April 16, 2009
Hope you all had a wonderful long weekend and are looking forward to all the good weather predicted for us cold Torontonians. Could it be that the warmer months are almost upon us!?
Did you all hear about the British church worker who slayed the judges on Britain's Got Talent? You HAVE to see the performance - look under TOP STORIES. What about Jamie Foxx's fears almost realized in his portrayal of cellist Nathanial Ayers? Check under FILM NEWS. And speaking of film, look at the coverage of ReelWorld Film Festival - look under TOP STORIES.
OK, so I'll get right to it - Check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings. Welcome to those who are new members.
Lee Williams: Gets ‘Reel’ About Films
(April 15, 2009) *Canadian actress, Tonya Lee Williams is best known for her role as Dr. Olivia Barber Winters on “The Young and the Restless.” She’s starred on the daytime drama for more than 15 years taking a short hiatus and then returning to the show in 2007.
*While Williams admits that she stepped away from the long-running series to take a break, the actress never really stopped working, thanks to the film festival that she founded in 2001.
The fest, called the Reel World Film Festival, has been taking place in Toronto, Canada for almost a decade. Williams founded the event in 2001 after deciding to do something in her native Canada to bring attention to the talent north of the States.
“I wanted to do something in Toronto because I spend a lot of time there and I wanted to create more opportunity for filmmakers of color,” she told EUR’s Lee Bailey, “and by ‘of color’ I mean from Aboriginal to Asian to Black to Middle Eastern to South Asian; multiracial on every level. That was the impetus of what started this festival.”
Williams is no stranger to the film festival circuit admitting that she’s been to them since she was 17 years old.
“I’ve been to festivals all over the world, and I found that most festivals have a segregated slant to them. Even if they say international in scope, it’s not to this ethnic diversity,” she described. “Toronto is such a melting pot of ethnically diverse people; I wanted to create something where the audience there had an opportunity to share the images together.”
And since, the Reel World Film Festival has been going strong. This year’s fest begins today, April 15 and runs through Sunday, April 19 and features events such as an opening day gala affair, industry panel series, a music video program, an awards ceremony, and of course film screenings.
“It’s been tremendously successful on many levels,” Williams said, one success being that the festival serves to showcase some hidden Canadian talent.
“At least 50% of our programming focuses on Canadian talent,” she said. “A lot of the festivals in Toronto focus on movies outside of Canada. So we’ve created a nice initiative and a platform that brings a great deal of attention to our Canadian filmmakers.”
“On top of the films, there are other focuses,” she continued. “We have industry series panels that are very specific about how people do things in Canada with the government funding, how the distribution works; it works differently in every country. We like to focus a bit of our panels so people get more out of it from a Canadian perspective.”
The Reel World Film Festival awards ceremony also includes honors to a Canadian film industry trailblazer and to six up-and-coming film artists.
There are a lot of people who have done a lot in the trenches of the Canadian entertainment industry with no recognition,” Williams said of the Visionary Award the festival bestows on an unsung film legend. “So it’s about giving attention to the Canadian talent that’s there.”
The festival features a plethora of films from the new to the not so new, in its quest to bring and little northern exposure to films and the film industry. Actor Giancarlo Esposito’s directorial debut, “Gospel Hill,” is the festival’s opening night featured film. The new movie stars Angela Bassett and Danny Glover. The fest will also be screening Tyler Perry’s “The Family That Preys,” though it has already gone to DVD.
“I wanted audiences to see it. The impact of Tyler Perry has not hit Canada the way it has in the US [because] he’s marketed differently. [His films here] tend to go straight to DVD,” Williams said. “We use Reel World as a tool for that that as well; to bring a little audience attention to movies that get a lot of attention in the states, but we don’t know as much about them here in Canada.”
The five-day event also features films from 45 other films from Turkey, India, Spain, the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Iran, Mexico, Switzerland, the Bahamas, and the UK, and is expected to draw thousands.
“I’ve always seen the world as one place,” Williams said reflecting on the ‘Reel World’ double entendre. “I never divided it by countries, or the people and ethnicities. Of the places I’ve lived, mostly when I came to the US, there is such a great deal of segregation that goes on; lots of people together, but living separately. Between my time living in the UK and Toronto, it’s a very different sensibility. People tend not to be divided by their ethnicity. They tend to live together more and blend together more in the different activities that they do. I wanted the festival to reflect that.”
For more information about the Reel World Film Festival, founder Tonya Lee Williams, or to buy tickets, visit the website at www.reelworld.ca.
ReelWorld Puts Global Diversity Front And Centre
Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Special To The Star
(April 15, 2009) ReelWorld is closing in on a decade of showcasing young filmmaking talent and highlighting the stories of diverse communities. Its ninth annual festival opens tomorrow with a gala screening in the Scotiabank theatre of the American movie Gospel Hill.
This year's fest boasts a particularly rich trove of 19 features and 28 short films shown at 38 screenings in a mere five days. They range from drama to comedy to documentary, and include films for young people, animation and music video.
Hollywood seems to have shunned Gospel Hill, a movie made in 2008 with a big-name cast. The film has gone to DVD without a commercial release.
Actor Giancarlo Esposito, who cast himself as one of the main villains of the piece, directs. The 2008 film stars Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Adam Baldwin, Julia Stiles and hip-hop artist the RZA.
But Gospel Hill is not just a story about race relations. Esposito is Dr. Palmer, pawn of developers who are about to tear down the homes in the black neighbourhood of Gospel Hill to make way for a golf course. Esposito will be present Friday at 7:30 at Reelspeak in the Carlton Cinemas.
Also at the festival:
Swiss director Cristina Karrer, an Africa TV correspondent, paired up with Werner Schweizer to make Hidden Heart. The documentary tells the story of Hamilton Naki, the South African who played a pivotal role in the world's first heart transplant in 1967. Dr. Christiaan Barnard got all the credit for the history-making surgery, but he chose Naki, a labourer who was a self-taught surgeon, to be his assistant.
Shades of Ray is an American comedy from Jaffar Mahmood. Ray's mother is white and his father is Pakistani. When dad (the hilarious Brian George) comes to visit, after his wife (Kathy Baker) has thrown him out, he admonishes Ray (Zachary Levi) not to make the same mistake he made (marrying for love, presumably). He arranges a date for Ray. Romantic mayhem ensues.
Among the ample Canadian offerings at the festival is Shirley Cheechoo's Sweet Blood, a documentary about the alarming dilemma of the James Bay Cree communities where diabetes is rampant and striking people at a younger and younger age.
Homelessness in America is the subject of Skid Row. The doc follows Pras Michel of The Fugees as he spends nine days living on the streets. He's in conversation at the Carlton on Saturday at 8 p.m.
There are stories of child soldiers (Souljah); a prison choir in South Africa (The Choir); Caribbean pan music (Panman: Rhythm of the Palms); Hinduism on the Canadian prairies (Mad Cow, Sacred Cow) and native stereotypes (Thomas King's I'm Not the Indian You Had in Mind).
For full details, go to reelworld.ca
Father Grieves Death Of 22-Year-Old Angel : Nick Adenhart
Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times
(April 10, 2009) As darkness gave way to dawn, the doctors delivered the awful news: There was nothing more they could do to save his son.
Jim Adenhart found his sanctuary where his son found joy.
The hospital was no place for a grieving father, not in the hour after death, not when there was solace in life – and in baseball. And so the Angels unlocked their Anaheim stadium – and their clubhouse – for a private sunrise service yesterday morning.
Nick Adenhart had walked through those doors only eight hours before, all smiles. Jim Adenhart walked through those doors just after dawn all tears.
Mike Butcher, the Angels' pitching coach, led Jim to his son's locker. Butcher stepped back, leaving a respectful distance. This would be Jim's first memorial service for his son, all his own.
He saw. He touched. He prayed. He cried.
Ken Higdon, the Angels' clubhouse manager, handed him the jersey his son had worn Wednesday night, when Nick pitched six shutout innings, the finest game of his young life. He was 22.
Perhaps Jim thought about what his son had told him a few days ago. He lives in Maryland, but his son urged him to fly to California for his first start in this new season. "You better come here, because something special is going to happen," Nick told his father, according to agent Scott Boras.
If the son had not been looking out for the father, then the father would not have been minutes away from the hospital when he got that 3 a.m. call, with the horrible news that his son had been critically injured in a traffic accident.
Jim was not alone in those predawn hours. Butcher was at the hospital. So was Tim Mead, the Angels' vice-president of communications. So were Boras and two of his lieutenants, Mike Fiore and Jeff Musselman.
The men accompanied Jim to the stadium and into the clubhouse, then left him alone at his son's locker. Five minutes passed, then 10, then 15.
And then cellphones started ringing, almost all at once. The word had gotten out. The world demanded confirmation, details, reaction.
Boras, an agent for 25 years, said he'd never had a day like this one.
"This is an industry that is largely youth," he said. "We're just not very prepared. It's just shocking to get the phone call."
Nick Adenhart was a passenger in a silver Mitsubishi Eclipse that was broadsided in an intersection by a minivan that apparently ran a red light, police said.
The minivan driver fled the crash on foot and was captured about 30 minutes later. Police identified him as Andrew Thomas Gallo, 22, of Riverside, Calif., and said he had a suspended licence because of a previous drunken driving conviction.
Preliminary results indicated Gallo's blood-alcohol level was "substantially over the legal limit" of .08 per cent, police Lt. Kevin Hamilton said.
Gallo was interviewed by investigators yesterday afternoon. Hamilton said Gallo would be booked on three counts of murder, three counts of vehicular manslaughter, felony hit-and-run and driving under the influence of alcohol.
With files from Associated Press
Singer Wows Reality Judges
Source: www.thestar.com - Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
(April 14, 2009) LONDON–A middle-aged volunteer church worker with the voice of an angel is Britain's latest unlikely showbiz star.
Susan Boyle, 47, wowed judges and audience alike when she performed on the television contest Britain's Got Talent.. (See video HERE.)
By Tuesday, a video clip of Boyle's performance on Internet site YouTube has been watched more than 2.7 million times.
The unemployed Scot, who said she'd "never been kissed," drew titters when she told the judges her ambition was to be a professional singer.
But her soaring rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Miserables astonished the show's hard-to-please judges.
They were captivated by the singer from Blackburn in western Scotland. Usually acerbic judge Simon Cowell dubbed her singing ``extraordinary." Fellow judge Piers Morgan said her "stunning" performance was "the biggest surprise I've had in three years of this show."
The show, the first in a new series of Britain's Got Talent, was watched by 11.4 million of Britain's 60 million people on Saturday night.
British bookmakers made Boyle the early favourite to win the series.
She is the latest in a proud tradition of underdogs who win the heart of the British public.
Britain's Got Talent made a star of its first winner, an unassuming mobile phone salesman named Paul Potts. He wowed audiences with his rendition of the aria "Nessun Dorma" and has become a global recording star since winning the series – and signing to Cowell's record label – in 2007.
The program, produced by Cowell, is the sister show of America's Got Talent. Both are old-fashioned talent shows that resemble the singing contest American Idol but with the addition of dancing, comedy and other forms of performance.
Santo Domingo Has Cool Cafes, Plus Historic Walks And Lovely
Source: ww.thestar.com - Robert Crew, Special To The Star
(April 04, 2009) SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC–It's a city most sun-seeking North Americans pass through quickly, if they spend any time here at all. But this ultra-friendly, slightly rough-around-the-edges city has a lot to offer.
For history buffs, Santo Domingo is magic. It has the first cathedral built in the New World, its first vice-regal palace, its first paved street and much more. It's all within the 12-block Zona Colonial, which dates back to the 16th century.
The Catedral Santa Maria la Menor dominates the Parque Colon (where there's also a statue of Columbus). You'll be approached by freelance guides (the licensed ones will have blue shirts and ID), and by amiable hustlers, who will offer you taxi rides, guided tours and their opinion on every Dominican who has ever played for the Blue Jays.
The sturdy cathedral, with its coral-limestone façade, was started in 1514 and is a mix of styles. The atmosphere inside is serene; the high altar is hammered silver.
The square itself is a pleasant, tree-lined place to sip coffee and watch the world go by. For rather better coffee, however, La Cafetera Colonial is a short stroll away on the pedestrian-only Calle el Conde. Once the haunt of Spanish intellectuals fleeing the Franco regime, it retains a funky atmosphere.
That first paved street is the Calle Las Damas (the street of ladies) where 30 or so Spanish court ladies used to take the evening air just as they did back home. En route to the Plaza Espana you'll pass houses that once belonged to Hernan Cortes, conqueror of Mexico, and Nicolas de Ovando, the first governor of the Americas, as well as the excellent Museo de las Casas Realas (everything from pre-colonial Taino artifacts to colonial furnishings, coins and weapons).
The Alcazar de Colon in the Plaza de Espana was built in 1517 as a vice-regal palace for Diego Colon, Christopher Columbus' son. Reconstructed after it collapsed in the mid-20th century, it now has 22 rooms instead of the original 55.
On the other bank of the river across from the Zona Colonial is the 206-metre-high Faroa a Colon. Built in the shape of a cross, this monument now houses what are said to be the remains of Christopher Columbus (Seville Cathedral is another claimant). It was inaugurated in 1992 and has 149 searchlights and a beam that can be see for nearly 70 kilometres.
There are good restaurants aplenty in the Zona Colonial. Try dining by starlight in the brick-arched courtyard at La Bricola (Arzobispo Merino/corner of Padre Bellini) or on the patio of one of the half-dozen restaurants (formerly warehouses) looking out over the Plaza de Espana.
For more information: www.godominicanrepublic.com
Robert Crew is an Oakville-based freelance writer. His trip was subsidized by the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism.
CHUM's Rock 'N Roll Shuffles Off Dial
Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(April 15, 2009) For the first time in 50 years there's a strange and ominous silence in Toronto's air.
Elvis, Motown, Buddy Holly, the Beach Boys, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison, The Righteous Brothers, The Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Stones ... they were all just a dial punch away, cloistered in the golden play lists of Toronto's once unstoppable rock 'n' roll-era oldies AM radio station, 1050 CHUM.
Now it seems the formative musical creations of the most progressive artistic generation in history have all but vanished from local airwaves.
1050 CHUM disappeared without ceremony March 26, the victim of changing media times, an all-time low ratings performance and the decreasing demographic clout of the boomer generation.
We loved having 1050 CHUM around. In its heyday in the late 1950s through the early 1970s, it was a hit-after-hit powerhouse in Canadian broadcasting, and an iconic model of Top 40 radio.
In this part of the world, CHUM ruled back then.
It was the city's heartbeat-with-a-backbeat, both an omnipresent, electric force in the daily lives of post-World War II teenagers and a defining element in Canada's cultural life.
And even if it slipped into self-parody in recent years – after a disastrous flirtation with a sports and talk format in 2001 – it was a comforting reminder of pop music's glory days.
But apparently we didn't love it enough to listen for more than a few minutes at a time. At the bottom of the local radio heap, with a 0.7 share of total hours tuned by listeners over the age of 12, and just 60,000 faithful who tuned in for more than 15 minutes a week, 1050 CHUM died quietly after a long and steady decline last month.
Even its home at 1331 Yonge St., a local landmark for decades, has been sold to condo developers.
"Well, times change," says Chris Gordon, president of CHUM Radio, which is now owned by media conglomerate CTVglobemedia. Replacing 1050 CHUM is CP24 Radio 1050, an audio stream from the CP24 local live TV news channel that's part of the Citytv property also taken over by CTV.
Given the success in the most recent BBM ratings book for Rogers-owned 680News – an increase to a 6.5 share from 6 last winter and a winning reach of 1.1 million – it's perhaps not surprising that the new CP24 Radio is taking notice of the growing appetite for local news.
