Issue# 16: Tribeca
Folks, continue to check in on us daily for your Tribeca Film Festival fix. We will be reporting a roundup of news at the end of each fest day until May 7th. If you missed last week's, check our archives.
TRIBECA FILM FEST LOG
ROUNDUP #9: FROM A HEARTBREAKING RUSSIAN DOC TO CHILLING IN THE ASCAP MUSIC LOUNGE, ANOTHER DAY AT TRIBECA
So folks, all good things must come to an end; and The A-List's coverage of the Festival is no exception. Obviously things are already winding down here as many players already jet off to Cannes for that whirlwind adventure (and yes, we will be reporting from there too!).
What's so nice about TFF is how they build up for the community. The big Street Fair organized by the Festival is just such a beautiful idea, and huge too, from what I hear from past attendees.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The A-List has actually been having several of its own meetings today, and of course we will clue you in on what's brewing when the time is right. But due to all this and the fact that one cannot be in two places at the same time, there is not a gang of screening info for you, except:
Quite a heavy but well-done documentary entitled Three Days In September, presented by Showtime, which you probably already heard a bit about. Narrated by the one and only Julia Roberts, this film takes you on the horrible journey of the 30 armed Chechen terrorists that took over the school in the small town of Beslan in south Russia. Surely you cannot help but remember seeing the horror of this event on CNN not all that long ago. But it's not captured in a much more in-depth manner and surprisingly demonstrates not only the atrocity but also celebrates the flip side of that in the human strength and love exhibited as we gain more insight into the families and their lives.
Described as Russia's 9/11, Three Days in September is obviously not for the faint at heart but so in need of documenting in order that one can only hope that from these images being offered, mankind might finally stop such horror. Produced and directed by seven-time Emmy Award-winning journalist Joe Halderman (48 Hours), Three Days in September is no joke.
From the sublime to the ridiculous though, I have to tell you that of course the talk of the day is about the M.I. III premiere tonight and who is getting in and who isn't. Guess what, The A-List decided to not even play that game and will just simply wait until later to see it. You can imagine the drama and politics on the PR side behind this, Ladies and Gentlemen, so let's just wait on this.
To take the edge off, we swing into the FIP lounge to send a few quick emails. Hmmm...our lucky moment: lots of nice free ice-cream and popcorn (you gotta love being a journalist) and it's PACKED in here. Particularly happy for these little goodies since there is no hope of even touching one of these beautiful, nice shiny Macs until later. So we chat and eat.
After things are finally handled, it's time to hit the Tribeca ASCAP Music Lounge. Now, The A-List likes this concept a lot. The Lounge, sponsored by Saturn, just kicked off yesterday, and it is put in place to kind of connect independent music with independent film. Cool, huh? While the only thing that we would say is that it would be nice to see a bit more variety in the artists/songwriters showcased (i.e. jazz, more hip hop) and even just inclusion of instrumental compositions (i.e. some cool electronica and lounge); this is a nice little thing held at The Canal Room.
Gretchen from Rubenstein, who couldn't be more hospitable than if it were her own house, ushers me in, let's me know it's open bar; and I immerse myself into the world of sound for a minute as opposed to video. Settling into one of the many chairs before tables with cute little vanilla-scented candles, I check out Josh Ritter who couldn't be more charming and happy to be there if he tried. His vibe is kinda folky, and I find out that he is performing to two sold-out shows at The Bowery Ballroom later on in the week. Interesting!
After a quick set change, we are greeted by Patty Grffin who clearly has mad fans in the audience. What a soulful and rich voice this woman has! As smooth and full-bodied as a good French red wine. And I like her kinda rough and touch style mixed with an undeniable fragility. Her whole vibe is at once soothing yet full of substance.
But soon it is time to jet. I'm sorry that I will miss John Mayer and definitely want to see what Grace Hightower De Niro has to offer, but don't worry, Kidz. I will be finding out for you.
Stay tuned when we tell you about another interesting urban flick and the closing parties next time.
ROUNDUP #8: CHECKING OUT A NEW HIP-HOP FILM CLASSIC--ROCK THE BELLS--AND OTHER TRIBECA HOTNESS
Well, this week kicks off something interesting at the festival: The ASCAP music lounge, sponsored by Saturn. As per the officials surrounding this addition, the idea is to bring more attention to the importance of music within film. There are back-to-back performances by a variety of singers/songwriters each day. Will not be able to make today's but will definitely pop into tomorrow's and let you know the scoop and how cool the Canal Room is or is not.
