74: BET Awards'07/ASCAP Awards
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OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
BROADWAY, BABY...Talk about a tease. We were all set--with notepad and pen poised in hand--to attend a special press conference in NYC at the Palace Theatre in which Spike Lee was due to make a major announcement. Well, the press conference got canceled--but the news didn't. Lee is taking on Broadway. He will team up with with producer Michael Abbott for the first revival of Stalag 17, the 1951 comedy-drama about American prisoners of war written by two former P.O.W.s, Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski. The production is scheduled to hit the Great White Way late spring next year and marks the first theatrical production for Lee.
YOU VOTED...Last week, we asked readers to send in their favorite Black film in response to lopsided American Film Institute's list of the greatest films ever. The response was overwhelming. In our last issue (http://thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2007/06/73.html), A-List staffers made their top flick pics--and for the most part you voted for the same ones, but here are a few of your additional choices. She's Gotta Have It (pictured) was a favorite of many. And one reader, with access to screenings says, "Although it doesn't hit theatres until next month, the upcoming Focus Feature Talk to Me (see review below) starring Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor will certainly go down as a favorite for a great many loves of African-themed cinema." And, Juan Roberts of Urban Christian Entertainment writes: "I love the Spike Lee triumph, Malcolm X. I can think of no other Black film that captured my imagination, appeased my sensibilities, fit my expectations, confirmed my beliefs and solidified my enjoyment of cinematic storytelling. Don't get me wrong, I love certain Oscar Micheaux series, Carl Franklin episodes, Antoine Fuqua's fierceness and even Bruckheimer's or Speilberg's peeks into our African American experience. I just love Malcolm X--script, casting, audio, production design, wardrobe, lighting, pacing and layers." AFI: Take note, there are numerous Black films deserving to be named one of the greatest.
BIG SHOES TO FILL...Talk about a career-changing role. Although Morgan Freeman has won an Oscar and turned in countless riveting performances, we're sure his upcoming film might pose a challenge. As everyone knows, earlier this week it was reported that he has just signed on to play Nelson Mandela in a biopic to be produced by Freeman's own production company, Revelations Entertainment. The Human Factor will be based on an upcoming book The Human Factor: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Changed the World by journalist/author John Carlin. Production is expected to begin early 2008. We, for one, can't wait to see The Human Factor.
FAMILY REUNION...Guess Angela Bassett hasn't been reading all the criticism of Tyler Perry latley. She has signed on to co-star in Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns (Lionsgate), adapted by Perry from his stage play Meet the Browns. Bassett will play Brenda, a single mom from Chicago who travels to Georgia for the funeral of her father, whom she never met. The film is slated for a Nov. 16 release. Maybe Bassett can, as Beyonce sings, "upgrade" it.
A CHANGE IS COMING...To industry watchers, Radio One would seem to be experiencing grave financial trouble. This week the company reported a 71% decline in profit for the first quarter of the year, compared with the corresponding period in 2006. But the company says, no worries. It's all part of an new urban market structure they are putting into place. And our insiders say to expect big things--and big profits--from the company in the near future.
HIP HOP HOLLYWOOD
HIP HOP IN THE HOUSE...Didn't get to see the Hip-Hop doc Rock The Bells, which we told y'all about last year (http://thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2006/07/28-rock-bells.html)? Well, it's hitting the DVD market on July 31. The film covers the goings on at the Rock The Bells festival in San Bernardino, Ca., and features performances by Redman, Dilated Peoples, MC Supernatural, Sage Francis, Eyedea + Abilities, Chali 2na and DJ NuMark. Producers were not available for comment as we sought to find out exactly what happened with their push to get this out theatrically before a DVD release. Might this come under "the best laid plans..."?
THE BET AWARDS '07, L.A.
We came, we saw, we conquered.
Yup, the BET Awards '07 took place earlier this week folks; and while we are sure you caught it live or gave that job to your TIVO, naturally The A-List was behind-the-scenes drinking it all in.
A balmy evening near the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles kicked it off; and in the midst of black mini-vans, limos and pedestrians the scene was serenely calm and well-organized. Hats off to Pierre Cossette, executive producer of Cossette Productions, who seem to pull off things without a hitch whether handling the live outside pre-hype (where "Party Like a Rock Star" roared) to up-to-the second live telecast performances inside the venue.
While it may be a stretch sometimes to go all the way to "Best Athlete" and all; the awards show does in fact do a nice job of lining up talent who will please everyone from young heads to grandmothers. And Mo'Nique is just really the icing on the cake. Commanding, yet not arrogant, whoever suggested her initially should really be kissed. And it looks like some of those much-needed Viacom dollars are being put to good use. The set and lighting was about a 1,000 times more rich and vibrant, rather than ubiquitous neon blue of last year. (Although in the media room, next year someone has simply got to just got to check those cable and audio wires much more closely or just schedule the awards when Mercury is not in retrograde.)
On stage, highlights as you are aware, included the two Jennifers (Hudson and Holiday) performing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" together for the first time and naturally it was hard to hold back tears on the Gerald Levert tribute featuring Patti LaBelle (pictured left). But we just wonder why we are still talking and celebrating Gnarls Barkley, who must have wondered the same thing so much that they didn't even show up.
