64: Sticky Fingaz/Big Island Film Festival
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OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
SOUR C.R.E.A.M.?...As reported, after all the Imus backlash Al Sharpton earlier this week canceled an awards ceremony in which he was to honor music mogul L.A. Reid at the convention of his National Action Network (NAN). According to the Sharpton camp, the Reverend didn't feel it was appropriate due to Reid's heavy connection to offensive Hip Hop. Then it was reported that Universal Records (the parent company of Def Jam) wanted Sharpton to return a $15,000 "donation" it gave the NAN for the event. While Universal has said it ain't so; fact is they did make the big gift to Sharpton's org, according to the company. The cash discrepancy, according to The New York Post, comes from Russell Simmons' decision not to purchase his anticipated two tables--at $10,000 a pop--for the recent NAN dinner, though Simmons has said he still plans to cough up the cash. It will be interesting to see if the maligned Hip-Hop community starts withdrawing contributions to organizations such as The Rainbow Coalition, ANA, NAACP or even the presidential campaigns. 'Cause it still seems that Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.)--to quote The Wu Tang Clan.
DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER...An African-American owned broadcasting company in St. Louis has announced that it will ban racist and sexist music. Roberts Broadcasting Cos. LLC, which owns four TV stations (WRBU, St. Louis; WZRB, Columbia, S.C.; WAZE, Evansville, Ind.; WRBJ, Jackson, Miss.) and a Hip-Hop radio station (WRBJ-FM, Jackson) says it will not just censor offensive words will but ban entire songs. Isn't this like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound? If art reflects society, then why are society's ills art's burden. The real problem isn't the music, but society. Blacks and women need more power in the board room and in the creative wings to develop truer images of ourselves. We'd love to see how many women execs there are working for and on the board of Roberts, which is owned by two brothers--Michael and Steven Roberts.
MISSING LINK...The big talk in Hollywood earlier this week was that AOL's Internet division just inked production deals for five new Web programs--including partnerships with reality television mogul Mark Burnett, Dreamworks Animation, "Big Brother" producer Endemol, Madison Road Entertainment, Stone & Co. and Telepictures. But with the ax recently falling over at AOL Black Voices, it would have been nice to see a company of color in the mix to reap some of these Burnett-esque goodies--especially since African-American Internet users are heavy consumers of online information and online entertainment, according to Internet research firm Pew Internet & American Life Project.
DUNKIN' IT...BET's new show "Ballers" got off to a great start. So we decided to get a little behind-the-scenes info from Executive Producer John Johnston who tells The A-List the goal for the show is to "have Lebron James sitting in our V.I.P. booth with Jamie Foxx." When asked why comedian Guy Torry was given a permanent spot on a sports show, Johnson jokes, "Because Dave Chappelle said no. No, in all seriousness....Guy is one of the funniest dudes on the planet with a keen knowledge of sports. The world may not know Guy Torry yet...but believe us they will." Though we thought the show lacked a female athlete perspective, Johnson reveals that "Ballers" correspondent Claudia Jordan, from "Deal or No Deal," "also ran competitive track in college and was once part of the Olympic Trials." Sounds like BET has a solid game plan.
NEVER TOO EARLY...The Young Filmmakers Program offers Summer Camp at the Northwest Film Center in Portland and has put the call out for kids and teens grades 4-12 with an interest in film and technology. The campers are taught by School of Film faculty and independent filmmakers in animation, digital video, screenwriting and experimental film. Scholarship support is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The Summer Camps run June 18 to Aug. 24. Visit http://www.nwfilm.org/ for details. A great way to get the next generation of filmmakers a head start.
CELEBRITY MINDERS...Looking for a gig? Well, if you want to work for Star Jones Reynolds or Puffy, you may be in luck. We hear that Star is looking for an assistant on her new Court TV show, where we're sure the assistant's duties will range from gofer errands to keeping track of celebrity crimes and misdemeanors. Meanwhile Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is seeking an assistant--to handle both business and personal tasks at his office and multiple homes (NY, FL and GA). Candidates for this job need to: be a personal liaison between Combs and clan; keep him on time; anticipate his needs; interact with industry exes and talent; secure personal supplies (hmmm); and be highly-connected in NY at top restaurants and clubs. Sounds like a job for Nanny 911.