"Talk and news is where AM is going," says Gordon. "We're building a ubiquitous, seamless brand across three platforms: television, radio and online."
Besides, adds Gordon, it's difficult for AM stations, with weaker, static-prone mono signals, to play music and operate profitably.
"AM isn't where people are going to listen to music."
Not that CP24 Radio, still in its infancy, is a shining example of local news radio. It's more like television without pictures. Anchors and reporters, playing to a TV audience, occasionally urge listeners to "take a look" at images they can't see or to reference filmed events without audio narratives.
There are odd moments of dead air on CP24 Radio, a big-time radio no-no, and the "station" lacks the kind of drama, spontaneity and reactivity that real, live and dedicated radio must accomplish.
It's early days yet, says David Bray, senior vice-president of the Toronto advertising company Hennessy & Bray Communications, and CTV's CHUM Radio may well be hedging its bets.
"The goal is to hold on to the AM licence until radio goes digital," Bray says. "That will open up a new world of possibilities. Till then, the clever idea is to put the machine in park and find the cheapest way to operate."
Who might pick up the golden oldies slack in the Toronto listening area is anyone's guess. The 55-plus demographic might be substantial – 27 per cent of the population – but less than 1 per cent of advertising dollars target that age group. In radio, servicing boomers isn't a risk many broadcasters want to take, Bray says.
"Subscription satellite radio, XM and Sirius, have dedicated classic hits channels, but that's niche technology and a niche market."
The audience for Moses Znaimer's AM 740, with a wide-ranging adult "pop standards" play list that brackets out the harder sounds of the rock era, is too sedate for CHUM-vintage hits, Bray believes.
However, AM 740's program director, Gene Stevens, concedes that "as CHUM was fading in the last year or so, we've been continuing to add what we call `zoomer gold' – The Beach Boys, early Van Morrison, The Beatles – that overlaps CHUM's core material.
"We've always played Elvis, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and other artists from the innocent '50s and '60s, music that we consider evergreen."
AM 740 also airs a Saturday night program focusing on gospel, soul and R&B music from the 1960s.
"That was a big decade," Stevens says. "It means different things to different people."
Corus Entertainment's classic rock station Q107, which is holding down fourth place in Toronto's radio ratings, is doing too well with its "best-of-the-best in the rock zone" format to take on pop hits from CHUM's load, says program director Blair Bartram.
"We're in a nice pocket right now. We don't want to make any changes. But there's definitely a hole now in Toronto for a classic hits format on FM."
Long-time music journalist Larry LeBlanc agrees.
"A classic Top 40 format in Toronto would work, but it would have to be on the FM band and singles-driven, one hit after another, the way CHUM and CKEY were in their heyday."
Failing that, LeBlanc says, for his classic golden-era fix he'll be tuning in more frequently to Hamilton's oldies station CKOC (1150 AM), recently acquired by Astral Media as part of its Standard Radio purchase.
"It's basically the same playlist as 1050 CHUM's. And it beams right into Toronto. You can expect to see their audience numbers increase in the next few months."
This Mouse Rocks The House
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler
(April 14, 2009) The best-laid plans of mice and men are not for Joel Zimmerman.
The electro-dance maverick, who goes professionally by the name Deadmau5 (pronounced "dead mouse" and arising from an incident in which a mouse crawled into his computer), has earned a Juno Award and a 2009 Grammy nomination. He has performed the world over and often shares chilled Jägermeister with notorious Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. And yet the former tech-geek from Niagara Falls, Ont., denies any schemes to dominate dance music.
"These random things have happened my whole life," says Zimmerman, "They just keep fitting in."
Speaking in the sky-lit Toronto loft he calls home - scattered about are skateboards, a BMX bike, laptops, sound equipment and unpacked luggage - the tired but talkative producer-musician answers a question about his signature headpiece, a giant, foam mouse head that rests atop his boyish frame when he performs. Zimmerman, knowledgeable about 3-D animation, originally used the big-eared logo for earlier ventures, including a stint providing music clips for sound libraries and website applications.
When an online friend e-mailed a picture of himself passed out on a couch, Zimmerman manipulated the photo to include a dazed mouse head (with eyes X-ed out, as in cartoons) and shot it back. The pal, who thought it hilarious, suggested that Zimmerman wear the mouse head if he ever performed live.
"This was before I had even decided what kind of music I was going to play," he says, drawing temporary energy from cigarettes and Coca-Cola.
The rodent-wear phenomenon is just one of many happenings that shaped Zimmerman's unscheduled career. But while mouse and musician are now inseparable, his relationship with dance music is not. Not only is the star outspoken in his attitude toward song-merging DJs - "I don't see the technical merit in it" - he finds his fandom ironic.
"Sometimes I look out at a crowd of 70,000 people," he remarks, envisioning one of his stadium appearances. "I focus on a middle spot and I'm thinking that it's my idea of hell."
That his audiences would pay to put themselves in a sweaty, jostling throng and pay silly amounts of money for bottled water is an odd notion to the laid-back Zimmerman, who no longer dances much himself. "I don't get it, but I don't question it any more," he shrugs. "They're all smiling, they're all jumping, so I'll throw 'em music."
The music comes in the form of an album (2008's Random Album Title, a trance-disco soundscape that earned a Juno nomination), remixes (his remake of Morgan Page's The Longest Road got him his Grammy consideration) and live performances. At Friday's headlining appearance at Toronto's Kool Haus, he did his excitable thing, using a laptop computer and other devices to shape and squeeze sounds, while adding clanking percussion on top of driving beats. Nobody really danced, except for a curvy, undulating woman on a podium at the room's centre. She was part of the show, as were the swivelling light fixtures and the multicoloured tubular bulbs onstage.
Zimmerman, who moved to his own grooves as he tweaked knobs and mixed music on the fly, spoke earlier in the day about the importance of presenting sights as well as sounds. "If I went to see somebody live, it would have to be better than me buying a CD and listening to him in my studio," he says. "Part of the live thing is being in the same room and seeing the guy - I get that. But a ticket is $50; I can get the CD for $12."
Laying out the details of his ad hoc ascent, Zimmerman mentioned working his way through dance clubs as a teenager on the Niagara Peninsula. Although he was a rock fan (of Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead), he filled in as a dance-club DJ. Even as a teen, when it came to the technical aspects of dance music, he was "the dude" when it came to lighting systems and software questions. Later, he learned from the "mullets" (long-haired sound engineers) and forged online relationships by logging into Internet forums populated by electronic sound pioneers.
"The Internet is a brilliant learning tool," he says. "It's the largest encyclopedia of all things to do with audio engineering."
His relationship with tattooed rocker Lee came about when another colleague (Steve Duda, the head audio technician at Zimmerman's Mau5trap Recordings label) passed on an electronic folder of "little weird ideas" to the outlandish drummer. They hooked up in person at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum when Lee was in town with Motley Crue and later formed a side-project with Duda and Lee's cohort DJ Aero.
The group, which locked itself in a basement for five days in 2007 to record a bleepy EP, calls itself WTF? You can figure out the acronym yourself, but the reference is to an X-rated expression of bewilderment.
Zimmerman is a little dazzled by his lofty dance-world status. "Who would have thought five years ago that you would have a sea of people saying 'Deadmau5,' " he says. "It's like they're talking about somebody else. It's too wild."
Actually, it's just wild enough. It's quite likely that Zimmerman's career is not as random as he'd lead you to believe, or even as random as he himself believes. Talking to him, you get a sense of his determination. Perhaps he wasn't always sure of his destination, but he was moving toward something.
A better mouse head
Toronto electro-dance producer and musician Joel Zimmerman (Deadmau5) is identifiable by the Muppet-y mouse head he wears onstage. It's not unusual for Zimmerman (who has performed in some 30 countries) to meet fans with rodent regalia even more spectacular than his own. But no longer, says the Grammy-nominated artist, who plans to unveil the mightiest mouse lid yet in about three months' time. "It will exploit some technology unseen to human eyes," declares Zimmerman, "and nobody will be copying it any time this decade."
Tell us more, please, we're all ears! "Sorry, I can't get it into it right now," he replies, with a cheese-eating grin. "It's gonna be crazy, that's all I can say." B.W.
Bow Wow Giving Up Rapping For
(April 14, 2009) *At the ripe old age of 22, Bow Wow says he may give up his rap career and focus on his Hollywood hustle full time. Why? Because, the music industry is full of too many haters.
"I think I have a better chance at getting an Oscar before a Grammy. The music industry is so fickle, there's so many politics. I think a lot of people don't pay attention to the credits or the artistry no more," the hip hop star said in an interview with the Associated Press. "I think there's so much concern about what's going on right now instead of the actual artistry. But that's how the record business is. But for acting, I got that covered."
Bow Wow, born Shad Gregory Moss, returns to HBO's "Entourage" this summer and appears in the Hurricane Katrina-inspired basketball drama, "Hurricane Season," with Forest Whitaker, Taraji P. Henson and Lil Wayne, later this year.
Meanwhile, his just-released eighth studio album, "New Jack City II," is a reflection of just how much he's grown since his last album, "The Price of Fame," in 2006.
"I told myself that I would never force it upon people to make them think or make them believe that I'm grown (and) I said I'll just do it all through my music and that's something I always preach," he told the AP. "I never acted out with my actions to show people that I'm getting grown, you never see me with a cigarette, or see me wilding out or doing anything like that."
On the other hand, could "New Jack City II" be the source and/or reason for Bow Wow's seemingly rash decision to abandon rapping? She first reported that sales of the CD were less than 25,000 which prompted some testy, er, nasty "back and forth" between him and blogger Sandra Rose.
Cox CD Finally Out
Source: www.Top40Charts.com / www.jamielcox.com
(April 15, 2009) *Dallas, TX. - It's been approximately four years since Urban R&B artist JaMiel Cox took the victory on stage at the legendary FAMU Homecoming Talent Contest.
JaMiel's passionate evoking solo of Musiq Soulchild's, "Love" removed each and every one's doubt and quieted all chatter of his lack of vocal prowess and talent.
JaMiel Cox is a virtual blast of talent waiting to burst on the world of music. JaMiel is not just another artist/songwriter/producer fighting for media attention.
JaMiel Cox spent years being tutored by, the great Reverend Watkins, of "The Drifters" fame, and T-Boz's of TLC's father as well. Reverend Watkins gave JaMiel the credibility he needed to set him apart in a globe inundated with hit maker hopefuls. Mr. Melvin of "BET" fame, who trained the cast of dancers for the "Brothers to Brutha" video, trained JaMiel, in dance and stage presence.
JaMiel, has sung back up for "Angie Stone, and sung at the Trumpet Awards in Atlanta as well. JaMiel pre-released his first single in November of 2008 to test the market for his musical acceptance and the song "Lost" soared to the top of the Internet R&B charters at No 14, and his music is still soaring up the charts in Japan and Europe. JaMiel Cox is now signed to LS Records - President Terry Copley (Grammy Award Winner). Konsonant Film and Television music licensing signed JaMiel Cox to an artist contract and JaMiel Cox has joined Southern Coalition Movement.
Mr. Cox's credits for the upcoming CD project titled "The Up and Downs of Me" read like a Who's Who of the American Music Business. His producers include Firestarter Productions - Producers for Bobby Brown; Walter Earl - Producer for Santana and Kanye West; and Tim German - Producer for Ralph Tresvant. "The title of the CD speaks for itself. It is about life as I know it and I am sharing that with the people I love, and my fans," he said. "Love, Being Lost, Finding the right Woman, Making a living, etc. is what my project is all about". Walter Earle, say this is the most versatile and vocally pleasing Urban R&B CD released in years. JaMiel is an amazing talent and we look forward to hearing more from him in years to come.
Win a Dell Adamo Laptop with the purchase of JaMiel Cox's EP for 4.99 at www.jamielcox.com, containing the hit single "You."
Letoya Embraces Fans With
(April 15, 2009) *(NEW YORK) - Having established herself as a chart-topping, platinum-certified artist, songwriter and entrepreneur, LeToya is ready to make her next move on June 23 with the release of the singer's sophomore album "Lady Love" on Capitol Records.
Already shaping up as the female anthem of 2009 is the album's lead single, "Not Anymore." Written and co-produced by Grammy Award-winning artist Ne-Yo, the track pulsates with empowering determination as LeToya's soulful voice reaches out to females who are "fed up" with straying boyfriends. "That drama … I don't want it anymore," she declares. "I dried my eyes and realize/I deserve somebody who treats me right."
Out the box, "Not Anymore" finished No.1 Most Added at Media Base. Among the 42 urban stations that have added the song include such powerhouses as, WJLB/Detroit, KBXX/ Houston, KBFB/Dallas, WPEG/Charlotte, WWPR/New York and WOWI/Norfolk.
Showcasing a more powerful LeToya, "Not Anymore" is a fitting next chapter in Letoya's evolving career. A founding member of the multi-platinum group Destiny's Child, LeToya forged her solo status in 2006 with the emotional ballad "Torn." The No. 1 urban mainstream hit about the travails of a strained relationship spent a record-breaking 24 days at No. 1 as the most requested video on BET's "106 & Park."
It also paved the way to gold- and platinum-certified success for the singer's self-titled debut album. Featuring production by Bryan-Michael Cox and Jermaine Dupri, the set bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. LeToya went on to garner accolades as Top Songwriter of 2006 by ASCAP and one of AOL's best new artists that same year.
The video for "Not Anymore' was shot in Los Angeles under the direction of Bryan Barber. In addition to Ne-Yo, "Lady Love" boasts production contributions by (Tank, Oak, Bei-Maejor, Neff-U). LeToya also makes cameo appearances on albums by two of her label-mates: "Somebody Else" from Avant's recently released self-titled album and "Love Rollercoaster" from MIMS' upcoming sophomore set "Guilt."
Born and raised in Houston, LeToya (née Luckett) sang her first solo in church at the tender age of five. After meeting Beyoncé Knowles in elementary school, the pair later joined forces as members of Destiny's Child. During LeToya's seven-year stint, she co-wrote two of the group's gold singles, "Bills Bills Bills" and "Say My Name," and appeared on the group's breakthrough album, "The Writing's on the Wall."
Not only is she a talented singer, LeToya's also a successful entrepreneur. She owns and operates two upscale women's boutiques called Lady Elle. Now in its sixth year, the clothing store is located in Houston's Uptown Park shopping center.
This summer, Luckett will co-star in her first feature film debut; The Preacher's Kid and is set to begin pre-production on a comedy from Lionsgate Films.
Signs Jason Castro; Slated To Release Debut Album Later This Year
Source: Warner Music Canada
(April 14, 2009) Atlantic Records has announced the signing of singer/songwriter Jason Castro. The Texas-based tunesmith – best known as the third runner-up on the 2008 season of Fox’s American Idol – is currently hard at work on his debut album, set for release later this year. Among his creative collaborators are Grammy Award-winning producer John Fields (Lifehouse, Switchfoot, Soul Asylum) and a number of acclaimed songwriters, including Kara DioGuardi (Kelly Clarkson, Jewel, Santana), Martin Terefe (Jason Mraz, KT Tunstall), Sacha Skarbek (James Blunt, Jason Mraz), Guy Chambers (Robbie Williams), and Jason Reeves (Colbie Caillat).
