Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Toronto Film Festival Announces Films - 2 To Note

The prestigious Toronto International Film Festival announced 27 international film selections to screen at the festival this September. As can usually be expected, the list is made of a diverse, ecclectic group of films from countries all over the world (none from the African continent this year though).

Of note, 2 films I've mentioned previously on this blog, made the coveted list of 27, and I'm sure the filmmakers are euphoric right about now!

The first of the 2 films is Medicine for Melancholy by writer/director Barry Jenkins. I doubt that the film needs an introduction at this point. If you've been reading this blog, you should certainly be well aware of the film by now. If not, just perform a search above-left for the title, and you'll see all my previous posts about it.

The second is Hunger by Afro British filmmaker Steve McQueen - a film that, if you recall, won this year’s Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film follows Bobby Sands and the other political inmates of Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison in 1981, as they seek to gain special category status for republican prisoners.

I assume both filmmakers will be present at the festival for those of you planning on going. Medicine already has a distribution deal with IFC Films. Interestingly, Hunger was also picked up by IFC Films.

Given all that I've posted about IFC Films on this blog this year, it's safe to say that they are having quite a busy year over there! And with the IFC Center theater being right here in New York City, you can guarantee that both films will play there, and I'll certainly be front and center to see them! Also if you recall, a film called Ballast was once an IFC pick-up, but they lost it when the filmmaker opted for a deal with another company that afforded him more control over his work. Ballast, by the way, features an African American cast.

So, the message seems to be: if you're a black filmmaker, and/or have a film about a black person or black people, then IFC Films just might be the distributor whose door you should be knocking on right about now :o) Of course, I'm being facetious, but if I did have a film, I'd certainly have consider seriously the facts above.

Check out the entire list of 27 films HERE.

What's On Your Must See List?

6 months to go until 2009 and there's been very little I've enjoyed at the cinema thus far into the year. Of course, Oscar-bait season is near, so, I expect we'll see some much stronger material in coming months. But I'm not holding my breath.

I'd like to get some idea of what films you all are excited about seeing over the next 6 months. Not just studio films, by the way. They could be microcinema viewings, festival screenings, or even at-home rentals! And not necessarily "black cinema" either. What's on your "must-see" list, if anything?

I had difficulty coming up with a solid list of my own, but here are a few that I'm definitely eager to feast my eyes on wherever I can catch them:

- I've already mentioned The Dark Knight.
- The Coen brothers follow-up to No Country For Old Men, titled Burn After Reading, with an all-star cast, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich and Tilda Swinton.
- Spike's Miracle at St Anna which I've talked about quite a bit on this blog.
- Lakeview Terrace with Kerry Washington and Samuel Jackson, directed by the usually caustic Neil Labute, and produced by Will Smith. I haven't heard much about this, even though it hits theatres in 3 months. The fact that Screen Gems is the distributor concerns me a little, because they are Sony's "specialty films" division, known for distributing such genre films like the Resident Evil series, Prom Night, Boogeyman, the Hostel movies, Ultraviolet, and a few of what they call "ethnic films," like You Got Served, 2 Can Play That Game, This Christmas and First Sunday. So, Lakeview Terrace is not exactly in very good company here. Is it going to be a schlocky B-movie or something much deeper? We'll find out in September. But I'm definitely curious given the names involved. I posted a trailer months ago, which you can see HERE.
- W, Oliver Stone's farcical look at our wonderful president.
- The next James Bond film - Quantum of Solace. I didn't particularly care for the last one, and I probably wouldn't bother with this one either if it weren't for the director helming the production this time - Marc Foster, who I thought was a very interesting choice, given that all of his previous works have been much lower budgeted films, known more for their critical acclaim than their box office numbers. It's almost like when I heard that Ang Lee was directing Hulk a few years ago. The results weren't well received, but I definitely raised my eyebrows when I heard that he'd been brought on as director. Let's hope that Foster's Bond is a welcomed surprise.
- Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr in The Soloist. This one has Oscar written all over it, for both actors.
- Will Smith's second attempt this year, Seven Pounds, directed by the same dude who directed him in The Pursuit of Happyness. This is another award-baiter
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett starring, and Taraji P Henson as Pitt's mother, with David Fincher directing. Brad Pitt's first Oscar?
- Religulous. Bill Maher's documentary on the state of religion in the world.

That's it for the studio or studio-affiliated pictures. There are a few festival favorites that I've yet to see, and that got picked up for distribution, so I'm hoping they reach a theater near me before 2009. They are:

- A Good Day To Be Black And Sexy which played at Sundance this year and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures. Its IMDB page says it will be released this year, but I've heard nothing specific.
- Medicine For Melancholy. I've mentioned it enough times on this blog.
- Charles Burnett's Namibia epic. I've heard mixed reviews from trusted sources, but I want to see it myself.

Some that have been announced and are still in production, but are supposed to be released this year...maybe:

- Lars Von Trier's next since Mandalay, called Antichrist. It's a horror movie. The idea of Von Trier doing a horror movie excites me. This is something I have to witness for myself. Probably won't be released until next year, likely a Cannes debut, but who knows!

That's about it!!! I might be forgetting some, or there might be a few that'll show up on my radar in coming months, which I'll certainly announce once they do.

