Updated: December 22, 2005
frigid out there! Only a short time left until we all get to take a little
break during the holidays! Don't forget your holiday gift suggestions - the
gift basket with your own personal selections by Andrea and the unique vocal training gift
set by Elaine Overholt - all details
a more positive note, I can offer you the very special interview this week –
the one and only Jully Black! She
offers words of wisdom and clarity of self that transcends into her music.
New Year's Eve at IRIE FOOD JOINT
Mary J. Blige Delivers 16 New Tracks On
Source: ICED Media, Amina Elshahawi, New Media Director, Email: email@example.com
(Dec. 19, 2005) Nobody tells it like Mary. With a voice that is rough and ready, sweet and pure, Mary J. Blige is capable of conveying heartache and happiness in a single musical phrase. A confessional singer, her emotional honesty reflects the great traditions of blues and soul with a ripped-from-the-pages-of-your-diary immediacy that has won her countless honours and a devoted, ever-growing audience around the world. Over the course of 14 years, six studio albums, one live collection, a dance album, and a remix album, Mary never failed to deliver potent R&B/hip-hop mantras that work on the head, heart and hips. More than a vocalist, she is an accomplished recording artist known for her electrifying live performances, dramatic videos and innovative studio productions with a who’s - who and who’s - hot of musical talents from Elton John to Dr. Dre. Reflecting a newfound serenity without forgetting her trademark straight-up messages to players, cheaters and fools, Mary, will take us on a new musical journey this spring with the release of her seventh studio album “The Breakthrough.” With a new lease on life, Mary will take us on a magic carpet ride fulfilling all of our musical and spiritual needs. Delivered with conviction and compassion, the songs on “The Breakthrough” are evidence of Mary’s spiritual growth and her transcendence over a childhood in the projects of Yonkers, New York, and an early success plagued with drama, to her current joy. “Yes, she’s gotten lost, she’s done this and that and she’s been trying to figure it out,” Mary admits in her typically forthright manner.
In addition to filming anti-drug public service announcements, Mary has worked with various education groups and received Rock the Vote’s highest honour, the Patrick Lippert Award. She is a tireless fund-raiser for people with AIDS. Most recently she has joined the Crest Healthy Smiles campaign to bring awareness to the oral health care epidemic. Crest Healthy Smiles- through partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America- provide children in underserved communities with necessary tools for preventive care, education and low or no cost dental services. Whether pouring her heart out in a recording booth or on a concert stage or privately learning how to love herself and help others, Mary has discovered something powerful: The music that she makes, the songs that have brought so much joy and solace to so many, have also been her own salvation. When you think of perseverance, strength and commitment, you think of Mary J Blige. For more news on Mary please visit her official site here: http://www.mjblige.com/.
Foxx Returns To Musical Roots
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Gail Mitchell
(Dec. 15, 2005) A funny thing happened to Jamie Foxx on the way to starting a music career. Acting on a girlfriend's dare to take the stage during a comedy club's open-mic night, Foxx parlayed his humorous derring-do into a successful TV run ("In Living Color," "The Jamie Foxx Show"). Trading the small screen for the big screen-plus a string of forgettable films-Foxx locked into his acting stride with several key movies ("Any Given Sunday," "Ali," "Collateral"). These opened the door to his Academy Award-winning turn in "Ray." But come Dec. 20, he is back to square one -- at least musically speaking. That is when J Records will release Foxx's first album for the label, "Unpredictable." Songwriter/producer Sean Garrett promises a surprising album. "People will recognize that they should take him seriously as an artist," says Garrett, who contributed two songs to the set. "His heart is in it. He really wants this." For his part, Foxx insists "Unpredictable" is not an exercise in vanity or about achieving an elusive entertainment trifecta. "Nobody's looking at it that way," he says. "I never brought 'Jamie Foxx with an Oscar' into the room. I just brought the humble, starving artist not trying to force anything. If it's successful, that's great. If not, you go back to the drawing board. Or you leave it alone." He did just that after the 1994 release of "Peep This." Released by the Fox Music label, the album reflected such Foxx influences as Lionel Richie and Marvin Gaye. Though not a commercial standout, "Peep This" did yield a modest hit, "Infatuation," which reached No. 36 on the Billboard R&B singles chart. Foxx's musical alter ego did not command attention again until his guest turn in 2003 on "Slow Jamz," the Kanye West-helmed No. 1 R&B/pop crossover hit by Twista. Following his 2004 performance of the song at the fabled pre-Grammy Award party staged annually by BMG North America chairman/CEO Clive Davis-in addition to onstage pairings with Alicia Keys and Angie Stone-Foxx signed with J Records.
"I was impressed by his natural passion for music," Davis says. "He's a true music lover. When he's not making a movie, he's in a studio making music." During his childhood in Terrell, Texas, Foxx took piano lessons, was music director of the church choir and started his own R&B band. Before his career took its comedic detour, Foxx attended United States International University in San Diego (now Alliant International University) on a classical piano scholarship-quite a distance from today's hip-hop-dominated scene. But since "Slow Jamz," Foxx has been steadily adding to his musical credentials. There was his second R&B/pop hit with West, the infectious "Gold Digger," as well as an appearance on 50 Cent's album "The Massacre" ("Build You Up"). Foxx began recording "Unpredictable" nearly three years ago between juggling roles in "Stealth," the recently released "Jarhead" and the just-wrapped "Miami Vice." During the recording process, he worked to strike a happy medium between his old-school R&B influences (including Prince and Zapp) and contemporary hip-hop faves (such as Young Jeezy and 50 Cent), without letting the "Ray" afterglow overwhelm the proceedings. "It's something I've been toying with for a long time," Foxx says. "How do you capture the club crowd with R&B while still keeping it hip-hop, young and with a bounce to it? That's the way we wrote a lot of the songs." Working with J Records executive VP of A&R Peter Edge, Foxx hooked up with such contemporary R&B/hip-hop songwriter/producers as the aforementioned Garrett, Mike City, Harold Lily, Tank, Polow Da Don, Warryn Campbell, Timbaland, 112's Daron Jones and Mr. ColliPark. These collaborations, Foxx notes, mark the major difference between his two albums. "I've got some real writers and producers this time and a real record label that has the money. I didn't have anything back then. I waited 11 years because I didn't want to be out there looking goofy. Like, 'Man, what is he doing?' " Edge describes the 15 songs on "Unpredictable" as reminiscent of an old-fashioned vinyl album. "Side one would be the club suite; side two the bedroom suite," he says. "This album manages to translate Jamie's different personalities." Among the songs suited for the club suite are "DJ Play a Love Song" with "Slow Jamz" colleague Twista and "Extravaganza." The latter, another pairing with West, was an August setup single later issued as a 12-inch, $5.98 vinyl single in October. Its No. 77 debut on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart marked Foxx's first chart entry as a lead artist since 1994. In the mood for the bedroom suite are such selections as "Warm Bed," "Three Letter Word" and a duet with Mary J. Blige, "Love Changes." A nod to Foxx's old-school roots, "Changes" was originally recorded by '70s R&B group Mother's Finest.
Foxx co-wrote six songs on the album, including the introspective "Heaven" and "Wish U Were Here." Produced by Babyface, "Heaven" is dedicated to Foxx's teenage daughter. "Wish U Were Here" pays tribute to his beloved grandmother who adopted and raised Foxx (born Eric Bishop). "It's one of those songs where you sit with some Kleenex. It really detoxes you," Foxx says of "Here." Right now, the label's full-court press is on the title track/lead single, which features Ludacris. Currently No. 20 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, the cut has also been garnering airplay at adult R&B radio stations-"even with the Ludacris rap version," VP of promotion Randy Franklin notes. As a result, Franklin says the label is making available a version for adult radio without the rap. In addition to Ludacris, Blige, Twista and West, the "Unpredictable" guest list includes the Game, Snoop Dogg and Common. Such star power may appear to some as an attempt to overshadow any shortcomings Foxx brings to the table as a solo artist. Others may think the intention is to increase the 38-year-old Foxx's appeal to younger audiences. Edge and Foxx dismiss those notions. Foxx says, "The record business has changed considerably since the days of just R&B singing, wearing linen and walking in slow motion. You want to make things an event now. So when you look at Jamie Foxx and Ludacris, it's like the Batman and Robin effect." Lamonda Williams, director of urban programming for Music Choice, predicts Foxx's album will do well. Williams says Foxx's silver-screen exposure and West connection are important, but his existing base of music fans should not be overlooked. "There's history with Foxx before he channelled Ray Charles," Williams observes. "True Foxx fans respect and remember his first single 'Infatuation.' Embarrassingly, we liked his writing on Adina Howard's 'T-Shirt and My Panties On.' Sonically, his voice is on point, and the piano skills are tight. This is no fluke or an actor-trying-to-sing gimmick." The "Unpredictable" media blitz kicked into gear Nov. 29 when Foxx showcased his singing skills on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Additionally, Foxx will make high-profile TV appearances on "Today" (Dec. 19), "Live With Regis and Kelly" (Dec. 21), "Late Show With David Letterman" (Dec. 22) and "The View" (Dec. 23). Describing himself as "fearless," Foxx says he is up for the "Unpredictable" challenges. "Hats off to the people who do this every single day. The record business is tough. But as long as I got my mojo, I can get out there and do whatever.
This article is excerpted from the Dec. 17, 2005, issue of Billboard magazine. Subscribers can read the issue online via Billboard.biz.
Chris Brown Not Running Away Anytime Soon
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Dec. 16, 2005) *For those who thought Chris Brown’s new single would’ve ‘run’ its course by now, think again. For a fifth consecutive week, his single “Run It!” holds down the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100, and keeps its lock on the Pop 100 as well. But the joint falls from 2-5 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. When asked if he’s tired of hearing the Scott Storch produced track, the 16-year-old laughs, “Oh no, I jam to it every day. I hope y’all ain’t tired of hearing it.” His fans sure aren’t. In the weeks since Brown’s single has been on radio, the Tappahannock, Virginia native – who now lives with his Mom in New Jersey – has become a bonafide heartthrob among the “106 & Park” crowd. “It’s just a blessing that I come from a small town and am able to progress to the number one song in the country,” says the Jive recording artist. “Scott Storch put the beat together and we made it happen. It was crazy from there.” Brown says the immense popularity of the single has afforded him a few welcome perks. “I bought my mama a house,” he says with pride. “I’m a Mama’s boy all day.”
In fact, it was his mama he was screaming for when he heard his record played on the radio for the first time. “I was downstairs lifting weights in the basement, and I heard it,” he said. “DJ Enuff played it in New York on Hot 97, and was like, that sounds like…I just ran upstairs screaming, ‘Mama!’” The road to Brown’s sudden superstardom began in his home state, where local producers were able to hook up the self-proclaimed mama’s boy with producers from New York who had been employed by Jive. “I got a chance to meet with them, and I went from there to Def Jam and met (former Sr. VP of A&R) Tina Davis, who took me to (Def Jam chairman) L.A. Reid. I performed for him, he wanted to sign me on the spot – but at the same time, Tina got sprung from Def Jam and she became my manager.” Davis shopped Brown to other labels, including Atlantic, Jive and Warner Bros. “I looked at Jive’s offer, and I took about two to three months to process what I wanted to do,” he told EUR. “I picked Jive because it was the best decision for me. They had the best success with young artists as well as longevity.” Chris Brown’s self titled album arrived in stores on Nov. 29 with a bunch of buzz created by the first single, and the teen’s frenetic dance moves – as seen in the video for “Run It!” “For the most part, what you see is natural,” he says of his moves, “but I do have a choreographer who put together the “Run It!” routine as well as [the steps for] my next single.”