A multi-talented singer and guitarist, Jason Castro was among the most popular and talented artists in American Idol history, entering the record books as the first contestant ever to play an instrument on the show. His performance of the Leonard Cohen-penned classic "Hallelujah" proved such an audience favourite that cult hero Jeff Buckley’s rendition of the song hit #1 on the iTunes chart the following week, selling an astonishing 178,000 digital singles. Jason scored a chart-topping single of his own a few weeks later, when his interpretation of "Over The Rainbow" also hit #1 on iTunes after a show-stopping performance of the song on American Idol. Upon the season’s conclusion, Castro was among the stars of the hugely successful "American Idols LIVE! Tour 2008."
Since then, Jason has been busy writing and woodshedding the new songs that will appear on his debut album. In December, he teamed with Amazon.com to release a free download of "White Christmas" as a special holiday gift to his fans. Castro has also recorded a new version of "Hallelujah," which will be featured on the soundtrack to the film, Amar A Morir, to be released theatrically this summer.
In addition, Jason has been a prominent supporter of a variety of charity organizations. Last December saw him starring at a Garland, Texas Christmas concert benefitting the city’s Best Education Foundation. He has also been an active supporter of The Recording Academy’s MusiCares Foundation.
For up-to-the-minute information, please visit www.jasoncastromusic.com and www.myspace.com/jasoncastromusic.
Artists Offer Concert
Source: www.globeandmail.com - John Gerome, Associated Press
(April 9, 2009) NASHVILLE, Tenn. — If you want to sit in the really good seats for a Keith Urban concert this summer, a pair of tickets will put you about back about $170 (U.S.). But in a nod to the tough economic times, the country superstar has also priced some tickets as low as $20 a seat, so fans won't stay home because they can't afford to go.
“They may be to the side, but they still have a good view of the stage,” Mr. Urban said of the discount tickets. “It's a way for us to allow those people that are a little hard up for cash to come and see the show.”
“It's a balance for me,” he added, “because we want to put on a good show. I'd make every ticket $10, but we'd be up there with a megaphone and a flashlight with some coloured paper over it.”
The concert industry has been impervious to the recession and high ticket prices over the years. Last year in North America, the average box-office gross was up 18 per cent and the average attendance up 6.3 per cent, according to Billboard magazine. But with the economic news getting worse by the day, artists and concert promoters are trying to make sure fans come out to the stadiums, arenas and concert halls this year by offering ticket deals and other incentives.
No Doubt is giving away a digital download of their entire catalogue in exchange for the purchase of a premium ticket ($42.50 before taxes and fees). Coldplay plans to give concertgoers a free live album, while U2 is pricing at least 10,000 tickets to every show in the $30 range (though the top price will still cost a hefty $250 a ticket).
And alt-country star Lucinda Williams, also worried about the economy and miffed about fees tacked on to her concert tickets, is offering a credit on concert merchandise, about $7 on clothing and $5 on CDs, and on merchandise on her online store, lucindawilliams.com. The offer is through July 31 to accommodate people who attended her shows before the announcement.
“I understand that this may only be a small gesture and in no way solves the problem long-term, but I feel that it is important to try and do something to make it a little easier during this time,” she said in a statement.
Promoters are also offering deals. The Stagecoach country music festival in Indio, Calif. (with Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and more) cut the cost of two-day passes to $99 from $167 two years ago. Two other popular U.S. summer festivals, Bonnaroo and Coachella, are offering tickets on layaway.
Summer is a busy time for the concert business. Live Nation, the world's largest promoter, estimates that more than 50 per cent of its annual profit comes in the summer months.
But with this year's economic uncertainty, promoters could have a tougher time filling seats.
“In a crowded marketplace in difficult economic times, you want your show or event to stand out as something people recognize as a deal,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of the concert industry publication Pollstar.
Rocker Stevie Nicks, who's currently on a reunion tour with Fleetwood Mac, said times are so bad, the band doesn't know if it can afford to go overseas: “It's so expensive to do that that you put people out of business to go play for them. It's affecting everybody.”
Live Nation offers a $10 Tuesday promotion for some shows and is expanding its four-pack plan, where fans can buy four tickets for the price of three. Last year, Live Nation offered the four-pack deal at 66 per cent of concerts in the venues it owns. This year, Live Nation plans to expand it to at least 75 per cent.
“Through this we're saying, ‘If you reward us by bringing your friends, we'll reward you by bringing you a cheaper ticket,”' said Jason Garner, Live Nation's CEO for global music.
AEG Live president and CEO Randy Phillips said the entire industry is more price-conscious this year, including artists. As an example, he cited Michael Jackson's summer shows at the O2 arena in London.
“The top ticket price is ($110). People think I'm crazy because we can get ($220). But we'd rather play before more fans and have a lower gross,” Mr. Phillips said.
In some ways, Mr. Phillips said, an ailing economy can help the industry. When people splurge in hard times, they're more likely to go to a concert or a music festival than take a vacation or buy a car.
Still, Mr. Phillips predicted, “The other shoe is going to drop ... this rampant unemployment has to affect our business.”
Live Nation's Mr. Garner is more optimistic. He said the $50 average ticket price for a concert is a good value compared with sporting events and other live entertainment. Based on early ticket sales, he expects business to remain strong in 2009.
Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus agreed, saying concerts and other forms of entertainment may provide some relief for those going through hard times.
“People will always need that break, that escape from reality, I think that's why people have continued to buy tickets and show up at our shows,” he said. “I think it's an opportunity for them to take the whole family for at least a couple of hours and forget about (everything) that's going on.”
The Voice That Launched 1,000 Sighs
Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic
(April 11, 2009) She has her own perfume, La Voce by Renée Fleming. There is a dessert called La Diva Renée. If your nose and palate aren't happy enough, there's the Renée Fleming Iris to delight your eyes.
But this would all be nothing if there wasn't the voice to launch a thousand sighs.
It's there in spades, a rich, lyric soprano attached to a winsome personality that has turned a girl from Rochester, N.Y., into the reigning queen of the vocal world.
Recently 50 (on Valentine's Day), the diva is at the peak of her vocal power and artistry, celebrated on the world's most glamorous stages – invited to sing for royalty and heads of state.
Her last high-profile public appearance was at the Lincoln Monument concert given in honour of President Barack Obama's inauguration in January.
But she doesn't float around in a bubble of silks and brocades. She works hard, and makes a point of showing up where most opera divas fear to tread. Her appearances on television have included Sesame Street and The View. She loves jazz and Broadway. She even recorded several songs on Howard Shore's soundtrack for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
Over the course of a 25-minute phone conversation, Fleming is free of pretension, focused on the responsibilities of her craft and on raising two daughters.
The soprano returns to Roy Thomson Hall after a nearly five-year absence on Friday night. She'll sing a program of opera arias and art songs with her old teacher, Hartmut Höll, on the piano.
The visit is part of a spring break from opera. There are recitals and concerts in North America and Europe until May.
Friday's planned program is not an easy collection of operatic warhorses. Instead, it mixes favourites by George Frideric Handel and Richard Strauss with three new songs written for her by French composer Henri Dutilleux (Le temps, l'horloge – Time, the clock) and John Kander (A Letter from Sullivan Ballou), as well as four of the gorgeous Poêmes pour mi by Olivier Messiaen.
"The Toronto audience is cultivated and knowledgeable," says Fleming. "I certainly wouldn't sing this program everywhere."
The singer says that putting together a recital program is a "painstaking process" for her, and she likes to include newer compositions.
"My heart belongs to 20th century music," she says. "It's been part of my sensibility since I was a child."
The Kander song is on the program "because people are incredibly touched by it," Fleming explains.
It takes its lyrics from a letter written by a Union soldier to his beloved during the American Civil War, containing a message as relevant today as in 1861.
"People would be moved even it I just read the letter," says the diva.
Fleming admits she is a bit nervous about her Toronto visit.
She has not sung the Messiaen songs in public before, and they're not easy. "I'm beginning to wonder if I bit off more than I can chew," she admits with surprising candour.
In previous interviews, and in her biography, The Inner Voice (released in paperback by Penguin in 2004), Fleming makes no secret of how difficult it was to hone her voice and dramatic talent. She would leave master classes with legendary soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in tears.
She has also never hidden the fact that her voice-teacher mother pushed her talented daughter hard. Would Fleming encourage her two children, Amelia, 16 and Sage, 13, to follow in her footsteps?
"My younger daughter wants to be a singer, but not an opera singer," she says, laughing.
"She's only 13, so she could still change her mind several times. My older daughter could have the talent to be an opera singer."
Fleming sees herself as a nurturer rather than dictator. She wants to expose her girls to as many options as possible, so that they can make up their own minds.
"My children have travelled 100 times more than I ever did. I try to facilitate their interests."
Domestically and professionally, Fleming says she has finally found a measure of comfort: "Recently, I've really, really been enjoying my work."
The performer says this means "that I can go on stage and trust that what I want to sing would actually occur. It's come after years of trying to learn to give a total performance.
"I'm only just getting it in time to retire," she laughs. "That's the great irony of this life."
Not that she's about to turn her back on the spotlight. She has engagements stretching well into the future at the world's top opera houses, including her main home, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where she has even been host of several of the company's live broadcasts into movie theatres.
"At the Met, we've blocked out a master plan that goes to 2016 – 2016! That's mind-boggling," she exclaims.
Like a good character actor, the singer talks about how she tries to become an operatic character, rather that showing off La Diva Renée.
As during Hollywood's so-called Golden Age, when Bette Davis was always Bette Davis, in opera "the style used to be to maintain one's personality," says the singer. "Audiences today want a more authentic story; the aesthetic has changed."
Fleming is the very model of that modern major opera star.
"I'm not the goddess-on-a-pedestal type," she asserts.
But that doesn't mean her fans can't treat her like a goddess anyway.
Randy Cain, Member Of The Delfonics,
Dies At 63
Source: By Dan Gross, Philadelphia Daily News
(April 13, 2009) Randy Cain, who was a founding member of Philly soul band the Delfonics and who sang on such hits as "La La Means I Love You," and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)," died Thursday. He was 63.
No cause of death was yet known for Cain, who formed the Delfonics with brothers William and Wilbert Hart while attending Overbrook High in the 1960s.
Cain left the group in 1971 and was replaced by Major Harris.
In the 1980s, Cain returned for a later incarnation of the group, and for the past several months Cain had been again performing in the Delfonics with William Hart, the group's lead singer and songwriter and the sole owner of the name of the group.
The reunion was somewhat surprising. In 2002 and 2005, Cain and Wilbert Hart filed and won civil suits against William Hart and against Arista Records/Sony BMG for back royalties.
"I'm gonna miss him. We grew up together since 1968," Wilbert said of Cain, whom he last saw four or five months ago.
"We're gonna have to do what we're doing until God brings us together," said Wilbert, who now performs with a group as "Wil Hart formerly Delfonics."
Cain had lived for a while in Willingboro with Wilbert and his family, and according to Wilbert had recently moved into an apartment in Maple Shade. Wilbert said he hopes Cain will long be remembered through the Delfonics' music.
The group's timeless tunes had a resurgence in popularity after several songs were featured in Quentin Tarantino's 1997 film "Jackie Brown."
"That three-part harmony with the falsetto sound was phenomenal," DJ Jerry Blavat said of the Delfonics.
Blavat said he was the first DJ to spin "La La Means I Love You," and also had Cain and the Hart brothers performing on his TV show "Jerry's Place," which was broadcast on WFIL.
Chuck Gamble, an executive with Philadelphia International Records (PIR) - Kenny Gamble's and Leon Huff's record label - said last night that "Gamble and Huff have fond memories of working with Randy and the group."
Shares His 'Thoughts'
Source: www.eurweb.com -
(April 13, 2009) “I try to be exactly who I am and that’s a gentlemen,” Ginuwine said. “I don’t want to have people in general thinking of me as anything but a gentleman. I’m not going to disrespect women; I’m not going to do something that will disrespect my wife. I’m always trying to handle things as a gentleman and I’m going to continue to do that.”
Multi-platinum artist Ginuwine broke onto the scene in the ‘90s and garnered a fan base of females thanks to his smooth tenor vocals, sexy lyrics, and infectious tracks.
The fact that he makes women swoon didn’t hurt either. Ginuwine’s debut album, titled “The Bachelor,” released his first hit single, “Pony,” which saturated the airwaves in 1996 as he and producer Timbaland became a hit duo.
Now, “the bachelor” is a married man, with children. And with five albums and a few hits and collabos later, the showman is prepping a new disc called “A Man’s Thoughts.”
“I wanted something that would intrigue people,” he said of the new album’s title. “I did about 40 songs and once I started picking the songs I wanted to be on the CD, it kind of all tied into a man’s thoughts – how a man thinks and how a man does things in certain situations.”
However intriguing the CD title or the music of the new disc, the latest buzz on Ginuwine has not been about his forthcoming album. In early March, reports surfaced that Ginuwine and actress LisaRaye – who stars in his “Last Chance” video from the forthcoming disc – were snuggled up in a restaurant in Beverly Hills. The story was soon revealed as bogus and perhaps even a publicity stunt set up by “other people.”
“The media really takes things and runs with it,” he said of the wild reports of kissing and hanging at a hotel with his longtime friend. “I just didn’t know that it was like that now. I’ve been out the game for a while, but I’m no stranger lies or the paparazzi, but for them to just say things just like that, without actually knowing what’s going on, was really amazing to me.”
Ginuwine confessed to EUR’s Lee Bailey that he thinks LisaRaye is a beautiful girl, but explained that the two were never an item.
“I admire her and I admire her work, but we were never together. We were doing a video and that’s really it. I don’t even know where it came from.”
He said that in addition to never wanting to lose the love and respect of his children and his wife, former rapper Sole, Ginuwine said that being a player - now that he has a family - would threaten the respect level of his fans.
“I try to be exactly who I am and that’s a gentlemen,” he said. “I don’t want to have people in general thinking of me as anything but a gentleman. I’m not going to disrespect women; I’m not going to do something that will disrespect my wife. I’m always trying to handle things as a gentleman and I’m going to continue to do that.”
What he’s also continuing to do is fundamental R&B music, though he’s working with the changes of the music industry.
“It was ’96 when I came out, so it’s been 13 years. I’m still learning. Things are changing dramatically. It’s definitely different,” he said. “The computer age, has really put a dent in [music] careers.”
Ginuwine complained of how the work of music artists is often accessible due to the fact that music is done through computer technology, although that same technology gives artists another medium to distribute and create their work.
“Kids can get your album before it hits the stores. It’s affecting us in a bad way. So you have to try to find your way around and think of different things,” he said as he listed car or money giveaways as incentives. “We’re thinking of things that will make people go in the store and buy the record. If they can download it, why would they? We’re trying to package things and give the people more than just a CD.”
While there are no marketing details to the release of the new disc, Ginuwine guarantees R&B, straight, no chaser. Along with the lead track “Last Chance,” there are ballads and slow jams that will not disappoint fans.
“My strength has been slow ballads, so I wanted to come back and secure my base and let people know that I’ve not forgotten the true essence of R&B.”
Look for “A Man’s Thoughts” to hit shelves the first week of June, 2009. And for more on Ginuwine, visit his MySpace page.
Cult Of Neko Case Grows With Latest Album
Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(April 12, 2009) A few years ago, a 28-year-old Neko Case was dangled a recording contract with the venerable major label Elektra Records, only to have it torn from her grasp at the last minute when the company suddenly ceased to exist, a casualty of corporate consolidation.
It didn't necessarily feel like it back then, but it was probably the best thing that could have happened to her.
"Elektra wanted me to sign for a little while, and then they just disappeared," recalls Case. "But I would have taken it, unquestioningly, because I thought that's how things were done. And luckily for me, I didn't get it, and even though it was very disappointing at the time, I ended up learning how to do it the right way instead."
