Friday, October 09, 2009



GOOD HAIR, Dir. Jeff Stilson


Opening: Oct. 9, 2009

Chris Rock's Good Hair provides such a new national seat at the table of beauty that to analyze it on only one level would be completely remiss. Thus, let's pull off wig.

Written by Chris Rock, Jeff Stilson, Lance Crouther and Chuck Sklar, Good Hair was produced by Nelson George, Rock and Kevin O‟Donnell.

First on the cinematic level, do not look for any breakthroughs here. Good Hair looks like it can't decide whether it wants to be a renegade, gritty docu or a more theatrical piece. The film straddles between the two and sometimes distracts from the actual message and topic. Good Hair is not necessarily cohesive as one may want offering the more seamless driving intention of, say, The September Issue that the viewer is craving. It seems this might be due in part to the level of expertise in this particular realm from the key producers and the director, Jeff Stilson, a TV comedy writer/producer.

The editing can be a bit jarring at times. The juxtaposition between the antics of the Bronner Bros. annual hair show and celebrity views just doesn't always flow smoothly. It's such an intriguing topic that it really needs more of a true center, an anchor. What, one asks, is our exact journey's goal here and why? However, one cannot help but state that there are some extremely funny, funny scenes in this film which Rock's natural comedic genius seems to coax out of the subjects--not to mention that some of these stylists need not much coaxing! There is a no holds-barred approach, which is refreshing, yet unfortunately at times, one-sided. When dealing with such a psycho-social issue, a documentary such as this almost begs for input from the usual suspects such as Dr. Cornel West and others. There is not the deep introspection that the viewer yearns for aside from Rock's analysis (which, fine for the film, but becomes truly troubling particularly when watching him on the rounds of the late-night talks shows where he proclaims that Black women are doing this in all to "look White." Not having any formal training or study in the true psychological drive behind all this, it is a dangerous stance that he takes and should be pointed out by his management. Given so little has been discussed about the topic (and maybe the only exposure that perhaps the White Leno viewer might get), caution is the way here.)

The film is also a bit dated because all true hair fiends know that salons from L.A. to New York to Paris are on the "healthy" hair movement and encouraging their clients to go the flat iron/straightening comb root from relaxer. Also, with the explosion of lace wigs, there was nary (a nod to that market trend!)

And for all the beautiful, upscale Black hair care salons that stylists have sacrificed to create; Why oh why didn't we get to see any of those? But kudos to Andre Harrell for his curiosity on "White" hair, but it is unfortunate that it wasn't explained further. Gwyneth's former extensions, Sarah Jessica Parker's exaggerated ones, Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton's clip-ins, Victoria Beckhams flatiron obsession also point to something interesting as well: and it would hardly mean that they want to be White--if you haven't noticed, they are. This is more about playing with appearance, defining what feels sexual and feminine to an individual and being able to take control of it proudly.

The film misses the fact that changing hair texture or length - similar to dying one's hair, changing nail color or wearing stilettos is not necessarily a form of self-hatred but perhaps self-expression. Not necessarily a barrier to intimacy but rather part of the process to get to intimacy. But then, if there were any seasoned women of note asked to be producers on Good Hair, we may not have the product we have. Which brings us to the final point: The lawsuit. This cannot help but cloud Rock's "innovative" film a bit. Inquiring minds want to know if this is actually true? (Full disclosure: the writer frequents Regina Kimbel's salon when in LA yet had no knowledge of this until the digital reports earlier this week). We will, naturally, leave this for the court's to decide; but what would it ultimately mean if the concept were stolen? Paraphrasing Al Sharpton's comments in the film: if Black women can't even control the images about their own hair and profit from those images, then we are wearing our gender oppression daily.

All in all, a must-see so that you can take part in the national conversation on this from having actually seen the film yourself. RATING: B+. --The A-List

Wednesday, April 01, 2009



WENDY GETS GREENLIGHT....Just got word that The Wendy Williams Show will debut on Fox July 13. This comes following her six-week pilot last summer on Fox, which says Deirdre Dod, the show's talent exec, that "there were days when the show got higher ratings than Oprah and was the highest rated show on Fox, which includes prime time!" Even though the infamous gossip diva was recenlty suspended from her radio show, we're sure she'll bring the heat to Fox.

BET GOES ABROAD...BET has been busy making deals. Just recently the network inked a deal with Image Entertainment, Inc. (, a leading independent licensee, producer and distributor of home entertainment programming in North America. The two companies signed a multi-year agreement as part of the network's expansion into international markets. Under the deal, BET International will acquire the broadcast rights to Image's entire catalog of Urban titles--which include "Jamie Foxx: Unleashed," "Letter to the President," "Notorious B.I.G.: Bigger Than Life," "Love For Sale," and "Tupac Shakur: The Life of an Outlaw"--for airing in the U.K. and Africa. BET International will also acquire the broadcast rights to about 30 new Urban titles per year. Good move on BET's part to seek content from elsewhere; many of their original shows aren't global ready.

IN THE GAME...While many other networks are cutting back on shows, the Black Broadcasting Network ( has announced the addition of three new shows. The network is adding sports to it's programming mix. Black College Sports, Ringside Boxing and Premier Basketball League will all be available in full HD to viewers when the network launches later this year. Says Yusef F. Muhammad, BBN's President, "Including these programs in our lineup reflects Black Broadcasting Network's commitment to providing quality, best-in-class content for our viewers. Since a wide variety of sports play an important role in young viewer's lives, we want to make sure that we offer them a diverse line up of programs to enjoy - all in thrilling HD." Black Broadcasting Network is a 24/7, ad-supported multiplatform network targeting the 18-34 Urban African-American viewer.