I WANT MY ODP...The industry is abuzz about Yahoo!, TiVo, and MSNBC.com announcing that they are deploying on-device portals (ODP). These companies are expanding their mobile strategy beyond messaging and simple mobile websites into creating a permanent home for their brands on consumer phones. Now's the time to make this jump. According to independent research firm ARCchart, the ODP market will go from $300+ million in 2007 to more than $1.4 billion in 2009. "With ODP, there is a great opportunity for companies to finally make use of a user's preferences and usage patterns to provide more targeted applications and advertisements. For example, let's say you use your mobile phone to program your DVR to record your favorite TV show. Your phone (or rather the ODP on your phone) is smart enough to know you always record Disney movies, and while scheduling a recording, a banner advertisement appears on the bottom of your screen informing you that there is a new Disney movie coming on channel XYZ in two days that you have not yet selected to record," says Anne Baker, VP of Marketing, Action Engine, a leader in on-device portals. Guess you can toss your TV Guide.
THE "IT" GIRL...Remember when The A-List told you about a young filmmaker named Kiri Davis? If not, check out our article on Davis and her groundbreaking film, Girl Like Me, (http://thealistmagzine.blogspot
MOBILE MOVEMENT...Mobile TV is getting better and bigger by the day. Globecomm has announced the debut of SkyBorne Mobile, a flexible, scalable media processing center for mobile TV. SkyBorne can be configured for multiple distribution needs, from direct-to-home television origination to IPTV content acquisition, packaging and distribution, making it easier for companies to transfer projects into mobile platforms. With technology getting better and more available, this should open doors for indie productions to reach a mobile audience.
CAT'S OUT OF THE BAG...We just got word that filming recently wrapped on Majestica Film’s Secrets & Death (www.secretsanddeath.com). Written and directed by Paul Roberts (Sweet Sensations), the drama stars a cast of newcomers anchored by screen legend Melvin Van Peebles. Shot in South Florida over 16 days, the indie film deals with controversial and topical themes centered on relationships and stem cell research. "I wanted to make a film that was entertaining but also gives audiences some food for thought around contemporary subjects,” Roberts says. Adds Peebles, “I think Paul has a unique writing skill and I found the themes of the film to be very relevant and interesting to the world today.” Currently touring the festival circuit, the film’s producers have already begun fielding distribution offers from several major studios, and Roberts anticipates a fall ’07 release for the film.
FAMILY TREE GROWS...We've already told you about TVOne re-broadcasting "Roots" (which by the way, earned the three-year-old network its highest ratings ever last week with an average of 447,000 households tuning in), but now there are a slew of other projects to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this groundbreaking story. There's a commemorative print edition, Roots: The 30th Anniversary Edition, being published by Vanguard Press May 22, with an into by author/professor Michael Eric Dyson. This will coincide with Warner Home Video’s release of an anniversary DVD edition that will include special features. And Reader's Digest will publish a print-on-demand book of Alex Haley’s collective articles previously printed in the magazine, with an accompanying DVD with audio from famous figures on "What Roots Means to Me"; Sony Reader will issue the title as an e-book; BBC Audio will issue the first-ever audio book of Roots; and Gather.com will have a multi-week content-rich, dedicated site in cooperation with Borders. There appears to be more marketing tie-ins this time, than when Roots was originally published or aired. Considering all the racial issues as of late, there couldn't be a better time for all of us to remember our roots as well as honor each other and our cultural differences and commonalities.
BLACK HISTORY CLIFFNOTES...Congratulations to A-List contributor Ronda Racha Penrice on the release of her book, African American History For Dummies, which will hit shelves and the Internet April 30. This book doesn't just highlight a handful of extraordinary people, it spans Black history-- from Africa (prior to the institution of the slave trade), slavery, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, Hurricane Katrina to historical figures, pivotal events, momentous court cases and other key cultural contributions. "I sincerely believe that this history should be commonplace and...until we, as a nation, acknowledge that Black people aren't just 'getting over' but that, yes, African Americans are also we are in the fabric and core of the best qualities of the United States of America," says Penrice. Note to TV execs: This would be a great followup to Roots.