Behind-the-scenes Joe Clair pumped up the soon-to-be unleashed variety/game show hybrid "Take The Cake" (which sounds like either it will be a stroke of genius or a smorgasbord upset), while Charlie Murphy commented on the use of the "N" word while looking fly behind designer shades. For those who also might not know, we got a tip from Doug E. Fresh that he is going to be doing a film soon with Spike Lee, as well. Really we could just go on all night about the awards and the schmooze-fest around them, but that would just take up far too much space, Dear Reader. The important thing is: It's cool that BET consistently puts this together, and even more importantly, it's finally starting to come off more and more professionally each year.
Congrats to the network. --Photos by Philippe Certa
(pictured: TI at the BET Awards)
SO SO DEF-ISLAND URBAN AWARDS CELEBRATION, L.A.
It was an afterparty--Jermaine Dupri style. This invitation-only party took over the Hollywood Highlands. One of many star-studded events happening around town post the BET Awards, it was sponsored by Courvoisier. The drinks were flowing, and celebs were partying it up. Between sips on our cocktails, we spied Charlie Murphy (left) and Tocarra (who both have BET shows in the wings) in the house. Biz Markie manned the 1s and 2s, spinning some of the best old and new school tunes we've heard in a long time. We'll give Dupri this: He knows how to throw a party. --words/photo by Anthony Davis
June 25 was definitely a starry nite in L.A. Surrounded by Hip-Hop and R&B celebs, we were tempted to pull out our shades to keep from being blinded by all the bling. And having arrived early at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, we had a prime spot to see all the arrivals for this year's ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards.
Jimmy Jam, Akon, Crystal Waters (left), Mary J. Blige (right), Ne-yo, Michelle Williams, Akon (bottom right) and a playful Biz Markie were a few of the stars strutting down the red carpet. Even the newest American Idol, Jordin Sparks (looking like a seasoned celeb in a flashy red Marilyn Monroe-style dress), walked through. In fact, more than 500 songwriters, recording artists and music industry leaders gathered at the Hotel not only for the 20th anniversary of the awards but also to honor Blige, who received the ASCAP Voice of Music Award, the most prestigious honor given in recognition of artist and songwriters whose music irradiate people's lives through song. Mary J. looked centered and beautiful, as she gracefully poised for the cameras. Music icons such as Patrice Rushen, Narada Michael Walden and legendary songwriter Lamont Dozier also represented to our delight.
Having only had access to the to the red carpet, we can't tell you exactly what happened inside. (Ah, the life of a mere journalist.) But we do know that Mary J also received an award for Songwriter of the Year along with Johnta Austin for "Be Without You" and "Enough Cryin'." Jermaine Dupri took one home for "Don't Forget About Us." Soundtrack of the Year Award was for "Check On It" from The Pink Panther by Beyoncé featuring Slim Thug written by Angela Beyince, Beyoncé, Sean Garrett, Swizz Beatz, Henry Mancini; and Best Rap Song went to "It's Goin' Down" by Yung Joc written by Nitti.
Once the final entertainers made their walk, we packed it up and headed home. Hopefully, next year we''ll get VIP access and bring you the full story. --words/photos by A.D.
YOLANDA JOHNSON BRINGS COOL SOUL TO HOT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
The A-List got a chance to experience the immense talents of BETJ's Soul Sessions Breakthrough Artist of the Year Yolanda Johnson when she performed live in L.A. at the Temple Bar, June 29th. With her five-piece band and three backup singers, Johnson rocked the house in front of an enthusiastic and supportive crowd. She sang five cuts from her new CD Violet Flower. Goldie, from the hit VH1 series "Charm School/Flava of Love," hosted the event. She's fun on the show, but not much of a stand-up comic. Also performing was BET's Artist of the Month Frank McComb. A great show, and we're sure we'll be seeing more of the BET picks--though we can't say the same of Goldie's standup act. --words/photo by A.D.
TALK TO ME (Focus Features)
Talk To Me. Damn, what a movie! A biopic about an outspoken Black male radio jock in DC, it is full of vision, dimension and a perfect depiction of the roller coaster ride of the '60s in America. A mixture of comedy, music and drama with perplexity, this film works on several levels.
The characters in Talk To Me, starring Academy Award nominee Don Cheadle as Petey” Green, could easily have been defined by simple stereotypes and marketing, but director Kasi Lemmons took this piece of cinema somewhere else. “Petey” Green and Dewey Hughes (played by double Golden Globe Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor) along with his over the top girlfriend Vernell (Taraji P. Henson) are absoluting engagaing . What a beautiful and profound thing it is to see complex characters that “live.” The '60s feel honest. King’s death and the aftermath are profoundly real; and like Lemmons has said “there are moments that make the hair stand on the back of your neck.”
Talk To Me can't be stamped as soley a "Black" film; it delivers an honest sense of the human condition in a very realistic way.
Will the movie make it? Will it resonate with the younger gereation? But if African Americans want the powers-that-be to take us seriously as a market, maybe we should find time to see this film. Rating: The A-List. --dan k. williams
THE A-LIST REMEMBERS
African-American film critic/journalist Anderson Jones, 38, died last week in L.A. after suffering a fatal heart attack. Jones, a former critic for E online, CNN Headline News and TNT's Roughcut, suffered a major coronary prior to a film screening of A Mighty Heart at the ArcLight Cinema and died shortly thereafter. Jones had been struggling with health issues in recent years. Our condolences to friends and family.