GEARING UP...Black Television News Channel (BTNC), which is scheduled to launch the nation's only African-American news network in 2010, has eached out to Black-owned ad agency Carol H. Williams Advertising (CHWA). CHWA will be a minority stakeholder in the new network, and will exclusively handle BTNC's advertising, marketing and PR services. BTNC ( will construct the first coast-to-coast all HD television newsgathering providing 24/7 cable news programming dedicated to covering the African-American community.

HITTING THE ROAD...Oprah must like getting punk'd. She's teamed up with Ashton Kutcher's production company to produce a travel show for her new network, OWN. The series, "Excellent Adventure," is built around "a celebrity [as yet unnamed] and their best friend as they embark on the adventure they have always dreamed of taking together," according to press materials. While it sounds a lot like the televised road trip O and her best friend, Gayle, took in 2006, with Kutcher involved there has to be a twist. When we find out what it is, we'll let you know.

CALL TO DIVERSITY...The folks over at NBC Universal want to get the word out about the studio's diversity initiatives. As part of this, the Short Cuts Festival just announced their call for submissions from minority writers and filmmakers. Winners receive a bold awards package, including the opportunity to create an NBC Universal pilot and a special directorial assignment from the Sci Fi Channel. The efforts are headed up by NBC's Director of Talent Diversity Kendra Carter.

LAUGH IN...It's time again for the next installment of the Starz original stand-up comedy series "Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Stand-up." The show just taped at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C. "Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Stand-up" is executive produced by Lawrence. Now in its fourth season, the weekly series will feature 35 comedians who take the spotlight to tell it like it is in their own hard-hitting style. Hosted by comedian Doug Williams, it featured Rickey Smiley, Nephew Tommy, Thea, Talent Harris, Kid Reid, Gary Owen, Rich Vos, Deon Cole, Ray Lipowski, Brooklyn Mike, Jonathan Gates, and many others.

DVD ALERT... Dough Boys hits the shelves on June 16th. Starring Arlen Escarpeta ( We Are Marshall), Wood Harris (“The Wire”), Reagan Gomez-Preston (Beauty Shop), Cory Hardrict (Gran Torino), Maurice McRae (The King), Lorenzo Eduardo (The Hammer) and Sticky Fingaz (“Blade: The Series”). It was directed by Nicholas Harvell and the writer/producer was Preston A. Whitmore II (This Christmas, Doing Hard Time, Crossover). In the urban drama, four determined young men struggle to escape the pull of the streets. BET and Paramount Home Entertainment are distributing the DVD, which marked the feature film debut of director Harvell. Dough Boys is the first film to emerge from Give Back Raise Up, a program founded by Whitmore to fund independent films and give up-and-coming directors, actors and filmmakers the opportunity to utilize their creative skills. Whitmore has pledged to continue to finance and produce low-budget pictures to provide a showcase for talented newcomers both in front and behind the camera...Universal Studios Home Entertainment celebrates the 20th Anniversary of Do the Right Thing with an all-new special edition DVD on June 30th. Digitally re-mastered and featuring all-new 5.1 Surround Sound, the DVD is loaded with over four hours of revealing bonus material, including a never-before-seen retrospective documentary with cast and crew, a new feature commentary from director Spike Lee, and newly discovered deleted and extended scenes.

FCC ANNOUNCEMENTPresident Obama: has named a Black woman as FCC Commissioner. Mignon Clyburn will head the Federal Communications Commission, an agency in charge of regulating television, radio, satellite, cable, and telegraph communications in the United States. As a commissioner, Clyburn will be instrumental in renewing or declining licenses to broadcasting stations as well as issuing fines.Clyburn was a member of the South Carolina Public Service Commission and publisher and general manager of The Coastal Times, a weekly newspaper in Charleston. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina.-WLW


BANNER DEBUT...David Banner has signed on to star in the upcoming thriller The Confidant. Produced by former Miss USA Kenya Moore, Banner plays Jackson, a talented art major on full academic scholarship. When his best friend and college football star Nigel (Boris Kodjoe) mistakenly kills a man in a gambling dispute, Jackso forms a pact with childhood friend to beat the charge. Under their agreement, Nigel promises that Jackson will be taken care o financially once released. However, Banner’s character becomes twisted in prison, and upon his release he plots to take over his former friend’s life, starting with the illicit seduction of his lonely wife. Richard Roundtree also stars in the film. The project is slated to be the first motion picture under Moore’s Moore Vision Media company. Principal shooting begins in May, with a tentative release time for Fall 2009.


Check out what happened at Philly Cinefest09. Click Here for Philly Film Festival highlights.


The Tribeca Film Festival 2009 has come and gone. While, this year TFF seemed abbreviated in tempo, maybe because the schedule was leaner, in part due to current economics, the schedule included 85 features and 46 shorts , way down from previous years. This year's content was still pronounced and generally inclusive. The lineup included works from esteem local directors such as Spike Lee with two documentaries: Passing Strange and Kobe Doin' Work, and Woody Allen's world premiere of Whatever Works, serving as instant attention-getters. But as we allknow, film festivals are the hot beds for new concepts and emerging artist as TFF is on the cutting edge here.As usual there were the sightings and interactions. New Yorkers for the most were unraveled ou know it was just Robert DeNiro, Spike Lee, David Bowie, Deborah Harry, Edie Falco and many more. But hey wait was this just a weekend in SoHo?, nah... this was Tribeca --Tribeca Film festival!! But let's get to the details.