In the meantime, let me talk to you about a little film called Rock the Bells, which is basically one of the best hip hop/concert films to come along in quite a while!!! You know when people just nail something? Well, that's how it is with this film. It's basically the rollercoaster ride that occurs when one prominent hip-hop concert/festival promoter on the West Coast begins a journey that evolves into the last ever full member WuTang Clan concert! And the tension is built up so beautifully. Is Ol' Dirty going to make it out of the hotel room and come down off his high enough to be reasoned with or not? Is the audience going to actually become violent after waiting for so long? These are all questions that can only be answered by seeing this flick. And it's well worth anyone's time to do so. Sadly, director Casey Suchan told me that they have had the usual discussions about level of market interest, etc., etc. and having to defend how hot the property is; but I think that that won't be the case forever.
Everyone I've talked to has nothing but good things to say about Rock the Bells, I think because in addition to the subject matter it's just so damn well shot. I believe Casey said that they had something like 20 cameras and truckloads and truckloads of film. This is also one of those rare cases where we see something made by the fans for the fans, but yet very skilled fan craftsmen! Could be a nice addition to the hip-hop film classics. Dare I say what The Show did for hip-hop cinema back in the day, Rock the Bells will do now? Hmmmm...perhaps! Will keep you posted on deals for this flick.
Followed by a nice party after the public premiere, Rock the Bells and its crew is definitely on point!
Now, in addition to all this fabulousness, yesterday also held the press reception for the documentary filmmakers. Nice gathering with the creme de la creme of the docu pack at Tribeca this year. There was so much passion in the room that I wished I could bottle and sell it. Very inspiring.
Then ran from here to the press screening of Local Color. Now this little film seems to have a small but very dedicated buzz building. Ray Liotta turns in a nice performance in what is billed as a "coming-of-age-tale" about a young artist seeking release and liberation from his father's back-in-the day perspective. An unexpected visitor to the town ends up helping both the visitor and the frustrated son in surprising ways. This is actually director George Gallo's own story that depicts some of his personal experiences with his father while developing his skills as a painter. Local Color is touching and engaging!
Although we're into week two, the mood is still high, particularly as people prepare to do battle to see who makes it into the M.I. III premiere Wednesday and who doesn't!!
Okay kidz, I'm out until next round-up which is jam-packed with meetings and screenings.
ROUNDUP #7: THE LOWDOWN ON CLICKSTAR, SCREENING LOCKDOWN & LUNCHIN' WITH THE PREP SCHOOL NEGRO
We're back, everybody. A bit off-schedule, sorry, but there has been SO much to do.
Suffice it to say that Saturday night was hot, and The A-List ended up hooking up with a variety of people breezing through the hip lobby of the Soho Grand Hotel and then went NY club hopping!
Fun, fun, fun.
But not much sleep because it would soon be time to cover all the events of Sunday.
The day kicked off with me trotting underneath a cloudless sky to the FIP lounge to pick up a tea and some comp energy bars, as well as a nice new Aquafina notebook (also comp), and then heading over to the Tribeca Performing Arts Center to check out the Morgan Freeman/Clickstar panel of the "Tribeca Talks" series during the festival.
You can feel the excitement because the attendees seem to really have lots of respect for Freeman as you listen in on some conversations taking place in the long line waiting to get in.
Heavy security as New York's finest is out in force!!
Thank God, press doesn't have to wait and after being ushered into the venue, I grab a seat front and center for the kick off.
The multiculturally mixed audience is first treated to a montage of some of Freeman's strongest scenes from different films, and then... it's on.
He (for which there is a standing "o"), his producing partner Lori McCreary, and Clickstar interim CEO, Jim Ackerman, take the stage. It turns out the panel will be moderated by the AMC personality who is considered the poor man's version of James Lipton and who has a similar show to Lipton's on AMC.
Dude's clearly a fan, and begins the "talk" by first allowing Freeman to talk about his beginnings in the industry before getting into Clickstar.
Freeman joyously recounts his first experience with movies (seeing King Kong) and his obsession with them. At age 12 he decided film was destiny. His mother and a particular teacher encouraged him to go for his dreams and how after making it to Hollywood with all that enthusiasm his initial experience was like "running full tilt into a concrete wall." After 18 months he left and went to NY.
The moderator doesn't ask so we don't get to know how Freeman--being a young Black man from the South--actually makes it through and gets "Electric Company," and then on from there. Instead, we fast-forward to Shawshank Redemption. Then, "Clickstar."
We see a slick promo spot for it--Seems the mission is in fact to present an entertainment and movie download service. It is a broadband supplement to the theater release in order to help studios expand return on their marketing dollars because, as Freeman happily interjects, in more "remote" parts of the country films often times don't even make it to the audience.