Flash forward to the present and Case, now a still-tomboyish 38, has just scored the highest indie debut of the year on Billboard's U.S. album chart with Middle Cyclone – her sixth album and third for the artist-friendly Anti- imprint – which rocketed in at No. 3 upon release early last month. Here in Canada, it SoundScanned its way to the No. 5 position. At a time when people have supposedly stopped buying records, they're still buying records by this singularly dark and strange country siren.
The peripatetic Virginia native now enjoys a level of acclaimed notoriety sufficient to move an impressive 200,000 copies of her last album, 2006's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. She spends her downtime recording and occasionally touring with the equally popular New Pornographers. High-profile friends like M. Ward and the Band's Garth Hudson drifted out to Case's newly purchased farm in Vermont along with such usual suspects as the Sadies and Carolyn Mark during the 10 months of piecemeal sessions for Middle Cyclone. Tickets to her two shows at Trinity-St Paul's United Church this coming Friday and Saturday sold out so quickly that reviewers were asked to submit their requests to attend back in early February.
Case has managed quite nicely, thank you, without that contract. She's probably right in her guess of what would have happened if she'd inked a deal with Elektra: "I would have made a record, they wouldn't have put it out, and I would have been very disappointed. I would have ended up shooting myself in the foot to get out of the deal."
The album she would have handed in to the label, after all, is 2000's Furnace Room Lullaby, a set of black- and broken-hearted traditionalist-country laments that was worlds apart from her boisterous 1997 debut for Mint Records, The Virginian, and featured a cover photo of Case lying dead on a floor.
It didn't exactly scream "hit record," but reviews were ebullient, praising the singer's full-throated hurtin' wail and the transporting Gothic poetry of her lyrics. The devoted Cult of Case began growing in earnest. It's been adding members ever since, hence the mainstream breakthrough she seems to have attained with Middle Cyclone.
"I'm always really worried about people showing up for the shows, and the presales for these shows we're doing right now are going really well," she says modestly. "So that has made me feel a lot – a lot – more relaxed."
Although she jokes that she's developing a "desire for compromise," Case has doggedly continued to propel her unique vision of "Americana" beyond such catch-all labels on Middle Cyclone.
Steeped in animal, elemental and fantastical imagery – killer whales, amorous tornados and an off-duty Death are among the songs' protagonists – the disc offers a dreamlike blur of styles ranging from old-time twang to mystic pop to psychedelia, even a hint of cabaret. Easy points of reference are few because Case sounds like no one these days so much as Neko Case. The former punk-rock drummer is now queen of her own peculiar niche.
"I don't really know what I'm doing a lot of the time," she says, summing up her formal musical training as nine months of violin in grade school ("I know how to hold the bow"). "Since I'm not an educated musician as far as theory or things of that nature go, I feel like the only thing I can do is try to show some marked growth with everything.
"Records get harder to make every time you make one. It just becomes more challenging because your senses are enhanced by every time you do it. You become more picky and more microscopic about things and then the ideas multiply like rabbits – which ones to chase and which ones not to chase? And that's why I like taking a long time to record. You don't have the pressure of `We only have so much time.' I think that's very stilting."
One of the only luxuries of success that Case has allowed herself is her spread on a former sheep farm in Vermont, a rural property in the middle of nowhere complete with its own studio in the barn.
She spends a lot of solitary time there with her four dogs so it's not surprising that recurring natural motifs dominate Middle Cyclone, nor that she chose to end the record with a half-hour of crickets chirping around a swamp.
"I've always been a real nature freak. I think that just makes me feel comfortable."
Sailing Along, But With An Eye On The Edge
Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic
(April 13, 2009) With the recession in full swing, it's time to look at how the arts and entertainment industry is coping, and how various sectors plan to keep their audiences in the months ahead. This is the fourth story in a series.
"Long after you and I are dead and buried, there will still be a Toronto Symphony," is Mike Forrester's assessment of the risks of the current economic recession.
In the short term, however, our town's flagship orchestra is "battening down the hatches," says Forrester, vice-president of marketing and business development at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. "In the words of our CEO Andrew Shaw, `This is not business as usual.'"
These sentiments are echoed by Toronto's other top presenters of classical music and opera.
It may be a rough ride over the next year, but the consensus view is that everyone should come out okay, assuming they continue to offer performers and productions that people want to pay for.
The city is coming out of an unprecedented boom in musical performance, with subscriptions and single-ticket sales to concerts, recitals and productions sitting at or near all-time highs.
The Canadian Opera Company has raised the curtain on 99 per cent capacity houses since moving to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in 2006. Its subscription renewal rate is 75 per cent – roughly double that of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Opera Atelier is also doing well at the Elgin Theatre. "We've sold 31 per cent more subscriptions this year than last," says Opera Atelier general manager Jane Hargraft.
The symphony has increased attendance above 85 per cent at Roy Thomson Hall and is working toward jointly establishing a summer performance venue at Niagara-on-the-Lake with Ottawa's National Arts Centre Orchestra.
Music Toronto has been turning ticket buyers away from its string quartet recital series at the Jane Mallett Theatre. The 111-year-old Women's Musical Club of Toronto sold out this year's season at University of Toronto's Walter Hall several months before it opened.
The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra has bumped its subscription renewal rate above 80 per cent, which is about 20 per cent more than the norm for orchestras.
Tafelmusik managing director Tricia Baldwin says that her group had "its highest ticket revenues in history this year."
Recently returned from a Canadian Arts Summit, Baldwin says that the performing arts have not been greatly affected by economic turmoil, so far.
Since subscriptions for the 2009-10 season have only recently gone on sale, no one will have a definitive answer on what next year will look like until the summer. But early results are encouraging.
"A month ago, I thought it was just okay," says the TSO's Forrester of next year's subscription tally. When he looked again last week, subscription sales had surged (single tickets aren't on sale yet). "Of our $9.5 million in projected ticket revenues (for 2009-10), $4.5 million was in already," says Forrester.
But Forrester and Baldwin are not taking any chances.
"The Earth is flat for a performing arts organization," Forrester explains. "You sail along until you go off the edge."
This explains why even old, established and well-endowed orchestras in the United States have had to tighten their belts in dramatic ways. The Metropolitan Opera has cancelled one of next season's new productions. Just last week, the Atlanta Symphony announced a hiring freeze, and 5 to 10 per cent cuts in salaries for both administrators and musicians.
So far, no one in Toronto is thinking about cuts. But people are taking precautions.
Baldwin says Tafelmusik has set aside a $700,000 contingency fund to allow it to keep up its growing international touring schedule, even if fundraising falls short.
"You don't want to hide under your desk and say what if the sky falls," Baldwin explains.
Tafelmusik's Carnegie Hall debut this winter has led to other engagements, as did the group's visit last year to Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. "It was rough on the travel budget," Baldwin admits, but worth every penny.
Tafelmusik's top manager says the secret to managing the recession is "having one-on-one contact with people, having a contingency plan and offering exciting programming."
Forrester concurs. He points to music director Peter Oundjian as a particular asset. Now in his fifth season with the TSO, "Oundjian has managed to connect with the city," he says. "If he is on the bill, it instantly means an extra 10 to 15 per cent increase in single-ticket sales."
Many Canadian arts groups are in a better position to weather a recession because of two additional factors: they had to cope with massive cuts in government arts support in the 1990s and are less dependent on endowment income to cover annual expenses.
"That's where the TSO's accumulated deficit came from," says Forrester of the last decade's government cuts. The organization has been running in the black the last few years. "We were hoping to grow our way out of that deficit," he adds. "Now it may take a little longer."
In an informal conversation a few weeks ago, Canadian Opera Company general director Alexander Neef said that the smaller endowment funds held by Canadian arts organizations mean that when the stock market crashes, there is less money to lose.
Artists, long accustomed to making do with as little as possible, know a silver lining when they see it.
Peas Top Hot 100 For The First Time
(April 10, 2009) *The Black Eyed Peas have scored their first No. 1 record on Billboard's Hot 100 with the 39-1 rise of "Boom Boom Pow," the first single from their forthcoming album "The E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies)." The act's prior best showing on the Hot 100 was a No. 3 peak for both "Don't Phunk With My Heart" and "My Humps" in 2005. The Peas pushed Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" down to No. 2 this week, while Flo Rida's "Right Round" shifts down to No. 3, Soulja Boy Tell'em feat. Sammie's "Kiss Me Thru The Phone" moves down to No. 4, Jamie Foxx feat. T-Pain's "Blame It" holds at No. 5, and T.I. featuring Justin Timberlake's "Dead and Gone" falls to No. 6. Rounding out the top 10 are Kid Cudi's "Day 'N' Nite" at No. 7, the All-American Rejects' "Gives You Hell" at No. 8, The Fray's "You Found Me" at No. 9, and Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" at No. 10.
We Remember 'Pop' Winans
(April 10, 2009) *David "Pop" Winans Sr., the Grammy-nominated patriarch of gospel's famed Winans family, died Wednesday at a Nashville hospice, where he had been since January after suffering a heart attack and stroke last October. He was 74. His wife Delores, known as Mom Winans, was at his bedside when he died, according to a statement from the family's LA-based publicist. In 1999, David Winans was nominated for a Grammy for his solo CD "Uncensored." Ten years earlier, he and his wife received a nomination for their CD "Mom & Pop Winans." He was the father of BeBe and CeCe Winans, who formed a duo and delivered such hits as "Addictive Love" and "I'll Take You There." Four other children — Michael, Marvin, Carvin and Ronald — performed as The Winans, recording such songs as "Ain't No Need to Worry" featuring Anita Baker. Altogether, the Winans had 10 children. Son Ronald died in 2005. David Winans was born in Detroit and joined a gospel quartet when he was 18. Through the years he worked as a car salesman, taxi driver, custodian and a barber before becoming a preacher. After four of his children signed a recording contract, he worked as their manager for a while. He also helped to start youth groups in Detroit. "The Winans family wishes to thank everyone for their prayers and continued support, but would appreciate privacy at this time," read a statement from the family publicist. Memorial services are planned for next Tuesday and Wednesday at Perfecting Church in Detroit where Marvin is the senior pastor. Click HERE for a complete schedule of those events.
Eminem To Perform At MTV Movie Awards
(April 14, 2009) *Eminem has been booked to perform at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards which takes place next month preceding the May 19 release of his anticipated new album, "Relapse." Hosted by "Saturday Night Live's" Andy Samberg, the 18th annual ceremony will air on Sunday, May 31st at 9 p.m. (Live ET/Tape Delayed PT.) Presenters and additional performers will be announced at a later date. For the first time in Movie Awards history, MTV is letting fans participate in the nominee process. Voting opened Monday allowing viewers to select the nominees from an eligibility list of over 200 movies on movieawards.mtv.com. MTV Mobile will also enable viewers on the go to text VOTE to 66333 to vote for nominees in the Best Movie category from their mobile phone. Voting for this round will close on April 20. On May 4, the 2009 MTV Movie Awards nominees will officially be announced. Viewers will also have the opportunity to vote on the winners online and on their mobile phones. This second round of voting will close on May 18, with the exception of Best Movie which will remain open through the show.
Ben Mulroney To Host National Radio Show
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(April 15, 2009) Canadian Idol host Ben Mulroney is once again following in the footsteps of his American Idol counterpart, Ryan Seacrest. CTV says Mulroney, co-host of ETalk, has co-created a new syndicated radio show called ETalk20 that kicks off this weekend in 11 cities across the country. All but two of the radio stations running the program are properties of CHUM, which is part of the CTVglobemedia family. Like Seacrest's radio shows in the U.S., Mulroney's two-hour program offers entertainment news, celebrity interviews and runs down the country's hit songs. Producer Trevor Hammond is the other co-creator of Mulroney's new show. ETalk co-host Tanya Kim and the entire team from the TV show will also be part of the radio program.
Foxx Tackles Worst Fear In
(April 14, 2009) *He may be an Academy Award-winning actor, but Jamie Foxx says playing a mentally-unsettled man in the upcoming film "The Soloist" was so challenging that even he doubted his ability to pull it off.
"It was something that I enjoyed, but it shredded me," Foxx revealed to EUR's Lee Bailey. "I went to places that I never thought I would ever go. I just remember being in my bathroom broke down, talking to my manager like, 'I don’t' know if I'll be able to finish this.'"
Foxx described nearly losing his mind while filming the movie, in which he plays real life homeless schizophrenic cello prodigy Nathanial Ayers.
"You had to lose your mind every day you're on set, and sometimes you didn’t have enough time to get your mind back before the weekend, Foxx explained.
"I just remember calling my manager like, 'I know what it is, I know why he's crazy!" And my manager's like, "Foxx? Are you okay?" I said, "No, no, no! He does this because of this, he does that because of this, and I'm gonna go crazy, and I'm gonna lose everything, and I'm gonna be homeless, but I'm gonna be able to play the piano great…' [My manager] says, 'Foxx, I'm on my way over.'"
When his manager arrived, along with Foxx's agent, they suggested that he talk to a psychiatrist, "just so you'll have a way to get out of your head," they said, according to the actor.
During filming of the movie, Foxx ran into Steven Spielberg at a function and was asked by the director how he was holding up, considering he was spending every day trying in the mind of a schizophrenic.
"How's that movie going for you because that's a tough thing, dealing with schizophrenia. How are you holding up?" Foxx said Spielberg asked him. He replied, "I'm good. Am I showing something?"
Foxx said he used to blow off the notion of actors needing their own therapists while filming difficult roles, but he's a firm believer in the concept now, stating, "I had no idea that the mind could be that fragile."
"The Soloist," also starring Robert Downey Jr., arrives in theatres on April 24.
Rachel McAdams Like `A Kid In A Candy Store'
Source: www.thestar.com - John Hiscock, Special To The Star
(April 13, 2009) BEVERLY HILLS–Rachel McAdams smiles as she recalls the leading men she has worked with since her film debut seven years ago.
"I've been really lucky. I don't know what I've done to deserve it," she said.
The much-travelled Canadian actor has just returned from London where she was filming Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. She has The Time Traveler's Wife with Eric Bana awaiting release and is due to begin work soon on Morning Glory with Harrison Ford. In her new film, the political thriller State of Play, opening Friday, she co-stars with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck.
"I've worked with some of the greatest people in the world and I feel like I'm a kid in a candy store," she said.
Since her U.S. film breakthrough five years ago in Mean Girls, the London, Ont.-born, 30-year-old actor has been in constant demand and her star power at the box office has resulted in her being named 2009 Female Star of the Year by North American theatre owners last month.
She was mountain climbing in New Zealand with friends when she heard the news.
"I was really excited and kind of shocked because I wasn't expecting it," she said. "I was kind of on another planet altogether and I'd just come off a mountain. It was very flattering and very exciting."
McAdams was talking in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles before heading to the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas to receive the award. Elegant in a black skirt and black-and-white top, she has an appealing down-to-earth naturalness and laughs easily.
"I love to get dressed up," she said. "If I could just wear a dress and my cowboy boots every day of my life I'd be pretty happy."
Although she spends much of her time on film locations around the world, she returns home whenever she can. "I love my country and I love living in Canada," she said. "My home is there."
McAdams grew up in St. Thomas, Ont., and took up figure skating when she was 4 years old. She competed in the sport through high school, winning regional awards.
"It's strange, but it seems like a lifetime ago," she said. "I don't know if I could do it now because it's not like riding a bike. It takes practice to get back into the swing of it."
McAdams won her first acting award in 1995 when a high school play, I Live In A Little Town, was featured in the Sears Ontario Drama Festival. She continued acting at York University in Toronto and after graduating with honours, made her feature film debut in the Canadian-Italian production My Name is Tanino.