The festival entries addressed issues as diverse as the hypocrisy of gay politicians (Kirby Dick's documentary Outrage); an Iranian drama about a group of old college friends who reunite for a weekend adventure on the sea (Asghar Farhadi's About Elly), a black and white documentary about hunger in Brazil (Garapa by Jose Padilha); Soul Power, a film about the three-day concert that preceded the 1974 Kinshasa, Zaire boxing fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. Which were only two films with explicitly African themes at this year, and a litany of others in between. Below are a series of reviews that gives a broad overview of the festival.

1. Garapa, -documentary- directed by Jose Padilha: Addresses an issue that is quickly becoming central to the human condition, hunger. Padiha confronts this topic up close and personal. He shots three families as if it were his family with video home style in 16mm black and white. The result is haunting, disturbing and in the end effective. It begs us to look into our "soul" and ask is this what we would want for our "family" or even more it profoundly begs the question "Who is your family?"

2. Soul Power, produced by Leon Gast is essentially a belated follow-up to Gast's 1996 Oscar-winning documentary When We Were Kings. The question: Why is it only one of two African theme films in the whole festival? Not to get it wrong the film offers a vibrant and articulate eye on what happened in Zaire prior to the Ail/Forman fight in 1974.

3. Outrage -documentary- directed by -Kirby Dic is incendiary because he asks a couple basic questions many of us Americans tend to have issues with--How honest do I need to be?, How rich and famous do I want to become? and finally What is my sexuality? These questions combined tend to put a lot of us in a tailspin. Honesty seems to be "self" perceived, so does truth and reality. What happens when our self-perception conflicts with our public persona and we are asked for an explanation? Kirby seems to ask- "who are you true to?" Such an ugly but awesome deal.

4 . About Elly by Asghar Farhadi is an Iranian mystery addressing the culture of deceit in modern, middle-class day Iran is both visually and mentally appealing. Think about it like this- what if you created a movie that affected your culture but they could not view it due to political controls. Farhadi is brilliant and brave for keeping true to his truth. The question is, can we see that truth and use it pro-actively. This film also won "Best Narrative Feature."

5. The Last Mermaids (by Liz Chae) is a documentary short that lasts only 19 minutes, and what 19 minutes they are. It speaks of the women of Jeju Island, who generation after generation have survived by becoming Haenyo (women sea divers). These defiant women have for 2,000 years, fought men, governments, and armies to protect their right to make a living from the sea. Now they want the tradition to stop. These are The Last Mermaids.

These five films encapsulates what Tribeca prides itself on. -Worldwide diversity and understanding. --dan k williams


Actor Jesse Martin shopping at the Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa.

Clint Eastwood directing his latest film starring Morgan Freeman on the Waterfront in Cape Town.
The A List will be on hiatus. Thank you to our readers and our vaulable writers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Issue #124


LET'S GET BUSY...TBS is getting a little more flava. The network just announced a deal with George Lopez. The actor/comedian will helm a late-night talk show--one that should make Arsenio Hall proud. Lopez says he wants the show to have a spontaneous, street-party atmosphere. If Lopez lives up to his promises and TBS properly promotes the show, they could have a winner on his hands. Late-night fare has been screaming for some color since Hall left the building.

NPR'S MEA CULPA?...National Public Radio is saying it's sorry it axed the last of its African-American shows. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller recently announced that it canceled "News & Notes" because too few stations carried the Black news program. But, she added, that all other NPR shows will now "reflect the full spectrum of our listenership, or our potential listenership...we need to make sure that we are constantly thinking about a diversity of audience. So rather than having a special program that is just for African Americans or a special program that is just for Latino listeners, we needed to be represented in the fabric of everything that we do." While diversity in coverage across the board is a no-brainer, some might say this is a cop out from NPR in not putting funding into a show that could truly offer news and views from a Black perspective.

IMAGE ONLY...According to a recent report by the Associated Press, Madison Avenue in the age of Obama is already producing commercials projecting diversity and racial harmony. From Pepsi's newest spot "Refresh Anthem" to E Trade's latest commercial featuring its usual White baby and now a Black infant, the ad world is being more inclusive. But The A-List wants to ask: How many ad dollars are being spent in Black media outlets? How many creatives of color are being used?

HERE HE COMES AGAIN...It doesn't look like Tyler Perry is going to go away any time soon--or that filmgoers will tire of his Madea schtick. Hot on the heels of the success of Madea Goes to Jail, which has grossed more than $66 million in North America thus far, Perry just begun work on his next project. I Can Do Bad All By Myself, based on Perry's play of the same name, is shooting at his newly opened studio in Atlanta. Perry, of course will star and Madea will make an appearance, but he's also he's pulled in Oscar-nominated Taraji P. Henson. The Lionsgate flick is to open September 11, after which Perry will film his sequel to 2007's Why Did I Get Married?, a Easter weekend 2010 release.

BEEN THERE...The story of the Tuskegee Airmen has been told and retold. But here's a new twist; singers Ne-Yo and Jazmine Sullivan are set to hit the big screen in yet another movie about the legendary black fighter pilots, Red Tails. Taping starts soon in Prague. Good to see Black history getting film treatment, but why rehash a story that's already been put on reel. There are so many other untold stories of the African-American experience that have yet to be been told.

TRIBECA NEWS...The Tribeca Film Festival announced that the ESPN Films production of Spike Lee’s Kobe Doin’ Work will have its world premiere at the fest on April 25. The flick about Kobe Bryant is sure to attract attention. We'll be there to bring you updated news.