MULTIMEDIA MATRIX...Volantis, a leading supplier of Intelligent Content AdaptationT solutions for the Mobile Internet, and Mobixell, a leading provider of innovative mobile multimedia solutions, have teamed up to deliver a broad variety of multimedia capabilities optimized for every media type, mobile device, and value added service. According to a spokesperson, “The integrated Mobixell-Volantis offering expands the variety of rich media content that can be offered to both wireless carriers and content providers. The greater the variety of content, including video, that can be accessed via a mobile device, the greater value consumers will place on their mobile device as their primary means of accessing news, entertainment and personalized information. We believe video content will be a significant catalyst for the growth in mobile data communications.” Putting it plainly: Mobile media is the new frontier. So get those projects going--each week there seems to be a new way, such as the Mobixell-Volantis platform--to get your mobile production up and running.
HIP HOP HOLLYWOOD
HORROR HITS THE HOOD...At first this was slated for direct-to-DVD release (see http://thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2007/01/51.html), but now we get word that Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror will actually hit theatres May 4th. Produced by Social Capital Films, BloodWorks, and Snoopadelic Films, Xenon Pictures, Inc. will distribute. Featuring a blend of live-action horror and supernatural anime sequences created by Japan's Madhouse (Tokyo Godfather) under the supervision of Academy Award-winner John Gaeta (THE MATRIX TRILOGY), the flick might be a surprising hit. We'll let you know.
Q: What Makes A Day In The Life (http://www2.blogger.com/www.myspace.com/adayinthelifemovie) so unique?
A: The whole entire movie…all the dialogue is done through rap. There is not one regular dialogue exchange in the film. It’s not all rappers though, it’s A-list actors such as Mekhi Phifer, Omar Epps, Michael Rapaport and Clarence Williams III…This is the first time it’s been done. The cast is CRAZY! The story is basically The Godfather meets Romeo and Juliet. Two families at war with a love story in there. It ends in melee.
Q: When was it shot; when will be released?
A: It was shot off and on through the course of two years. It will be released in the first quarter of 2008.
Q: How was it financed?
A: I financed 2/3’s of the movie out of my own pocket then went to Lionsgate to get a theatrical distribution deal. They provided me with finishing funds to complete the film and also gave the option for a second movie, which I’ve already finished. That one is called Caught On Tape.
Q: What are some of your new projects?
A: Caught On Tape…it’s the same concept, meaning the entire movie is in rap, but the storyline is completely different and it stars Vivica A. Fox, Cedric The Entertainer, Bokeem Woodbine, Angie Stone, Kel Mitchell, Keith Robinson and a gang of others. It’s about five guys who plan to rob a bank. Everything from the planning to the aftermath is caught on videotape, and a lot goes wrong for these guys!
Q: What is the name of your production company? What makes you and your producing partner Keith Brown work well together?
A: Major Independents is my production company. Keith keeps the strings together. If you’re making fine clothes, you have to keep track of the tailoring, fabric, measurements, styles, inventory and all the other details. He does that for Major Independents and does it well, which compliments my style.
Q: There seems to be a bunch of Hip-Hop films that are family friendly. Is there a backlash against grittier Urban films?
A: It seems to me that people are trying to be safe and only into box office sales. A safe sound investment if you will. But I feel like if it’s a good movie, it’s a good movie regardless of the rating. Kids are going to find a way to see the gritty, rated-R films anyway. But there’s nothing wrong with family movies, that leaves the Rated-R movie lane open for me. However, Caught On Tape is rated PG-13!
Q: Is Hollywood cooling on Urban films that are Hip-Hop inspired?
A: No, they are not…the reason why, is because Hip Hop makes a lot of money. Entertainers make more money than doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. The public is bored out of it’s mind, the planet is completely bored. So entertainment will always be there to make money and cure the boredom…whether it’s Hip Hop or not.
Q: Where do you see your niche in Hollywood?
A: I saw my specialty as acting…which I’ve been doing for a long time. My newfound specialty is encompassing the whole film business…from writing, to acting, to directing and everything in between. Most importantly, my niche is to make films that are budget conscience…thus being a sound investment. I’ve broken Hollywood’s number one rule which is to never spend your own money. And I would have never spent my own money if I didn’t feel these projects were sound investments…so I hope to continue making projects that investors will see that quality in. I’ll still continue making music too. But fusing music and film is the future…I’m carving my niche in that.