She earned a Genie nomination for her role in the Canadian film Perfect Pie and then appeared in the Hollywood comedy The Hot Chick before returning to Canada to play a star-struck actor in the TV comedy series Slings & Arrows.
In 2004, she co-starred in the sentimental drama The Notebook with fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling. They began an off-screen relationship that lasted for nearly four years.
Her career slowed in 2006 when, after appearing in The Wedding Crashers, Red Eye and The Family Stone, McAdams decided to take a break to spend time at home in Canada with her family and friends.
After breaking up with Gosling, she briefly reunited with him last year, but is now unattached.
"I have to say I really enjoy my independence," she said. "I read somewhere that a woman should live alone for at least a year and I think that's really good advice. It's good to spend some time with yourself and get to know who you are."
McAdams has always picked her projects carefully and turned down offers many other actors would have gratefully grabbed, including co-starring roles in Casino Royale, Iron Man and The Dark Knight.
In State of Play, which was filmed in Washington, D.C., she plays a cub reporter who teams up with a seasoned journalist (Crowe) as they attempt to untangle a mystery of murder and corruption among some of America's most promising political and corporate figures.
At first, the two reporters are wary of each other and, appropriately, McAdams and Crowe initially clashed on the set.
"The first day we had quite a disagreement about something in the script and that was kind of fun because neither of us was budging," she recalled.
"The director, Kevin Macdonald, said it was perfect because we were in character. But as time went on, Russell was very playful and smart and supportive, and we had a great time."
McAdams' reporter is a blogger who has embraced the technology of the Internet and the instant access to information that comes with it, although McAdams herself is no techie.
"I don't spend a lot of time online and I'm not terribly up to date on all the newfangled stuff," she confessed with a laugh. "I'm falling behind rapidly. I've only just heard about Twitter and I haven't got into Facebook yet. I'm still trying to figure out my email. I'm a dinosaur."
She prefers to learn from experience rather than online and she sees her profession as the ideal learning tool.
Now, with the luxury of being able to pick and choose her roles and return to Canada whenever she wants, McAdams is feeling happily relaxed about her life and career.
"I like my life," she said simply. "I think things get a little easier when you hit your third decade. Something just changes and I guess you learn to go with the flow and take life as it comes.
"You've got to just try and do the things you love and hope it works out."
Nicole Beharie :
The “American Violet” Interview
Source: Kam Williams
(April 13, 2009) A recent grad of the acting program at the prestigious Juilliard School, Nicole Beharie made her screen debut just last fall in The Express, a bittersweet bio-pic about the abbreviated life of Ernie Davis, the first African-American recipient of the Heisman Trophy. Now, in just her second film, the promising young thespian has already handled her first leading role.
In American Violet, a riveting drama based on a real-life case of racial profiling and malicious prosecution in a tiny Texas town, she plays a single-mother of four falsely accused of dealing drugs. Here, the emerging ingénue reflects upon her work in the movie which co-stars Alfre Woodard and Charles S. Dutton.
KW: Thanks so much for the time.
NB: I’m grateful that you wanted to speak with me.
KW: The honour is all mine, after I witnessed what a superb job of acting you did in this film. What interested you in the role?
NB: This particular script moved me. I had a dream about it, and when I went in for the call back, I met with the director Tim Disney, and the writer Bill Haney. When they told me about their investment in the project and Regina Kelly’s actual story, and how she had cooperated with the ACLU, I was just moved by them as human beings. I knew right then and there that I wanted to collaborate with them in some way. I told them at the second audition that if they didn’t want to cast me as the lead, I was willing to play another part because I cared that much about the story. But the audition went well, and things worked out in my favour.
KW: Did you have a chance to meet the woman you were portraying, Regina Kelly?
NB: Of course I got to spend a lot of time with her, although we didn’t get to meet until on set. I also got to spend time with numerous people from the town in Texas who had gone through the raids, characters you see in the film on the periphery.
KW: How did she react to seeing her life story being made?
NB: I think she was probably a little bit nervous initially watching me be her, wondering who is this girl who doesn’t even look like me.
KW: Was she really a single-mom with four children?
NB: Yes, she has four daughters the same ages as the girls in the film, the whole nine yards. Most of the story is pretty accurate.
KW: Does she still live in Hearne, Texas?
NB: She recently moved, but they did a screening of the film in Hearne a few weeks ago, right across from the District Attorney’s office.
KW: Where did you grow up?
NB: I was born in West Palm Beach, Florida, and spent time in South Carolina and Atlanta. I did a lot of moving around because my father was in the foreign service. So, I also lived in Nigeria, Panama and Washington, DC. I was up and down the East Coast, and in a few random countries. [Laughs]
KW: When did you develop an interest in acting?
NB: Moving around all the time, you just have to keep yourself entertained. And I was kind of a bully, even though I’m tiny, 5’ 2”. As a child, I’d boss other kids around and dress my little brother up, just putting on shows, singing and dressing up. I recently found a photo of myself in front of my mother’s closet, trying on her nylons and a feathered boa. So, I think storytelling was always underneath my skin, burning to get out.
KW: What type of training did you get before Juilliard?
NB: When I lived in Orangeburg, South Carolina, I ended up attending a school for the arts in Greenville. It was a better school and a better situation. I guess my ticket to get in there was acting. I wasn’t planning on becoming an actress. I just wanted to go to a better school. But I fell in love with it, and my senior year I applied to Juilliard, NYU, Carnegie Mellon and other schools with theatre programs. I got in, took the risk, moved to New York and it kinda worked out.
KW: I guess you did a lot of Shakespeare at Juilliard.
NB: I loved doing all the plays, including Shakespeare, which is wonderful for honing your instrument. I wouldn’t say Shakespeare was my #1 favourite, but you do feel very alive when it’s done well. Being in front of the camera is nice, too. I think they’re both beautiful types of performing calling for different levels of energy. I also enjoy singing in musicals.
KW: Watching American Violet, I though I saw another Juilliard graduate in the cast, Anthony Mackie, playing the informant, but his name wasn’t in the credits.
NB: Yes, he and Tim Blake Nelson, another Juilliard grad, are both in the picture.
KW: You had a great supporting cast, including Alfre Woodard, Charles S. Dutton, Will Patton, Xzibit and Michael O’Keefe. How was it working alongside so many seasoned pros?
NB: It was daunting. I was constantly reminding myself that they did cast me. I remember being nervous out of mind during the first reading. I love acting and I’m always doing readings, but this time, I knew the stakes were high. And after working with them, I took away so much from the experience because everyone was so generous with me. Michael reached out to me. Will took me to see some independent films. And Alfre was an absolute jewel.
KW: Well, I think the camera likes you, you have a natural chemistry and powerful presence. I noticed you the first time you came on screen in The Express. I sort of thought, hey, who is that?
NB: Thank you. I skipped my graduation at Juilliard to do that film.
KW: Your debut was the scene when you walked into the party with a girlfriend and the two of you were introduced to Ernie Davis.
NB: Wow! You’ve got quite a memory.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
NB: That’s an awesome question. What do I want you to ask me? Hmm… I’ll have to think about that.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
NB: Yes, I think this whole process has you constantly facing your fears and being courageous. But it’s also exciting.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
NB: Yeah, I’m really enjoying my time, and my family is really excited for me. I was raised by a single-mother, and my sister was a single-mom, too, so I think that’s one of the things that help me understand my role in American Violet. And having them see the fruits of my labours is really exciting. I just feel really blessed and humbled, even that you want to talk with me right now.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
NB: Right now, I’m reading a spiritual essay by Ralph Wood Emerson, Self Reliance, and Strange Pilgrims, a collection of short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to?
NB: I’m always listening to Nina Simone.
KW: One of her songs is in the movie at the end.
NB: Yes, and I didn’t know that when I first saw it. That thrilled me. That made me so happy. It was so perfect. Besides Nina Simone, I have some Common going on, some Joni Mitchell, and Beyonce’ when I’m working out.
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
NB: My mom, Colleen.
KW: Teri Emerson would like to know when was the last time you had a good belly laugh?
NB: After my grandmother had a heart attack and all my relatives came back home. We did everything in our power to lift her spirits, and it did something for me too. My sister absolutely cracks me up. I was rolling on the floor.
KW: How is your grandmother doing now?
NB: Much better, thanks.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: Is there anything your fans can do to help you?
NB: By just giving me a chance. I’m new. I don’t know that I have a fan base yet.
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
NB: As an ever-changing person, like the weather and the seasons. I want to have room to grow and morph and learn as I’m figuring it all out.
KW: Have you thought about a question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
NB: Yes, It’s sort of abstract, but I would like to get creative feedback at www.MySpace.com/NicoleBeharie about the film in the form of words, music or any other artistic expression from people who have seen it.
KW: Well, Nicole, thanks again and best of luck in the future.
NB: Thank you.
To see a trailer for American Violet, visit HERE.
American Violet : Dramatization Revisits Infamous Case of Racial Profiling and Malicious Prosecution in Texas
Source: Kam Williams
(April 13, 2009) On November 2, 2000, drug enforcement agents executed a sweep of the black community in the tiny town of Hearne , Texas , arresting 27 African-American residents, including a grieving father who was taken into custody during the funeral of his young daughter. The bench warrants had been issued by the county on the word of an informant who claimed to have purchased crack from each of the accused, despite the fact that the ex-con was the sole eyewitness, had a history of mental illness, and was himself facing criminal charges at the time.
Nonetheless, The District Attorney aggressively pursued convictions in all of the cases, generally succeeding since most of the defendants couldn’t afford to make bail, let alone hire a lawyer. What generally transpired was that after languishing in jail for several months while awaiting trial, many succumbed to the pressure of their court-appointed public defender to plead guilty to a lesser charge in return for leniency, rather than face the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.
In actuality, these unfortunate folks from the projects had all simply been victimized by a state-sanctioned scheme to incarcerate innocent African-Americans. Ultimately, the ACLU would clear their names with the help of one of the defendants, an intrepid woman willing to risk further incurring the wrath of the local authorities by testifying against them in a lawsuit proving a color-coded pattern of malicious prosecution.
The intimate details of her lengthy ordeal, set against the backdrop of that landmark case, is the subject of American Violet, a gripping dramatization of the events surrounding the sad tragedy which ruined many a family in Hearne. Directed by Tim Disney (Blessed Art Thou), great-nephew of the legendary Walt Disney, the movie stars newcomer Nicole Beharie as Dee Roberts, a 24 year-old single-mother with four daughters whose life comes apart at the seams when she finds herself suddenly ensnared in a dragnet designed to rid the town of black people entirely.
We see that before being framed for a crime she didn’t commit, Dee had been getting along if not exactly flourishing, caring for her girls while trying to save enough money from waitressing to study cosmetology someday. But afterwards, she’s soon without the financial resources or the emotional support needed to handle the situation.
In matter-of-fact fashion, this brilliant bio-pic effectively illustrates the likely fallout visited upon a law-abiding but unsophisticated person like Dee up against an impersonal legal justice system unconcerned with the truth. For when she is falsely accused of distributing narcotics and held on $70,000 bail, the ripple effect of the ensuing nightmare means that she stands to lose her dignity, her job, her savings and custody of her children in fast order.
Besides the powerful performance of Ms. Beharie, a Juilliard grad, American Violet features a smorgasbord of equally-engaging efforts on the part of a talented supporting cast topped by such veteran thespians as Alfre Woodard, Charles s. Dutton, Will Patton, Tim Blake Nelson, Xzibit and Michael O’Keefe. A movie which earns high marks simply for being the first feature film with the guts to tackle the subject of racial profiling in such an honest fashion, especially given the similar allegations levelled at the neighbouring town of Tenaha just last month.
Fair warning: Do yourself and family a favour and steer clear of that racist oasis if you happen to be black and passing through Texas .
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, ethnic slurs, violence, drug references and mature themes.
Running time: 102 minutes
Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
To see a trailer for American Violet, visit HERE. To see a news report about Tenaha , Texas , go HERE.
Out Of Touch Is Just Where He Likes To Be
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller
(April 10, 2009) It's hard to get a handle on actor Peter Sarsgaard, and he likes it that way. I first noticed him in Boys Don't Cry, where his rough-edged character proved even more ambiguous than Hilary Swank's transgendered one. In subsequent roles – generally smaller-budget dramas with smart scripts, including Kinsey, Shattered Glass, Garden State and The Dying Gaul – he's continued to discomfit and impress. I love how his boyish face is at odds with his silky, insinuating voice, and the way his characters are never what they first seem to be. In a phone interview this week from Brooklyn, where he lives with his wife, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, he was also funnier than I thought he'd be, and more genial.
“I think it's more interesting to play someone who is out of touch with who they really are,” said Sarsgaard, 38. “I think that's pretty common. And they create a fantasy, either by lying or acting out, that they and everyone else believe in. I'm very interested in people who construct their personalities.
“I call it the Blanche DuBois syndrome,” he continued. “For the whole play [ A Streetcar Named Desire], she can speak in a funny voice and wear crazy clothing and talk about crap, and then there's one moment where she suddenly talks in her own voice and seems her age, and we see who she really is. As long as you have that moment, even if it's only 30 seconds long, then all the rest of the fabrication will seem interesting. So that's what I'm always fighting for: Give me a chance to express, in any way that's interesting, what the flip side is.”
There's a wonderfully subtle flip-side moment in Sarsgaard's new film, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and it was his idea. Based on an early novel by Michael Chabon ( Wonder Boys), it's a coming-of-age story in the tradition of The Great Gatsby and Sophie's Choice: One restless, mid-1980s summer, a naive yearner named Art (Jon Foster) falls under the sway of a glamorous, volatile couple, Jane and Cleveland (Sienna Miller and Sarsgaard). Cleveland, a small-time hood with a motorcycle and rebel hair, is a man of great appetites for short durations. There's no sexual partner, drug or activity he won't try, and for a time he's happy to have Art around as a witness.
“Art gives Cleveland a kingdom to be the king of,” Sarsgaard said. “If you think of Cleveland by himself, he suddenly deflates somewhat. But around Art, he's got a better sense of his fabricated self. He's like, ‘Ahh, I am this, because you see me as this.'” But Sarsgaard made sure to throw in a moment where Cleveland freaks out when he can't find his keys. “I didn't want to show him opening his heart directly, just something to reveal a crack.”
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is part of a growing trend in 1980s entertainments, including the films Adventureland, 17 Again (which flashes back to 1989) and the upcoming Lymelife (set in 1979), and the new Broadway musical Rock of Ages, whose score consists of eighties-hair-band power ballads. I asked Sarsgaard why the greed decade is suddenly so popular. Do beepers and bow blouses now represent the good old days, or are a lot of fortysomething screenwriters having midlife crises?
“I think films may have loved up the sixties and seventies too much, and now we have to go to the eighties,” he replied. “But if they start doing movies that take place in the nineties and it's supposed to mean something, I don't know what I'm going to do. The nineties didn't mean anything. I can barely accept the eighties as a time that has a particular meaning. I was there, a teenager, but I have no recollection of the eighties.” He chuckled. “It's funny, my wife always says that in my heart I'm an eighties man. Like, my secret wardrobe would be Ray-Bans and white Members Only windbreakers.”
Though Mysteries was shot in only a month, Sarsgaard frequently flew back and forth between Pittsburgh and New York, because Gyllenhaal was nine months pregnant with their first baby. “It was this very small airplane, a Seneca, just me and the pilot,” Sarsgaard said. “The producer really helped me make it work, because it's very difficult to leave your spouse when she's having Braxton-Hicks contractions.” Daughter Ramona was born in October, 2006, three days after Mysteries wrapped.