So, what about you? What are you looking forward to seeing? Or What do you think SHOULD BE on my list that I'm omitting?

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous

When I read stories like the one below, I wonder about the life lessons learned (or not learned) by children of the rich. I wonder what it's like to be born into wealth, especially when it's vast wealth, and never be placed in a position where you're forced to consider what your life would be like otherwise.

Of course I realize that I'm making a sweeping generalization about children of wealthy families, since there are some who do learn valuable lessons about what it takes to achieve the kind of success, and attain the kind of wealth that their parents/grand-parents/great grand-parents, etc, have been able to - essentially the hard work involved, resources spent, and sacrifices made, for example. However, it has to be comforting knowing that you already have and will likely always have that financial cushion to fall back on if/when necessary.

What's it like to never have to go wanting? To be able to live out your materialistic dreams? To have other human beings at your beck and call, either because you're paying them to be, or because they are essentially your "groupies" attracted not necessarily to you, but to your wealth, and what a relationship with you, no matter how false, can do for them?

From the moment you are born, you're showered with things, things and more things... and often the influences on your life, whether your parents, other family members, or friends, etc, are just as attracted to things, and more things, and you grow up in an environment that teaches you how important "things" are, maybe even more important than life itself. And the destructive lesson is passed on from one generation to the next.

Maybe it's easy for me to play armchair critic... after all, their world isn't one that I'm entirely familiar with. It's a seductive space to exist in, given the kind of world in which we live, and I suppose I can understand how addicting wealth can be. Why would you want to jump the fence when the grass is undoubtedly greener on your side?

As I was browsing through news stories this hot Saturday morning in New York City, I came across this short article on the divorce and custody agreement between Hip-Hop mogul and all-around business man, Russell Simmons and his now ex-wife, Kimora Lee Simmons. According to the write-up, their 2 children, 8-year old Ming Lee and 5-year old Aoki Simmons will receive $20,000 each per month in child support from their father, Russell, per an agreement filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The monthly checks will come until 2019 for Ming Lee, and 2022 for Aoki, when each will be 19 1/2 years old. I thought 18 was the usual age limit for this kind of thing.

But that's not all. The article states that Russell must provide a car worth at least $60,000 for each daughter, AND (here's the kicker) the vehicle must be replaced every two years. Wow! Even more interesting, Kimora Lee, 33, is asking for primary custody of the kids and that Russell, 50, be granted "reasonable child visitation – accompanied at all times by the children's nanny and security personnel."

Sounds ominous. What I want to know is, who the hell was Russell's attorney? Geez! This doesn't look like they put up much of a fight! Then again, maybe he's content with the agreement and that's that!

This obviously isn't the first time I've read about awesome alimony or child support agreements, so nothing terribly new here. Like I said, it's a world unfamiliar to me. Russell obviously has the money otherwise the courts wouldn't place the demand on him. It's my understanding that child support payments aren't necessarily based on the needs of the child (what child really needs $20,000 per month) but rather on the net wealth of the parent. I'm sure there've been child support payment agreements that trump this one!

Working through calculations in my head - that's $240,000 per year each, for an 8-year old and a 5-year old - for total of close to half a million dollars, meaning each of them could have at least $2.4 Million saved up by the time they are 18. That number could be significantly higher if the money is invested well, and the economy steadies. And that's where the mother, Kimora Lee's influence will be vital. Will the money be spent on buying things, things and more things for them as they grow up, or will the money be saved and/or properly invested, along with lessons taught to them about the importance of saving one's excesses. Or how about donating some of the money to those mothers who really need the financial help for their children, because they can barely afford life's basic necessities. Wishful thinking on my part, but anything is possible, right? Maybe Kimora or Russell read this blog :o)

Here's the Washington Post article.

Nelson Mandela Turns 90 Years Old And Has A Party!

Well, not until July 18th anyway.

But his "46664" concert took place today, June 27, 2008, in Hyde Park, London. The event was organized to raise funds for Nelson Mandela's HIV/AIDS "46664" campaign, named after his prison number. Exactly 46,664 people were expected to attend the event, which simultaneously celebrated the former South African president's 90th birthday, although his birthday isn't until on July 18.

Consider this an early birthday party, which included a fabulous dinner with many of the former president's "closest" friends - a who's who of Hollywood black elite, including the likes of Will Smith (who probably hung around after his Hancock premiere in London last week), Jada Pinkett, Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington and his wife, Forest Whitaker and his wife, and many others. Even Robert DeNiro made the trip to London for the affair with his black wife, Ms Hightower, as did Sex And The City's Kim Catrall, Uma Thurman, Annie Lennox and Joan Baez!

From all the pictures I saw, the mood appeared quite festive for all present, thanks not only to the food, but also the live performances from several musicians, including Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis, Will Smith (likely getting jiggy with it) and a host of others.

Happy 90th birthday to Nelson Mandela, and I certainly hope the fundraiser was successful, and that Mr Mandela lives to see another 90 years :o)

Here are 3 shots of the event's attendees. Click each one for an enlarged view. You can see all
187 of them HERE.

George Carlin On Religion

I'm sure everyone knows he died earlier this week. Here's a classic clip of the man at work, and one of my favorite George Carlin moments:

God As A "Jolly African American Woman?"