QUICK TAKES...Want to expose your film to the Caribbean moviegoer? Enter the Bridgetown Film Festival, happening June 10-14 this year. For info on how to submit your flick, email or check out the fest's MySpace and Facebook pages. Deadline: April * 30...Make way for another Richard Pryor bio pick. Eddie Murphy will play Pryor and Oscar-winning writer Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) is attached to the project as well. More details on this later...If you haven't heard, David Alan Grier's attempt at satirical news show on The Comedy Channel, "Chocolate News" has been canceled...Just in: Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, and Martin Lawrence are teaming up to do a remake of the British Death at a Funeral. This could be comedy's new dream team...Whoopi Goldberg is one busy lady. "The View" co-host just announced she will joining the A&E drama, "The Cleaner," for a multi-episode part. She'll play the former spouse of Benjamin Bratt's character...If you didn't read the credits on the March 26 episode of "30 ROCK," entitled “Apollo, Apollo,” then you missed that it was directed by Millicent Shelton. You go, girl!


JERSEY IN THE HOUSE...if you're in Newark, check out the Alternate Routes Hip Hop Fest, April 1-4 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. There'll be spoken word jams, open mics and hip hop film screenings--all free. Among the film screenings, which will also include panel discussions, are The Hip Hop Project and The Other Side of Hip Hop: The Sixth Element. For more info, visit

IT'S A BIG DADDY KANE THING...Funny how we recently mentioned the ride of hip-hop bio pics. Now comes word that the life of Big Daddy Kane will make its way to the big screen in the form of a feature-length doc called BDK. The film covers Kane's start growing up in Brooklyn to his rise to success. The film will be directed by Anthony Marshall, co-founder of the famed Lyricist Lounge.


Morgan Freeman filmin' in Cape Town, South Africa, with Matt Damon in a Clint Eastwood-directed film called Human Factor about Nelson Mandela’s attempts to unify the country after apartheid. Freeman stars as Mandela in the Warner Bros. film.

"Law & Order" alum Jesse Martin shootin' a new NBC series in Cape Town entitled "The Philanthropist." The production is actually based in London and filming in South Africa and the Czech Republic.

Lil Wayne and actress Jalene Mack chillin' on the New Orleans set of Hurricane Season, also starring Forest Whitaker, Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson and Bow Wow.

The A-List will go on hiatus following our upcoming coverage of Cannes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Issue #123

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AT THE MOVIES...The Academy of Arts and Sciences have promised a Oscars unlike others in the past. While they are keeping most of the plans hush-hush, they did announce the inclusion of Oscar-nominated writer-director John Singleton. They have tapped the filmmaker to direct the trailer promoting the 81st Academy Awards featuring Oscar host Hugh Jackman. The trailers just started running in more than 11,000 theaters nationwide. Singleton is the first Black filmmaker to create the theatrical buzz for the Oscars. According to an official statement for Academy President Sid Ganis, "The Oscars are a world>wide phenomenon. I'm thrilled that John could work with us to create a powerful spot that will whet movie lovers appetites for a terrific show."

MADEA'S EUROPEAN ADVENTURE?...His movies have already grossed nearly $300 million at U.S. box offices, but Tyler Perry recently told fans in his newsletter that he hasn't been as successful as he'd like. His nagging ambition--to have his Madea series of films take over Europe. Although Hollywood's questionable wisdom claims "Black" films don't sell overseas, is the African-American community really eager for Perry's Christian-themed, slap-stick humor infused films to be representative of Black lifestyle? You tell us what you think.

MADSION AVENUE & RACE...Things are heating up over at the FCC. The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council wants the FCC to extend its broadcast advertising nondiscrimination rule to cable, satellite and telecommunications companies as well. In a recent filing, the group asked the FCC to launch a examination of the issue to "ensure an equal footing for a services in the fight against advertising discrimination." We'll keep you updated on this developing story
NO MORE DRAMA...The Wendy Williams Experience, the nationally syndicated radio show that spawned a TV show, has added a new producer. This comes following a sexual harassment scandal involving the former producer and Williams' husband. Now show newcomer Kenneth Simmons says he plans to "bringing more guests on the show including experts in finance, careers and health in addition to celebrities (lke Ray J)." Says Simmons, who worked for nine years as a senior producer for X Radio Networks before joining Wendy Williams, "The show is more information intensive now." And Simmons gives The A-List a sneak peek for next week's shows "We will examine America's young Black millionaires with Wall Street Journal reporter Lee Hawkins who hosts the CNBC special 'The Rise of America's New Black Overclass.'"


HAMMER GETS MORE TIME...As with many Hip Hop sensations from the past, MC Hammer has made his way back to the limelight--well, to reality TV that is. The A-List just got word he has landed a deal with A&E. And, you guessed the name--"Hammertime." The network is calling the program as an unscripted "Cosby Show," as it covers the family man, church-going version of the '90s rap sensation who brought excess and mega showmanship to the game. The show's going to need a little of that old Hammer magic to make people tune in as this is now the umpteenth show about a rapper and his family.

ALL EYEZ IN COURT...Things are looking dim for the much-talked about Tupac Shakur bio pick. The film about the slain rap legend is caught in a legal web. According to the New York Times, the production company Morgan Creek (Ace Venture Pet Detective, Juwanna Man) is suing Amaru Entertainment, which is run by Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur. According to Morgan Creek, Amaru reneged on an agreement to sell Tupac's life rights for a movie. Amaru's legal rep issued a statement saying, “There is no agreement with Morgan Creek, there never was, and there never will be.” Considering the success the Notorious biopic enjoyed and studios jumping on other hip hop life dramas, it would be a shame if the Tupac project gets stalled indefinitely. Not only would it possible shed more light on the complex life and career of the rapper/actor/activist, but bets are it would be a moneymaker.