The host, a professor of at least 50, he is worried the new technology may "make the theater-going" experience cease to existent. To which McCreary smartly answers that these were the same fears that took place when television was introduced, and then home-entertainment via VHS and DVD. And Clickstar's main concern seems to be how to help the industry make films so accessible and affordable that piracy becomes a non-issue.
Yet when asked about pricing, the model has yet to be determined. And there seems to be a question of getting partners on-board because none seem to be confirmed and some studios seem downright resistant, wanting to see proof before jumping into the proverbial pudding. Ackerman adds that marketing via this broadband baby could help drive people to the theaters even more and McCreary, producer/computer scientist, assures the audience that there are encryption techniques so to ease the studios fears as well.
Clickstar is planning its launch surrounding an upcoming Freeman pic later this year.
Then it's time for audience questions, which run from a hodge-podge of script offers to Freeman to a cable news trade reporter whose questions reveal that there are no cable deals in place for Clickstar yet either.
Now, here is where it gets interesting: Naturally the indie filmmakers in the audience are chomping at the bit because they see distribution opportunity here. And in fact, they are right. With the proper marketing, you can create a phenomenon here for a film. Their questions are answered that yes, it will be an opportunity but no real timeframe given and just suggested that they go to the site and send an email to acquisitions!
Now, maybe The A-List is missing something, but we think the verdict is still out on Clickstar. Why? Well, also, at the end, as the demi-gods leave the stage, naturally there are people who have additional questions. Yet this is virtually impossible to pose because the stage is about four-feet off the ground and a wooden boundary that leaves just a small sliver on the side for people to gather and reach up to like people looking for be saved like some morbid scene from Dante's Inferno. Freeman runs right off into the wings. Mc Creary talks at length with the moderator, and Ackerman is trying to make his way off.
Now, if the studios weren't fully supporting, and had no cable deals in place and seemingly not much else besides Danny DeVito on board, if I were them I might want to see who is in this audience and what they have to say. Or at least send reps out to gather cards and all.
But it's interesting: When one person vying for attention mentions he is from Verizon, Ackerman has a bit more time. "Hey, we called you guys. We already called. I mean no offense to you personally but we called you, AT&T..." Which I guess means no DSL deals are in place yet either? It's cool. Lord knows, things take time. It's just funny to see those who are currently in a gatekeeping position and who barely open a door for others, become indignant at being kept out of another gate.
Anyway, The A-List sees the possibilities for this platform. Why isn't Clickstar taking the "let's build a network based on Black appeal" approach like Fox and blow that darn thing up. Go for the urban films that are usually only put on a handful of screens anyway and clearly not studio priorities. You use Clickstar to bring those films to the masses who want to see them but can't, market it in the right way, hit the numbers and voila--a business is born that can then also be used for other genres. Filmmakers happy, studios happy, Clickstar happy. And we all know urban content is the bomb anyway.
Ah, well. Let's see how things turn out for this Intel adventure.
As we left, we couldn't help but feel a bit deflated, but no time for all that emotional stuff. Have to hail a cab to Battery Park for the TAA luncheon. Held in a beautiful restaurant facing the water, I manage to make it through the crowd to meet the TAA director who is really cool in person. Of course, she remembers our phone interview and then introduces me to one of "their" filmmakers, Andre Roberts who has an interesting documentary called The Prep School Negro.
He tells me how instrumental TAA has been in helping him take the project to the next level and how they arranged for 25 funding meetings for him this second week of the festival. Poised, enthused, and polite, I get the sense I am talking to a future major player in the industry! Very committed, Roberts is driven to bringing to the screen a film that examines the affects on not just Black students but society at large on the "underprivileged" student who obtains a scholarship to prestigious prep schools. He explains to me how intense TAA's application process is and how thorough they are. He has nothing but praise for the program and is thrilled at how it also lead to a two-hour interview with Damon Dash. (Since Roberts thinks this is a coup, I have not the heart to ask him when wouldn't Dash want to be in movie talking about himself and his prep school experiences!?!) But I can't help but wish this brotha much luck, and somehow know our paths will cross again.
Okay, cab back Uptown to an art gallery showing all things Tribeca Film Festival. Sponsored by Chanel, it's a nice little exhibit of artist offerings celebrating past festival-award winning films. The artists are not to be taken lightly. In fact, the Julian Schnabel original of the festival poster, greets one upon entering the festival. Also in the mix are pieces Jeff Koons and Sophie Matisse.
So, now it's onto the screening of Lockdown. This is "the Russell Simmons" documentary that follows his work in getting the Rockefeller Drug Law appealed. I'm hearing mixed things on this though, and everything from how people think it shows how he is a political pawn, to the fact that is may be a large promotional vehicle for Simmons (i.e. we see a licensing deal going down for sunglasses for Phat Farm, etc), to how committed Simmons is in representing the "voiceless." You will have to see the flick for yourself to see which of these theories you feel is accurate. Nonetheless, an interesting attempt. To which we wanted to ask more questions about during the press conference, but its seems to be non-existent after being listed on our schedule.