“Yo (Excuse Me Miss),” the follow up to “Run It!” is described by Brown as a justification for the way young brothers try to holler at the honeys. “The first thing a guy says when he sees a girl, whether it be at an amusement park or a mall, is, ‘Yo! What’s up!’ That’s disrespectful,” he explains. “ But at the same time, I wanted to flip it and make it seem like that’s the only thing I could say because she took my breath away and I didn’t know her name, so I had to excuse myself and say, ‘Yo.’” When Brown’s not busy in the studio, shooting videos or promoting his record, he’s either being tutored – he’s only a junior right now – or he’s playing basketball, sketching Japanese anime or looking at his favourite hoops team, the Miami Heat. The youngster also spends a lot of time trying to deflect comparisons to other young R&B superstars, such as Mario and Usher. “I like the comparisons, but at the same time, I want to be known as my own self,” he says. “I don’t want to be known as the next Usher, the next Omarion or the next Mario. I wanna be Chris Brown, feel me?” Brown is certainly feeling the heat from Mariah Carey's "Don't Forget About Us," which is the Hot 100 greatest airplay gainer and leaps 7-2 on the chart. The track also moves up 3-1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, taking over for Dem Franchize Boyz' "I Think They Like Me" featuring Jermaine Dupri, Da Brat and Bow Wow.
On the Hot 100, D4L's "Laffy Taffy" falls one slot to No. 3, while Nelly's "Grillz" featuring Paul Wall, Ali and Gipp jumps 11-4. Nickelback's "Photograph" drops 4-5 and Kanye West's "Gold Digger" featuring Jamie Foxx, descends 3-6. The Pussycat Dolls' "Stickwitu" inches up 9-7, as Eminem's "When I'm Gone" remains at No. 8. The Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" falls 6-9 but remains atop the Hot Ringtones chart, while Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" re-enters the top 10 with a 12-10 burst. Elsewhere on the Hot 100, Eminem's "Shake That" featuring Nate Dogg, is this week's hot shot debut at No. 76. Also new are Bow Wow's "Fresh Azimiz" featuring J-Kwon and Jermaine Dupri (No. 84) and Busta Rhymes' "Touch It" (No. 88). Kimberley Locke's "Up on the Housetop" holds steady at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary airplay chart.
AC Embraces deSol
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Katy Kroll
(Dec. 14, 2005) Often lauded as a band that combines "rock'n'roll with Latin soul," deSol strives to achieve musical balance. The band's self-titled debut on Curb Records showcases this aural harmony, but it's a one-off single that has garnered the most attention so far. Last week, deSol's version of "Little Drummer Boy" entered Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart at No. 6. In fact, it's the highest debut in AC history, beating the record set by James Taylor's "Deck the Halls." "We decided to do 'Drummer Boy' because of the rhythmic aspect of it," says Albie Monterrosa. "We did it real quick and arranged it right then and there in the heat of July in Beverly Hills [Calif.], and it sounded great. What we did is fresh, mixing the rhythms. It has good imagery. When you hear the track, the congas and the bongos sound like horses in the desert." Currently the single is only available for sale via Apple's iTunes Music Store and at the band's shows, but it is sure to be included on Christmas compilations for years to come. It was an unusual way for the seven-member group to get its foot in the door. "Every artist has a different path cut out for them," says Monterrosa. "I haven't really been following it because it's a Christmas song. It's not that we don't like the song but we didn't write it. But you know what? It's all part of the bigger picture and in this day and age it's so hard to break a group and get the word out, it's just a blessing to have any charting music." The band's delicate balance of American rock and Latin rhythms is often compared to the music of Ozomatli and Los Lonely Boys, and that has allowed deSol to grab the ears of more listeners. "I did the rock thing for so long and shunned the Latino thing," says. Monterrosa. "But when the band formed and we started [adding] that, the doors started opening. People started paying attention, we got more gigs and it just keeps growing.
"Our sound is not too Latino, it's not too American, it's right in the middle. Everyone can digest it," he adds. "I write songs in Spanish, English, Spanglish, and that's who I am. The Spanish we use is kind of Spanish 101, so people can understand it. It's really about having a good time and writing a good melody and a good hook. I'm not afraid of labels." The band returns to its hometown of Asbury Park, N.J., for a New Year's Eve gig at the Stone Pony, and then its members hope to clear their heads and focus on writing songs for a new album. "It becomes a business and you kind of get lost so we just want to refocus," he says. "We're gonna go to El Paso [Texas] in the middle of nowhere to just write and discover ourselves again. We want to get to the depth of the lyrics and the music and remember why we love to do it, like when we were kids in our rooms just playing music."
Links: desolmusic.com; curb.com
All For One: Flip Side Of Toronto's Indie Scene
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vit Wagner
(Dec. 18, 2005) WHO: Jason Collett
WHAT HE DID: Created a stellar solo record, Idols of Exile; played guitar on Broken Social Scene's eponymous record.
WHY IT MATTERS: Independent, connected, Collett could be the poster boy for a Toronto rock scene that has succeeded by striking a healthy, symbiotic balance between individuality and collaboration.
Idols of Exile, the 38-year-old Bramalea-bred singer/songwriter's third album under his own name, was one of this year's most accomplished and effortlessly pleasing discs. The album is an approachable, smartly crafted collection of roots-flavoured pop/rock that was infectious ("I'll Bring the Sun"), reflective ("Almost Summer") and sometimes both at once ("We All Lose One Another"). The writing was pure Collett. But the joyous execution came courtesy of a little help from his talented friends. Collett's stalwart, disciplined service on guitar for internationally fêted local indie heroes Broken Social Scene was more than handsomely rewarded when several associates of that collective — including the seductively mellifluous trio of Leslie Feist, Metric's Emily Haines and Stars' Amy Millan — enthusiastically lent their voices to Idols of Exile. In 2005, Collett emerged as the first among equals.
Prince Enjoys Life Off The Plantation
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Dec. 15, 2005) *At a press conference Tuesday to announce his upcoming album under a new deal with Universal Records, His Royal Badness, 47, gave perhaps the quote of the year when a reporter asked why a man who scrawled “slave” on his face in the mid-‘90s to protest the practices of his old record company would sign a deal with yet another major record label. "I don't consider Universal a slave ship,” he said in his famous monotone. “I did my own agreement ... I got exactly what I wanted." What Prince got was a one-album deal with Universal, similar to his venture with Columbia Records in 2003, which called for the label to manufacture and distribute his 2004 hit album "Musicology" for NPG Records, Prince's label. Universal will release his upcoming album, "3121," early next year, as well as handle the administration of Prince's future works and his complete, extensive back catalogue of more than 35 albums and compilations, including landmark multi-platinum albums “Musicology,” “1999,” “Sign O' The Times,” “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Parade,” “Around the World in a Day,” “Emancipation,” “Purple Rain” and “Batman -- The Motion Picture Soundtrack.”
"I got a chance to structure an agreement the way I saw fit instead of the other way around," Prince said. Universal Music Publishing Group Chairman and CEO David Renzer said in a statement: "Not only is Prince a legend, but he remains a world-class musician, considered by many to be the most prolific hit-maker of our generation as well as one of the best live artists. The fact that he is re-signing to Universal Music Publishing Group speaks to the dedication and commitment we can show to a world-class high calibre artist like Prince. We are thrilled to have concluded this deal and consider it a privilege to continue our long-term relationship with him." As previously reported, Prince’s video for his new single, "Te Amo Corazon," was directed by actress Salma Hayek and premiered Tuesday on VH1 and its affiliated networks, including its Vspot broadband channel and VH1 Mobile. He said the steamy ballad is not indicative of what the entire album sounds like. He also confirmed that a tour was being planned for 2006, but declined to give details.
Prince Says He Received Everything He
Wanted in New Record Deal
By Alex Veiga, Associated Press Writer
Prince, who famously scrawled "slave" on his face during a dispute with his record company in the mid-1990s, said Tuesday he received everything he wanted in his latest deal with Universal Records. "I got a chance to structure an agreement the way I saw fit instead of the other way around," Prince said during a news conference to promote a video for his new single,"Te Amo Corazon." The 47-year-old superstar has signed a one-album deal with Universal to release his upcoming album, "3121," early next year. Prince declined to give financial details of the agreement, but said it was similar to the joint venture he struck with Columbia Records in 2003. In that deal, the label manufactured and distributed his 2004 hit album "Musicology," for NPG Records, Prince's label. Asked why he would sign on with the biggest record company in the world given his past clashes with major labels, Prince said, "I don't consider Universal a slave ship. I did my own agreement ... I got exactly what I wanted." The singer had some advice for new artists. He challenged them to read the fine print on their record contracts. On Tuesday, VH1 and its affiliated networks, including Tempo and VH1 Soul, premiered "Te Amo Corazon," directed by Salma Hayek. VH1 will also make the song available on its Vspot broadband channel and VH1 Mobile. Prince said the sultry ballad is not indicative of what the album sounds like. He also said a tour was in the works but declined to give details.
2005 Surround Music Awards Winners Announced
Excerpt from Surround Music Awards
(Dec. 15, 2005) Last night, in a gala event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the 2005 Surround Music Awards announced this year’s winners. The event, hosted by Ed Cherney and Elliot Scheiner – along with some help from past host Al Schmitt – was highlighted by the presentation of the 2005 Surround Artist of the Year to Jackson Browne by the members of his Running On Empty band, Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, Craig Doerge, and David Lindley. Following Browne’s acceptance speech, singer/songwriter Andrew Gold and Jerry Foskett from the Brian Wilson Band acoustically performed two Jackson Browne hits – Running On Empty and Stay. The recipients of the 2005 Surround Music Awards are as follows:
BEST STANDARD RESOLUTION
(Sweet Spot Music Group/3 Bone Audio, Inc.)
SURROUND ARTIST OF THE YEAR
SURROUND PIONEER AWARD
BEST OF SHOW
TALKING HEADS DUALDISC BOX SET
BEST ADDITIONAL FEATURES
The Carl Verheyen Band
BEST CONCERT VIDEO
LIVE AT THE APOLLO
Ben Harper & the Blind Boys of Alabama
(Virgin Records/5.1 Production Services)
BEST DUALDISC RELEASE
TALKING HEADS DUALDISC BOX SET
BEST MADE-FOR-SURROUND TITLE
BEST MADE-FOR-SURROUND TITLE
BEST MENU DESIGN
TALKING HEADS DUALDISC BOX SET
BEST MIX: NON-ORCHESTRAL
TALKING HEADS DUALDISC BOX SET
BEST MULTICHANNEL REISSUE
FEELS LIKE FAMILY
MOST ADVENTUROUS MIX
IN SEARCH OF… N.E.R.D.
BEST MIX: ORCHESTRAL
REICH AT THE ROXY
Alarm Will Sound
LISTENER’S CHOICE AWARD
MASTER OF DISASTER
Yo-Yo Ma Embraces Eastern Essence Of Geisha
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Associated Press
(Dec. 20, 2005) NEW YORK—Several years ago, Yo-Yo Ma got a book in the mail from Oscar-winning composer John Williams. Even though there were no concrete plans then to make a film out of Memoirs of a Geisha, the cellist recalls Williams was already thinking of a way to illustrate the project musically. "Early on he was thinking somehow in the recesses of his mind that `Hey, maybe we should do that,' and I know he was interested in the possibility of setting the book to music," Ma told the Associated Press. Williams's vision came true when the bestselling novel about the geisha culture in Japan was made into a film. And when Williams needed someone to perform the sumptuous music for the movie, Ma was one of the first on board, along with friend Itzhak Perlman. "I think it's pretty rare to have the opportunity to work with so many people that I admire in one project," said Ma, the score's featured performer. The score for the film, which stars Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe and Michelle Yeoh, was recently nominated for a Golden Globe and is available in stores as a soundtrack. Williams's sweeping compositions for the soundtrack utilize Japanese instruments for an overall sound that complements the era. "He made a score that in some ways is very spare, which fits with the period that is represented in the film, which is actually a unique period in Japanese history because it was a period of transition," said Ma. "Hence, you have all these instruments in transition as well."