Sarsgaard finds fatherhood “a lot more fun” than he thought it would be. “But you only get out what you put in, and they [children] know when you're not putting in – and it doesn't go over well,” he said, laughing. It's Gyllenhaal's turn to work, so Sarsgaard will spend the next while on location with her in England, writing his first screenplay and “puttering.”
Asked to define puttering, Sarsgaard launched into a gleeful recitation about starting to make Pakistani food for dinner, going out to find orange-flower water, getting distracted by his patchy lawn, deciding to plant periwinkle, ordering the periwinkle, digging up the grass to make way for the periwinkle, remembering the pot on the stove, deciding to get some writing in while the food simmers for four hours, getting tired of writing after two hours, deciding to get some exercise, getting distracted by a Spanish soccer game, realizing that the food is burning, and running downstairs to finish it up. “But then I'm a hero, because I made dinner,” he said.
Sarsgaard's pretty content with his career, which this past year included an acclaimed Broadway run of The Seagull with Kristin Scott Thomas, an off-Broadway production of Uncle Vanya opposite Gyllenhaal, the upcoming horror thriller Orphan with Vera Farmiga, and the new Nick Hornby movie, An Education. “I don't know if people get me,” he said, “but in my latest forays into theatre, I felt like I was doing as much acting as I had ever dreamed of doing. I feel completely satiated at the moment. I certainly have gone through periods where I was disappointed, and periods where I couldn't find an opportunity, or express myself fully. But this latest one, Maggie and I just created it, in a 200-seat East Village theatre, with a fantastic director, Austin Pendleton, and it was so much fun. So that's all I need.”
He planted the periwinkle, by the way. “It's excellent ground cover; it'll grow anywhere and it's got pretty little flowers,” he said. “It looks great.”
Randolph Lizarda : A
Jedi from Scarborough
Source: www.thestar.com - Robyn Doolittle, Staff Reporter
(April 15, 2009) Who is the Jedi knight?
All of the above
The answer: D, all of the above – or at least it will be by the end of the summer.
George Lucas's elite Jedi Academy was "looking for a few good Padawans" – you can check, it's right there on the website. One they found was 21-year-old Randolph Lizarda, a Sheridan college student enrolled in the applied arts and animation program.
The Scarborough resident applied to the prestigious internship at Lucasfilm studios in February. Every year, about 1,500 applications from around the world flood the studio's San Francisco office. Only four are selected for the arts program. Lizarda has just learned he was one of them.
"I'm very excited. I'll be working in the LucasArts division animating video games, although I don't know what we're working on. They wouldn't tell me – it's confidential," Lizarda said on a break from class yesterday.
The force has always been strong with Lizarda, the baby in a family of eight artistic kids.
When he was 6 years old, one of his older brothers – an up- and-coming comic book artist – died of cancer. From then on, for whatever reason, Lizarda says he knew he was destined for a career in the arts.
Lizarda's family immigrated to Canada from the Philippines, settling down in Scarborough when he was 12 years old. He brought his love of art along with him.
"I was into it when I was little, then I got more into it in high school. In Grade 10, I took one of those career surveys to find out where you fit in. I fit into the animation industry," he said.
As a child he was never much interested in cartoons – he just liked to draw them. His appreciation for the art of animation – comedic timing, movement and skill – came later. After being accepted at Sheridan, he is learning to transfer his two-dimensional ability to the computer, creating Shrek-esque shorts (although his favourite is the 2004 superhero family movie, The Incredibles).
Lizarda aspires to one day work for a company such as Pixar or DreamWorks.
Dave Quesnelle, one of his professors at Sheridan, says the young artist is well on his way.
"He's an excellent student. He has a really good sense of design and animation," said Quesnelle, who teaches third-year animation. Lizarda stood out after handing in his first assignment, an action analysis sequence – the first segment on the demo reel he submitted to Lucasfilms.
In a traditional drawing format, Lizarda created a 10-second clip of a comically muscular circus performer balancing on a ball, before jumping through a hoop of fire.
"I had a really good sense of his storytelling. He had the basic principles of animation (but) it was also comical. And that's our job. Anyone can make a picture move, but to make it entertaining, that's the craft of an animator."
To view Lizarda's demo reel visit: http://animation.sheridanc.on.ca/portfolio/2010/lizarda/
It's Been A Gas
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan
(April 10, 2009) The stand-up mind of Brent Butt never shut down during the run of Corner Gas. It just got sharper.
Several years playing a nice guy on a wildly successful sitcom — a successful Canadian sitcom, mind you — has in no way dimmed Butt's skewed comedian perspective. He sounds genuinely touched, for example, while talking about the kind feedback and support from Corner Gas fans regarding his decision to end the show after six seasons, but in the next breath, he's riffing on the sheer, bizarre niceness of people.
"Doesn't that just surprise you sometimes?" muses Butt, speaking from the office of his Vancouver production company. "In a way, the fact society even works at all is amazing to me. If the vast majority weren't intrinsically decent people, this could all easily fall apart."
Corner Gas was a curious detour for Butt on his unplanned vision quest.
The show has brought him mainstream attention in Canada, and some parts of the United States, but he never strayed far from the comedy-club spotlight. In Corner Gas shooting breaks, he would faithfully return to stand-up, and he still does, when he feels like it. There isn't a comedy club in Canada that wouldn't want him onstage these days.
"I still love the craft of stand-up," he says. "To me, it's all about the joke. Someone can have that one joke that makes you think, 'Wow, what a great original thought.' And there's so many great different ways of doing it. I'm fascinated by it."
Corner Gas was in some ways our Seinfeld, and a perfect fit for Butt. The setting of fictional Dog River, Saskatchewan, was pretty much his birthplace of Tisdale, Sask. The central character of good-natured gas-station proprietor Brent LeRoy was essentially Brent Butt, a wiseacre Prairie philosopher and polite Canadian everyman; TV Brent's batty parents and quirky friends provided a sweet-natured version of George, Elaine and Kramer.
Corner Gas held a steady audience of a million-plus viewers for its six-season run. While it lasted, it was great.
"We always knew we were doing something pretty rare," says Butt, 42. "It's like winning the Stanley Cup. Some guys spend 20 years in the NHL and never touch the Cup. Sometimes it was just like, holy crow, we're on a hit show."
Corner Gas will of course live on forever in syndication. The show currently airs nightly on the Comedy Network, and none of the charm is lost on second viewing. "It was always a conscious decision to do a show that wasn't chronologically pinned down," Butt says. "You can watch a show from Season 1, or 2 or 5, and it all makes sense."
Unlike your average Canadian comedy, Corner Gas successfully made the leap south of the border. The show was sold to the Superstation WGN network a few years back and still airs in wide syndication all over the U.S. "People have told me the show runs around the clock in Las Vegas," says Butt. "I still get calls to do press in Nevada."
Corner Gas redefined the Prairie pastoral myth of Sinclair Ross, but making a TV series is hard work. Besides playing the main character, Butt also served a writer and producer on the series, which filmed in the real town of Rouleau, Sask. The schedule of a regular series was an adjustment for a professional comedian accustomed to working nights and sleeping days.
"At times, it was incredibly laborious," Butt admits. "It was never lost on me this show was a crazy, special blessing, but sometimes we had 17- to 18-hour days while in production; I would literally work on Corner Gas from 5 a.m. to midnight. I won't miss starting work at 5 a.m."
After six seasons and 107 episodes, Corner Gas ends its respectable run on Monday night with an episode focused squarely on Butt's character. Without revealing specifics, the plot line has everyone wondering where the big guy has been sneaking off to on Wednesday nights. Turns out Brent has long been pursuing a secret passion, which in turn precipitates a momentous life decision. For everyone else, life in Dog River simply goes on.
"That goes with what I've always said about Corner Gas: Anything can happen, but at the end it has to be right where it started," Butt says.
Like his affable TV persona, Brent Butt has moved on. Although Corner Gas has made his rubbery mug one of the most recognizable faces in this country, he chose to go behind the camera for his follow-up project.
Taking no time off, Butt wrote and produced the comedy pilot Hiccups, starring his Corner Gas co-star and real-life wife Nancy Robertson as a children's author with anger-management issues. The first show has been completed and awaits the green light from CTV.
"It's going to be a while before we know if the show gets picked up for a series, on account of the world melting down financially, and media as we know it changing so quickly," he says.
Meanwhile, Butt has signed a deal with Vancouver's Brightlight Pictures to write, produce and star in a feature-film comedy — he's now penning the script — and his production firm, Sparrow Media, is creating Internet projects. "I'm running a company, so there's not much downtime," he says. "Sadly, the main product involves me and what I do, so I have to be present for most of it."
And since we're just talking, why not a Corner Gas reunion movie? "I would absolutely consider that," says Butt. "There's been talk of doing a feature film; it's just talk now, but everybody seems to like the idea. As long as it was a few years down the road. You want to put a little distance between the show and the reunion."
Even now, six months after Corner Gas filmed its last episode, Butt is still trying to squeeze in a vacation. Tentative holiday plans have been made for later this month (though he said the same thing last October). "It looks like I'm going to Las Vegas for three days," he says, almost glumly. "That's about the best vacation I'm going to get."
His tone brightens, though, when the subject changes to bare-knuckle brawling. Butt remains a devotee of mixed martial arts competition, albeit from a safe distance. "I've never seen it live, and I don't think I want to … There's a lot of testosterone-juiced goons in those audiences," he says.
More important, Butt believes TV makes a good thing better: "A lot of mixed martial arts is delicate stuff, which you can only see on television," he explains. "You can't appreciate the beauty of ankle locks and kimura arm bars if you're watching from the balcony."
The series finale of Corner Gas airs Monday at 9:30 p.m. on CTV.
Of It As CSI: Survivor 2.0
Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw
(April 11, 2009) LOS ANGELES — Networks aren't taking many risks these days, but CBS has doubled down with the serialized murder-mystery Harper's Island, which made its debut this week. Launched with fanfare - and a strong Web presence - the weekly serial squeezes TV's sturdy crime-drama genre into the even-more-reliable mould (theme-wise, at least) of reality television.
It had to happen eventually.
As on American Idol, one person is knocked off Harper's Island each week, thereby forcing viewers - CBS hopes - to keep coming back. The premise borrows from Agatha Christie: specifically, her 1940 novel And Then There Were None. The presentation, meanwhile, is lifted straight from Survivor. Put them together, say the show's creators, and you've invented a brand-new TV genre.
"We're doing something never tried on TV before, as far as I know," enthused executive producer Jon Turteltaub at the TV critics' tour in Los Angeles earlier this year. "This is a huge gamble."
Optimistically booked for a straight 13-week run, Harper's Island recalls another famous crime series - Murder, She Wrote - in the simplicity of its setup: A group of family and friends travels to an ominous-looking island, supposedly near Puget Sound in Washington. (The series was filmed in Vancouver and on nearby Bowen Island). Everyone is burbling about handsome couple Henry and Trish (Christopher Gorham and Katie Cassidy) and their upcoming nuptials.
Then, someone is brutally murdered. And the characters keep getting murdered, one per week - although in this week's episode, two people got it: one beheaded, one bisected - at the hands of an unseen killer. "It's a pretty straightforward idea: People go to a wedding, bad things start to happen," said Turtletaub, who previously produced the short-lived apocalyptic drama, Jericho. "For viewers, it's about getting emotionally invested in the characters."
Harper's Island's central storyline spreads out from the requisite good-girl character of Abby, played by Irish actress Elaine Cassidy, who returns to Harper's Island five years after her parents were murdered there. Like the other actors on the show, Cassidy had some concerns before shooting began last fall, in large part because the cast members were handed the script for the first show - and given no idea where the story would be going after that.
"It was my first acting job where I didn't know how long I would be around," said Cassidy. "It was a unique experience for most of us. It was like playing the game Clue."
Harper's Island is the only new midseason arrival on CBS, which slid the show into the now-departed ER's timeslot of Thursday at 10 p.m. The new show also has the edge of CSI as its lead-in - after nine seasons, still the most-watched drama on network TV - and faces minimal competition from either NBC newcomer Southland or ABC's fading Private Practice.
Working against it: There are no truly familiar faces in the cast, save for ex-Deadwood prospector Jim Beaver as laconic Sheriff Charlie, and former L.A. Law hunk Harry Hamlin, who plays a character called Uncle Marty.
The campaign to instill Harper's Island into the hearts and minds of viewers began last month with incessant promos during CBS's NCAA basketball coverage. Soon after came a billboard campaign and double-page ads in Entertainment Weekly and other magazines.
Even more ambitious, the network simultaneously launched a Web companion series, Harper's Globe, on its main website, presumably to pull in younger viewers early. Well-written and well-acted, with most of the same cast as the TV show, the Web series expands on the characters and tells a parallel storyline.
On either platform, grand displays of violence feature prominently in the Harper's tableau. The weekly victims are dispatched with Saw-style flourish; weapons of disposal include a chainsaw and a whaling harpoon, in keeping with the maritime setting. This is TV, of course, so most of the violence happens off-camera, but you sure know it's happening.
"It's certainly not going to be worse than an episode of Criminal Minds or CSI," said Turteltaub. "I have seen heads roll down the street on CSI, so there is not much of an envelope left to push. We are definitely going to bring in a much younger audience."
Web users can track the body count over the next three months and make their own predictions on the killer's identity. And if the TV show's a hit, watch out. Its creators are already talking about franchise extensions.
"It could be Harper's Rocket Ship, and the whole thing takes place with an alien on a ship on the way to Mars," said Turteltaub, only half-joking, it seemed. "Once you establish the set length and format, you just keep changing the cast. That's what they do on Dancing With the Stars and Survivor and American Idol, and those shows are going pretty well."
Harper's Island airs Thursdays at 10 on CBS and Global.
TV Review: Brave New Voices
Source: www.eurweb.com -
(April 14, 2009) *When I was coming of age back in the day, most of us who were musically-inclined tended to have an interest in either jazz or R&B.
But the current generation of such aspiring artists have been profoundly influenced by the idiom known as hip-hop, so they car about the spoken form than singing.
If you're an old school fuddy-duddy like me, you probably worry about the toll the mind-crippling mixture of misogyny, materialism and macho bravado popularized by MTV and BET might be taking on impressionable young minds.
For, while we might be wise enough to know not to mimic the assortment of self-destructive behaviours promoted by millionaire entertainers posing as ghetto gangstas in hedonistic music videos and on equally-decadent reality shows, it is reasonable to fear for the future of kids who weaned on such silly folderol.
It is therefore with a sigh of relief I am happy to report about the first few episodes of Russell Simmons Presents: Brave New Voices. Narrated by Queen Latifah, the HBO series chronicles a 45-city search for the best poetry slam performers in the country. And what they found was a potpourri of talented up- and-coming teenagers capable of baring their souls while spinning a lyrical line on stage.
Because rap originally emanated from the inner city and ostensibly inspired the ensuing rise of slams, I fully expected the competition to be dominated by youth residing in the ghetto. But no, it is apparent that this brash brand of expression has gone mainstream, permeating not only lily white neighbourhoods in the cities but also reaching the suburbs and rural areas as well.
Consequently, the impassioned young voices heard rapping here reflect the concerns of a rainbow of ethnic groups: blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, even Hawaiians and Native Americans. As fascinating as their diversity, however, is the intimate nature of the subject matter touched upon in their mesmerizing rhymes. The poems reveal individuals grappling with personal struggles ranging from typical teen issues like sexual harassment and dating to questions of survival such as Sickle Cell Anemia and Cerebral Palsy.