What? That means an early night! Time for a quick breather, y'all, or else The A-List won't make it until the end.
Catch you next time where we'll feature one of the best hip hop films to come around in a long time: Rock the Bells.
ROUNDUP #6: THE CLICKSTAR CALL, A CLOUD-FREE DAY, & STAR-POWERED BUT LACKLUSTER FILMS
Okay, kidz, so I am writing today's round-up now just before I get ready to party because you know there will be no writing after I finally make it back here. You'll have to check back in the next installment to see what the late-night adventures turned up, but at least here is today's flash.
The sunny Saturday started off great with a message on my cell phone from the press office saying that there was a ticket for me for tomorrow's panel ready for pick up. Now, I wanted to surprise you, but remember all that ranting The A-List did about not being able to get to Morgan Freeman's Clickstar? Well, the stars have aligned and just by coincidence, he, his producing partner, and his CEO are speaking on what seems to be the hottest panel fools here are buzzing about. It looks like The A-List will get its wish after all. Although not without the usual drama first. We had RSVP'd to this event, in mid-stream it seems that a different member of the Rubenstein PR firm is put in charge of panels and on the first day tells me that it looks like it is sold-out. "Already?" I exclaim. Couldn't be! Dude tells me he'll get back to me about it but I get no news. I ask the press conference RSVP connect to find him and put in a good word for me since I had thought the initial RSVP was to go to her. Still, all week and nothing, so I was just basically planning to show up (because you know I wouldn't be this close and miss it). Then, lo and behold, the call. Thanks, Rubenstein.
The press conference for the film followed immediately and as I scooted down the street from the theater, I ran into a promo team handing out Monster energy drinks. Perfect timing. I grab the one without the low-carb formula and am on my way to Tribeca Grand, a typically cool relatively new hip hotel not far from Tribeca Cinemas. Heavy star power is obviously coming in and out of here during the Festival judging from the cutie doorman with the way over-sized aviators and earplug wire thingy. He smiles and ushers me in. Then I am whisked to a private screening room on the lower level and have the opportunity to listen to the director, Fraser, and Mos talk about the film and the director's attraction to the "exotic." I don't think Fraser could have been more gracious, open, and professional. Mos is professional but still, seemingly, somewhat guarded. But all these people are just so genuinely into their craft and the whole process, the film and the festival that it's like a mini-joy fest, to some extent. I love it. (Anyway, mental note to breeze through both this lobby and that of the Soho Grand tonight to see what might be up. I had forgotten that these two hotels would probably see the primary action for the festival!)
So, just about 10 minutes after that, we stake out seats in the same room for the next much-talked about narrative film Lonely Hearts. And it turns out to be a rather violent story about a killer couple in the Jackie Robinson days and the cops pursuit of them. (By the way, are films just not "real" enough unless they have to inject the word "nigger" just in conversation when talking about someone who is Black? This is the third film so far that has done it, and it has nothing to do with the context of the film or any characters. What's up with that?) At any rate, the film is actually based on a true story. Stars John Travolta, James Gandolfini, and Salma Hayek work to spin this yarn which, in this writer's opinion, is interesting but certainly not some variation of something we haven't already seen. What makes it a bit more special, however, is that we find out during the following press conference that the writer's (Todd Robinson's) grandfather was actually one of the officers on the original case. And Hayek really shows her acting chops here in a role in which we really haven't seen her in anything prior to Lonely Hearts. She plays diabolical in a delicious way. As a side note: Each frame is also a testament to her beauty. Travolta looked fabulous in a nice suit and perfect hair cut. And he truly seems to be such a passionate artist and kind person! Gandolfini's comments were funny at times. He's not really much of a talker but cool. Turns out these two are "boys" from way back in the day, and have even done four movies together. Anyway to quote Travolta, "This film says what people will do for psychotic love as opposed to real love." If you're into that, then maybe this film will speak to you more than it did The A-List.
Well, press conference over and finally a few moments to breathe and head back to the crib before bouncing out.
Stay tuned for all the Clickstar madness next episode. I'm out. (oh, and it occurs to me that with BET's new and improved "Black Carpet" coming, we just may have our own version of "Entertainment Tonight" and I had mentioned that was lacking in an earlier installment. Okay, so one down, many more media outlets to go.)
Until next time! The A-List
ROUNDUP #5: Word Life's Hip-Hop Hope, Freedom's Fury & Goin' Back in the Day With Toots
Okay people, back out on the trail yesterday (and yes, I am writing this Saturday morning since the events of the day did not finally bring me back until about 3 am, and I passed out).