Clear Channel Communications Inc. has agreed to sell its television group to private equity firm Providence Equity Partners Inc. for about $1.2 billion. In all, Clear Channel plans to sell 56 television stations located in 24 markets across the United States, as well as their related Internet sites and wireless projects. The television group includes 10 CW stations, eight Fox stations, seven NBC stations, six ABC stations and six CBS stations, among others. Though still subject to regulatory approval, the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.
BEHIND FESTIVAL SCENES
SAY ALOHA TO THE BIG ISLAND FILM FESTIVAL, Waikoloa (Hawaii)
It may have taken four years to get the Big Island Film Festival (BIFF) off the ground, but since it launched in 2006 after being conceived in 2002 the festival is now the Hawaii film fest for new independent narrative films and independent narrative filmmakers. “Talk Story” is the theme for this year’s event. Some 62 features and shorts from around the world will be screened at three venues. The A-List spoke with the BIFF executive director Leo W. Sears. Here's what he had to say. (photo: JW Sears Photography)
The A-List: Why was it important to launch a fest on the island?
Leo Sears: We have beautiful weather, gorgeous beaches and world-class resorts. What better place to hold a film festival in paradise? We have a great potential audience of visitors and residents.There are showings on island from Hawaii International Film Festival. Also there are a couple smaller film festivals that take place on island, but we are the major film festival, that will continue to grow.
TAL: What makes the Big Island Film Festival unique?
LS: Our focus is on the Independent narrative filmmakers and their films... not the studios, not the hype. We have two outside nighttime venues, including one for family movies. Besides our wonderful location and audience mix, we try to wrap our experience in an ego-free Spirit of Aloha.
TAL: What are some new highlights this year?
LS: We have a outstanding slate of feature and short narrative films from across the world... Canada, Austria, Australia, Japan, Canada, UK, as well as the U.S. We have eight films shot in Hawaii. We have family films, comedies, thought provoking dramas and thrillers, and films with subtitles. Really we have something for everyone.
TAL: What elements does a film need to get accepted into the fest?
LS: Number one thing is the STORY. It must have a story that has beginning, middle and end, plot points and be engaging, entertaining and/or thought provoking. We don't normally do documentaries. On our evaluation form the story is worth more points than any other elements. Also must have outstanding picture and sound.
TAL: What is your advice for a filmmaker taking part in a festival such as yours?
LS: We always need family movies. I can't tell you how many movies we've viewed that would be great family films...until the F-bombs start flying. We don't have problems with language, nudity, drug/alcohol use, adult situations, except at family venue. Also we tend to stray away from movies that are political statements that hijack the story. Just make a film with s good story, audio, video, acting, directing and editing. We've had movies that were shot on video that we accepted over some shot on 35 mm film.
TAL: Where are most of your films from?
LS: About 85% are from the U.S. and 15% from outside.
TAL: Have a lot of deals been brokered through the festival?
LS: We had many films that were picked up for distribution after last year's Big Island Film Festival. We haven't had distribution reps attending yet, which seems silly since we only show films that haven't had distribution lined up at time that they entered. We've got a lot of jewels here that haven't been mined.
TAL: Can you describe the overall vibe of the festival?
Name: Big Island Film Festival
Location: Waikoloa, Hawaii
When: May 17-20
PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL: Fighting the Flu, Finding New Films, Feeling the Flavor of Philly
All set with my press credentials to cover the Philadelphia Film Festival and what happens… the flu strikes--a really bad, bad flu starting opening night Thursday, April 5th, so covering the Opening night film The Ten, a satirical take on Moses Tablets (writer/director David Wain) was awash.
After staying in bed all day Friday, the plan was to hit the Festival trail by Saturday. No such luck. It isn't until Mon. (4/9) afternoon, that I could rouse myself to check out the Bryn Mawr Theater (a new venue for the festival) for the film Feel (writer/director Matt Mahurin ). The daytime cold medicine kicked in long enough for me to enjoy this film. Mahurin was on hand to introduce the film and remained for a Q&A.