I stumbled across this write-up for a novel titled The Shack, while skimming through archived pages of the New York Times online. I was immediately drawn to it after seeing the headline which read, "Eckhart Tolle may have Oprah Winfrey, but “The Shack” has people like Caleb Nowak." Usually anything with Oprah's name included will get my attention, especially when I'm not looking for anything with Oprah's name attached.

So, I clicked on through, scrolling down, skimming the article to find out what the Oprah connection was, and came across a paragraph that said this, "Mr. Nowak, a maintenance worker near Yakima, Wash., first bought a copy of “The Shack,” a slim paperback novel by an unknown author about a grieving father who meets God in the form of a jolly African American woman, at a Borders bookstore in March..."

Wha? God in the form of a "jolly African-American woman?" And not just an African American woman, but a JOLLY African American woman :o)

Ok, so, needless to say, the article had my attention after that, and I kept reading to learn more about this novel, which I'd never heard of, even though the New York Times write-up says that it's fast becoming a best seller! If it is, then I suppose somebody who reads my blog might have heard of it, because I certainly hadn't... up until reading about it today, anyway.

As listed on its sales page on Amazon, where it's said to be #4 on the best sellers list, The Shack is described as a Christian-themed novel about a character by the name of Mackenzie Allen Philips, whose youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and may have been brutally murdered. Four years later, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God (in this case the above-mentioned jolly African American woman), inviting him back to that shack for a weekend (Ooooh, sounds kinky). Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

Well, well, well... In that case, maybe I should check it out, if only to read about God as a jolly African American woman!

The author, William P. Young, a 53-year old white man by the way, said in the New York Times article, he chose to make God an African American woman (don't forget the 'jolly' part) because he wanted to alter religious preconceptions, stating, “It was just a way of saying: ‘You know what? I don’t believe that God is Gandalf with an attitude or Zeus who wants to blast you with any imperfection that you exhibit.’"

The article also says, even people initially put off by the book’s characterization of God as a black woman were won over!

After reading the entire write-up, I thought about how many times I'd seen or heard God portrayed as an African American woman in any medium, whether literature, film, music, fine arts, etc, and I couldn't come up with anything! But I know that this isn't the first time anyone has made the reference, even in the mainstream. I think one of Octavia Butler's novels (not sure which one) presented God as black and female - Octavia Butler fans out there can clue me in. Other than that, I'm at a loss, so if anyone is privy to any info in this regard, please do share! I'd hate to think that this is the first mainstream piece of fiction that characterized God as a black woman - minus the "jolly" part, an inclusion I still don't quite understand. It immediately makes me think of Aunt Jemima, or Mammy in Gone With The Wind.

I'm as secular as they come, but I have to admit that I'm curious, if only to read if/how the author incorporates the woman's "blackness" into his portrayal of God, especially since it's apparently flying off the shelves! Check it out HERE.

Someone Has Seen Clips Of The "Star Trek" Movie And It's "Damn Good!"

Since the initial announcement by Paramount and wunderkind director J.J. Abrams on the re-imagining of the original Star Trek series in feature-length film format, the project has remained the most secretive of any highly anticipated studio film planned for release in the next year or two. The entire production team has been very careful not to reveal anything of substance.There was a teaser trailer floating around the web, but it was just that - a teaser... it revealed next to nothing. So, of course, with this commitment to secrecy comes increased anticipation by fanboys and girls, at the ready to swallow up any revelatory piece of news about the project, no matter how minor in substance. All I can say to that is, J.J. Abrams and company had better deliver, otherwise all this anxiety they're causing might backfire in the end, especially if the film simply fails to meet expectations - expectations that, while already high, are elevated significantly, due to the seemingly clandestine air the production has assumed since inception!

Here, now is SOME news about Star Trek 2009, as told firsthand by Harry Knowles over at AICN, who was invited by director J.J. Abrams to take a look at some footage from the film, while in the editing room. From all I read, there isn't much there to satisfy those ravenous fanboys and girls looking for juicy bits and pieces of meat to sink their teeth into. However, Knowles does share an excitement and thrill for what might come when the film is released next year, stating that it all "looked damn good!"

Here are a couple of worthwhile snippets:

- About Zoe Saldana's Uhura portrayal: Zoe Saldana doesn’t look like the Uhura we knew – she looks young and hungry, confident and determined.
- About Karl Urban as McCoy:
when you see McCoy… you’ll realize how metaphysically perfect Karl Urban was for the casting of the character. He’s got that right cantankerous, best buddy, ethical, but anything for his friend type of doc attitude – and he has it down pat.
- And finally he states:
I will say this – I’ve no idea of what this is going to be, but I got a sense of what JJ is up to. He’s very much reinventing it – the way Robert Wise did – and at the same time – he’s directing the actors with an energy and an aliveness that we haven’t seen. This was exciting, yet strange and it felt somehow… real.

I've been a Star Trek fan since the days of Captain Kirk, up until Captain Picard's reign. I'm not one of those rabid fans who attends Star Trek conventions, and has costumes of their favorite characters hanging in their closets, but I'll sit down and watch old episodes and have just as much fun as when I watched them the first time. So, yes, this is definitely on movie I plan on seeing in 2009 - especially with J.J. Abrams at the helm!

In the meantime, I'll just have to be satisfied with clips like the one below.