Again, another great, Saturday day in New York but a whirlwind of activity, and I'm gonna put you up now on all the insiders look at April 28th.
My day started off with a quick jump on the subway to take me to Soho to quickly meet a businesswoman in hip hop who just happened to be in town from London, and had connected since she thought I would be here at the festival. There is something going on hip hop-wise everywhere because she is in the midst of planning one of the biggest hip-hop summits the UK has ever seen. It will bring together top U.S. and UK artists, but more on this later as there are still some secrets to keep.
Anyway, had to run quickly from there to Tribeca Cinemas to make my first film of the day. I was intrigued by what Word Life would actually be about. I think particularly since Bruce Willis is the executive producer of this documentary that shows how several young Black teens use hip hop to deal with life. (This film is also featured in the Festival's new "Drive In" concept that is actually three nights of films shown in an open-air theater near or in Battery Park. I love this concept but have been so much on the move, have not even been able to check it out--hence my press screening). But back to the film. Let me just say that this film is so moving. One will not help welling up a bit at certain scenes for this is a film about how healing and hip hop and one young guy's belief in starting a free program with a mentor leads to the reaching out of certain young souls so much in need. That being said, do not think this film does not have comedic moments, exciting moments, and moments that just make you want to cheer. Someone, please acquire this film. It's a roller coaster of emotions. It also gives such pride and validation to anyone either ever touched by or working within any aspect of hip hop because you realize just how much it can provide freedom where there are seemingly huge limitations and ownership where one feels destitute. In my mind, Word Life would also be perfect for all teens to see in school (instead of those outdated film strips) so that they know that they are not alone in their struggles and that there are creative ways out of them. Heartfelt. And when they get a call of a donation of a recording studio from Bruce Willis and Russell Simmons, it's over, Kidz. Just see this. It's crazy because I think many people come to the Festival for business but if you're really smart and keep your eyes open, this artistic expression could actually change your life, educate you, and more.
Case in point, just after the emotional roller coaster of Word Life and still thinking through issues of racism, economics, and more; it's time to rush into the the Cinema 2 to check out Freedom's Fury. Another docu with a building buzz. Perhaps because Lucy Liu and Quentin Tarantino are two of the film's executive producers (Note: To would-be filmmakers, see a pattern here? Apply it!) And who should surprise us with an in person introduction to the film than none other than Liu herself along with the film's directors and its narrator, Mark Spitz (yes, that one, and he does an excellent job by the way). It's so crazy because the theme of freedom and expression persists via this film as well, but from a different perspective. On the outset, I have to admit that it sounded bit bland: The events of the Hungarian Revolution in the '50s and its interplay with the Hungarian Water Polo team. But I challenge you to watch this and not be further educated about history while being nicely entertained and engaged. They are saying it's the classic underdog story, and it is, but to this writer it's also about the larger themes of the right of human expression and quality of life. And yet, somehow you also become connected with some of these interview subjects who are funny, touching, and actually re-living all the emotion they went through just like it was yesterday. I predict this will be an A&E definite, if not more.
Running out to try and make a Rum Tasting event (that actually has nothing to do with a festival, but after two major films like that, who couldn't use a drink--and yes, it was only 3:45pm, I don't care) I run into the drug pilot from Cocaine Cowboy. Dude is clearly enjoying his little new-found celeb status and chatting with everyone and exchanging cards and numbers. Cute. But you know what? I can't make it that far uptown and back again, so I have to forget my drink.
I head to the press office instead to jump on one the beautiful new Macs there just for us surrounded by pure white chairs in a white room with white sunlight pouring through. A little trippy. But here's the interesting thing...What to my wandering eyes should appear but... the Black female journalist I saw before. So I have the time now to ask her who she is reporting for--eurweb.com, she says. Well, God bless them and her for sending someone out! Yes, she reinforces my sentiments about the lack of urban press here; yes, she's been running around a lot, too. And then we decide to run to the press meet-and-greet for women filmmakers together. Cool.
Armed with the obligatory white wine (ah, here's my drink) and cute h'ors d'oevres the wait staff is ready and wielding their platters expertly. We don't have to wonder who to talk to though because within minute, a very assertive filmmaker introduces herself. Great! She has a short film here called Spanish Boots, which is about one woman's realization that one-night stands just don't cut it. She tells us a bit about the process (how she used the money from a script that she got optioned to make the film), and how excited she is. As well she should because with approximately 2,200 shorts submitted and only around 70 accepted, that's no joke. I ask for her advice to female filmmakers of color to which she replies that her co-producer is also a woman of color. "Go for the grants, I say! And don't be afraid to use what you have to network. Go to all the groups and network. And don't be afraid to ask for help...Just because it's independent, does not mean that you have to do everything yourself." When I asked her how she felt when she found out her film was accepted, and she says she asked a family friend to call to see if it was really in or not. So, just who is Domenica Cameron-Scorsese? We'll have to look out for her film.