So, don't short-change yourself by passing on this surprisingly-sophisticated documentary by thinking that the strident, staccato form of expression profiled is just about booty calls and drive-bys.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 30 minutes per episode
Brave New Voices airs at 11 PM (ET/PT) on HBO on Sundays, starting April 5th (Check local listings)
To see a trailer for Brave New Voices, visit HERE.
Broadway Deals Can Save You From Stick Shock
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(April 11, 2009) You don't have to have big bucks to have a big time in the Big Apple.
This is the time of year when a lot of people head to New York, and paying at least one visit to a Broadway theatre is usually high on everyone's list. That said, there are a couple of things that discourage some folks from taking in a show, the chief one being the high cost of tickets. Regular orchestra seats for a hit Broadway musical can go as high as $120 (all amounts in U.S. dollars) and, if you want the so-called "premium seats," it's double that. Ouch!
While the biggest new hits are still going at full price (especially on weekends), the recession has dragged down prices elsewhere, meaning there are a lot of bargains to be found: Disney discounts Heading the list is Disney's brand new "15 for $15" program, which is celebrating the 15 years Disney has been producing Broadway musicals. It's a real boon to parents: If you buy one regular-price ticket to The Lion King, Mary Poppins or The Little Mermaid, you'll get another seat for $15. This offer can only be purchased until April 19 and is good for seats at selected performances between April 21 and May 31. Go online to get details at offers.disneyonbroadway.com. Booth bargains TKTS is among many a savvy New Yorker's favourite things. On the day of a show, these discount ticket booths offer unsold tickets for up to half price. Details online at: tinyurl.com/tktsny Rush seats, discount codes Certain shows have deeply discounted rush seats available on the day, as well as standing room (which is how I saw shows all through high school and college). To find out which have which, visit talkinbroadway.com/boards and scroll down to your show of choice.
Also, if you're willing to see certain shows on certain days, there's a crazy (but totally legit) world of discount codes to help ease your financial burden. Click on the show you want at: broadwaybox.com.
Want a reliable list of what's playing at what theatre on Broadway? Go to tinyurl.com/timeslist for the answer.
Stratford, Shaw Lighten Up During Tough Times
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(April 11, 2009) Big, bold and leaning toward the light side.
That's how both of Ontario's major theatre festivals are trying to bust the recession this season.
Previews start today for the first mainstage shows of the Shaw and Stratford festivals and, although optimism surges at this time year like sap through maple trees, expectations are tempered a bit by a slippage in advance sales (17 per cent for Shaw, 15 per cent for Stratford) that can largely be laid at the door of their suddenly vanishing friends, the American audiences.
So, what's a festival to do?
Shaw is turning to Noel Coward, dividing his famous "Tonight at Eight-Thirty" collection of nine one-act plays into three evenings, tossing in a 10th forgotten play at lunch hour and presenting all 10 of them in a 14-hour endurance test on three days this summer, an experience dubbed "Mad Dogs and Englishmen." "We're always trying to create a major event on our terms," says artistic director Jackie Maxwell, "and it's interesting to note that the three marathon days are nearly sold out."
The first bill of Coward's, "Brief Encounters," directed by Maxwell, starts previews today and includes Still Life (the play that inspired the 1945 weeper film Brief Encounter), the strangely charming We Were Dancing and the good old-fashioned romp Hands Across the Sea (allegedly inspired by the unorthodox entertaining habits of Lord and Lady Mountbatten). Of course, you'll also find a couple of Shaw plays, a Sondheim musical, some classic American scripts of the period and even a Michel Tremblay.
Over at Stratford, Shakespeare continues to set the scene with Macbeth, Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night's Dream. And there's a lot else on the bill as well, including Oscar Wilde, Ben Jonson and Anton Chekhov.
But a lot of people are most interested in what Stratford is doing when it comes to musicals. At their best, these tuners reach great heights and pour millions of dollars into the box office. The financial implications, I'm sure, are among the major reasons Stratford moved one of its major musicals, West Side Story, back to the Festival Theatre, where it starts previews today.
The big news is the director for the project: Gary Griffin. I've often sung his praises in describing the work he did with Sondheim musicals for the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and Torontonians got to sample his work when his heart-bursting production of The Color Purple recently played the Canon.
Griffin is thrilled to be at Stratford and sees no problem with moving a musical like West Side Story back to the Festival stage. It underscores that this is a classic piece of theatre, he says, one "that belongs in the repertoire of Shakespeare and Rostand and Wilde."
Rick Miller : Giving Us The
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Kate Taylor
(April 15, 2009) When Canadian comedian Rick Miller was offered a spot hosting ABC's version of the candid-camera show Just for Laughs he thought about it for a grand total of 10 minutes before accepting. It was a nice gig, great exposure and good money for easy work. On the other hand, the American network is owned by the Walt Disney Company; and Miller dislikes Disney programming and doesn't let his two young daughters watch commercial TV. So, what do you call that? Hypocrisy - or just real life?
And there is the dilemma at the centre of Hardsell, Miller's new one-man show created with director Daniel Brooks and opening at Canadian Stage in Toronto tomorrow.
"We pay taxes that pay for a war that we may not support. We are complicit. We drink Coke but we ignore what these corporations do ... Coke tastes good. We choose to ignore things because it is so tiring to think about them," Miller, 39, said in a recent interview before heading into rehearsals.
The director and the performer had worked together previously creating Miller's 2003 hit show about Christianity, Bigger Than Jesus, and Miller said their starting point this time was Brooks's concern about how inescapable commercialization has become whether you're a parent picking suitable viewing or a theatre director accepting corporate sponsorship.
Brooks, the son of a Toronto ad man, and Miller, the son of a Montreal office-furniture salesman, figured that these days everything is a sell.
"We are so enmeshed in this culture of the sell that is partly based on lying, it's hard to determine what is true. There is always a spin, always an angle," Miller said, pointing to the current economic crisis as proof that people in positions of power lie.
But this is not an I-told-you-so show, nor a moral judgment on its audience. No, it's a comedy, with fart jokes no less.
To create it, Miller has fashioned an alter-ego for himself, one Arnie, an older and more cynical version of the comic, a stand-up who has spent his life on the road making people laugh as he ridicules anything and everything. This devil twin is contemptuous of "Rick Miller," that well-meaning family man who drives a Toyota Prius and gives money to the Stephen Lewis Foundation to help fight AIDS in Africa. Still, the all-knowing Arnie has nothing to show for his cynicism.
"His realization is that cynicism has a cost," Miller said.
And it's hardly a pure position itself because Arnie is a salesman too, just like Miller and Brooks and every other showman. "Every lighting cue, every word is a sell."
Straddling these contradictions and self-contradictions might seem like a stretch, but Miller has always been a jack of all trades who can reach high or low or in both directions at once. He is the intellectual who studied architecture at McGill because it is, in the words of Frank Lloyd Wright, the mother art, and he is the guy who can do a great Bugs Bunny imitation. He is the comic who is hosting a candid-camera show that generates laughs by tricking people, and the man whose wife works for Roots of Empathy, a charity that reduces aggression in children by teaching social skills. He is the comic impersonator who has toured internationally with MacHomer, his one-man version of Macbeth performed by the voices of The Simpsons, and the trilingual actor who has collaborated with both Brooks and Robert Lepage, two of the most cerebral theatre directors in the country. He is the performer whose spring season includes touring MacHomer to Alberta and speaking no less than five languages in Lipsynch, Lepage's nine-hour show about the human voice that makes its North American premiere in Toronto in June.
"I'm a bit of a hack at many things, architecture and languages, and I have my cartoon voices I do," said Miller, who is trilingual thanks to growing up in francophone Quebec with an Irish mother and Austrian father.
He met Brooks in 1999 on the set of Lepage's film adaptation of the John Mighton play Possible Worlds, which Brooks had directed in Toronto, and the two hit it off, agreeing to collaborate on Miller's idea of a comedy about Jesus that would draw on the Catholic liturgy he had stored in his memory since childhood. Now, they turn, at least indirectly, to Brooks's Jewish roots with their tradition of moral questioning. How do you live a just life? By making theatre?
"Daniel was very interested in this idea, why are we doing this. Why aren't we working for Stephen Lewis?" he said, explaining that in Hardsell, the hour on the stage becomes a metaphor for action, for what we do with our lives, whether admirable or not. "Why am I ridiculing people on stage? The game is that this character asks us these questions."
His hope is that the audience will not feel judged by Arnie's uncomfortable questions but rather changed by them, emerging from the theatre in a different psychic spot than they entered. After all, every one of us lives on the same shifting moral sands that provide our contemporary world with its unstable foundation.
"You can't go live in a field somewhere," concludes Miller, the master of the contradiction.
Hardsell opens tomorrow in Toronto at the Berkeley Street Theatre.
Delroy Lindo Runs 'Dry' In New York
(April 9, 2009) *Tony nominee Delroy Lindo and Roslyn Ruff will co-star in New York Theatre Workshop’s forthcoming production of Naomi Wallace’s Things of Dry Hours, reports Broadway.com. The play, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, tells the story of Tice Hogan (Lindo), an out-of-work Sunday School teacher and member of the Communist Party in Depression-era Alabama, his daughter Cali (Ruff) and how their lives get turned around when they take in a mysterious white factory worker on the run. "Hours" will begin previews on May 22 and open on June 8. The limited off-Broadway engagement is scheduled to continue through June 28. Lindo, a 1988 Tony Award nominee for Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, will be making his first New York stage appearance in more than 20 years. His film and TV work includes The Cider House Rules, Heist, A Life Less Ordinary, The Exonerated and Kidnapped. Lindo also appeared in the HBO adaptation of Santiago Hudson's Lackawanna Blues, directed by George C. Wolfe. He was most recently seen Tuesday night in an episode of "Law & Order: SVU."
Wii Want Silent Hill
Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star
(April 11, 2009) Halloween is still seven months away, but Konami Digital Entertainment has still scared up a big announcement this week: the popular Silent Hill horror game franchise will make its debut on the Nintendo Wii this fall, along with the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories will feature an interactive user interface – taking advantage of the Nintendo Wii's innovative motion-sensing controls – as well as an improved puzzle system and a "psych profile" that changes the experience based on gameplay choices.
Gamers play as Harry Mason, who is searching for his missing daughter, Cheryl. While roaming the snow-covered streets of Silent Hill, Mason must search for clues related to her disappearance and face off against the twisted creatures that populate the town.
While the graphics won't be in high-definition because of hardware limitations, Konami says the game offers fluid and realistic gameplay and promises to be the most frightening instalment of the decade-old series.
Composer Akira Yamaoka returns in this sequel to deliver a chilling soundtrack to add to the game's creepy atmosphere.
PSP 2 getting ready for play?
Speaking of the PlayStation Portable, online rumours are swirling about Sony's next-generation portable gaming system.
The word on the cyber street is that a true successor to the PSP is in development – for a planned fall launch – that is much slimmer than the current hardware because it does away with the Universal Media Disc drive that can drain batteries and cause long load times because of its moving mechanical parts.
Instead, the PSP 2 will only contain a Memory Stick Duo card slot for flash memory, and allow players to download games from an Internet store through its built-in Wi-Fi connectivity (similar to the Apple iPhone and Nintendo DSi).
There's another rumour that the PSP 2's controls will have "dual analog sticks," and will therefore feel much like a PlayStation 3 game controller.
If these rumours carry any weight, Sony could officially announce the device at the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo, being held in Los Angeles from June 2 to 4.
City's Lone French Bookstore To Close
Source: www.thestar.com - Paola Loriggio, Staff Reporter
(April 14, 2009) Almost half a century has gone by since Librairie Champlain opened shop in downtown Toronto, selling books and music to francophones and francophiles.
Now, two generations and three relocations later, the city's lone French bookstore – one of only eight in the province – is shutting down.
"It's all very sudden," owner Marcel Arsenault said yesterday. Arsenault, who took over the store from his parents in 1993, plans to shutter it on April 30.
"We looked at the (account) books, we tried to lower our rent, but we can't even afford to move," he said in French.
The bookstore, on Queen St. E. near Parliament St., gets less and less business from school boards and public libraries, which previously accounted for roughly 70 per cent of sales, Arsenault said.
"Now they buy from wholesalers and chains that offer better prices, but the community pays the cost."
While all independent retailers feel the squeeze of big-box stores, Ontario's French bookstores – already few and far between – are particularly at risk, due to added competition from Quebec, industry groups say.
Meanwhile, Quebec stores are bolstered by school boards and libraries, which by law must purchase books at retail price from certified local bookstores.
"It's a terrific system," and one Ontario should consider, said Susan Dayus, executive director of the Canadian Booksellers Association.
The association discussed a similar policy with the Ontario education ministry, but "it hasn't gotten anywhere," Dayus added.
Last summer, the province committed $80 million in additional funding for school libraries over four years.
Based on criteria from prices to return policies, the ministry selected 73 booksellers to supply elementary schools.
The Toronto District School Board took from that list and made its own, demanding discounts of at least 20 per cent as well as free shipping, Dayus said.
For niche stores, like Champlain, such steep discounts mean little to no profit margin, she said. "There's little room to manoeuvre."
School board chair John Campbell said it's the board's job "to get the best price it can for goods and services so it can stretch each dollar as far as it can go."
At the same time, the board favours Canadian businesses, said Campbell, who called Champlain's imminent closure "very unfortunate."
Arsenault, who dedicated 30 years to the family business, said giving it up will leave a void in his life.
Reaction from the public has been overwhelming, he said. "I feel kind of guilty. I wasn't expecting this strong a response."
The store's employees, which include several family members, got a practical goodbye gift from their boss: job applications for McNally Robinson, the bookstore set to open later this month at Don Mills Rd. and Lawrence Ave. E.
As for Arsenault, he has no plans. "Maybe I'll take a sabbatical."
Giant Amazon Error Spurs PR Storm
Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner, Publishing Reporter
(April 14, 2009) If Amazon's de-ranking of gay and lesbian themed books from its bestseller lists on the weekend was indeed the result of a "cataloguing error," as the company finally admitted yesterday, it was an error that had much of the world twittering.
In the age of social networking, somebody is bound to notice and is going to start spreading the word.
That somebody in this case was Mark R. Probst, who reported on his blog early Sunday that gay and lesbian themed books were disappearing from Amazon's sales rankings. It was then discovered Amazon had de-ranked titles by such acclaimed authors as Gore Vidal, James Baldwin and Jeanette Winterson, as well as a biography of openly lesbian TV host Ellen DeGeneres.
The news spread quickly via Twitter and other social networks. By yesterday, Amazon's public relations were in a world of hurt.
Initially it was explained that the books were designated "adult" and therefore excluded from the bestseller lists, though still available for purchase. Later, a company spokesperson sent an email to some media outlets, chalking it all up to a "computer glitch." Some previously de-ranked titles began to reappear with a numerical ranking.
Finally Amazon insisted the culprit was a "cataloguing error" that has affected nearly 60,000 titles across various genres.
"This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloguing error," said corporate communications director Patty Smith, in an email received by the Star. "It has been misreported that the issue was limited to gay and lesbian themed titles. In fact, it impacted 57,310 books in ... broad categories such as health, mind and body, reproductive and sexual medicine and erotica.
"This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search."
University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, who writes a column on online issues for the Star said Amazon's expanded explanation sounds credible to him.
Amazon.com, the Seattle-based global online retail giant that sells books, CDs and other products, spent much of yesterday defending itself against charges it had dropped books on gay and lesbian subject matter from its rankings.
Now, there are signs the outrage has been stemmed.
Probst told the New York Times yesterday he accepted an error was made and didn't perceive "anything malicious" in Amazon's intent. And playwright and gay rights activist Larry Kramer reportedly shelved a planned boycott of Amazon.