You can read the entire post at AICN,

Here's the clip:

A Short Film Competition Anyone Can Enter - $20,000 Grand Prize

I'd actually like to participate in this, but I can't think of anyone I know whom I can profile based on the requirements, so if anyone has any recommendations, let me know!

The Social Equity Venture Fund (SEVEN) is sponsoring Cinema Prosperite, a competition that is actively seeking short films (2-5 minutes) that profile entrepreneurs engaging in for-profit, sustainable businesses, and adhere to strict ethical business practices. Entrepreneurs who are starting and running for-profit businesses in ethical ways – serving customers, treating and paying workers well, generating returns for investors, and achieving all these things without negatively impacting future generations or damaging the environment – should be celebrated.

Videos should use the best film techniques to showcase the story of an entrepreneur – to show the story of what odds this person has overcome, what impact they have had on the world, and how they’ve managed to achieve success. The goal is to help tell the stories about real people who understand that ending global poverty is serious business.

A grand prize of $20,000 will be awarded to the top-ranked video: $10,000 to the filmmaker, and $10,000 to the profiled entrepreneur. A second prize of $10,000 ($5,000 to the filmmaker and $5,000 to the profiled entrepreneur), and a third prize of $5,000 ($2,500 to the filmmaker and $2,500 to the profiled entrepreneur) will also be awarded.

For full details, see Email Elizabeth Hooper at with any questions.

Celebrity Life, Big Willie Style - It Ain't All Gravy?

Ahhh... celebrity life! Borrowing from mobster Johnny Caspar in the Coen Brothers' classic Miller's Crossing, after he discovers just how hard it is to be top dog, “runnin' things... it ain’t all gravy!”

Or maybe a more familiar phrase inline with the sentiment would be, "more money... more problems?" Not quite, but I'm sure you catch my drift.

But who's complaining anyway? I'd trade lives with Will Smith any day, even if it's for one day, to experience what it's like to live the life... the celebrity life, or more specifically, HIS celebrity life.

All this came about as I was scouting YouTube looking for something humorous to post on this blog as part of my usual "Friday Funnies" series, and I stumbled upon several clips of Mr Smith going through one Hancock premiere after another, each one in a different city, all within a span of about 5 days. And each time, he looked just as euphoric with the myriad of anxious fans, as he did in the previous city's premiere, even if it was just the night before, several hundred, if not thousands of miles away. He stops to sign autographs, shakes hands, honors kiss requests, and even dances with a band, all-the-while maintaining his signature Big Willie smile, seemingly thoroughly and gladly drowning himself in each moment!

First he's in Paris, then a few days later, he's in London, and the following night he's in Moscow, and so on, and so forth, maintaining his intensity each time, leading up until the US premiere next week, where you can guarantee he'll be present, Big Willie style, as usual, as adoring fans clamor for a mere sighting or touch of Hollywood's biggest star.

But the magic doesn't end there - from now through September, Hancock premieres will follow in other European as well Asian territories, and Big Willie will likely walk the red carpet at each locale, flashing that smile, satisfying old fans, and winning new ones over with what feels like an unpretentious charm.

Is it any wonder that he's the biggest star, not only in America, but in the world? One can attribute his popularity partly to the fact that he is also one of the hardest working celebrities today. Making the film is half the job. Promoting it is just as important, and Will certainly doesn't take that phase of the process lightly. He's smart enough to know that not only is he promoting the movie, but he's also promoting himself, which will help when his next film begins its release schedule, whenever that will be.

Despite the relentless, unwavering smiles and charm, it can't all be fun, can it? I think I'd get tired of the press junkets, the cameras, the people, the fans, the pomp and circumstance. It'll start to wear me down after awhile - not to mention the frequent trips, jet lag, etc... London one night, Moscow the next, New York the next, L.A. the next, and so on, and so forth... and I can't forget about family left behind! There's a reason why Will's approach to celebrity isn't a popular one amongst the general celebrity population. It's work! It's well paid work, but it's still work. And he's definitely enjoying the fruits of his "hard labor."

As I started out saying, maybe "it ain't all gravy" all the time. However, I also said that I would trade places with him, even if it's for a day, and experience the thrill of being Will, the world's biggest star!

Here's a video clip of him in Moscow, during the premiere of Hancock, last week, in all his Big Willie style glory. A search on YouTube will reveal other similar moments in other cities, all within a few days of each other:

Film Review - 'Medicine For Melancholy'

My fellow black cinema blogger, The Invisible Woman (IW) , just posted a review of Medicine For Melancholy, a film she saw earlier this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and a film I've talked about several times on this blog. I haven't seen the film yet, but, now that IFC Films has picked it up for distribution, I'm sure it will play somewhere in my neck of the woods - specifically New York City - and after reading IW's review, as well as all the positive words I've read and heard about the film, I'm definitely looking forward to the experience!

As I stated on IW's review, what will be interesting to watch for is how IFC Films will market the film, whom they will market it to, and what parts of town it will play in, in whatever cities it does screen. Films like these rarely reach the intended audiences that the filmmakers often hope they will reach. That's not to say it's a film that can't be appreciated by anyone, regardless of ethnicity, because I'm sure it most certainly can. But, I think it's vital that films of this nature play to audiences that look like the people in the film itself. That would be nice!