But this conversation sparked quite an interesting mini-debate between myself and the person who we'll call Reporter Y from eurweb. Somehow we got on the subject of Sydney Poitier and how he was able to obtain several leads as a Black man (and in the process create a legacy), so we should be able to do that and more today. Playing devil's advocate, I ask, "But how do we know he didn't fit into 'they only let one in at a time theory'?" To which she replies, in the era of the '50s, they didn't care about tokens. They didn't have to let anyone in. She goes on to add that for her, it was about it attitude of "you're not going to tell me I can't do this" and the fact that he put himself in the mix of a variety of people, had a strong definition of self coming from the islands, and was persistent. Interesting perspective. I'm not sure though how much access to information, people, and that insider info on what to say and how to say it comes into play as well though. We kind of end up agreeing that success in Hollywood, as in life, is due to a mixture of things many of which, such as timing, are not able to be controlled. I would say however, that perhaps while Blacks might need to be more persistent for the long-haul, the gatekeepers could heighten their sensitivity to inclusiveness.
Naturally, if we could answer these questions in full, I don't think we would be sitting here chatting. And I'm, actually not about to for much longer (after we decide to meet for the last film of the night Uptown later) because I have to make the screening of Toots, the documentary I mentioned yesterday that I would see today. True to my word, I checked it out--and in the very plush screening room of the Tribeca Film Institute's building, not the new cinema. Anyway, interesting docu about Toots Shor, a charmer whose rise and decline as a famous NY restaurateur in the golden era of Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio speaks volumes about how the business of celeb dining and interaction has changed so much since then, how great hosts don't necessarily make great businessmen and how overindulgence in anything usually never leads to anywhere good. Nice direction and use of present day and back-in-the-day footage.
Now, I'll have just enough time to make the red carpet arrivals for Journey to the End of Night, the big buzz film with Mos Def and Brendan Fraser (and to whose screening I will go Saturday). There was not much press there to cover, for whatever reason and the two celebs I just mentioned were the most prominent there. But they were gracious and enthusiastic and while they said they didn't want to give too much away about the film, talked about how great it was to shoot in Brazil and how the authenticity of location it impacted their performance. Fraser couldn't say enough about Mos Def's performance and his ability to learn Yoruba for the flick and more. I guess I'll let you know after I see it in (now, a few hours). While there, I chat with the BET Style crew. Nice people who inform me that the show will be changing its name to the "Black Carpet" and that Toure (?!) will be one of its new hosts. More on this later.
Okay, just enough time to run back and change because it's getting cold and I have one last flick to catch way Uptown. It's a horror movie. French. Vincent Cassell's baby, Sheitan, that his production company co-produced and in which he stars. I misread the start time so Journalist Y and I grab some soup and talk about Hot Feet (yes, the Broadway extravaganza that you will later see reviewed here), share jokes, and then bounce to the AMC. Now there are not a lot of people in this theater, I guess due to the time of the night, but I promise you, those who are there are into it. Myself, included. Just how the French were able to take the horror genre and add even more sex scenes (threesome) and more grotesque (mutilation) but make it more clever, at times, funny, more inclusive of different races, more suspenseful (and certainly more use of any rap music) than any other teen horror flick, is beyond me. Do check this out, and yes, you can "struggle" with the subtitles! Vive La France.
After saying good-bye, until tomorrow, to Journalist Y, I walk down the street and run into some other people I know and end up chatting and chilling. By the time I got home, I had enough of a second wind to hit the club. But that, dear Reader, could have been dangerous because to write all this, make calls, and make it back downtown today by 11am just may not have happened. So, I'm out now to start the day.
Trust, I will report back.
ROUNDUP #4: LOCKDOWN HYPE, COCAINE COWBOYS & SUNSHINE
It's a great warm spring day to kick off the day's events here in NYC. Ran out to the park to get a bit of fresh air and exercise before making my moves, and as usual, picked up the free Metro newspaper being handed out near the subway. As I snapped opened the paper, bam--I was greeted by a HUGE still of Russell Simmons taken from his documentary Lockdown (more on this film later). But, man, how this guy's handlers handle press! Could it be a little campaign going on for this flick? Hmmm....
Inside, about mid-way, was half-page story about his participation in the film, its importance, and how he works "karmically"--that meaning "the reward is the work itself." Cracked me up a bit though how the writer pointed out that it's funny to hear a yogi curse and throw tantrums in order to get his way (which apparently is demonstrated in the film, and The A-List will let you know its thoughts during the weekend after the press screening--so visit the blog daily).