Still, despite the Japanese influence, Ma says the soundtrack is unmistakably a Williams score, which he describes as "always just right on the dot." "He's just so much a master of the material, and that's also based on the deep knowledge of the jazz world, of the American musical theatre," Ma said. "... he can pick and choose at any moment what needs to be and it's always organic, it's always him." One of the compositions Williams wrote for the piece had a sentimental element for Ma; the composer came up with a duet for Ma and his good friend, fellow cellist Steve Erdody, on the final day of recording. "It was personally sweet, but what he did was actually emotionally right for the score.'' The Geisha score is the second Ma project this year with an Eastern accent, following his second album with his Silk Road Ensemble featuring musicians from China to Iran.
Lou Rawls Has Lung And Brain Cancer
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Dec. 17, 2005) *"Don't count me out, brother," singer Lou Rawls said from his room at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "There's been many people who have been diagnosed with this kind of thing, and they're still jumpin' and pumpin'." What the world-renown singer was referring to was the fact that he's being treated for lung cancer and brain cancer, conditions that his estranged wife says are dire. The lung cancer was diagnosed a year ago and the brain cancer in May, his estranged wife, Nina, said during a marriage annulment hearing Thursday in Arizona. "By his doctor's admission, he is not expected to live much more," she said. Rawls' attorney, Robert L. Schwartz, attended the annulment hearing, but did not discuss the singer's prognosis. Rawls, 70, who has lived in Scottsdale, Ariz., since 2003, said in court papers that he is trying to annul his two-year marriage and protect hundreds of thousands of dollars of assets that his wife "absconded with." His estranged wife, who has worked as Rawls' manager since 2003, says she transferred nearly $350,000 into an account that she solely controls to prevent one of Rawls' two adult daughters from seizing the money. Rawls is of course also known for his charitable work with the United Negro College Fund. Through yearly telethons, he's helped raise nearly $200 million.
Hot Dancehall/Reggae Duo Leftside And Esco On Top Of Reggae
Charts In England
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
After topping the charts in Jamaica, the duo of Leftside (Craig Parkes) and Esco (Matthew Thompson) are number one this week on the Choice FM Top 20 Reggae chart in London with Tuck in Yuh Belly. The song which featured prominently on the Throwback Giggy rhythm, got as far as number two on the New York Reggae chart. It also reached number one here in Jamaica. The song also impacted on the South Florida Reggae chart and the Reggaemania Top 10 Reggae chart in Canada. Both Leftside and Esco are musicians and have done stints as sound system selectors. They were also members of reggae/dancehall singer Wayne Marshall’s Marshall Arts Band.
50 Cent Hosts Policeman's Ball
Excerpt From The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(Dec. 21, 2005) You wanna know the problem with 50 Cent? Forget the bullet wounds, the bling, the bitches. Forget the NRA-worthy fetishization of firearms. Forget the dubious influence on our Impressionable Youth. Forget the man's unfortunate decision to conquer Hollywood. The problem with 50 Cent is this: He's freakin' huge without being much of a rapper. Make no mistake, the cat's got some hot tracks and one of the most enviable "gangsta" personas ever to seduce Whitby. But 50's final, pre-encore shout-outs to cunning entrepreneurs — and clearly talented MCs — Slim Shady (Eminem for you parents) and Dr. Dre at Ricoh Coliseum last night said it all: without you, I'm nothing. Not to take anything away from the success of the man known to his mother as Curtis Jackson. In the grand tradition of parent-rattling that extends from Elvis and the Beatles to Alice Cooper to Ozzy to Marilyn Manson and Slipknot, 50 is that rare popsters capable of offending delicate sensibilities all the way up to elected office-holders. Thanks to Liberal MP Dan McTeague's sloganeering crusade to keep the rapper out of Canada and the unfortunate parking-lot shooting that coincided with 50 Cent's last Toronto show, at the Molson Amphitheatre in 2003, last night's show was presided over by sufficient numbers of the local constabulary to remind one of the War Measures Act. Best quote of the night goes to the guy dodging cruisers and Court Services vans in the lot after the show: "Dude, we're not gonna get shot. We're gonna get hit by a cop car." The gunshot samples perforating 50's brisk set — conducted minus several members of his G-Unit posse apparently stopped at the border — may have put the cops on edge, but otherwise there was never enough energy emanating from the stage to suggest a riot might break out. Preceded by a trailer for 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' and a brief mini-doc on his rise to glory, the program was a hasty, perfunctorily rhymed whistle-stop tour through the "Fiddy" oeuvre. The folks on the floor dug satisfying hits like "P.I.M.P.," "What Up Gangsta," "In Da Club," "Candy Shop" and "Disco Inferno," but the show never really took off. Blame the diminished G-Unit crew for the dampened spark, or concede that 50 Cent's monotone drawl ain't that galvanizing over the long haul. Either way, it wasn't special enough to justify the headlines.
DMX Signs With Sony Music Group
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Dec. 20, 2005) *When DMX finishes his 70-day jail bid for probation violation, he will return to civilian life as the newest artist on the roster of Sony Music Group. MTV.com reports that the rapper cut all ties with his previous label Def Jam after hinting earlier this year that Jay-Z’s presence as the label’s president put a strain on their relationship. X has recorded five No. 1 albums for Def Jam, including his quadruple platinum debut, “It's Dark and Hell is Hot,” in 1998. Later that same year, he dropped his sophomore disc “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” which also went quadruple platinum. “And Then There Was X,” his best selling album to date, followed in 1999 with 5 million copies sold. The rapper's last two sets, 2001's “The Great Depression” and 2003's “The Grand Champ,” both went platinum. DMX’s new album “Here We Go Again” was listed on Def Jam’s release schedule, but it has yet to see any daylight.
Jaheim Set To Release 'Ghetto Classics' In 2006
Source: LaMarr Blackmon, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Dec. 20, 2005) (Hollywood, CA) – Warner Bros Records with its steady arsenal of quality artist that are making noise on the urban charts. New Brunswick, NJ native JAHEIM, the next in line is no different. The continued consistency of such heavy-hitters like Green Day, Madonna, and Linkin Park have entrenched the label as a bonafide power-house in the music industry. That consistency won’t change either for the Entertainment giant, with the first of several major projects being the January 22, 2006 release of “Ghetto Classics” from R&B heavyweight JAHEIM. With the determination, but also careful deliberation, the platinum selling artist sheds his success of the past to focus and assume a place of his own, center-stage, in a role he has literally spent his life preparing for – as songwriter, producer, performer and artist in his own right. His new CD, “GHETTO CLASSICS,” is new millennium Rhythm & Blues. The project includes strains of Gospel, R&B, Funk, and Hip Hop with JAHEIM in vocal overdrive the whole way. JAHEIM delivers a knock-out blow with his first single “Every Time I Think About Her” featuring JADAKISS. To see Warner Bros. fantastic roster & get more information on JAHEIM’S new project, visit Warner Bros. Records at www.warnerbrosrecords.com/jaheim.
Cosmic Comic Carrey
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic
(Dec. 17, 2005) NEW YORK—A pesky fly keeps buzzing around Jim Carrey's head, but he barely notices. Nor does the annoyance of cars honking and fire engines clanging on Park Ave., far below this Waldorf-Astoria hotel boardroom, bring the slightest hint of distraction to his fashionably unshaven face. The lanky actor, one of Canada's most successful exports, is focused on bigger things. Things like inner "clarity" and the number 23, personal ideals and fascinations that figure prominently in his life these days. Like many celebrities, Madonna and Tom Cruise among them, Carrey has been radically reassessing his values and actions, seeking deeper meaning. Anyone who still thinks of Carrey strictly as the title loon from movies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb & Dumber has another think coming — even if Carrey's new movie Fun with Dick and Jane, arriving in theatres Wednesday, is something of a return to madcap form. "I think when you get to the so-called top and you realize that it doesn't fill you up, you start looking for other things that will," he tells the Star in an exclusive interview, smiling pearly whites that could frame the gates of heaven. "And generally, where you land is spirituality. One of my favourite things to do, and I'm not perfect at it at all, is to try and point myself in a direction that will lead me to a place where I'm really like an open receiver for that God energy, or whatever you want to call it."
The T-shirt he's wearing to the interview, beneath a sports jacket, bears the prominent slogan "Buddha on the Inside," indicating his newfound state of bliss. "I'm into clarity," he explains. "I really love clarity. I love knowing that when I laugh it's real, and when I work, it's mine. And I keep honing my life. Some people think I'm psychotic about it, but it really works for me." People are noticing his new intensity, which is now more internal than external. "It's weird," says Dean Parisot, the director of Fun with Dick and Jane. "I expected him to be crazy all the time, but he's incredibly focused and he's a workaholic. He's constantly questioning things, and you have to be on your toes, because he's very, very smart. So I didn't expect that. I expected somebody who was `on' all the time, as comedians are." Carrey is living a much more ascetic lifestyle than before, which might also have something to do with being middle-aged — he turns 44 on Jan.17. He has eliminated wheat, dairy products and sugar from his diet, because these things "make me less clear." He has particularly turned against caffeine, which he thinks is a major health problem, especially for children, who ingest it in soda pop and coffee lattes. "I have one coffee a day now rather than seven, because I think the world is living in a coffee-induced hyperbolic mode that is insane. It's part of the reason why our kids are on Ritalin. I don't believe there is such a thing as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).... "If somebody had given me Ritalin (as a child) I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be where I am. Because all of those instincts would have been squashed, you know? So I really worry about that stuff, what they're doing with kids."
He is starting to sound a bit like Tom Cruise, another celebrity who has lately been proclaiming his lifestyle views, denouncing psychiatry and mood-altering medicine. Carrey frowns at the comparison. "No! I believe there's a place for medication. There's a time in people's lives when they need a little help, and I think that's totally good. I don't believe in ADD ... I believe it's misdiagnosed a lot." He is even more fixated on the number 23, which he has come to think of as a key to universal knowledge. Carrey rhymes off cosmic examples: the Earth tilts at 23 degrees. There are 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human body... "And the Mayans believed that the world would end in the year 2012 — that's 20 plus 1 plus 2." Carrey is currently in pre-production for a mystery movie called The Number 23, directed by Joel Schumacher and co-starring Elisabeth Shue, in which Carrey will play a man who becomes obsessed with the number in question. This cosmic comic is also into astrology in a big way. It helps explain, in a roundabout way, why he doesn't suffer from reflexive Canadian guilt about being successful. In 25 years of making movies and TV shows, with hits like Bruce Almighty, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and two Ace Ventura smashes, he has become one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. Carrey figures he's worth every penny, and he has the star sign to prove it. "I was born Jan.17, the same day as Muhammad Ali, so I deserve it!" he says, chuckling at his bravado. "I'm a Capricorn-Aquarius cusp. Besides Muhammad Ali, the other people born on my birthday are Andy Kaufman, Stanislavsky, Benjamin Franklin and Al Capone. And when you think about it, they're all troublemakers, but in a fun way — except for Al Capone, of course. And I'm sure he was fun to his friends. He was fun to play baseball with, apparently."
Carrey normally loathes doing sequels or remakes. He turned down a king's ransom in offers for Ace Ventura 3 and The Mask 2 (the latter was made without him, and bombed). But he readily agreed to do Fun with Dick and Jane, a remake of a 1977 black comedy that starred Jane Fonda and George Segal. The new version pairs Carrey with Téa Leoni, who shares his love of fearless physical comedy. It's the story of an affluent California couple, Dick and Jane Harper, who are happily living the American Dream of rampant capitalism, mass consumption and the pursuit of happiness — until they both lose their jobs through corporate chicanery and resort to crime to remain solvent. "I love the idea of a couple just throwing the rules out and showing the white-collar creeps what it's like to be reamed," Carrey says. He speaks with conviction born of personal hardship. When Carrey was 12 years old, his accountant father Percy lost his job, and young Jim's family — which includes three siblings — were literally forced out onto the streets of Newmarket and Scarborough. They lived in an old Volkswagen van for months. Until that point, Carrey had been a sunny and untroubled child, a straight-A student who loved to entertain his teachers and fellow students. But tough times hurt him deeply, and his grades and disposition plummeted. "I didn't believe in catastrophe, and at that point, the bottom fell out ... I didn't want to make any friends, and I always had lots of friends. Suddenly, I didn't want to know anyone, I didn't want to see anyone, I just wanted to fight."