Feel is one of those films that deals with the same subject but through four different separate stories. Sometimes this method of storytelling can be distancing, but if done right it’s actually quite compelling, which is the case with Feel. We follow a rich, married businessman; a mama’s boy obsessed with weight; a recently engaged traveling salesman; and a widowed, senior citizen still missing his wife, to an Asian Massage Parlor specializing in “Happy Endings.” Surprisingly, the movie is not very sexual. Yes, it deals with sexual content, but the real appeal of the film is seeing how such a place can fill the needs of these different men on an emotional level. It’s also great that the female Asian characters have backgrounds and storylines of their own. The dialog is minimal and effective.
At the Q&A I wanted to ask why none of the four male characters were ethnic. After all, I’m reporting for The A-List. But Mahurin did say that each of the men represented a part of himself in different stages of his life and I guess he never had a Black or Latino side. The A-List rating for Feel: B-List.
Tues. night (4/10) went to a see the play Love In The Nick of Tyme (see The A-List review: http://thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2007/04/overseen-overheard-dipping-low-looks.html) so no screenings.
Wed. (4/11) went to see Beyond The Walls--The Road to Redemption, which should be being projected throughout the low-income sections of Philadelphia on a continuous loop. Based on a project that started as a live performance for TOVA artistic projects for social change, project director Teya Sepinuck began working with both victims and perpetrators of violent crime and their families. Allowing them to meet, express, come together and create an impactful dialogue that eventually became a staged performance.
These voices (men, women, children--humans) are able to express a wealth of thoughts and sides to what it means to commit violence and be incarcerated and truly feel the need for redemption. And what it means to have someone taken from you, to know your son died bleeding on a street corner as an unidentifiable Black male…But the stories are not just heartbreaking, more importantly, the stories are hopeful. One cast member talked about how when the piece is performed in inner city schools, the young males respond that it makes them rethink the road they’re on. That they would hate to see their own mothers suffer and feel the pain of their own deaths.
The reason Beyond the Walls is part of the Philadelphia Film Festival--filmmaker Rachel Libert took Sepinuck’s work to the next level turning it into a conceptualized documentary. Although neither Sepinuck nor Libert are of African-American decent, you do not get the impression they are trying to be White saviors. Both come across as quiet conduits for voices that need to be heard. It was a very mixed audience for this screening mostly due to the fact it was preceded by three separate shorts. But the comments at the Q&A expressed how this topic affects everyone, particularly here in Philadelphia, where we’re totaling 111 homicides since January and counting. A-List rating for Beyond Walls: A+-List.
Thurs. (4/12) Feeling a relapse coming on, decided to call it an early night---No screenings. Although, my background as a Cabaret Hostess led me to be interested in the film La Vie En Rose (director Oliver Dahan), a biopic on the life of singer Edith Piaf, I just couldn't find the strength. Unfortunately, it would seems that I missed out...according to a later conversation with a festival attendee on the bus, overhearing a conversation in line at another screening; word of mouth from friends and then it won the Audience Award for best film closing night. Oh well, there’s always Netflix.
Frid. (4/13) A friend simply hates old black and white movies. Mainly because of the campy, rhythmic dialogue, and mellow drama--All of which, I love. All of which, the film The Burglar had in spades! The film stars Dan Duryea and a very young, plump Jayne Mansfield. (Director Paul Wendkos). The plot involves Duryea as the head of a so-called crime organization whose members get antsy while waiting for the heat to die down on a hot necklace they’ve lifted from a rich occultist. More trouble ensues while being pursued by a crooked cop. The film was shot in Philadelphia and Atlantic City in 1957, making it the 50th Anniversary of it’s screening. Irv Slifkin, author of Filmadellphia (a book that celebrates all movies made in or around the Philadelphia area), was on hand for a Q&A after the film. A-List for The Burglar rating: B-List.
Sat. (4/14) One of the specialty items at The Philadelphia Film Festival is the Set In Philadelphia Screen Writing Contest and Pitch Fest. The only real criteria for submitting a screenplay is that it take place in the city. And if your screenplay goes nowhere as far as the SIP readers are concerned, it doesn’t stop a writer from auditioning to pitch it in front of Industry Execs at Pitch Fest. Two years ago, my writing partner and I earned 1 of 10 spots to pitch our Screenplay The Club. The format is nothing like taking a lunch at The Ivy to discuss your ideas and themes. Instead, you and your screenplay are scrutinized in front of the panel and an audience of 75-100 people. SIP also hosts other panel discussions during the day preceding Pitch Fest. This year, one on Film Editing the other, Creative Decision Making for Screenwriters.