In the meantime, my own company's post-production work for our upcoming digital series took up much of the day after I came back inside (yes, I am doing double and even triple duty, so I think that may just qualify me for Superwoman status) so there is just a bit to report today. Hey, but it's quality not quantity, right?
Late afternoon, I headed out and caught "arrivals" for Toots, a seemingly interesting film that I will elaborate on more after I see it tomorrow afternoon. But suffice it to say now that it has to do with "back in the day," and it was really nice to see such icons as Lauren Bacall, Walter Cronkite and more out and about. Couldn't stay to report too long because time was nearing for a particular screening. Ran from there to then catch a film I hadn't quite planned on at the beginning of the Festival, but there is in fact a building buzz so I decided to check it out.
The documentary Cocaine Cowboys--(not to be confused with the 1979 action adventure starring Andy Warhol and Jack Palance by the same name)--is nothing short of Scarface meets Blow but the real-life version and the story of the characters behind the rise of the cocaine scene in Miami. Packed with interviews from the dealers to the media to the police; this documentary is an interesting look at how Miami was affected by the development of, essentially, the cocaine industry, the interaction between the players and how homicide took a turn for the worst when the Cuban and Columbia cartels played shoot 'em up on the streets of Florida to carve out territory. While you can tell this film was shot on a shoestring, the piece is engaging and well-directed. It's informative, and interesting although, even for this girl who loves gangsters, tends to labour on a bit about all the killings into say, minute 89. Only time will tell were the buzz leads on this one folks.
Had to cut out early and actually step into the world of Broadway via a surprise invitation that came up. But don't worry, Friday is jam packed with events and screenings for me so I will be back on the Festival trail again and early!
Be sure and check back for that round-up, most definitely.
SWEET & SIXTEEN! Read On...
OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
TO THE RESCUE...According to the Toronto Star, Michael Jenkinson is leaving Hollywood behind to head back home to Canada where he will take on the role of the new feature film executive for troubled Telefilm Canada. While in LaLa Land, Jenkinson, 44, became vice president of acquisitions and production over at 20th Century Fox before venturing out on his own to help start Urban Entertainment (UE). As CEO of UE, he helped position the company to land a first-look deal with New Line Cinema and produced Undercover Brother. Now its his mission to pump up Telefilm's bottom line by churning out a few hit films. Time--and box office figures--will tell if Jenkinson is up to his latest task. Black Hollywood will miss him but we wish him well with making more multicultural waves in that region.
THE PELLICANO BRIEF...All of Hollywood has been holding its breath as the documents of PI-to-the-stars Anthony Pellicano get a thorough going over since he was indicted on federal wiretapping, racketeering, and conspiracy charges that involves many Los Angeles powerbrokers. Now, according to The Los Angeles Times, Chris Rock is unwittingly caught in the mix. Seems years ago Rock hired the popular private eye to look into the background of Hungarian model Monika Zsibrita, who had claimed to be pregnant by Rock in 1999 and filed a lawsuit against the comedian. Pellicano has pleaded not guilty, but will Hollywood recover from having its dirty laundry aired for all to see?
SPEEDY RECOVERY...According to our friends at The Humor Mill Comedy Newsletter (www.thejestfest.com), "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" star Mark Curry was in an accidental explosion at his home last week and he suffered second- and third-degree burns over 20 percent of his body. At press time,Curry was still hospitalized at a Santa Monica medical facility. We will keep you up to date on his condition.
ICE, ICE BABY...It seems like you just can't keep a reality star down these days--even one who got unceremoniously booted from "The Apprentice." Stacy "I am not crazy" J has announced a line of her own jewelry and accessories at Icing by Claire�s stores nationwide. Her bobbles will be in 200 stores by May 2006. But that's not all folks, take a gander at Stacy J's website (www.staciej.com), she's been putting Omarosa to shame, with TV shows here, films there, nearly nude photo spreads all around. This entrepreneur, who owns a Subway franchise in Harlem, has found a business--herself! Stacy J, we ain't mad at ya.
THE APPRENTICE SPEAKS...And if you've been wondering why the only black winner of "The Apprentice" has been keeping a low profile, well Dr.--yep Dr.--Randal Pinkett (www.randalpinkett.com) has been prepping for his keynote speech at Black Enterprise's Entrepreneurs Conference (www.blackenterprise.com). It happens May 17-20 in Dallas.