Carrey has spoken of his early years many times. But the similarities between his own struggles and those of his character in Fun with Dick and Jane have loosened his tongue like never before. He credits the time spent living in a van with toughening his resolve and improving his art. "All of the worst times in my life have become the tools that I use." These times would include his checkered romantic career, which has seen him twice married and twice divorced, and linked with everyone from actress Renée Zellweger to former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy. He has a daughter from his first marriage, Jane Erin Carrey, now 18 and an aspiring actress. Carrey resists all attempts to pry out details of his current dating situation. But even if there is no new woman in his life, he's definitely found new meaning and motivation. He's happily doing the press rounds for Fun with Dick and Jane, a task he usually dreads. And he's supremely grateful that his audience still loves him —despite the occasional flop — even if it means people come up to him in restaurants, as a man in a three-piece suit did the other night, and start imitating Carrey's "Alrighty then!" catchphrase from Ace Ventura. "I'm happy that people love it, and I do it for that reason. I really do. I've had to ask myself why I do this several times in my life. I look forward to that day when I'm 70 or 80 years old, and 40-year-old people come up to me and go, `Dude! You were my babysitter! I watched you endlessly!'" Carrey still looks forward to painting his masterpiece, metaphorically speaking. Despite his vast success and personal wealth, Carrey believes he is still capable of creating the ultimate expression of his art, something that may or may not be in movies and may or may not involve comedy. "I really honestly want to get to a point where I do something, and I don't know what I'm looking for, that has just never been seen on planet Earth. Something that has never been experienced by an audience. "I want to do something that explodes out of the screen and throws lightning bolts through people like in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know what I mean? That's the feeling I want people to have. I guess I want to have an effect, you know?" How will he know when he's achieved this state of grace? Carrey thinks for a moment, and smiles. "I'll explode into a ball of light!" For once, he may not be kidding.
Pratfalls Make Perfect
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic
(Dec. 19, 2005) NEW YORK—Jim Carrey has what he considers to be the ultimate praise for Téa Leoni, his co-star in Fun with Dick& Jane. As a woman, Carrey figures, Leoni acts just like a man. "She's sexy, but she's got a little bit of a masculine edge to her that's ready to go anywhere," the Canuck comic says. "I got to throw her in the pool and have fun with her." That's music to the ears of Leoni, who loves physical comedy. "I'm very physical and athletic and always have been," the New York-born actress tells the Star with a toothy grin at the compliment. "I was quite a tomboy until age 38 (she turns 40 on Feb. 25). I'm just bent that way. I just enjoy it too much, so I can't imagine missing out on the opportunity. It's just too good." Viewers of Fun with Dick& Jane, a big-ticket comedy opening Wednesday, might overlook the fact the film is a satire of the American Dream. Carrey and Leoni are Dick and Jane Harper, a well-to-do California couple who turn to crime to maintain their lifestyle after their nest egg is crushed by corporate chicanery. The film's broadest appeal could well be the undeniable chemistry between Leoni and Carrey, who never miss a chance to slip, flip, trip or shtick in service of slapstick comedy. Leoni's favourite moment in the movie is the scene where Dick and Jane, wearing ski masks, clumsily hold up a coffee shop for mochas and muffins and she goes flying across a counter. "That fall over the coffee counter is my best piece of work. I'm really proud of that," says Leoni, whose first name is pronounced "Tay-uh."
It wasn't essential to the story to have Leoni and Carrey get along so well, and to match each other for slides on the banana peel. The movie is a remake of a 1977 comedy of the same name starring Jane Fonda and George Segal, whom few would describe as the perfect pairing. But everyone involved with the remake quickly realized the potential of joint lunacy by Leoni and Carrey. "Both of us were ready and willing and eager to slip down a flight of stairs, and it became more and more important to the movie as we went on," Leoni says. "We never skipped a scene that showed what a great couple this was." Getting to play the tomboy or the daffy dame is no stretch for Leoni. In last year's Spanglish, she was the wired wife of Adam Sandler, a frantic over-achiever who shouts at pedestrians to get out of her way while she jogs, and who is so into her own pleasure she ignores her husband even while having sex with him. Early on in her career, after finishing her liberal arts studies at the upper-crust Sarah Lawrence College, Leoni auditioned for and got a role as one of the feisty femmes on a new Charlie's Angels TV series, which was supposed to start in 1988. It was scuttled by a writer's strike, but Leoni, who had auditioned on a dare from a friend, decided she liked acting. From 1995-98, she spent three years as the star of the TV sitcom The Naked Truth, a show that required everything she had to give, and more. She realized she could only go so far before really hurting herself. "I injured myself quite a bit on that show. There were a lot of ankle sprain(s) and shoulder yanks and wrists getting bent backwards and necks getting tweaked a lot.
"I started to notice not long after that show that I was starting to creak a little bit. I did go to this doctor who went over all the things I've broken in my life, a lot doing comedy." Leoni was afraid he'd prescribe painkillers or other medicine. But the doctor instead told her to take up Pilates. She took his advice and now does Pilates religiously, crediting it with keeping her in shape for demanding roles, which have also included playing a feisty news reporter in the 1998 comet-disaster blockbuster Deep Impact. The training also helped Leoni get back her enviable shape after having two children with her actor-husband David Duchovny. They have a daughter West, 6, and a son Miller, 3. Fun with Dick& Jane is a bit of poetic justice for Leoni, having missed out on many roles where her deep voice and tomboy behaviour kept her from being considered for the "princess" roles so often given to women. It's a bias she's fought her entire life. "There are some reasons all those princesses caught on and Disney makes millions.... We have some precognitive attraction to it. And I think when you're growing up and you have an incredibly low voice, you get knocked out of princessdom. You won't get cast. "And now I sort of smile about it, because it did make me feel slightly off to the left, and as I've grown up I've decided that's not so bad." It's also made her fearless about her looks in a way that many actresses are afraid to be. There's a scene in Fun with Dick& Jane where Jane submits to experimental cosmetic treatment, something like Botox, and it goes disastrously wrong. She ends up looking as if she's been stung by a hive of killer bees, not a pretty sight. "I wanted to show how: (a) what actually could go wrong; and (b) how stupid it is," Leoni told movie journalists in a separate interview.
"It just makes me sad ... I want to be on film the age that I am. Elisabeth Shue and I have a thing going on. We have a pact that if we ever start flirting with Botox needles, we're going to call each other." Leoni jokes about her Pilates and other physical routines: "I used to work out for my ass. Now I work out for my heart. But I think my ass is benefiting." Some might say she can afford to be cavalier. She's a natural beauty; tall, blond and lean, and accentuates that with feminine attire that on this day includes a fetching multi-coloured scarf. But she knows that once she reaches 40, she'll start being offered the roles where she plays the mother of men in their 20s or 30s. It's practically a law in Hollywood. Leoni doesn't mind, as long as she stays fit enough to keep throwing herself into her work. "I'm about to be 40 and I feel the sexiest I've ever felt," Leoni says. "When I'm 60, can you imagine how smart and sexy I'm going to be?"
Putting A New Twist On A Noble Career
Excerpt From The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman
(Dec. 21, 2005) If there were an Oscar for best performance by an actor with only one scene, surely the winner would be Roberta Maxwell as the repressed mother in Brokeback Mountain. I'd read and heard all kinds of ecstatic reports about the movie, which has emerged in the past couple of weeks as the consensus front-runner for best picture of 2005 honours. But I had no idea that Maxwell — one of the most talented performers ever to emerge from Stratford, Ont. — had a significant role in it. But there she was, right at the end of the film, lighting up the screen with a haunting and heart-breaking vignette. That made me wonder what had become of Maxwell — who has lived in New York for years — and why we haven't seen more of her in Canada. After tracking her down by phone yesterday, I asked Maxwell how she had pulled off that magical scene. "Within the sanctity afforded by Ang Lee," she replied, "I was able to drop my actor's mask and reveal my heart. I had no idea this small indie production would become a phenomenon, but I'm very proud of both the film and my scene." In the summer of 2004, Maxwell was taken to a secluded spot 45 miles from Calgary. (The story is set in Wyoming, but the shoot was moved to Alberta, shaving an already low budget.) Maxwell was brought in for just one day's work "When I arrived, people were getting ready to leave," she recalls. "They wanted to pack up." Except there was this one scene left, a postscript to the drama. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) goes to a remote farmhouse to pay a visit to the parents of Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal).
There he finds a truly scary monster father (Peter McRobbie) and a mother (Maxwell) unwilling or unable to say what she is feeling. So she communicates entirely through looks, gestures and nuance, almost as if speaking in code. "Earlier in the movie, Jack has described Mrs. Twist as a Pentecostal Christian," says Maxwell. "Then in this last scene we see a woman who has experienced great cruelty and suffering but is still able to offer compassion to Ennis. When she takes him upstairs and shows him Jack's things, she makes it clear that Jack has loved and been loved." Maxwell still makes frequent visits to Toronto and Stratford, and three years ago she was nominated for a Gemini for the CBC television movie Scar Tissue, based on Michael Ignatieff's novel. But she made her name in the theatre, and in recent years, despite winning several awards in the U.S., her stage appearances in Canada have become rare. "It's not by my choice," she says, diplomatically. She got her start at the Stratford Festival in 1957 when she was a Toronto schoolgirl who had appeared on the Howdy Doody TV show. When she tried out for Stratford, Michael Langham, then artistic director, said she was too short but gave her a job known as "call boy." It was Maxwell's responsibility to knock on the doors of important actors and yell "Five minutes, Mr. Campbell" or "Places, Miss Hyland." After working with a provincial rep company in England and taking roles in Halifax and Winnipeg, she returned to Stratford in 1966 only to leave again after appearing in half a dozen Shakespeare productions. She came back as a leading lady in 1983 (when she worked with John Hirsch) and returned for several seasons during David William's tenure as artistic director from 1989 to 1993. Then in 1994, the first year of Richard Monette's tenure as artistic director, Maxwell starred opposite Brian Bedford in the Molière double bill Husbands and Cuckolds. It was a hit, but she had a falling out with the festival over a New York run. The problem, according to Maxwell, was that Bedford was determined to direct the Broadway version and her loyalty was to Langham, who had staged the show in Stratford. "We had a parting of the ways," she says. "Every Stratford artistic director has had his own family of actors. All I know is that I'm not wanted at the inn." Never mind. Maxwell recently appeared in the Berkshire Theatre Festival's revival of Equus, 30 years after performing in the original New York production. "The difference was this time I didn't disrobe," she says. "I played the judge." She was also in a tryout for a new play about J.M. Barrie, and another independent film role in the works. Early in 2006, Maxwell is going to L.A., "just so I can enjoy the fun of Brokeback being touted for Oscars. It's such a special time and such a special film. Why not enjoy it while it lasts?"
Toronto Critics Pick Year's Best In Film
Excerpt From The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic
(Dec. 21, 2005) Toronto director David Cronenberg's A History of Violence is the top film of 2005 as chosen by Toronto movie critics, improving its chances for serious Oscar consideration. The drama about a quiet man's reckoning of a dark past was named best picture by members of the Toronto Film Critics Association, a print and broadcast group. The TFCA also named A History of Violence as the year's best Canadian film and Cronenberg as best director. It's a break from the trend that has seen Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain dominate the year-end kudos cavalcade by critics and other industry players, leading to the Academy Awards on March 5. Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 31. But the TFCA overlooked Cronenberg's film in other top categories. Bennett Miller's Truman Capote biopic Capote also snagged three awards, for best male performance (Philip Seymour Hoffman), best supporting female performance (Catherine Keener) and best first feature (Miller). The prize for best female performance went to Laura Linney for her work in the divorce drama The Squid and the Whale, which also took the screenplay prize for writer/director Noah Baumbach. The award for best supporting male performance went to Paul Giamatti in Ron Howard's Cinderella Man, a boxing drama starring Russell Crowe that was filmed in Toronto. Cronenberg said he was delighted to get recognition from hometown critics for his film, which stars Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt.