Following Pitch Fest, was another screening: Snow Cake (director Marc Evans). The film features Alan Rickman as a withdrawn, newly released prisoner, having served time for murder. And Sigourney Weaver as a functioning autistic. Not wanting to give away the plot that brings these two characters together, I’ll just say, the strange friendship that ensues is both hilarious and heartfelt. Carrie-Anne Moss rounds out the cast as Rickman’s wanton love interest. The strength of this film lies in the telling; it feels as if you read about the story in the newspaper and then were able to go follow up on the outcome of those involved. There are moments when you question Weaver’s character being so childlike one moment and so dead on articulate the next, but I’m certainly no authority on autism. A-List rating for Snow Cake: A-List.
By this time I noticed it was time for dinner and decided to head to Brasil’s in Olde City for Brazilian tapas, then since there were no Urban films to choose or ones of African decent that worked in our time frame, I went for the Aboriginal flavor of Ten Canoes (director Rolf de Heer).
I should have learned a lesson at the Toronto Film Festival to be wary of some Native-type films after suffering through The Journals of Knud. However, Ten Canoes description sounded like an Australian, Outback Soap Opera. The film tells the story of a younger brother who covets the third wife of his older brother. The beat of the film is light-hearted, but it’s a long drawn out tale without much pay off in the end. A-List rating for Ten Canoes: C-List.
Sun. (4/15) Sleet and hail kept me from venturing out to City Center.
Mon. (4/16) Life & Lyrics (director Richard Laxton, writer Ken Williams) is a look into the 20-something, British Hip-Hop scene. The English answer to 8 Mile is part of the film’s description--accurate considering the main plot of the movie is lyrical sparring as a competition. A series of B plots take place involving members of Motion Crew & their musical rivals Hard Cash Crew. Things get personal and dangerous between the two groups when jealousy erupts over Carmen, a singer from the right side of the tracks, putting Law School above music. Carmen’s hot for Danny, DJ from Motion Crew, but the DJ from Hard Cash Crew’s been macking on her from way back. The actress playing Carmen (Alexis Rodney), a sultry, brown sista with a realness to her acting, was a highlight. Fans of movies like 8 Mile and Get Rich Or Die Tryin' , should add Life & Lyrics to their playlist. A-List rating: B-List.
Tues. (4/17) Accidentally went to the wrong theater and really didn’t want to see what was playing there, would have been too late to get to the correct theater, so called it a night.
Wed. (4/18) Closing night ceremonies--clips of the award-winning films chosen both by the jurors and the audiences are shown. Some filmmakers were present to accept their awards. Unfortunately, none of the films we screened came close to winning. To see a list of the Best Festival picks go to the website: http://www.phillyfests.com/.
The Closing night movie was Waitress (writer/director Adrienne Shelly). The main character Jenna played by Kerri Russell ("Felicity") waitresses and creates fabulous pies at a diner in a little nothing town. She’s pregnant and married to a stupid, bully of a man, and she’s miserable. No, it doesn’t sound like go run and see it, but yes, see it! There’s a line where someone describes Jenna’s pies as Biblically good. And I’d say in a way, so is the movie. It’s got a feel to it that’s a mixture of Fried Green Tomatoes, Little Miss Sunshine, Chocolat, and the classic sitcom "Alice. " A-List rating for Waitress: A-List.
The 16th Philadelphia Film Festival organizers, sponsors, etc… should be proud of their accomplishments. This festival may not bring in as many big name stars as it should, but the ticket prices are kept low and the film choices are high. --Le Anne Lindsay
24th ANNUAL ASCAP POP MUSIC AWARDS, Kodak Theatre, L.A.
More than 850 songwriters, recording artists and music industry leaders gathered at the 24th Annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Kodak Theatre to salute the songwriters behind some of today's most popular music. Awards were also presented to the songwriters and publishers of ASCAP's most performed pop songs of 2006. And The A-List was in the house. Here's what went down.
Arriving early to the event around 5:15 pm. They began allowing the press and other attendees into the event around 6 pm, with a showtime set for 7 pm. Sitting the the press area, I noticed the arrival of the man of the hour...Jermaine Dupri (JD) about 10-15 minutes into the show. In he walked through a side entrance with a cocked-to-the-side white baseball hat. Back to the show--it was nicely done, even if it lacked spark, star power and not much buzz from the crowd.