SETTIN' IT OFF...We just got news that the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the African American Steering Committee (AASC) will be honoring F. Gary Gray on May 3. Taking place at the DGA headquarters in L.A., the event will include an A-List of speakers (Nina Shaw, Nia Long, Anna Maria Horsford, Larenz Tate, Cedric The Entertainer, Seth Green, Vivica Fox, Mos Def, Bryan Barber), film clips and a discussion with Gray led by Reginald Hudlin. In the past, the DGA and AASC have honored such renown directors as Ivan Dixon, Sidney Poitier, Gordon Parks, Melvin Van Peebles. Sounds like Gray is keeping good company.
LOPEZ BEACHED? ...According the lawyer for one unhappy television writer, Jack Bunick, there are way too many similarities to his copyrighted script and Jennifer Lopez's UNP TV show "Miami Beach," which aired in January. So Bunick has is suing both Lopez and UPN. According to statements issued by Bunick's lawyer, not only is the concept strikingly similar, but so is the name. His is called "South Beach Miami." Plus, he adds, Bunick claims to have given the script to a UPN exec in 2000. No word from the Lopez or UPN camp. Seems like a sand storm is brewing.
UNDRESSED TO THE NINES...Did you know that actress Malinda Williams launched her own line of lingerie and underwear? Called Modern Goddess. We peeped some of the unmentionables online (www.moderngoddess.net) and in Jolie magazine. Williams' line even includes full figure and maternity undergarments. Now that's what we call all-inclusive.
WHAT MAKES AN OPRAH LEGEND?: According to the folks over at ABC, Oprah Winfrey is hosting a one-hour special produced by her Harpo Productions that features footage from private events Winfrey hosted last year in honor of 25 women who were influential in her life. "Oprah Winfrey's Legends' Ball" airs May 15, leading into the two-hour season finale of "Grey's Anatomy." Among the women Winfrey honored: the late Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks, Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner.
BIGGER THAN LIFE...After the extremely successful run of Lil' Kim's "Countdown to Lockdown," BET has been reality show shopping--picking up one featuring DMX, "Soul of a Man" (which previewed earlier this week); star quarterback Vince Young's "Next Level"; and "Startime" with Keyshia Cole," which Robyn Lattaker-Johnson, VP, Development at BET, tells The A-List may possibly hit the network in July. "Keyshia is...potentially the one of most authentic and relatable young women for our audience. Hers is a true underdog/fairy-tale story." Lattaker-Johnson informs us. Well, BET has been batting 1000 with their reality show picks, so ante up.
JUST A JIGGA...Here's the PR hype: "At the height of the 1990s crime epidemic, one man terrorized every man, woman and child in Los Angeles. That man was Jigga �JiggaBoo� Jones. Nine years later, he�s returned to the streets donning a camera crew and an unquenchable thirst for crime...Jigga Jones, the groundbreaking film that teaches you how the true players roll--courtesy of Jigga Jones, http://www.jiggajones.com/." Now, if your trigger finger is really itching, you can grab yourself a Jigga DVD in May, on Fall Thru Entertainment, the company that brought you the jaw-dropping Ghetto Fights and Wildest Street Brawls series. Sound like classics to us--if you're Nicky Barnes maybe. What will they think of next!?
SAG-ABC DEAL TO BRING "LOST" TO CELL PHONES
Earlier this week the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced it reached an agreement with Touchstone Television (a unit of the ABC Television Network) covering �mobisodes� for the popular television series "Lost." Under the agreement, the proposed mobisodes must be produced under a SAG contract. And, they must be no more than five minutes in length and used on cell phones. According to the terms, there will be an escalating minimum wage that begins at $425 for an eight-hour day, increasing to $450 next year. Actors will receive the minimum per day or per mobisode, whichever is greater. The Writers Guild of America, West, also reached a similar agreement with Touchstone and ABC today.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
We will be asking a series of surveys about the images of African Americans in cinema and the state of Urban Hollywood in the next coming issues. Rest assured, your responses will remain PRIVATE. We will tally the votes and report back to you. But we need you to vote, to see what you think! Email us at email@example.com.
HAS HIP HOP--RAPPERS-CUM-ACTORS AND RAP MOVIES--HURT OR HINDERED URBAN HOLLYWOOD?
A) Helped by providing more projects, a wider audiences, and more employment.
B) Hindered because it reinforces negative stereotypes of violence and ghetto mentality.
C) Images of blacks remain the same in Hollywood, with or without the influence of hip hop.
Terry Crews, Vivica Fox, Ms. J (aka J. Alexander) ("America's Next Top Model") and producer Mary Glynn bein' seen at BET's Upfronts at Hollywood and Highland.
Nile Rodgers makin' an entrance at the Broadway preview of the new musical Hot Feet at the Hilton Theatre. (Check back next week for our review.)
Shout out to A-List contributor Gil Robertson V.