Here's a snippet of IW's review:

- How do you court somebody you just met, but already f**ked? That may sound crass, but it is the genesis of a film I saw the other night at the LA Film Fest, and a movie that has been making a sort of a splash as of late. Medicine For Melancholy is a film that is interesting for more than just it's subject matter. It was made with very little money, but is shot in a way that steadfastly held my attention even before the storyline did... it is shot in the most beautiful sepia tones and pinks, which has a way of making everybody and everything look absolutely beautiful. The soundtrack was offbeat, but perfect for each scene when played.
Read it all HERE.

Jason Bourne In Africa?

That'll be the day! Just not today, nor tomorrow, not even in 2010 when the 4th installment of the Bourne franchise will hit theatres across the globe. I'm not surprised, and actually, this is one that I don't particularly mind. I've enjoyed the Bourne series, especially the last 2, since Paul Greengrass took over directing duties. He brought an urgency and realism to the franchise that Doug Liman, the director of the first Bourne, missed.

However, I'm not entirely sure that a 5th or 6th installment are necessary. End it on a high! That's one lesson that Hollywood execs never quite seem to learn. So, let's hope that this 4th Bourne will be the last. I think (at least I hope) Matt Damon is smart enough to know when to bow out.

According to the good folks at IESB.NET, who caught up with the producers of the film on the red carpet at the 34th Annual Saturn Awards on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, shooting will begin next summer for a release date in 2010, with Bourne heading to South America!!

Which brings me back to the title of this post - Jason Bourne in Africa? We always find our man Jason in some "exotic" locale; even when he's cracking skulls, he's usually doing it in front of some funky-fresh facade; he's passed through probably every city in Europe; He's been to Russia, America, India, and now South America. So, I say, how about placing Bourne somewhere in Africa?

Yes, I know, there were some scenes set in Morocco in the last installment, but, as far as I'm concerned, Morocco doesn't quite cut it (I'll be watching my mailbox for hate mail from Moroccans). Send that mofo to Zimbabwe, for example. Maybe he can put his combat skills to work there... so, instead of being sent on a mission to take out the fictional 'Wombosi' in The Bourne Identity, his target this time around could be Mugabe. Send him to Sudan to take on the janjaweed. Or, why not Cameroon? It's run by an extremely corrupt military dictatorship, which should provide Bourne with enough of a challenge, don't you think? His martial arts training will do him no good there. He'll need Yoda's Jedi mind control powers just to get out of the airport!

Bourne always wins in the end, which I guess is easy to do when you're going up against incompetent American secret service agents. But I don't know how well he'd fare in, let's say, The Congo. He may not even make it back stateside. Maybe that could be the 5th installment of the series, The Bourne Assasination or something like that. Or The Bourne Suicide. Or The Bourne SOS.

Nah, who am I kidding! I guess South America is as close to the Diaspora as he'll ever get. Although a trip to Rio for Jason during Carnaval season wouldn't be such a bad idea. I can already see the Capoeira-infused fight sequences!

'Time Traveler' Review Ahead Of Spike's Adaptation

Soon after posting the news that Spike Lee purchased the adaptation rights to Dr Ronald Mallett's time travel memoir titled, Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission To Make Time Travel A Reality, I bought the book from my local bookstore. I wasn't sure how available it would be, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found a copy at the first location I checked.

I immediately noticed how thin the book is, flipping through to the very last page to see that it's just over 200 pages in length.

I read it in 3 days, although I think I'll read it again, armed with more than just a basic knowledge of physics.

Despite it being what I would call a simple, brisk read, the author's routine explications of his scientific studies and further research, as well as the research and theories of others physicists, past and present, were a challenge to comprehend, and often interfered with my ability to appreciate the tale of a man's drive to build the world's first time machine so that he can travel back in time to prevent his father's sudden death from a heart attack.

But maybe that's ok. I don't necessarily have to understand every single scientific formula, hypothesis and conclusion to appreciate the core story, but I think if I were a physicist, or had a relatively solid background in that specific science, my reading experience likely would have been superior.

As I read, I was most engaged when Mallett talks about his relationships - with his father, mother, siblings, other physicists and his romances - I suppose what I would call the more human elements of the story. I wanted more of that kind of prose, but there's actually not very much of it, seemingly written about almost as if in passing, or as an afterthought, since the 200+ pages are dominated by the technical/scientific elements of the narrative.

He was clearly a man with tunnel vision, on a mission to fulfill the singular goal he set out to accomplish when he was a pre-teen, right after the death of his father. And as expected, his unwavering commitment to his goal wasn't always healthy - for him and those close to him.

The book spans about 50 years, from the 1950s to the early 21st century. Ronald Mallett is a black man, but he doesn't use up pages discussing his experiences with racial constructs. He devotes few lines to the racism and discrimation he faced growing up both in the north and south of America, post WWII, through the fight for civil rights in the 60s - especially as one of the first black PhD Physicists in this country, navigating his way from one campus to another, and one job to another, trying to find the perfect fit for his research. In reading the book, I kept expecting him to dive into the subject, but he never quite does, instead choosing to focus almost solely on the subject of time travel, which is fine. However, a potential problem I see in reading the book, is that one could make the possibly wrong assumption that he had it significantly easier than most. Or it could just be that his intense, unwavering focus on his end goal made him oblivious of much of what was going on in the world around him. Or rather he just accepted that the overt, unappologetic racism of the time was simply one of the negatives of life, but nothing that needed to consume his life. His education and his dream were primary - essentially his weapons of choice in the war against prejudice. Absolutely nothing was going to deter him from success!