The live performances were lackluster but professional and on point. Most of the attendees in the audience got a rise whenever the host announced the winners for various awards i.e. their names--James "Jizzal Man" Johnson or Don "Cheese" Smith. (Now who's momma would allow their son to go out of the house with a nickname like "Jizzal Man"?) JD did take away six awards, including Songwriter of the Year honors which he shared with Johntá Austin (pictured here with JD) each penning six songs.
Beyoncé, Sean Paul, and Justin Timberlake were also among the multiple award winners.
During the night we bumped into Chingy; who seemed real cool. Kelly Clarkson was there to pick up a few awards. She's not your typical stick girl. She is curvacuous. Also, Nick Lachey performed. Yo... the brotha can sing! He had chops. Chamillionaire was there too...and he looks every bit like his Website. The place was perhaps 65 to 70% filled.
An interesting aside: We were standing there in the vestibule having a few drinks and hor'douves when suddenly famed and infamous music manager Maurice Starr appears... He looked down at one of hosts who was serving complimentary food and said, "Next time get some soul food in this mf'ing place." Maurice glanced at me perplexed and walked off. Maybe you would have to be there to get the full effect, because Maurice is a big ol' collard green Mississippi lookin' brutha--and he was walking around in a get-up at the event in a black suit, red shirt and with a '70s version cap that was once made famous by the Skipper on "Gilligan's Island" or by the Captain from the pop duo, Captain and Tennille.
To paraphrase an Ice Cube song..."It was (still) a good day." --Walt Thompson
ALL IN THE NAME OF GOD, Diamond Film
All In The Name Of God (http://www.allinthenameofgod.com/), the controversial indie documentary scheduled for release this spring will either have Black folks singing “praises” and “amens” or to shouts of “blasphemy” and “you’re hell bound.” Which chorus you’ll hear in your world will probably wholly depends on where you sit on Sunday mornings. If a church pew is your Sunday ritual, well you’ll probably be shocked, upset and angry, while if you spend the 7th day catching up on the week’s backlog, relaxing and only remembering church because it’s Easter and your daughter wants to go then, you’re probably gonna be nodding your head in agreement.
Focusing on cleric abuse, the film features is straight talk from bishops, pastors, politicians, Bible scholars, lay people, as well as victims was directed, written and produced by African-American filmmaker Lance Gibson, who is making his directorial debut.
Is All In The Name Of God polarizing, well can HELL and yeah! To expose people (ministers), pretending to be God is deep and publicly acknowledging that group of people (congregations), believe that their minister has a speedier dial to Jesus than they do is deeper. But, having African American’s willingly expose this dirty piece of Sunday’s laundry on film is deepest!
Whether you sit on a pew or sit on a couch come Sunday, All In The Name Of God provides the kind of provoking thinking we all should do. A-List rating: B list.
--Dan K. Williams
KILLER OF SHEEP, Milestone Films
There are very few films in the history of movie making that leaves you speechless once the images fade to black. Killer of Sheep, with its gritty haunting images of Watts in Los Angeles in the late 70s, is one of those films.
Killer of Sheep centers around the character Stan, a sheep slaughter house worker, played by accomplished actor Henry G. Sanders, and his family struggling with everyday life in the ghetto. It's an honest and painful visual description of everyday life of a Black family in the ghetto. The story is sophisticated and the images are poignant and powerful, 30 years later, as it raises the question "has much really changed for Blacks in America?"
Most of the cast were armature actors but their performances were so riveting it could give many accomplished actors a run for their money. The movie was originally submitted by director/writer Charles Burnett as his first feature and as his thesis for his MFA in film at UCLA. It was shot on location in Watts in a series of weekends on a budget around $10,000, most of which was grant money. When finished, it was shown sporadically and its reputation grew and grew until it won a prize at the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival. Now finally, through a new distribution deal Killer Of Sheep is being shown across the country.
SHOUT OUT TO DAN WILLIAMS IN NYC, LE ANNE LINDSAY HOLDIN' IT DOWN IN PHILLY, AND OUR L.A. CONTRIBUTORS WALT THOMPSON AND ANTHONY DAVIS.