According to a spokesperson for President Obama, the Administration will oppose any move to bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine. In an official statement to White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said, Obama "Does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated." This follows the call from several prominent Democratic senators who have called for the policies to be reinstated. Conservative officials opposed attempts of reinstatement, suggesting that the doctrine is an attempt to impose liberal viewpoints in the Conservative media. The Fairness Doctrine was adopted in 1949 and held that broadcasters were obligated to provide opposing points of views on controversial issues of national importance. It was halted under the Reagan administration.


The A-List At The Brit Awards

To sum uo this year's The Brits (the Grammy's of the UK) – it was FANTASTIC!

First, hats off to Havas Media for the invite and our host ITV (the UK's largest, independent TV network and broadcaster of The Brits). We couldn't have had a better table in Earl's Court (a massive venue, think Madison Square Garden) – perched high but close enough to see every thing and every one. Dinner was delivered with surprising precision. Although it was nothing worth mentioning but the champagne made up for that and it flowed all night!

The show was hosted by Kylie Minogue, James Corden and Mathew Horne. Can't remember anything they did or said so we're not sure how strong of a choice they were. U2 opened the show with their latest tune "Get on your boots." While we love U2, I didn't think there was anything fresh about the song or the performance considering their lofty comments about reinventing rock'n'roll. Other performers included Girls Aloud, Coldplay, Duffy, Take That, Kings of Leon and The Ting Tings together with Estelle. The 2009 "Outstanding Contribution to Music Award" winners, Pet Shop Boys, closed the show with a collection of their songs in true British electro dance fashion with help from the U.S sensation Lady Gaga and Brandon Flowers (lead singer of The Killers) – definitely one of the highlights of the evening. Massive '90s boy band and comeback kids, Take That dropped from the ceiling to sing their hit "Greatest Day." But the best performance of the night was the live mash-up between Estelle singing "American Boy" and The Ting Tings performing "Shut and let me Go" and "That's not my Name." Which brings us to a few interesting observations:

  1. JUST LIVE RADIO VERSIONS - Other than the mash-up, every performer sang their song in the EXACT same fashion as it's heard on their CD. Every single note in the exact same arrangement – we could have been listening to the radio! Why not mix it up a little and do something different.
  2. WHERE WERE THE PEOPLE OF COLOR? Estelle was the only Black Brit on stage and only one of three black Brits nominated – Leona Lewis and M.I. A. were the other two. Funny enough, Leona wasn't even nominated for Best British Female. She was right to turn her nose up at the Awards. Honey was only nominated in one category! Granted she had more nominations last year but she didn't win any of them and nothing was different this year. Hey, this is Leona Lewis we're talking about – forget color, she was the fourth highest-selling artist in the UK in 2008 AND first solo British female artist to have a number one hit in the US charts for 21 years. TWENTY–ONE YEARS?!! Her view, according to a source close to the singer, is, "What's the point of getting her glad-rags on if the chances of being recognised on her own soil are slim to none?"

    If you look the UK's top 20 singles chart right now you've got Leona Lewis, Alesha Dixon, Shontelle, Tinchy Stryder and Taio Cruz -all Black Brits. Yes, we know that ethnic minorities only make up 10% of the population in the UK and yes ethnic minorities have an award show of their own, The MOBOs (music of black origin). But voting procedures aside, we can't help but wonder how a country/industry that is consistently churning out White women who sound Black singing soul music (Amy Whinehouse, Joss Stone, Duffy, Adele…) can't seem to find any Black singers singing soul music to promote. Leona Lewis came up through the reality show Pop Idol and Estelle went to Americans to get her #1 single. Guess the Obama Effect hasn't hit the UK yet (not like our financial catastrophe that is).

All that aside, the energy of the crowd was great and all together it was a night we won't soon forget. One other thing we will say, the Brits have figured out is how to keep award shows short and sweet. We're guessing because everyone wants to knock off work and just get to the after-parties – and the Brits do a DAMN good after-party! --words and photo by Melissa Ross

Friday, February 06, 2009

Issue #122

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DIRECT-TO-DIGITAL...William Morris is looking to harness the power of the Internet for its high-profile clients. The mega-talent agency is close to inking a deal with YouTube under which the agency's clients will gain an ownership stake in the videos they create for the Web site. After the ink dries, YouTube will being featuring professionally produced videos by A-list actors, musicians and other WMA stars such as actors Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. This could open up new arenas to actors, producers, screenwriters to create new projects that go directly to the viewing public instead of signing production deals that sometimes go no where. This will also open up greater distribution avenues for creatives of color , who will no longer have to tussle with studios.

ON THE GOOD FOOT...Bio pics, from Notorious to Cadillac Records seem to be Hollywood's latest fancy. Now, Spike Lee has announced his plans to cast Wesley Snipes in a James Brown bio pic. Snipes won't sing, however; Lee says the film will feature the singer's voice in the Paramount Pictures. Although Snipes' last six films were direct-to-video, Lee seems confident the actor, who also stars in Brooklyn's Finest, can pull it off as the Godfather of Soul. With an Inside Man sequel in the works as well as a doc on Michael Jackson, Lee could be called the hardest working man in show business.

TBS HEARTS PERRY...TBS is sold on another Tyler Perry sitcom. "Meet The Browns" just debuted on the network Jan. for a 10-episode run, and already TBS has ordered for 80 more episodes. The reason: The first two episodes marked cable's second-highest premiere for an original sitcom behind only "Perry's House of Payne," also on TBS. "Meet The Browns" is also television's number-one scripted series among African-American viewers. And, according to Broadcast & Cable, the show ranked as ad-supported cable's top comedy in January among adults 18-49 and adults 25-54, averaging 3.4 million viewers. Like Perry's creations or not, he has developed a knack for raking in ad dollars--a tough job in this economy. The test will be if other non-Perry urban TV fare can duplicate the formula.