Needless to say, he doesn't actually build a time machine, rather just simply lays down the groundwork for the potential creation of one sometime in the future, once all the uncertainties of building such a thing have been sufficiently resolved.

How Spike Lee will adapt this is a mystery. I think it could be a challenge if it's a completely faithful adaptation, but I doubt that it will be. Spike will have to get creative, and squeeze as much life as he can out the humanistic elements of the book, and find a way to balance the scientific, without allowing it to dominate.

Spike could also follow the same path that writer/director Shane Carruth took when he made his 2004 Sundance grand prize winner, Primer - also a time travel film. I own Primer on DVD and I've watched it more than thrice, but I still can't say that I completely understand the theories and ideas that the starring characters constantly share with each other. The 79-minute film hits the ground running - no backstory, no footnotes. It's as if Carruth is saying, you either understand what we're talking about or you don't, but we're not going to "dumb it down" by explaining everything to you... We're scientists and this is how scientists interact with each other and their work. So, either you buy it, or you don't. But yet, somehow, I've never been turned off by the fact that much of what is discussed is foreign to me, and instead find myself fascinated by it all.

So, I suppose Spike could implement a similar strategy.

Or Spike could maybe consider something along the lines of PI (by Darren Aronofsky), another Sundance winner, and another favorite film of mine that I've seen countless times but haven't completely digested - essentially, making it something of a thriller... one man's relentless quest in search of an answer to a problem that's been consuming him, as others close in on him to gain control of the knowledge in his head.

It's a book about one man's life's work and passion, chased vigorously, unwaveringly, at the expense of his social sanity. It's not sci-fi in the typical Hollywood sense - there aren't any scenes that would require computer generated effects, no aliens, no interstellar explosions, no time machines, despite the film's title. There are moments of reverie which Spike could have some fun with, wherein, Dr Mallett dreams about seeing his work realized, and utilizing it for the purpose that initially motivated him to dedicate his life to creating it. Other than those moments, there really aren't any other possibilities to razzle and dazzle the audience with spectacle!

If I were the screenwriter adapting the book, I would focus in on a very specific period of Dr Mallett's life, instead of attempting a bio-pic that covers the 50+ years the book lives in. I would focus on Dr Mallett as an adult, which is where he made the most progress on understanding and laying the foundation for his time travel machine; his life was fuller then - married twice, meeting several Nobel Prize winning physicists he could only admire from afar when he was younger... And I would attack those latter years in much the same way Carruth did in Primer - except, unlike the men in Primer, Mallett had a life outside of his research (the older version of him anyway), which would make for an even more interesting story, hence, the balance I mentioned earlier that Spike will have to manage.

I have no idea when the film adaptation will go into production. Just because a book is optioned doesn't mean that its celluloid brethren will be born instantaneously. It could be years before we hear about this again, or possibly not at all. Octavia Butler's Kindred has been optioned several times over the last 15 years or more, and we're still waiting for someone to finally see it all the way through. Not surprisingly, financing is often the hold-up. But I think Mallett's story is one that can be done "cheaply," relatively speaking of course, in the $10 to $30 million range. Keep in mind that the average studio movie budget these days hovers around $60 to $80 Million. So, $10 to $30 Million is less than half the average. Whether Spike will be able to raise the money is an uncertainty. If he gets a star to play the older Mallett, then funding might be a snap.

So, who do I think could assume the role? Mallett is 63 years old this year. If Spike takes my advice and focuses on the man's recent life, where much progress was made on his time machine project - meaning roughly the last 10 to 15 years - he'd need an actor in his mid 40s/early 50s, who could be easily and naturally aged with make-up, as he ages from about 48 to 63 years old. So, that narrows the list of potentials down to just a handful of actors in that mid-40s/early 50s age range - Don Cheadle, Jeffrey Wright (he'd probably be my first choice if Spike goes the path I just described), Denzel Washington (although he's in his 50s now, however, I can see Spike going with him since they've worked together several times before)... who else? Maybe Laurence Fishburne. Unless Spike goes with an unknown, but I doubt it, especially if the budget is substantial.

I plan to read the book again. Sometimes it's better the second time around - not that it was bad the during the first read. But going back over the physicist jargon that dominates the memoir might do me some good. I'll keep Wikipedia open on my laptop for easy look-up access!

