplexed on how the Queen of Media could get bigger: Produce low cost (Reality) prime time shows! And so the big "O" sold two reality skeins to ABC via her new TV development group which is yet unnamed (I predicted it will be called HarpoHOME). I can see now that this will bring forth a new phase to Reality TV. Instead of clamoring for the next cut-throat competition reality series, they will be searching far and wide for (ooops, just dropped my crystal ball) shows that show a much positive side of human nature. I see huge crossovers of daytime mid-western couch potatoes with primetime couch potatoes watching these two series. Although both shows will perform well, one will be much more successful than the other. "Oprah Winfrey's The Big Give" will surely be the big winner of the two. On this show, money and other resources will be provided to 10 people and they will be challenged to help others in a way that tests the players' ingenuity and passion. I see lots of human drama and tear jerkers here. The winner gets to realize their "wildest" dream. Of course, a dream 'wild' enough to not frighten Middle America. "Your Money or Your Life" will be the lesser of the two hits. This show will feature families who are confronted by a crisis and must change or risk being "consumed by disaster," folks will get weary of this because not enough contestants will be "Consumed." Americans only want happy endings in movies, not reality series. Airdates have not been announced. But I see one during fall rating sweeps, and the other during spring. My cracked crystal ball says so.--By Guru Ant


It could be a sign that James Brown died the same day that Dreamgirls opened wide. Eddie Murphy’s James Brown Hot Tub sketch is one of the most well remembered and loved "Saturday Night Live" sketches of all time. It helped earn Murphy an honored place among comedy legends at 19.

Two decades later, Murphy’s James “Thunder” Early is a little bit of Sam Cooke, a touch of Little Richard and a whole lot of James Brown. Eddie Murphy gives a career defining performance as Early and without James Brown, neither the role of Early, nor possibly Eddie Murphy’s career, may have even existed.

There’s an old James Brown album, Love Power Peace: Live At The Olympia, Paris 1971. It’s an album I played constantly on an old Sony Walkman. Listening to the Godfather of Soul send the Paris crowd into a frenzy as he belted out classics with power and ferocity, I was nothing but envious.

Yeah, Brown was still touring during the 80s, however, that was after his legend had been cemented. In 1971 no one knew that Brown would still be touring and recording for another 35 years. No one knew that James Brown’s music would be the major template for Hip Hop, helping to fuel Hip Hop’s golden era. And no one could have known that along side Ray Charles, he would still be an iconic force that, even five decades after his career started, represented R&B’s youth, vitality and innate ability for reinvention. There’s no decade that Brown, nor Charles, didn’t conquer.

Without that knowledge, the Paris crowd was pure. Imagine sitting in the middle of that audience, merging with it till you’re lost in the mass pulsating surge. Hands reaching out to absorb Brown’s energy. Lungs bursting as you scream out the lyrics, stressing every syllable till your throat is raw.

James Brown was a master showman not above bragging and as a singer, performer, dancer, writer and producer, he earned it. The “hardest working man in show business” Brown was first and foremost a businessman. A businessman that understood entertaining the crowd was his trade. His business. And he never failed to deliver. --Charles Judson


Social Miami at Sagamore was packed with celebs this New Year's: rapper/actor Ludacris (Crash, Hustle & Flow), and Venus and Serena Williams were among those potted ringin' in 2007.