QUICK TAKES...Despite the layoff and budget pullbacks, the industry is buzzing with new projects--many of them featuring Black talent and creatives. Among them, an underground fighting drama entitled Blood and Bone, starring actor Michael Jai White (left). The flick was just picked up by Sony Picutres Worldwide Acquisitions Group. White plays an ex-con who takes the underground fighting world by storm in his quest to fulfill a promise to a dead friend. Eamonn Walker, Julian Sands, Nona Gaye and Mixed Martial Arts fighter Kimbo Slice; Ben Ramsey (Love and a Bullet) also star...Outspoken NFL star Terrell Owens is putting all the drama that surrounds him to good use. He just landed a VH1 reality show. Exec produced by Evan Prager and Jesse Ignjatovic for Den of Thieves (MTV Music Video Awards 2008), the show will follow Owens around during his daily life...The A-List told you it was going to happen ( Now, it's official. Christina Norman has been named Chief Executive Officer of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. Norman will be located at the company's Los Angeles headquarters..."The Game" is going into overtime. The series was just canceled by the CW, but BET Networks has acquired rights to air series. "The Game" is a production of Happy Camper Productions and Grammnet Productions in association with CBS Paramount Network Television. Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier," "Girlfriends"), creator Mara Brock Akil ("Girlfriends," "Moesha," "The Jamie Foxx Show"), Kenny Smith ("One on One," "The Jamie Foxx Show") and Steve Stark serve as executive producers.

OFF-SCREEN DRAMA...The A-List predicted that director Lee Daniels' Push was going to cause quite the stir ( In addition to the accolades the film, starring Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, and Sherri Sherpard, is getting, Lionsgate recently acquired North American distribution rights to the intriguing drama. Push, which is based on the novel by Sapphire, won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, only the third film in Sundance Film Festival history to do so. Awards aside, the film is involved in a drama all its own. Lionsgate Films and The Weinstein Co. have just filed lawsuits in L.A. and New York, both claiming they had an agreement with producers to distribute the film. The Weinstein Co. claims it had a "firm agreement" with the film's producers and that Lionsgate interfered. Meanwhile, Lionsgate claims the producers signed a written agreement and is seeking a ruling that it owns the rights to distribute the movie in the U.S. and Canada. Weinstein is suing for breach of contract. We'll let you know how this drama plays out.


Notorious screenwriter Cheo Hodari Coker is on a roll. Following the success of the Biggie biopic, which has taken in $35.6 million thus far at the box office for Fox Searchlight, Coker has been tapped to adapt Bill Adler's Tougher Than Leather: The Rise of Run-DMC for DJ Classicz, the urban arm of Davis Entertainment. The Run-DMC project is still in pre-production with no studio yet attached. According to Adler, who may act as a producer on the project, "The idea of making a movie out of my book is the brainchild of the producer Dallas Jackson. He's a huge Run-DMC fan and needed a literary property on which to base a film. He suspected that the release of Notorious"in January of this year might create a climate of appreciation in Hollywood for a film about Run-DMC. I'm hoping he turns out to be right." While no budget has yet been decided, Adler says, "Russell Simmons, whose support is crucial to this project, is adamant about not making this film on the cheap."

For a period Hip-Hop
inspired films had all but disappeared; but with Hollywood seemingly running out of interesting and exciting story lines, which the rap world is filled with, the industry is getting back on the bandwagon. As Adler notes, "To a certain extent, I feel that the climate is always right for a movie like this. It's a story about a small group of young people who hold fast to their dreams and succeed against overwhelming odds. On the other hand, with Obama in office, I think the country as a whole may be more ready now for a movie with Black heroes than they would have been even a year ago. Of course, Run-DMC, for all of the love they elicited in the Black community, also always had a ton of White fans. Indeed, they never would have gone multi-platinum if they hadn't been selling records to White folks as well as Black -- just as Obama wouldn't have been elected if he'd only received votes from the Black community."


On Thurs., a judge rebuffed for the second time a bid by Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg to block the union's new negotiating team from reviving contract talks with the major studios. Rosenberg and other board members filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a recent vote by a majority of board members that ousted the union's chief negotiator and disbanded the union's negotiating committee. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant denied the req
uest for a temporary restraining order, ruling that the board's action complied with the state law governing corporations. The ruling, however, didn't dismiss the overall case, doesn't end the uncertainty over when contract negotiations with the studios will resume. Actors have been without a contract since June 30, 2008.

Blair Underwood hangin' with the evening's host & honoree Maria Menounos celebrate the Grand Opening of the new restaurant, TONYS, on the Sunset Strip and to raise funds and awareness for the amazing work of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Bad Boy Recording Artist Janelle Monae, Elijah Kelly of “Hairspray” fame, Brian McKnight alongside his two sons (Brian Jr. and Nikolas), and singer Kenny Lattimore all performed. Celeb Guests included Adrianne Bailon, Al B. Sure, Alex Band, Alice Greczyn, Amber Corwin, Colby O’Donis, Chris Milk, Danny Musico, Derrick Delmore, Eduardo Xol, Elijah Kelley, Evan Ross, Eve Marcille, Faune Chambers, Fonzworth Bentley, Jake Austin. Janelle Monae, Jason Silva, Kevin Connolly, Layla Kayleigh, Max Lugavere, Scott Bakula, Shane Sparks, Shannon Elizabeth, Susie Castillo, Twitch, and Vince Spaeda.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Issue #121

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SLOW TO CHANGE...Hollywood must not have gotten the "Dream Fulfilled" memo. Although we are starting to see more diversity reflected in front of the camera, the keys to the industry's financial gates and power are still held by mainstream insiders. Take the much-celebrated film Slumdog Millionaire. While this film explores hardships of life in Mumbai, India, no celebrated Indian director was tapped but rather, Irish Englishman Danny Boyle. Then there's Prom Night in Mississippi, a film about contemporary integration. While noble in its stance, it is told through the eyes of yet another non-diverse filmmaker, Paul Saltzman, a native of Canada. Only when the doors of Hollywood open up and more filmmakers of color are tapped for the all-powerful director's position which obviously comes with economic rewards, shall there truly be change in the industry. And to pull a page from Obama's campaign strategy, the change could come from a grass roots efforts--with ticket buyers voting at the box office.