But he told the Star he's learned never to take such praise for granted. "It's very good news, and I was really pleased because it's from my hometown. But I also know that Toronto critics are not shy about letting filmmakers know when they're not happy about movies. I'm completely not cynical about this and I accept it as a true elevation of the movie." He said he hopes that he and his wife Caroline will be able to attend the TFCA awards dinner, which is planned for next month. Cronenberg added that he still considers himself a Canadian filmmaker through and through, even though A History of Violence was financed in large part with U.S. money and the film is set in America (but it was filmed near Toronto, with Canadian crew and supporting actors). "I'm completely Canadian," he said. "I'm born and raised here and I've always lived here, so how could I be anything else? "And I think A History of Violence is Canadian, too, although on a creative level and not on an official government funding level. The creative input on both sides was extremely strong. If a Canadian-U.K. co-production can be considered Canadian, which it usually is, then this is a legitimately Canadian production in the same way." The TFCA crowning adds to other kudos for Cronenberg's film, which premiered last May at the Cannes Film Festival and appears on many Top 10 lists for critics, which are being tallied online at http://www.moviecitynews.com. It is also in contention for prizes at next month's Golden Globes ceremony. Cronenberg said he's hopeful his movie will go all the way to the Oscars, but he wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the trophies went to Brokeback Mountain (which he hasn't seen yet, but wants to) or other potential challengers such as Capote and Syriana. "I'm enjoying it," he said of the awards process. "It's not the same as making a movie, but it's part of releasing a movie. You can't avoid it, but there are a lot of other movies out there, and it's turned out to be a surging good year in terms of depth. If you can distinguish yourself in a year like this, it's a good thing."
Golden Boy Still Shining
Excerpt From The Toronto Star - Frazier Moore, Associated Press
(Dec. 21, 2005) NEW YORK—Robert Redford recently hung out with his pal Paul Newman. That's not so odd. What was different is that he did it on camera, for a documentary to air on Sundance Channel, the cable network he founded but seldom appears on. The two appear together for the season finale of Iconoclasts, an hour-long portrait that pairs two innovators from different creative fields for one to serve as an admiring guide into the world of the other. Like chef Mario Batali on rocker Michael Stipe, or actress Renée Zellweger on correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Or Redford on Newman beyond his role as screen legend. "It was never going to be The Paul and Bob Show," says Redford, who also executive-produced the series. "Instead, the idea of me presenting a friend who was also a colleague to speak about what inspired him — his salad-dressing company, his racing interests, his camp for children — those were areas that I thought were worthy of attention. "And I thought maybe someday he can turn around and present me, and let me talk about Sundance," says Redford, adding an affectionate gibe, "which he probably won't do." Redford, who at 68 still looks terrific — a craggier version of the golden boy in jeans and denim shirt whose reign as superstar began four decades ago — will be on TV in another capacity this month. He will be saluted (with Tony Bennett, Suzanne Farrell, Julie Harris and Tina Turner) on the 28th Annual Kennedy Center Honors, Dec. 27.
Sitting down with a reporter not long ago, he makes clear that his sights are fixed on 2006, when his Sundance mission will mark a couple of gratifying milestones: a decade for Sundance Channel and a nice, round quarter-century for the Sundance Institute, the non-profit organization dedicated to developing artists of independent vision and exhibiting their work. "Sundance was started as a mechanism for the discovery of new voices and new talent," Redford says. It was his response to concern in the late 1970s that movies were narrowing their focus, becoming too commercial, too beholden to the youth market. Even then, at the height of his star power (with hits like Three Days of the Condor, All the President's Men and his Oscar-winning directing debut for Ordinary People) Redford recognized that, all too soon, there might not be a call for the kind of films he liked to make. Or, for that matter, liked to see. The festival's success brought out aspects — like paparazzi and fashion stars — that competed for attention with the films. But there has been no change in the mission, Redford stresses. Just new ways to pursue it, such as the Sundance Channel, begun in 1996. "I wanted to see Sundance through, and make sure it wasn't corrupted or derailed. But my own work did suffer in the last two decades," he says. "Whereas in the '70s I would make sometimes three films in a year, and was having a wonderful time, I made just three or four films in the entire 1980s." He's now poised to throw himself back into acting. No fewer than three films are in development, including one that would reunite him on-screen with his co-star from The Sting, the 80-year-old Newman, and another, a Jackie Robinson biopic, in which he would play baseball executive Branch Rickey. No surprise, then, if he feels it's just a bit premature to get that Kennedy Center life-achievement award. "You're flattered, you're honoured. But there's a lot to be done yet. Retirement's not an option for me, never would be," insists this ageless golden boy. "It's too early to be bronzed."
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Dec. 15, 2005) *As previously reported, Jamie Foxx is attached to star in Paramount’s adaptation of Jeff Stetson's novel "Blood on the Leaves," the story of a district attorney who struggles with feelings of revenge as he prosecutes a black history professor charged with the murder of white men who were accused of crimes against blacks during the civil rights movement. In further details revealed Wednesday, Foxx is set to play the district attorney, and Stetson, whose novel “Blood on the Leaves” was published in July 2004 by Warner Books, will adapt his own work for the big screen.
‘Soul Food’s’ Brandon Hammond In Director’s Chair
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Dec. 19, 2005) *Brandon Hammond, the actor who played the young Ahmad in the film “Soul Food,” has completed his first work as a director with the short film “Summer Blame.” The 21-year-old filmmaker and student at Saddleback Community College also wrote the screenplay, which follows a group of 11-year-olds who are challenged with creating their own fun each summer in a poor community that suffers from a failing school system, the non-existence of adult supervision and street violence. Tyler Owens, the story’s protagonist, ends up with his older brother’s handgun, foreshadowing a chain of tragic events. “Summer Blame,” recently entered in the Pan African Film Festival’s short film category, is the first of a slate of films to be produced by Hammond and his mother, Alfreda Williams, for their company Wide-Eyed Productions. Hammond was 13 when he played Ahmad in “Soul Food” opposite Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox and Nia Long. He has also played a young Michael Jordan in “Space Jam” and five-year-old Caine in “Menace II Society.”
John Spencer Dies
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Lynn Elber, Associated Press
(Dec. 17, 2005) Los Angeles — John Spencer, who played a tough and dedicated politico on The West Wing who survived a serious illness to run for vice president, died of a heart attack Friday. He was 58. Spencer died after being admitted to a Los Angeles hospital during the night, said his publicist, Ron Hofmann. He would have been 59 on Tuesday. He was "one of those rare combinations of divinely gifted and incredibly generous," said Richard Schiff, who plays Toby Ziegler on the NBC series. "There are very few personal treasures that you put in your knapsack to carry with you for the rest of your life, and he's one of those," Schiff said. He said Spencer had been struggling with health issues but seemed to have rebounded. Spencer played Leo McGarry, the savvy and powerful chief of staff to President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet (Martin Sheen). In a sad parallel to life, Spencer's character suffered a heart attack that forced him to give up his White House job. McGarry recovered and was picked as a running mate for Democratic presidential contender Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits; the campaign against Republican Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) has been a central theme for the drama this season.
"John was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a brilliant actor," said Aaron Sorkin, who created the series, and Tommy Schlamme, one of the original executive producers, in a joint statement. "We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him. He'll be missed and remembered every day by his many, many friends," they said. Actress Allison Janney, C.J. Cregg on the series, described Spencer as a consummate professional actor. "Everyone adored him," she said. "We have all lost a dear, dear brother," said Bradley Whitford, who plays Josh Lyman. NBC and producer Warner Bros. Television praised Spencer's talent but did not address how his death would affect the Emmy Award-winning series, in production on its seventh season. Spencer, who also starred on L.A. Law as attorney Tommy Mullaney, received an Emmy Award for his performance on "The West Wing" in 2002 and was nominated four other times for the series.
The actor, whose world-weary countenance was perfect for the role of McGarry, mirrored his character in several ways: Both were recovering alcoholics and both, Spencer once said, were driven. "Like Leo, I've always been a workaholic, too," he told The Associated Press in a 2000 interview. "Through good times and bad, acting has been my escape, my joy, my nourishment. The drug for me, even better than alcohol, was acting." Spencer grew up in Paterson, N.J., the son of blue-collar parents. With his enrolment at the Professional Children's School in Manhattan at age 16, he was sharing classes with the likes of Liza Minnelli and budding violinist Pinchas Zukerman. As a teenager, he landed a recurring role on The Patty Duke Show as the boyfriend of English twin Cathy. Stage and film work followed. Then his big break: playing Harrison Ford's detective sidekick in the 1990 courtroom thriller "Presumed Innocent." That role led to his hiring for the final four years of "L.A. Law." Spencer played a streetwise lawyer on the David E. Kelley drama that was in sharp contrast to the show's otherwise glamorous cast and setting. After attending the Manhattan performing arts school, Spencer studied at Fairleigh Dickenson University. He then began working on stage in New York and in regional theatres, in plays including David Mamet's Lakeboat and Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. Spencer won an Obie Award for the 1981 off-Broadway production of Still Life, about a Vietnam veteran, and received a Drama Desk nomination for The Day Room. His made his feature film debut with a small role in War Games, which was followed by roles in "Sea of Love" and Black Rain. Spencer said his work in Presumed Innocent represented a "watershed role." In recent years, he worked both in studio and independent films, including The Rock, The Negotiator, Albino Alligator, Lesser Prophets and Cold Heart. Spencer, an only child, is survived by "cousins, aunts, uncles, and wonderful friends," Hofmann said.
Writers Will Deal With Death
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Dec. 20, 2005) NEW YORK—Writers on The West Wing will have to grapple with actor John Spencer's death when production resumes after the holidays. Spencer, 58, who played former White House chief of staff and now vice-presidential candidate Leo McGarry, died of a heart attack on Friday. The show airs no new episodes until Jan. 8, with the last of the completed episodes not scheduled to air until March 19, due to the Winter Olympics and other specials, NBC said. Spencer is featured in two unaired episodes. The show scheduled for Jan. 8 includes a debate between vice-presidential candidates, including Spencer. The entire season is built upon a presidential campaign featuring actors Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits, and Warner Bros. hasn't filmed the results of the election yet.
Theatre's Power Couple Pool Their Talents On The Stratford Stage
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian
(Dec. 18, 2005) WHO: Colm and Donna Feore
WHAT THEY DID: It was a year to pour the Bloody Caesars in the Feore household. His big achievement was the raves he received from the New York critics as Cassius opposite Denzel Washington's Brutus in the Broadway production of Julius Caesar, but he also starred as the murdered emperor himself in the miniseries Empire.
She continued her winning streak as a Stratford choreographer with some groovy '60s dances for the "summer of love" staging of As You Like It, complete with score by the Barenaked Ladies. Then she turned around and directed the acclaimed concert-style revival of Annie Get Your Gun that joyously brought Louise Pitre back to Toronto. WHY IT MATTERS: It's always good to get Colm back on stage, where he's an unbeatable classical actor, and away from the movies, where there are a lot of other guys who can portray the thin-lipped villains he does. And Donna has been playing the choreographic card for years, so it's exciting to see her stretching her talented wings into directing. The real test will be next summer when the Feores will both be taking centre stage at Stratford. Donna will be making her Festival directing debut, which will involve ensuring that hubby doesn't chew too much scenery playing Fagin in the big mainstage musical, Oliver! Colm will also be starring in the title roles of Coriolanus and Don Juan, so don't worry: they'll be too busy to fight.