By the way, incase you are wondering, here's a clip from Primer. It's not the most indicative of the point I made above, but it gives you an idea of what I saw in my mind as I read Mallett's memoir:

Here's the trailer for PI:

First Official Batman 'Dark Knight' Review

Peter Travers over at Rolling Stone Magazine has seen The Dark Knight and throws in his $.02 about the upcoming sequel to Batman Begins, aka, The Dark Knight, yes, ladies and gents, it's a stunner - not that I had any doubts. I don't think any of the usual introductions are necessary here; I've already expressed a strong desire to see it; So I won't waste your time with a rehash of what I already said here. Instead, just dig right in and share in the reviewer's thrill:

Heads up: a thunderbolt is about to rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies. The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan's absolute stunner of a follow-up to 2005's Batman Begins, is a potent provocation decked out as a comic-book movie. Feverish action? Check. Dazzling spectacle? Check. Devilish fun? Check. But Nolan is just warming up. There's something raw and elemental at work in this artfully imagined universe. Striking out from his Batman origin story, Nolan cuts through to a deeper dimension. Huh? Wha? How can a conflicted guy in a bat suit and a villain with a cracked, painted-on clown smile speak to the essentials of the human condition? Just hang on for a shock to the system. The Dark Knight creates a place where good and evil — expected to do battle — decide instead to get it on and dance. "I don't want to kill you," Heath Ledger's psycho Joker tells Christian Bale's stalwart Batman. "You complete me." Don't buy the tease. He means it.

If there's a movement to get him the first posthumous Oscar since Peter Finch won for 1976's Network, sign me up. Ledger's Joker has no gray areas — he's all rampaging id.

It's full of surprises you don't see coming. And just try to get it out of your dreams.

WHOA! Just try to get it out of your dreams? Also, I see the chant for a posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger already has a chorus section... this isn't the first time I'm hearing it.

Read the entire review HERE. By the way, it opens 2 weeks after Hancock.

Someone Has Read The Script For '2012' And It SUCKS!

I'm still baffled as to why Roland Emmerich continues to receive funding for the silly disaster/end of world movies he continues to make. That's almost all he's ever done, from Independence Day, to Godzilla, to The Day After Tomorrow, to this year's 10,000 B.C., and the upcoming 2012.

It's not as if these films are critically acclaimed nor are they always box office champs - Independence Day aside (still a ridiculous excercise IMHO). Yet, he keeps coming up with scenarios that in the conception stage might seem intriguing, but once executed tend to stink; and studios keep giving him money to produce them - in most cases, lots and lots of money, often more than $100 Million budgets! He's like an "expensive" version of his fellow German schlock director, Uwe Boll (the self-proclaimed "fucking genius" director of such classics as BloodRayne (1, 2 & 3), Alone In The Dark (1 & 2), and Postal.

Neither of these gentlemen seems to know much about subtlety and restraint.

Emmerich has sured up his cast for his next end-of-the-world/disaster epic, titled 2012, which I mentioned in
THIS POST - a cast that includes Danny Glover as the president of the USA (President Wilson in the script), Thandie Newton as his daughter (Laura in the script), and Chiwetel Ejiofor (not sure what his role is). And, by the way, its budget is listed at $200 Million!!
The film's title should clue you in as to what Emmerich's script might be drawing from. If not,
CLICK HERE and catch up!

The good folks at Latino Review posted a spoiler-filled review of Emmerich's 2012 script. Not sure how they got their hands on it, but this won't be the first time they've cracked open a story like this, which is why stalwart periodical sites like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are in for the fight of their lives!

Anyway, in a nutshell, the script SUCKS! What a surprise! Here are a few snippets:

- Who knew the end of the world could be so predictable? This is an almost completely by-the-numbers disaster movie, featuring all the requisite dubious science, silly and implausible set-pieces, narrative clichés, broad, one-dimensional characters, and heavy handed attempts at emotion and morals that one would expect from the genre.

- The script barely even hints at the details or origins of any of the real theories about 2012, suggesting that the association is mainly here just to cash in on a trend. Instead, Emmerich and co-writers Harold Kloser and Matt Charman shoehorn in several brief but glaringly awkward attempts at political commentary and even what could be construed by some as a few baffling jabs at religion. And of course everything leads to an unbearably neat and happy ending, despite the fact that the film is about the vast majority of the world’s population being wiped out.

I am SHOCKED!!! :o) With a $200 Million budget, I certainly hope Danny Glover, Thandie Newton and Chiwetel got PAID for this! Danny might need the money for that Toussaint Louverture bio-pic he's been working on for some time now, which, by the way, also co-stars Chiwetel.

Read the entire piece

Too Many Black And Asian Faces On TV

Alright, alright... it's not what you probably think it's going to be, so don't get too excited and just read the article below. It's a familiar lament I'm sure we've all heard stateside... obviously the Brits are experiencing similar "difficulties." So, I suppose the question is: would we prefer to see false/manufactured/simplistic depictions of "ethnic minority" life on screen or nothing at all? The fact that those seem to be our only options is, I suppose, the essence of the BBC director's rant.

Too many black and Asian faces on TV, says BBC director

Broadcasters have overcompensated for their lack of executives from ethnic minorities by putting too many black and Asian faces on screen, a leading television industry figure said last night.

Samir Shah, a member of the BBC's board of directors, said this had led to a "world of deracinated coloured people flickering across our screens - to the irritation of many viewers and the embarrassment of the very people such actions are meant to appease".

Shah, a former BBC head of current affairs who now runs an independent production company, Juniper, as well as being a non-executive director of the corporation, used a speech to the Royal Television Society to call for current TV industry diversity policies to be ditched because they were not working.

In an echo of the speech earlier this year by comedian Lenny Henry, who bemoaned the lack of diversity in British broadcasting, Shah said UK television had to go back to the drawing board to increase the number of black and Asian executives.