HOT PROPERTY...Although he's just completed a new documentary short, From MLK to Today, Antoine Fuqua still managed to land the first deal at Sundance. His police drama, Brooklyn's Finest, starring Wesley Snipes was the first film at the fest to be snapped up. for under $20 million Senator Entertainment bought the North American rights to the flick in a co-venture with Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group. As exec producer on Brooklyn's Finest, is also not only adds to his credits but his bottom line.

WOMEN IN CHAINS...Some of the women of now-canceled "The L Word" won't be disappearing into TV history. One character Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey) will be heading off to prison in a new Oz-like series called "The Farm." Joining her will be the new Showtime drama are Black actresses Rukiya Bernard, Yolonda Ross as well as Latina actresses Onahoua Rodrigueza and Vanesa Maria Tomasino Rodriguez. Great to see another diverse cast from the L creators, but does it have to be behind bars?! No word on premier date yet.



The percentage of African-Americans who use the Internet increased to 64% as of December 2008, up from 56% in December 2007, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. In comparison, Internet users represented 74% of the total US population in December 2008, dipping slightly from 75% in December 2007.The proportion of African-Americans who use the Internet increased by 22 percentage points from December 2000 to December 2008, compared with 21 percentage points for the total US population.


WHAT THEY WANT...Never say die seems to be raptor DMX's motto. Although currently in prison, the hip hop star has announced as reality TV show plans. His "Pain and Perseverance" will follow DMX on the rapper's route back to the top and his studies to become a pastor. Yep, a pastor. No word on if he has inked a production deal, but if DMX is involved viewers surely won't be bored. His BET reality show "Soul Of A Man" was one of the network's highest rated.

READY FOR HIS CLOSEUP...Move over Melissa Rivers, Lil Wayne is taking to the red carpet--as on-air reporter. The rapper, and recently turned actor, has been requited by ESPN The Magazine to be the red carpet commentator for their star-studded pre-Superbowl party on Jan. 30th. Wayne is already a blogger for the pub's website, making him the latest multi-media Hip Hop star--and proving the crossover appeal of the genre.

GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS...It was only a matter of time. A reality show--on E!, of course--about Hip-Hop video girls. Excuse us, video models. Described as a "docu-soap," "Candy Grils" centers around actresses who work for an agency that casts the models in the videos. It is executive produced by Leah Landon, Troy Carter and Jason Carbone. Good Clean Fn and Coalition Media are producing the series. With the newest campaign from Hip Hop insiders to encourage a more socially minded message, "Candy Girls" is sure to endure some backlash and fewer viewers as the reality show audience is trendy toward self-help and "real people" shows.


Rising star Keke Palmer meetin' and greetin' the new First Lady, Michelle Obama, and her two daughters, Malia and Sasha at the KID'S INAUGURAL BALL: "We Are The Future", which aired live from the Historical Society of Washington DC on the Disney Channel January 18th . (Photo credit: Lawrence Palmer)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Issue #120

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PLAYA HATER?....Director George Tillman Jr. may be gearing up for the release next week of Notorious, but his mind is already on his next production. He is producing Phenom, a film directed by David Anspaugh, best known for directing episodic TV. The film stars Vanessa Williams, Chris Brown, and Henry Simmons. In the State Street production, the media discovers a new hotshot NBA player (Brown) is the illegitimate son of an aging NBA star. While it sounds like a story ripped from the pages Karl Malone's life, it's not, and that means the acting--and game scenes, are going to have to be riveting to pull a success out of this been there, done that plot.

A DASH OF SPICE...It seems TV foodie Rachel Ray is following in the footsteps of her boss, Oprah Winfrey, and is going into producing. She just announced her Watch Entertainment will produce a new show for the Food Network staring Latino cookbook author Daisy Martinez (pictured left). The weekly "Viva Daisy!" will have a six-week run and will be the network's second show to focused on Latino foods, joining Ingrid Hoffman's "Simply Delicioso." It's about time the Food Network spiced things up with a show sure to pull in ratings, considering the number of Latino TV viewers is the fasting growing segment.

DIGITAL DELAY...The Obama transition team has asked for a delay in the switch to digital. The incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested that Congress consider a delay "until a plan is in place to minimize the number of consumers who will lose TV signals, particularly by fixing the flaws in the federal coupon program created to offset the cost of this transition." A delay would be perfect timing, as the National Telecommunications & Information Administration just this week announced that it had run out of funding for its program to distribute government subsidies for DTV-to-analog converter boxes. Because of his new applications would have to be put on a waiting list unless the funding cap were raised or the Antideficiency Act (ADA) rule preventing it from spending money it expected to be freed up by expired coupons was waived. The switch in digital was long in coming, you'd think the government would be well prepared. Hopefully a delay is approved to make the transition as easy as possible for consumer, otherwise no one will be tuning in.