Toronto Trio Sugar Cast Of Sweet Charity
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian
(Dec. 20, 2005) This New Year's Eve, three ex-Torontonians will be saying goodbye to 2005 in Times Square, but their farewell is definitely going to be on the bittersweet side. Paul Schoeffler, Shannon Lewis and Rhett George have all spent the last year playing featured roles in the Broadway revival of Sweet Charity, starring Christina Applegate. The only trouble is that the musical comedy will close on Dec. 31 after 279 performances. Applegate broke her foot during the show's tryout in Chicago and the backstage drama about whether the Broadway visit would be cancelled cast a pall over the proceedings that never really lifted. The closing "is a shame," says Lewis, "because it's really a fun time and people enjoy it." I saw it last month and would have to agree with her, but what I found even more intriguing was how a trio of Toronto expats who had never met before landed in the same production. At 47, Schoeffler is the oldest of the threesome in the role of the suave Italian film star, Vittorio Vidal. He was born in Montreal, the son of a French-Canadian mother and a German father, but moved to Toronto when he was only 6 weeks old. "I lived out in Islington," he recalls, "just off Royal York Rd. I went to De La Salle College on Avenue Rd and can still remember all the subway stops along the way." At 13, Schoeffler was sent to a British boarding school and then to California for college, where he plunged into the world of performing. He started a far-ranging career that has included roles in five Broadway shows (most notably as Captain Hook opposite Cathy Rigby's Peter Pan) as well as lots of work off-Broadway and in regional theatres. "I'm drawn to where the work is good," he maintains. "If it's an interesting play, I'll go anywhere to do it." And yes, he laughs, "I'd gladly go back to Toronto." Lewis uses her dancer's poise and dazzling looks to make the most of the role of spoiled rich-bitch Ursula, hopping in and out of smart East Side nightspots.
It's a far cry from her childhood days, born in Brampton and raised in Pickering. "I began in ballet at 2, playing a fairy," she giggles, "and then I went into gymnastics. I was really into artistic gymnastics for 10 years, when I suddenly grew to 5 foot 7." She went to the Seneca School of the Arts for gymnastics "but discovered I liked dance better and got into jazz and tap." Her early career followed a path many young dancers would recognize. "I worked at the CNE and Canada's Wonderland, which was a great way to learn how to be in a show." Casting agent Stephanie Gorin saw her in a Wonderland revue called Superstars and asked her why she hadn't tried out for the Toronto production of Crazy for You. "Because I'm 17 and still in high school," was her reply. But a few years later, during her first term in theatre arts at Ryerson, she was called down to New York to audition. "Before I got back to my dorm, they told me I had the part and that was it." Since then, her career has taken off. She was in the Livent show Fosse from the very start right through its Broadway run and is the only actress to perform all three of the leading roles in Susan Stroman's Contact. But she misses Toronto. "My entire family and my extended family are all still there. I'm a proud Canadian." Rhett George, who plays the jive-singing Big Daddy, was born "right in downtown T.O., at Mount Sinai Hospital." He was an early bloomer. "Piano lessons at 5, dance lessons at 7, performing at weddings by the time I was 10. At 16, I landed in Canada's Wonderland and then at 18, I was cast in the Toronto production of Rent." He's been working all over North America ever since, but he was glad to come back home for a year as part of The Lion King. His other Broadway credits include Aida and Wicked, and he's been climbing the ladder from chorus member to support player to featured parts. "It would be nice to do a leading role," he says shyly. "Maybe in the next show." And, like his two partners in crime, "I would come back home in a minute." And maybe it will happen, if they want it enough. After all, the trio has spent the last year with Applegate's Charity Hope Valentine, so now it's time for Faith to have a turn — especially as of New Year's Eve.
Out Of The Basement And Into The Stores: Music Journal Wins
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry
(Dec. 18, 2005) WHO: Priya Ramanujam, 22, and Adrian McKenzie, 24
WHAT: Founders of Urbanology magazine
WHY IT MATTERS: Rather than hounding mainstream media outlets with their resumés after college graduation, these high school chums amassed $25,000 (savings and family loans) and launched a glossy quarterly magazine devoted to urban music.
Run out of the basement of Ramanujam's family home in Malvern, the publication landed shelf space in major bookstores in Canada and the U.S. and an estimated readership of 60,000. It also garnered a Canadian Urban Music Award nomination and the admiration of industry heavyweights noting the staff's youth and moxie — perpetually multi-tasking music mogul Damon Dash made time for a 75-minute chat and photo shoot, while R&B singer Faith Evans inquired of interviewer Ramanujam "How old are you?" "We figured we could probably do it if we put our minds to it, so we decided to take a chance," said editor-in-chief Ramanujam, a former Toronto Star intern. Having nailed their first-year goal of "creating a buzz," the pair now seek loyal readership and U.K. distribution. In a year when black men under 30 dominated this city's headlines with their deaths and misdeeds, it's reassuring to see them over-represented as writers, editors and photographers among the photos on Urbanology's contributors' page.
Tookie Residue: Becnel Planning ‘Rosa Parks-Sized’ Funeral
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Dec. 15, 2005) *Stanley Tookie Williams may be gone, but the death penalty debate left in the wake of his execution by lethal injection early Tuesday is very much alive and kicking. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision Monday not to grant the San Quentin inmate clemency was seen as an act of betrayal by the former bodybuilder’s own home country of Austria, not to mention most of Europe – where capital punishment has been banned in most countries and is outlawed by the 25-member European Union. Following the governor’s denial of clemency for Tookie, the headline on the front page of one of Austria’s largest newspapers read, "Terminator." Liberal Green Party leaders in Schwarzenegger's home province of Styria moved to take back an honour given to him by the city and to rename the local Arnold Schwarzenegger sports stadium “Stanley Tookie Williams Memorial Stadium.” A prominent Green Party member of parliament even proposed that Schwarzenegger’s Austrian citizenship be revoked. Conservative politicians in Austria, however, defend Schwarzenegger’s decision to deny clemency. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who personally opposes the death penalty, insisted Tuesday that California's governor had only abided by the rules of the American justice system. Elsewhere in Europe, the Vatican strongly opposed the execution, with a top aide to Pope Benedict XVI condemning it as dictated by the Holy See's opposition to the death penalty. Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's justice and peace department, said capital punishment was "the negation of human dignity."
Back here in the states, five California democrats have proposed legislation that would place a moratorium on executions until a special commission finishes examining whether California's criminal justice system allows innocent people to be convicted. Its hearing - scheduled long before Tookie’s lethal injection Tuesday - comes as the state is poised to perform a record number of executions in 2006. Tookie’s body, meanwhile, is in the care of his close friend and mentor Barbara Becnel, who co-authored his children’s books denouncing violence and gangs. Becnel tells the Los Angeles Times that she is planning a major public memorial service for Williams in L.A. that would be on the scale of the funerals for Rosa Parks. She plans to release more details on the service later this week. In one of his books, Tookie expressed a wish for his remains, stating: "I want to be buried in South Africa under a yohirimbi tree or my ashes scattered in the Blue Nile river to feed the fish there." Becnel said she would probably arrange a meeting with former South Africa President Nelson Mandela to carry out the wish. Mandela’s former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, on Wednesday offered to help fulfill his final wish. A spokesman for Madikizela-Mandela told the Afrikaans daily Beeld that she will "honour her promise to see that Williams is buried in South Africa." Becnel, who witnessed Tookie’s execution early Tuesday, believes he is innocent of the four murders for which he was executed and said the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has promised her its resources in proving Williams' innocence. In describing his final moments in the death chamber, Becnel said, “He suffered. He was writhing, lifting his head up and fussing…It was horrible. To me, it was torture. It took 35 minutes to kill him."
Everybody's Favourite Ballerina Now A Powerful Voice For The
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker
(Dec. 18, 2005) WHO: Karen Kain, former prima ballerina of the National Ballet of Canada, now its artistic director
WHAT SHE DID: In a speech to an arts summit in Montreal last March in her capacity as Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, Kain urged artists and arts organizations to join together to press for more funding for the council. A vigorous arts coalition, historic in size and lobbying power, came together and made itself heard, sending 70 representatives to Ottawa in October. On Nov. 23, federal Heritage Minister Liza Frulla announced a $306.5 million increase in the Canada Council's budget over the next three years, the biggest single boost the council has received in its nearly 50-year history.
In June, a rush of private pledges to the National Ballet followed Kain's appointment as artistic director, effective July 1. She was endorsed with a series of donations that finally tallied $226,475. This was a good sign that Kain is well positioned for the growth in funding and operations required as the company prepares to move to the Four Seasons Centre for its 2006-2007 season. The dancer also found time to write the text of a picture book, The Nutcracker (Tundra), published to celebrate the 10th anniversary of James Kudelka's production of the Christmas ballet. The book sold out its 5,000-copy print run. WHY IT MATTERS: When Kain talks about funding for the arts, those holding the purse strings tend to listen. She sees her latest activities as a natural sequel to her years as a dancer and artistic associate at the ballet. "I have a responsibility as someone who has had a wonderful career in this country to help other artists achieve their goals."
His Designs For Living Help To Shape Our City
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Christopher Hume
(Dec. 18, 2005) WHO: Bruce Kuwabara, architect
WHAT HE DID: Kuwabara's practice, KPMB, is one of Toronto's leading architectural firms. In 2005, KPMB completed the acclaimed National Ballet School on Jarvis Street. Kuwabara was also named chair of the Toronto Waterfront Design Review Panel, the first of its kind in Toronto.
WHY IT MATTERS: Not only is the ballet school a superb, state-of-the-art facility, the best of its kind in the world, it also represents an extraordinary act of city-building. Combined with the twin towers of the Radio City condo project, it allows the schemes to complement one another. Together, the school and condos bring new life to a part of the city that desperately needs it.
As chair, he will head a group of design volunteers who will examine all development proposals with an eye to architectural excellence. Nothing like it has been seen in this city, but hopes are that it will serve as a template for things to come. "Toronto has to understand the importance of the public realm," Kuwabara says. "The architect's first job, especially in the city, is to create the public realm. In Toronto, we're still waiting for a vision. We have a whole bunch of fragments of visions, but nothing that adds up to more than the sum of its parts."
Election Fails To Tickle Funny Bones — So Far
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Mckay, Canadian Press
(Dec. 18, 2005) Canadian comics who depend on politicians to help generate laughs aren't impressed with the federal election campaign so far. The party leaders, it seems, have been too controlled, too polite and just too boring to contribute behaviour that might be turned into good satire. But watch out after the holidays. "So far, I think it's been really dull," says Don Ferguson of CBC's Royal Canadian Air Farce, the long-running TV sketch series that dines out on political humour each Friday night. "I think the gloves are going to come off in January. Nobody wants to be the Grinch or Scrooge at this time of year, but once January 1st comes along (the leaders) will come out slugging because they'll realize they've got three weeks to make it count." Elvira Kurt, who hosts the Comedy Network's media satire show Popcultured, says she finds it strange that the Liberals have put political integrity into their message. "You would think that was a given. But that's how rare it is." Kurt also finds it interesting that the leaders have had to endure a debate in French, because it gives Conservative Leader Stephen Harper an excuse to say he misunderstood the question. " `I thought I was saying homo sapiens!' You know what I mean?"