"Many books have now been fixed," said Amazon's Smith, "and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future."
Amazon rankings affect the likelihood of a book popping up in searches, particularly if these are general or by category rather than by title or author. The DeGeneres biography, for example, wouldn't come to the attention of a consumer generally searching for biographies, unless it has a numerical rank. This could limit its chances of being bought on impulse.
Book Review Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
Source: Kam Williams
Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man:
What Men Really Think about Love Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment
by Steve Harvey
Amistad/Harper Collins Publishers
“I want every woman who truly wants a solid relationship… to forget everything she’s been taught about men—erase the myths, the heresy, everything your mother told you, everything your girlfriends told you, all the advice you’ve read in magazines and seen on television—and find out here, in these pages, who men really are… If you’re tired of being played with, then I want you to use this book as a tool—to take each of the principles, rules, and tips in this no-nonsense guide and use them to anticipate a man’s game plan.
No matter how good you are to a man, no matter how good you are for him, until you understand what his makeup is, what drives him, what motivates him, and how he loves, you will be vulnerable to his deception and the games he plays. But with this book, you can get into a man’s mindset and understand him better, so that you can put into play your plans, your dreams, and your desires, and best of all, you can figure out if he’s planning to be with you or just playing with you.”
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pages 6-7)
(April 14, 2009) Stand-up comic/sitcom star/TV show host/stage performer/movie actor/radio DJ/producer Steve Harvey was already a true Renaissance Man before he recently added relationship advice guru to his bag of tricks. After its release in January of this year, his book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think about Love Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment skyrocketed to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list, and still enjoys that lofty spot as we go to publication (see HERE).
Apparently, the secrets about men he reveals on the pages of this much-needed how-to-tome are resonating with frustrated females of every demographic. As a result, Steve is not only making the rounds of the top talk shows like Oprah and Ellen, but expanding his own entertainment empire as his eponymous, nationally-syndicated morning radio show enters new markets, most recently replacing Tom Joyner in Chicago .
Let’s face it, Steve Harvey is a juggernaut who’s on quite a roll. And this critic is not at all surprised by this development, given that I’ve immensely enjoyed his last two stand-up DVDs and have also found the brother to be both hilarious and insightful every time I’ve had the opportunity to interview him.
As for the content of Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, the title drops a big hint as to the sort of common sense advice inside. Still, every bit as important as the tough-love brand of relationship advice Steve has to share is his folksy, down-home tone which practically leaps off the pages in Technicolor, because he has convincingly translated his trademark charismatic anecdotal style to print despite the inherent limitations of the literary format.
But the big question remains: will the book deliver on its promise of helping you land Mr. Right? I’m not comfortable speculating about that, after all, I’m not a woman and thus not really a part of the target audience. That disclaimer aside, I’d say that he does have guys pegged, so his ideas at the very least are likely to prove valuable to impressionable young ladies who have been raised without a father figure in their lives, since Steve’s basic function here is to shed light on the difference between what men say and how they behave.
Shaun Robinson Takes An 'Exact' Approach To Uplifting Girls
(April 10, 2009) *Shaun Robinson, the Emmy Award winning television co-host of “Access Hollywood,” has put some of her celebrity interviews to paper in a new book. The tome, however, is not about stardom, fame, or Hollywood rumours.
Robinson’s new book, titled “Exactly As I Am: Celebrated Women Share Candid Advice with Today's Girls on What It Takes to Believe in Yourself” shares stories about the self-esteem struggles and triumphs of some of the world’s most talented, most famous, and most notable women.
“I’ve been working on this book for the last three years. One of the main reasons is because through my work here at ‘Access Hollywood’ and through the charity organizations I work with, including Girls, Inc., I have so many girls who ask me about the stars of Hollywood; if they are as perfect as they look on TV or in the movies and magazines,” Robinson said of her motivation to author “Exactly As I Am.”
“We have become a pretty celebrity-obsessed culture and many of our young girls think that people like me, on TV, or any of their favourite actresses are perfect and have never had struggles,” she said. “What I wanted to do was show them that we all go through things, we all have these times where we struggle with whether we’re good enough or we’re pretty enough.”
The entertainment reporter told EUR’s Lee Bailey that she shares a few of her own personal stories in the book, which hit shelves last week, in addition to the tales of some superstar friends.
“I talk about when I first tried out at ‘Access Hollywood’. I remember feeling like, ‘There’s no way they would hire me’ and really beating myself up thinking I didn’t do good enough,” Robinson confessed.
It might be surprising that a seasoned journalist with a solid live television persona had little confidence in scoring a spot on the “Access Hollywood” team.
“I knew I had the ability. I knew I had the credentials, but I was still fearful, and I was still thinking I wasn’t good enough,” she said, and now she’s celebrating her 10th anniversary as a correspondent and weekend anchor on the entertainment news show.
“Exactly As I Am” reveals that Robinson is certainly not the only television personality or entertainment star to have self-esteem issues. The book includes interviews and advice from dozens of women of all ages, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
“I don’t think there is a woman out there who says that she has never ever dealt with self esteem issues in her life,” she said. “I emailed or called each and every one of them and said, ‘I don’t want to talk about your latest movie. I don’t want to talk about your latest television show, your latest magazine cover, or CD. I want to talk about something that will uplift our girls. These are all of the women who answered the call.”
Robinson’s book features remarks from famous females such as Oprah Winfrey, Jamie Lee Curtis, Celine Dion, Diane von Furstenberg, Janet Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Queen Latifah, Nicole Miller, Julianne Moore, Mandy Moore, Martina Navratilova, Nancy Pelosi, Sally Ride, Diane Sawyer, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Gabrielle Union, Meredith Vieira, Vanessa Williams, and India.Arie, who provided Robinson’s favourite statements in the book.
“India.Aria talked about how the music industry did not validate her beauty. It never told her that the girl with the dark skin and the dreadlocks was the pretty girl; the girl that was pursued by the guy in the video or the one that was on the magazine cover. She said, ‘Society told me there wasn’t a place for me, so I made a place for myself,’ which I think is such a powerful, powerful quote.”
“Exactly As I Am” also highlights the advice and stories of some not-so-famous women who are pioneers in their profession, including a fire chief, FBI agent, car designer, planetary scientist, a female Rabbi, and more. Robinson also had conversations with girls from all across the country about their fears and pressures.
“The girls talked honestly with me about the things that make them feel good about themselves and the things that make them feel they have a challenge to their self-worth, and the media images ranked very high. They see something on television that is telling them they need to be different; that they need to be wild to be popular; that they need to be thin to be pretty.”
“The thing is, and the reason I love the title of the book, you have to be comfortable with who you are,” Robinson concluded. “I know that sounds cliché, but the message to girls is, you have to set your own standards of beauty, of value, your morals, etc., to live the type of life that you are going to be comfortable living. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to the next person – there is always going to be somebody taller, thinner, more talented. You have to look within yourself to find the power to succeed.”
“Exactly As I Am”, a collection of advice and stories of self-esteem journeys of some of the world’s most celebrated women, is available at most bookstores.
For more info and to check author event dates, check out Shaun's website: www.ShaunRobinson.com or her area on the Randomhouse site.
Quill And Quire Editor Dies At 40
Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner, Publishing Reporter
(April 13, 2009) The Canadian book world has lost a respected, thoughtful and knowledgeable observer. Derek Weiler, editor of Quill and Quire and frequent contributor to the book pages of the Star, died suddenly at home in Toronto on Sunday at the age of 40. Although no specific cause of death was given in the announcement on the periodical's website, he was reported to have been in poor health for several years. Weiler joined the staff of Quill and Quire, Canada's leading publishing industry periodical, in 1999 as a writer, assuming the editor's chair five years later. He also wrote reviews for the Star, his most recent appearing this past Sunday.
A Serious Look At One Of Baseball's Real Originals
Source: www.thestar.com - Garth Woolsey
Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee
By Allen Barra
(Norton, 480 pages, $31)
(April 13, 2009) It is not uncommon in popular culture for the myth to obscure the man. That is particularly true when the man becomes universally known by his nickname. It's as if he is defined by it, somehow stuck in time. Lawrence Peter Berra was given the nickname "Yogi" by a childhood friend who saw a resemblance with a Hindu holy man they had seen in a movie. The name was at odds with his Italian-American roots in St. Louis, but it became married to his penchant for uttering malapropisms while at the same time capturing the public's imagination by excelling in all aspects of baseball. Berra won 10 World Series with the Yankees and three most valuable player awards, and became a successful manager after he retired. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers of all time and one of the most beloved Yankees, yet until the aptly named author, the accomplished Allen Barra, tackled the project no one had done a comprehensively "serious" book about Berra. (Barra already has written several well-regarded sports books, including one about another nicknamed titan – legendary college football coach Bear Bryant.) There was a danger of delivering a hagiography, but Barra has not placed Berra on a pedestal or worshipped him as some sort of ... um, yogi. To be sure, it is no easy task to separate fact from fiction. To quote Yogi: "I didn't really say everything I said."
Downtown Street Sign To Honour 'Honest Ed'
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(April 14, 2009) A new street sign honouring theatre magnate Ed Mirvish will be unveiled tomorrow in Toronto's entertainment district. "Ed Mirvish Way" will be unveiled at noon at the corner of King St. W. and Duncan St. Elicia MacKenzie, star of The Sound of Music, is scheduled to attend and sing the title song from the show. Mirvish was born in the United States and came to Canada with his family at age nine. He founded a bargain store in 1948 called Honest Ed's emporium and got his start in the theatre business in 1963 when he bought the Royal Alexandra Theatre. He later built the Princes of Wales theatre with his son David. Mirvish died in 2007 at the age of 92. Read his obituary.
National Ballet Cancels Tour Of Western Canada
Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw
(April 13, 2009) The National Ballet of Canada has cancelled its five-city, 13-performance tour of Western Canada to avoid “undue financial risk,” the company announced Monday afternoon. The company had planned to mount the crowd-pleasing Sleeping Beauty in Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver between Sept. 17 and Oct. 3. For the first time in several years, the National Ballet is faced with running a deficit. Executive director Kevin Garland said in a release that the move was necessary given the economic climate. The hope, the release said, is to reinstate the Western Canada tour in future years when a more predictable and stable economic situation returns.
Isiah Thomas Returns To Coach First Division's FIU
Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press
(April 14, 2009) MIAMI – Isiah Thomas is back in the coaching business.
The former New York Knicks president and coach Isiah Thomas was hired as Florida International's basketball coach Tuesday, a move that gives the Hall of Fame player another chance to revive his career.
Financial terms of his five-year contract weren't immediately released. A news conference to introduce Thomas was planned for Wednesday.
Thomas helped the Detroit Pistons win two NBA championships as a point guard before becoming part-owner and executive vice-president of basketball for the expansion Toronto Raptors. He went on to coach the Indiana Pacers before taking over in New York, where an array of problems marred his tenure. He has never coached at the college level.
Undeterred, FIU moved quickly to lock up their top choice for the job.
"We are very excited to have such a legendary athlete and proven winner in Isiah Thomas to lead our men's basketball program," FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said. "There is no doubt that Isiah will give FIU a tremendous opportunity to take the basketball program to the highest level."
Thomas comes to FIU after several years of losing and legal problems in New York.
The Knicks finished 23-59 a year a go, prompting Thomas' firing. They never won a playoff game in his stay as president or coach, and his overall record in New York is 56-108.
In 2007, a jury ordered Knicks owners Madison Square Garden to pay $11.6 million to a former team executive who was sexually harassed by Thomas. That, along with all the losing by the Knicks, brought on a wave of "Fire Isiah!" chants that would typically start soon after tip-off at MSG.
Then this past October, Thomas had to deal with a new issue. Officers responded to his New York-area home after a 911 call reporting an overdose on sleeping pills. According to police reports, those officers found a man passed out on the floor and gave him oxygen until an ambulance arrived.
Authorities never publicly identified Thomas as the victim, but a person familiar with the case later confirmed to the AP that it was the former NBA star.
FIU is hoping Thomas can build a winner.
The Golden Panthers have lost 20 games in three of the last four years, and haven't had a winning record since going 16-14 in the 1999-2000 season. FIU finished fifth in the six-team Sun Belt East Division this past season, and only averaged 693 fans for its home games – one of the lowest totals in Division I.
"I think we can get good players from across Florida and around the country to buy into our plan to make this a top-tier basketball program," Thomas said in a statement released by the school. "I'm committed to growing something here, and strongly believe that over time, we'll put a team on the floor that everyone at FIU can be proud of."
Thomas replaces Sergio Rouco, who was reassigned Monday after posting a losing record in each of his five seasons as coach
And even before the hiring was announced, the mere mention of Thomas coaching at FIU was a galvanizing topic for conversation in South Florida.
"This is bigger than basketball and bigger than athletics," said FIU president Modesto A. Maidique. "Having a nationally-recognized coach like Isiah at FIU will have a positive impact on our university as a whole, helping us achieve additional national exposure."
With Thomas on board, national exposure is certain.
He played his college ball at Indiana for Bob Knight, helping the Hoosiers win the 1981 national championship. From there, he spent his NBA playing career with the Pistons, appeared in 11 all-star games and was the MVP of the 1990 NBA finals, when Detroit won its second straight title.
"Coming back to the college game has always been a dream of mine, and I didn't want to pass up an opportunity to go somewhere where we can build a basketball legacy together," Thomas said.
His overall NBA coaching record ins 187-223. He led the Indiana Pacers to the playoffs in three straight years from 2000-03.
Boxing's 'Golden Boy' De La Hoya Retires
Source: www.thestar.com - Beth Harris, The Associated Press
(April 14, 2009) LOS ANGELES–Oscar De La Hoya called it quits in the ring Tuesday, ending a career in which he won 10 world titles in six divisions and became boxing's most popular fighter.
He announced his decision at an outdoor plaza across the street from Staples Center, where a statue of the 36-year-old Golden Boy stands.
"I've come to the conclusion that it's over," the native of East Los Angeles said before hundreds of fans. "It's over inside the ring for me."
De La Hoya retires four months after he was thoroughly beaten by Manny Pacquiao, his fourth loss in his last seven fights. It's been several years since De La Hoya beat a truly daunting opponent. He finished with a record of 39-6 and 30 knockouts.
"This is the love of my life, boxing is my passion, boxing is what I was born to do," he said. "When I can't do it anymore, when I can't compete at the highest level, it's not fair. It's not fair to me, it's not fair to the fans, it's not fair to nobody."
De La Hoya said he based his decision on not wanting to let down his fans or himself. But he admitted he struggled to make the final decision.
"Now I understand why athletes have such a tough time retiring from something that you feel so passionate about, from your sport that you're always thinking you can try one more time," he said.
"I can still train hard and I can still compete, but when you're an athlete that has competed on the highest level for a lot of years, it's not fair. It's not fair to step inside the ring and not give my best."
De La Hoya maintained the same stern expression on his face throughout his remarks, with his voice breaking only when he thanked his father, Joel, who sat on the stage with the boxer's wife, Millie.
"I remember the times when he would take me to the gym and never gave up on me," De La Hoya said. "We've lived some tough moments inside the ring, we've been through everything, but my father was always there for me.
"Thank you for pushing me as hard as you can."
De La Hoya began boxing at age five, following in the path of his grandfather and father. He won an Olympic gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games, launching a pro career that brought him worldwide fame and riches.
He will stay involved in the sport as a promoter with his successful Golden Boy Promotions company. He had been juggling the roles of boxer and promoter in the last few years.
De La Hoya's retirement means the end of a cash cow for cable network HBO, which broadcast 32 of his fights – most of any boxer – and generated millions in pay-per-view profits.