DYNAMIC DUO...With their new production, "True Beauty," already declared a TV hit, reps for Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher say the two are definitely planning future co-productions. The new ABC reality show features women and men living together in a Los Angeles mansion under the impression that they are competing in a beauty pageant-like reality competition series in which they will be judged solely on their physical beauty. But they are actually being judged on their "inner beauty"--sort of "Punked" meets "Next Top Model." It will be interesting to see what Banks and Kutcher dream up next.

OPRAH'S CANDIDATE...According to insiders, former MTV president Christina Norman is in talks to head up Oprah Winfrey's cable network venture the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Great that an African-American female media exec is in the top running, but considering the ratings dive over at MTV during the end of Norman's 17 years with the network, OWN which is geared to female viewers, should be a better fit for Norman.

A FIGHTING CHANCE...Being that the recent slew of mixed martial arts/street fight films have bombed at the box office, it seems Rogue Pictures is taking no chances. The company is creating a major online presence for Fighting, starring Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard. Rogue just entered a promotion deal with MySpace for the April 2009 release. With the MMA world trying to attract African-American fans, there could be some intersting promotional opportunities for Rogue with Fighting.

PIMPS OUT?...Reports out of Oakland is that city officials are fuming over the new Hughes Brothers' project, an HBO dramatic series called "Gentlemen of Leisure." Members of the Oakland City Council are saying they may not approve a film permit for the production. "Gentlemen," written by Evan Reilly ("Rescue Me") and executive produced by Interscope Records Chairman Jimmy Iovine and Polly Anthony for Interscope's TV unit, follows the life of a legendary Oakland pimp. The city is worried about scaring away tourist, while the Hughes are hoping to make a comeback with the gritty tale.

RATING THE WEB?...If Britain's minister for culture, Andy Burnham, has his way, websites will soon receive the same kind of ratings motion pictures currently have. Burnham recently told The Daily Telegraph newspaper he's planning to negotiate with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to draw up new international rules for English language Websites. With Obama having campaigned on net neutrality, it would seem such talks would be unsuccessful. The beauty of the MPAA is that it's self-regulated; something that may not work online, considering the varying Internet restrictions governments currently have.

...Speaking of goings on over the pond, it seems the BBC has withdrawn actor Paterson Joseph as the next Dr. Who. Joseph would have been the first Black actor to play the long-running role (see The A-List After initially tauting Joseph in the role, the BBC just publicized that little-known White actor
Matt Smith will take on the part. Wanting to get to the bottom of this switcheroo, The A-List contacted the BBC. The only response we could get was "We don't comment on our casting process." With all the publicity the BBC garnered from the speculation of Joseph in the role, the network missed a prime opportunity to diversify and pull in new viewers.

A LITTLE LOVE...Lifetime gets a little Black love. The network has just inked a deal with African-American romance writer Kimberla Lawson Roby, whose 11 books have sold 1.6 million-plus copies. Lifetime has picked up rights to her latest, One In A Million, due in May. Let's see if Lifetime ups the production value on bringing the novella to the small screen. BET's run of romance movies based on Arabesque Books, left much to be desired.

MEDICAL MATTERS...TNT is hoping for "Grey's Anatomy" success with its upcoming medical drama, "Time Heals." The network has ordered 10-episode of the series being produced by Jada Pinkett Smith's 100% Women Productions. Smith co-stars with David Julian Hirsh ("Lovebites"), Laura Kenly, Christina Moore ("90210") and Suleka Mathew ("Men in Trees"). Set in a Charlotte, North Carolina hospital, "Time Heals" is co-produced by Sony Picture Television, John Masius Productions and Jamie Tarses’ FanFare Productions.

WEST TO BROADWAY?...There's talk of Kayne West heading to Broadway. Inside word is he plans on producing--and possibly--starring in a Hip-Hop musical, which will bring rap to the Great White Way. While the concept of musical featuring all rhyme has been done before both on stage and film, with West involved it is sure to be cutting-edge--for better or worse.


TV One will offer 24 hours of programming devoted to the Inauguration of President Obama, and the activities surrounding this historic occasion. Inauguration Day programming begins Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 7 AM (ET), and will include tributes to Obama as well as Dr. Martin Luther King; interviews with the President-elect Obama and Michelle Obama; two, original hour-long documentaries; live coverage; and reports from the multiple balls and high-profile inaugural events around Washington.

The Garden
Balcony Films

Very few documentaries address issues that are timeless. The Garden is one of those films which take you deep into a story and situation that affects people globally although its set in a bustling metropolis in America. Directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy, the film chronicles the entangled and disturbing story of Los Angeles' South Central Farm. Created from the ashes of the L.A. riots in 1992, the South Central Farm came to be the largest urban farm in the United States. In 2003, the farmer's found themselves struggling against the city's backroom deals, and exposes the underlying issues of money, power, poverty and racial discord. The Garden is a great metaphoric documentary on the never ending crisis of the haves and have nots, of the wars and battles that are happening right now over land and land rights. The story sends chills down your spine; you will empathize and cry with those in the film for their right just to live a simple life. There is no Hollywood happy ending to The Garden, but there is an awareness that comes from watching the film that we are not powerless and that collectively we can make a difference, even in the face of adversity. Rating: The A-List

All the stars were out for the NYC premiere of Notorious, including the one of film's producers Sean Combs (Left) and the film's stars Jamal ‘Gravy” Woolard (who plays Big) and Naturi (who portrays Lil Kim)

Taraji Henson shares a laugh with her Curious
Case of Benjamin Buttons co-star, Brad Pitt, on the red carpet at the Critics Choice Awards.