As for Prime Minister Paul Martin? "I think he showed up on Corner Gas because he thinks Dog River is a constituency." Rick Mercer of CBC's Rick Mercer Report agrees that it's been a slow start. "Tune in for the real despicable displays of humanity immediately following Christmas," Mercer predicts. "Right now the parties are circling each other, but after Christmas they're stepping outside." Terry Mosher, the Montreal Gazette's resident political cartoonist known as Aislin, says there have been some mini-gaffes but nothing huge. He says the leaders are going nowhere in the polls because it's one of those same-old campaigns: same old issues, same old faces and possibly the same old outcome. "Somebody wants to win this thing. And Harper, if he cannot get it up above 30 per cent is really going to start getting angry and they're going to try desperate things, I think." Mosher says when Martin first came on the scene he drew the Liberal leader with no face because he was so bland. Now Mosher concentrates on his pigeon-toed body language. For Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe's caricature, the hairnet — the result of a long-ago disastrous photo op — has been replaced with a hockey helmet. "They all get interesting after a while. It takes time." Ferguson says the Farce has been portraying Harper as dull and lifeless, a programmed automaton. But they have found ripe parody in the recent crop of Conservative TV ads. "Those commercials are so stilted!" he says about the ones where a fake reporter and Harper appear to be reading off cue cards in a wooden fashion.
"Do you think they've actually been coached to look kind of amateurish so they'll seem like real people? Or is it just such a mad rush getting these things done — the campaign is suddenly on — and it's like `You have him for an hour. Make six commercials!' " Mercer and the Farce folks seem to have divergent views about using real politicians on their shows. Ferguson says they will not do that because they find the politicians co-opt the comedy instead of being the butt of the jokes. "We think we're making fun of them but actually they are the beneficiaries of all of this. "I just find they end up hijacking the comedy shows for political ends. So we said, well, let others do that, we don't want to be a part of it." But Mercer has joined Jack Layton on a bicycle-built-for-two tour of the NDP leader's Toronto riding. He's also taken Martin into a Canadian Tire store, even if it does help the PM by showing he has a sense of humour. And a passable knowledge of tools. Mercer says in a set-up like that, everybody wins. "Let's throw the big guy in there and see how he acts. If he was out of place, people would pick up on it, so there is a gamble involved. Luckily for him he knew his way around a hardware aisle."
Meet The Four Golden
Canucks Who Make Hollywood Heavyweights Quake
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By JAMES ADAMS
(Dec. 17, 2005) The people exerting the most important Canadian influence in Hollywood right now are Dagmar Dunlevy, André Guimond, Ray Arco and Noemia Young. Never heard of them? Don't worry, most of us in the Canadian media haven't either -- even though all four supposedly have submitted "four items of exemplary work" each to Canadian media outlets in the last 12 months to ensure their status as "active members" of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Whatever the quantity or quality of that work, it's the quartet's status as the only Canucks among the 91 active members of the 2005-06 HFPA that accounts for their Hollywood heft. This is because every year at this time the HFPA, which was founded 60-odd years ago, gets the world geared up for its Golden Globes ceremony. A decade ago the Globes were considered just another tacky awards whoop-up. Now they're second only to the Oscars as the gold standard of Hollywood achievement. Last year, the Globes' NBC broadcast attracted an audience of 27 million Americans, just 6 million shy of what the Oscar telecast got in 2003. Indeed, the Globes -- both the short list (the 2005 edition of which was announced this week) and the actual awards (to be handed out Jan. 16) -- are regarded as a kind of Coles Notes for the Oscars, harbingers of the way the 6,000-plus members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will cast their all-important ballots.
Of course, almost all movie awards are suspect, glam or no. I mean, Braveheart really wasn't the best film of 1995, was it? But the Golden Globes always have seemed the most suspect, perhaps because only 30 or 35 of the HFPA members are real working foreign journalists, and even here we're not talking Cahiers du Cinéma, let alone the Prince Albert Daily Herald: The biggest claim to Canadian fame for Dunlevy, who's been with the HFPA for more than 20 years, including two terms as president, seems to be the Dagmar in Hollywood Q&A feature she writes for Flare magazine. Some other members seem to freelance infrequently -- I managed to locate an article on Bruce Willis by Guimond in a 1998 issue of the Winnipeg Free Press -- and, as Sharon Waxman reported three years ago in The Washington Post, "a large number make their living at other professions, including teaching, real estate, car sales and film promotion." One past president even owned a dress shop in Los Angeles. The rising fortunes of the Golden Globes are a reflection of an anxiety-prone, fiercely competitive, ultra-expensive industry that doesn't seem to care who's giving out the prizes, just that there are prizes being given and the donors have a nice name. The financial health of Atom Egoyan's movie, Where the Truth Lies, now rests in the hands of European cinéastes, rep-house and TV programmers, and the DVD/VHS market. The controversial noirish thriller recently wrapped its inaugural run in commercial theatres across North America, grossing $587,539 in Canada and a just over $1-million in America, where it was released in mid-October as an "unrated" feature after its distributor failed to overturn an R mark given earlier by the Motion Picture Association. Since the movie, which had its world premiere more than seven months ago at the Cannes festival, reportedly cost about $29-million to make, it would seem it has many rivers to cross before it earns out. Truth recently opened in Great Britain on 45 screens, where it's earned more than $470,000. A German showcase is set for February. For the first time in its half-century history, the Canadian edition of TV Guide is publishing a double issue. Dated Dec. 24-Jan. 6, it's on newsstands Monday with a cover price of $1.99 -- 50 cents less than what's usually charged.
Editor Jaimie Hubbard is using the occasion to debut a new look for the mag. Since TV Guide has a circulation of more than 300,000 here, he's calling the revamp -- which features a cover story on what the cast of Desperate Housewives is doing for Christmas in their real lives -- "the biggest testing-group session in the country." TV Guide's last big change look-wise occurred in 2004 when its publisher scrapped the mag's long-running digest format for a trim size similar to that of a comic book. The big switcheroo this time is in the listings: They're going to be completely in colour; they're going to contain more pictures -- and instead of detailing what's on every half-hour or hour, "we're focusing on highlights more," says Hubbard. As a result, the lists are going to be organized not by time but by category -- or, more precisely, by six different categories: lifestyle, home and food, news and documentaries, life and reality, comedy, and drama.
U.S. Pundits Bash 'Retarded Cousin' Canada
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Beth Gorham, Canadian Press
(Dec. 19, 2005) WASHINGTON — Canada has been described lately by a conservative U.S. television host as "a stalker" and a "retarded cousin." Another pundit recently asked if Canadians weren't getting "a little too big for their britches." There's been a spate of Canada-bashing by right-wing media commentators in the United States ever since Prime Minister Paul Martin's complaints about lumber penalties and U.S. policy on climate change. His remarks prompted an unusual rebuke last week from the American ambassador. The attacks on Canada have had web bloggers typing overtime and a non-profit group that's monitoring the trend, Media Matters for America, says it's disturbing. Yet Paul Waldman, a senior fellow for the group, said Monday the criticism is confined to the usual faction that erupts whenever there's criticism of President George W. Bush's administration and it probably won't last past Canada's Jan. 23 election. "There are always going to be occasions when it pops up. But Canada is never going to occupy an extraordinary amount of American thought," said Waldman. "It's more like: `Who can we beat on today?' It's never going to reach the heights of animosity toward France in the run-up to the Iraq war." Last week, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, a well-known conservative pundit, let loose with a string of anti-Canada rants. "Anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York," he said.
"Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada." Carlson also said it's pointless to tell Canada to stop criticizing the United States. "It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right?" "It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States. We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all," he said. The day before, Fox News host Neil Cavuto highlighted Martin's remark at a news conference that the United States is a "reticent nation" lacking a "global conscience" on climate change. "So have the Canadians gotten a little too big for their britches?" Cavuto asked. "Could our neighbours to the north soon be our enemies?" Douglas MacKinnon, a press secretary to former Republican senator Bob Dole, also recently accused Canada of harbouring terrorists. "Can Canada really be considered our friend anymore?" he asked in a recent commentary in the right-wing Washington Times newspaper. "What other question can be asked when the Canadian government not only willingly allows Islamic terrorists into their country but does nothing to stop them from entering our nation?"
U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins warned Martin last week to tone down anti-American jabs or risk hurting bilateral relations. But Martin was unrepentant, saying he would "not be dictated to" by the United States and his hard line appears to be resonating with some voters. While the offensive from American pundits isn't widespread, it still has the potential to affect cross-border ties, said Waldman. "On Capitol Hill, the TVs are turned to Fox News. This kind of media environment is what the White House pays attention to," he said. "That hostility is probably shared by a lot of people in the administration."
Mijac, Bernie Mac, Labelle Speak About Pryor’s Legacy
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Dec. 16, 2005) *The death of Richard Pryor was particularly hard news to swallow by those in the entertainment industry whose art has in some way been inspired by his early work. MTV.com recently listed comments from various music and film stars who hail Pryor as a trendsetter and a legend.
• Chris Rock: "Richard Pryor was the Rosa Parks of comedy. He took risks and chances that made it possible for a whole generation of comics to exist. No one ever rocked the mic like Richard Pryor, the true 'King of Comedy.' "
• Michael Jackson: "Richard Pryor was the true ‘King of Comedy,’ there will never be another like him. He was a trailblazer whose extraordinary talent and genius provided the blueprint for others to follow."
• Bernie Mac: "Anytime you can look at a man and laugh before he opens his mouth, you're dealing with some top-shelf sh**. Richard Pryor was the best stand-up ever, hands down. The strength and fortitude that Richard had to deal with his condition for over 20 years tells you why he was as powerful a stand-up as he was. Without Richard, there would be no me."
• Common: "Richard Pryor meant so much to my life and to our lives. His creativity, his spirit and his truth was unparalleled. He definitely is the greatest to ever do it ... I feel like he was a part of my family."
• Anthony Anderson: "Because of Richard, these doors were open for people like me to come in and open other doors for people after me. It is a tremendous loss both personally and professionally for us all because Richard Pryor meant so much to us all across the board."
• Patti LaBelle: "Richard was like an everyman. He was a big brother, a friend and a counsellor. For me, losing him is like losing my other brothers, Luther Vandross and [LaBelle's music director] Budd Ellison. He always gave great advice and kept me laughing. ... He was the funniest man I've ever known!"
• Ice Cube: "He's one of the best comedians to ever do it. Lots of people making a lot of money today off of what Richard did. He's a big influence on my life, even in my music with early N.W.A. We couldn't be anywhere we could be without Richard Pryor, so it's real sad, but he's in a better place."
• Donald Faison: "If there were a family tree of comedy it would start with Richard Pryor, and everything after that would be because of him. It was very disturbing to hear that he passed away but I'm gonna celebrate his life because he's the reason that I'm here."
• Eddie Murphy: "Richard was the gold standard, a true genius who influenced not only me, but every comedian that took the stage after him. I feel fortunate to have been able to call him not only my inspiration as a young comic, but my friend," Murphy added. "I will miss him terribly, but I will take comfort in knowing that his legacy will last forever.
*In other Richard Pryor news, Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson, along with Pryor's widow Jennifer Lee Pryor, will announce a special commemoration for the late comedian this morning at 10:30 at City Hall.
Time Names Gates
Couple, Bono As "Persons Of The Year"
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By DESMOND BUTLER, Associated Press
(Dec. 18, 20050 New York — Time magazine has named Bill and Melinda Gates and rock star Bono its "Persons of the Year," citing their charitable work and activism aimed at reducing global poverty and improving world health. The magazine said 2005 was a year of extraordinary charity in which people donated record amounts in response to extreme natural disasters, from the tsunami in South Asia to Hurricane Katrina. "Natural disasters are terrible things, but there is a different kind of ongoing calamity in poverty and nobody is doing a better job in addressing it in different ways than Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono," said Jim Kelly, Time's managing editor. The 2005 "Person of the Year" package hits newsstands Monday. "For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono are Time's Persons of the Year," the magazine said. Time praised the Gates’ for building the world's largest charity — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a $29-billion (U.S.) endowment — and for "giving more money away faster than anyone ever has" in 2005. The foundation has saved at least 700,000 lives in poor countries by investing in vaccination programs, has donated computers and Internet access to 11,000 libraries and has sponsored the biggest scholarship fund in history, the magazine said.
Time said Bono's campaign to make rich countries address the debt of poorer ones has had an equally impressive impact on the world. In 2005, "Bono charmed and bullied and morally blackmailed the leaders of the world's richest countries into forgiving $40 billion in debt owed by the poorest," the magazine said. Bono has earned a remarkable number of political allies around the world and in Washington, where he has courted politicians from both major parties, Time said. "Bono's great gift is to take what has made him famous — charm, clarity of voice, an ability to touch people in their secret heart — combine those traits with a keen grasp of the political game and obsessive attention to detail, and channel it all toward getting everyone, from world leaders to music lovers, to engage with something overwhelming in its complexity," it said. Even archconservative former senator Jesse Helms had praise for the Irish singer. "I knew as soon as I met Bono that he was genuine," Helms, who has allied with Bono on AIDS awareness, told Time. Bono, who first met the Gates’ in 2002 to discuss their mutual interests, told Time that the Gates foundation is the second enterprise for Microsoft founder Bill Gates that has changed the world. "And the second act for Bill Gates may be the one that history regards more," the rock star said. In a separate article in the same edition, Time named former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush as "Partners of the Year" for their work on behalf of the victims of the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Last year, the "Person of the Year" distinction went to President George W. Bush. In 2003, the magazine honoured "The American Soldier."
Dancer Takes Movin' To New Heights
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rita Zekas, Entertainment Columnist
(Dec. 20, 2005) You want to hate Holly Cruikshank's guts or lack of. This woman's abs are flatter than Ben Affleck's performance in Gigli. Or in anything. But you can't hate her, she is so darned endearing. Cruikshank is the female lead singer/dancer Brenda in Movin' Out, at the Canon Theatre until New Year's Eve. She stands 6 feet tall, 6-foot-3 with the heels she wears on stage. Her leg extension is formidable , she should register her legs as lethal weapons. David Gomez, her usual dance partner as Tony, was out with an injury and his replacement ended up with leg in his face. "There is a part in the show where I look like I kick him and I actually kicked him," Cruikshank recalls in a boardroom at Mirvish Productions. Several dancers , all shorter than Cruikshank , share the role of Brenda because it is so brutal. There is a matinee Brenda and an evening performance Brenda. Cruikshank had knee surgery and had to sit it out on the tour for two months. "This is the only show that does this," she explains. "It is so physically demanding. Twyla (Tharp, Movin's director/choreographer) pushes everyone to the limit, making you do the hardest things. You have to have strong ballet technique. You physically can't do two shows in a day; you feel like a noodle or like you've run a marathon. You can eat anything you want." Though she doesn't tuck into the catered lunch of salad (with diet dressing) and soup. She'll reheat at home. The up side is, she doesn't have to do any other exercise other than yoga. "This show is the best job," she allows. "You get paid to work out."
Cruikshank won the 2005 Helen Hayes Award for Movin' Out. She's been Movin' for three and a half years, including its year-and-a-half Broadway run. She was the Girl in the Yellow Dress in Contact and appeared in Fosse, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; Hello Dolly and Will Rogers Follies. She has four roles in the film version of The Producers. "David Gomez (who is my height until I put on the three-inch shoes) and I did Contact together on Broadway. When I went to the audition, I made him come with me. Twyla hired us as a couple; we even dated but we got that out of our system. Twyla said, `I'm going to hire you and deal with your height later.'" In fact, she couldn't be a ballet dancer because of her height. She's even too tall to be a Rockette. "When I was 18, I auditioned for every ballet company and was told I was too tall (to partner). I had never seen a Broadway show and someone told me I should audition for Tommy Tune , who is 6-foot-8 , who was auditioning for Will Rogers Follies. I got the job; I was a showgirl. That was in '92." Marla Maples was the stunt casting in the show. "Entertainment Tonight was doing a story on the auditioning," she recalls. "I thought all auditions were as glamorous as that. Donald Trump was watching. I had never sung before, but somehow I got the job." Cruickshank's mother was 6 feet tall in the 8th grade. Cruikshank shot up during high school. "I always dated guys shorter than me," she says. "When I go out, I don't wear heels because I scare people away. They think I'm a drag queen." She is currently not in a relationship. "I work nights , it's not like I go out to bars. People think they know me from being on stage. But I'm not slutty.
"I'm shy and self-conscious. In the classroom, I couldn't speak, but I was not shy about dancing. I felt comfortable in my body, which is odd because I was wearing little costumes." Cruikshank has been dancing since she was 3. She hails from Fountain Hills, Ariz., near Scottsdale. Because both parents worked, (her dad is editor/publisher of the Fountain Hills Times), she was a ballet kid instead of a latchkey kid, bused to classes daily after daycare. She trained at the Ballet Arizona and the North Carolina School of the Arts. Cyd Charisse was her ideal, growing up. "She gave me the biggest compliment," Cruikshank recalls. "I was doing Fosse in L.A. and she came to the theatre. I got a note and a signed picture: She said I reminded her of herself in the MGM years." Cruikshank saw The Producers on the weekend with her mother. Cruikshank would have made a dynamite Ulla. Alas, they needed a name and went for Uma Thurman. "She had a dance double," Cruikshank explains. "She got away with it because she is supposed to be ditzy." Cruikshank has four scenes: she's one of the girls in pearls and the Valkyrie showgirl in Viking horns in the Springtime for Hitler number. Susan Stroman, director of the film, had directed Cruikshank in Contact. When she was in Funny Thing, the cast would hang out with Whoopi Goldberg, who replaced Nathan Lane in the lead. Lane is one of the leads in The Producers. Cruikshank played Panacea, a courtesan. "I wore a bikini made out of grapes," she laughs. "I always wear skimpy outfits. One night, Bill Clinton came onstage and they took photos. It was just after Monica Lewinsky and I had a blond wig. The photo is of him shaking my hand and he is actually looking past me, but it looks like he's looking at my chest. That photo ran everywhere , even People magazine and The New York Times."
Elton John, Partner Tie The Knot
Source: Associated Press
(Dec. 21, 2005) Windsor — Britain's most famous gay couple — Sir Elton John and Canadian filmmaker David Furnish — tied the knot on Wednesday in a star-studded event that capped the first week of civil partnership ceremonies in the United Kingdom. Cameras flickered as the couple — John wearing purple spectacles and a black suit — walked out arm-in-arm, waving to the photographers and fans who huddled together in the cobbled streets around Windsor's town hall, where Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles wed in April. The couple — who drove off in a black Rolls Royce for a lunch followed by a reception to be attended by more than 700 guests — were among hundreds of same-sex couples wedding in England and Wales on Wednesday, the first day that such ceremonies become possible. Ceremonies were held earlier this week in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking to reporters at a news conference, wished the couple well and congratulated them for exercising their new-found legal right. Gay rights activists saw the union as a watershed moment. "Their same-sex civil partnership ceremony will be reported all over the world including in countries where news about gay issues is normally never reported," said Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the gay and lesbian human rights group OutRage! "This will give hope to millions of isolated, vulnerable, lesbian and gay people, especially those living in repressive and homophobic countries." The new law — passed last year despite some opposition from Parliament's unelected House of Lords — allows civil ceremonies that will give same-sex couples the same social security, tax, pension and inheritance rights as married couples.
Furnish, a Canadian-born filmmaker, and John have been together for 12 years. Both have said they understand the implications of their union. "As far as I'm concerned I've always considered myself committed to Elton and he's the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with. So in that sense I don't feel like the dynamic of our relationship is going to change," Furnish told Attitude magazine. "But from a social standpoint, I think its hugely significant. It is a major, major change. It is one of the defining issues of our times." The reception was estimated to cost 1 million pounds ($1.75 million US), at which pink champagne and lamb would be served to hundreds of celebrity guests inside two giant white tents erected on the grounds of the pop star's Windsor mansion. The morning ceremony, in contrast, was low-key with only John's mother and stepfather and Furnish's parents reported in attendance. Guests at the couple's bachelor night on Monday included rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his wife Sharon, model-actress Liz Hurley and musicians Bryan Adams, Gary Barlow and Kid Rock. John, who was married once before to studio engineer Renate Blauel, has had many hit recordings including Crocodile Rock, Rocket Man and Candle In the Wind. He was also a close friend of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, and was knighted in 1998 — an honour he described as the pinnacle of his decades-long career. Other couples tying the knot Wednesday included actor Sir Antony Sher, 56, and his partner Greg Doran, 47, who wed at Islington Town Hall in north London. Sher said it was a "sweet and simple" ceremony during which he recited a speech from Cyrano de Bergerac, and Doran, chief associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, read one of the Bard's sonnets. The Netherlands, Canada, Belgium and Spain have legalized same-sex marriage, while Germany, France and Switzerland have civil laws similar to Britain's. In the United States, only Massachusetts allows gay marriage, while Vermont and Connecticut permit civil unions.
Kobe Was Definitely Feelin' It Last Night
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Dec. 21, 2005) *Kobe Bryant was "in the zone" Tuesday night at Staples center in Los Angeles. The superstar guard scored a career high 62 points in only 3 quarters to lead Lakers to a 112-90 thrashing of the Dallas Mavericks. Bryant, 27, whose average is 31.3-points a game, shot 18-of-31, including 4-of-10 from 3-point range, and made 22 of 25 foul shots while playing only 33 minutes. He scored 15 points in the first quarter, 17 in the second, and a franchise-record 30 in the third before taking a blow with the Lakers leading 95-61. The previous franchise record for points in a quarter was 24 shared by Bryant and Laker legends Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. The NBA record for points in a quarter is 33 by George Gervin for San Antonio in 1978. Denver's David Thompson scored 32 in a quarter that same season, and Wilt Chamberlain scored 31 in a quarter for Philadelphia in 1962, when he set the single-game NBA record with 100 points. Baylor scored a franchise-record 71 points on Nov. 15, 1960, at New York. Bryant's total is the sixth-highest in club history and the most for the Lakers since Chamberlain scored 66 at Phoenix on Feb. 9, 1969. The capacity crowd of 18,997 began chanting, "We want Kobe! We want Kobe!" early in the final period, but with the Lakers holding an insurmountable lead, there was no need for coach Phil Jackson to Bryant back into the game. The Big Ocho, as he's nicknamed in Spanish, after his jersey number (8), became the first NBA player to reach 60 points since Philadelphia's Allen Iverson scored 60 in a 112-99 victory over Orlando last February. Next up for Bryant and the Lakers is Orlando Friday night, then the huge Christmas Day game against his arch enemy Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat.
Crosby Out, Bertuzzi In For Canada's Olympic Ice Hockey Defence
(Dec. 21, 2005 VANCOUVER, Canada (AFP) - Teenage National Hockey League phenomenon Sidney Crosby won't be helping Canada defend ice hockey gold at the Turin Olympics. The reigning Olympic champions unveiled a veteran 23-man roster here on Wednesday that included veterans of the triumphant Salt Lake City Olympic campaign such as Jarome Iginla and Joe Sakic. Perhaps the surprises of the selection were the inclusion of onetime NHL pariah Todd Bertuzzi and the omission of Crosby. Bertuzzi was banned from the NHL for 17 months for his infamous on-ice attack of Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore. Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to assault charges and received a year of probation and community service in the wake of the March 8, 2004 incident. Despite his youth, the 18-year-old Crosby has shown superstar potential in his first NHL season with 33 points in 33 games. Last week he was appointed an assistant captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jason Staal, who leads the NHL with 24 goals, was also left off the roster as Canada sought international experience. Sakic, Iginla, Simon Gagne, Shane Doan and Kris Draper return from the 2002 Olympic campaign. Ryan Smyth booked another Olympic berth, while veterans of the 2004 World Cup campaign include Vincent Lecavalier, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash. Martin Brodeur, who backstopped Canada to victory in Salt Lake City, was named, with likely backup Marty Turco and No. 3 Roberto Luongo. Other players named were Rob Blake, Adam Foote, Ed Jovanovski, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Wade Redden and Robyn Regehr.