Speaking to an audience of television insiders, Shah said: "The difficult truth I want you to accept is this: the equal opportunity policies we have followed over the last 30 years simply have not worked.

"Despite 30 years of trying, the upper reaches of our industry, the positions of real creative power in British broadcasting, are still controlled by a metropolitan, largely liberal, white, middle-class, cultural elite - and, until recently, largely male and largely Oxbridge.

Read the rest of it HERE.

Incase You Were Wondering What She's Been Up To...

Spike's little sister, aka Joie Lee, does do some acting from time to time, even though we see very little of her. She's been in many of her brother's films, but rarely has she ventured outside of the family to work on a none-Lee joint. There was her stint with her other brother, Cinque, in Jim Jarmusch's Coffee And Cigarettes (didn't care for it), and she assumed writer/director duties for a short film she made in 2001 called Snapped (never seen it, so I'm curious). But she clearly isn't interested in going down the traditional path that most currently working actresses have taken, seemingly not pressured to take roles just for a paycheck. She must be involved in some other ventures that feed her bank account.

Anyway, I found out that she's co-starring in a film that just opened up in limited release called Full Grown Men, a film that is said to have "spent more than a year and a half on the festival circuit and was on the verge of self-release when it won the audience award in the IndieWIRE and Sundance Channel's Undiscovered Gems screening series in January 2008, awarding it a $100,000 distribution deal, including a theatrical release through Emerging Pictures and a run on the Sundance Channel."

Short synopsis: A man stuck in the reveries of his youth tracks down the boyhood friend he once tormented, only to find that simpler times were more complicated than he thought.

I'm not sure how much of a role she plays in the film, but one look at the trailer revealed nothing - she isn't in it, which speaks volumes!

The film stars a list of mostly unknowns like Matt McGrath and Judah Friedlander. Alan Cumming is the most recognizable name.

Full Grown Men made its U.S.theatrical premiere on June 25 at New York¹s Cinema Village, 22 E. 12th Street. The film will open throughout the summer in theaters across the country.

Rapper/Actor Watch - Common

So many rappers so many roles...

Puffy announces that he's lightening his load at BadBoy so that he can focus on acting - claiming to have several projects in the oven, including a supposed Miles Davis pic. Ludacris, dba Christopher Bridges, is in Guy Ritchie's upcoming RocknRolla, while in production are a sci-fi flick called Game and a video-game adaptation with Mark Wahlberg, titled Max Payne. Mos Def has 8 films scheduled for release from 2008 to 2010, including a teaming with master thespian, Jeffrey Wright in a Walter Mosley written, Easy Rawlins romp, Little Scarlet. 50 Cent has 5 films planned for release over the next 2 years - co-starring with the likes of Nicolas Cage, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. Xzhibit hopes to shine in 3 films this year alone including X-Files sequel, and an intriguing-looking Oliver Stone drama/horror film called Pinkville, which stars Bruce Willis. I think it's probably safe to say that Ice Cube has made the transition to film, where he plans to enjoy the same kind of commercial success he enjoyed in music. And of course, Common will co-star in this Friday's Angelina Jolie starrer, Wanted. He's already attached to the next installment of the Terminator franchise, while wrestling with rumors that he'll assume super hero duties as Green Lantern in a big screen adaptation of The Justice League comic book series.

Who am I forgetting?

Clearly these guys realize that they can't be rappers forever - well, I suppose they could be, but how many septuagenarians do you know have chart-topping hip-hop albums? As I've said before, diversify, diversify, diversify, and they all are trying to do just that, and I can't blame them! So, no matter how much we despise their performances and cry that they are taking jobs away from "real" actors, it's clear that they are in demand and so are here to stay, whether we like it or not! As Will Smith has shown, going from rapping to become the biggest box office draw to come along in some time, anything is certainly possible!

I stumbled upon this interview with Common on CBR News, talking about his roles in the upcoming films I mentioned above.

Here are some snippets:

About his role in Wanted - I definitely feel that I’ve laid a foundation to let youth know who Common is... As an actor, you’re becoming a person. As a person, you can’t really judge yourself too much so I just approach it like that, taking on these roles and just really wanting it to be a good role; to be in good films. That’s really the goal.

About his role in Terminator 4 - Having been to the set, Common described it as “just incredible. I went to that set and it was like, ‘Man, we are in this world. This is like Terminator. I’m in ‘The Terminator’, right in this world.'

About the rumors of his involvement in Justice League - Man, rumors, those rumors. I can say that if they do a Justice League movie, I would love to be Green Lantern. That’s all I can say. I do like Justice League. I love it.

In closing, he stated, "I don’t think I would want to be pigeon-holed with just one character. I want to show my diversity and make classic movies.

Read the entire interview HERE.

Screening Sighting - 'Live And Become'


A new addition to the database.

The film is called LIVE AND BECOME.

Summary: Based on the exodus of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, the film is a harrowing and poignant look at the struggles of cultural and personal identity. In 1985 Operation Moses is launched to airlift thousands of persecuted Ethiopian Jews (known as Falashas) from Sudan to Israel. When a Falasha widow's son dies, she smuggles a Christian boy with her to ensure his survival. Guilt-ridden at leaving his real mother behind, the boy--renamed Schlomo--is soon orphaned when his Jewish guardian dies. A smart but rebellious student, Schlomo (played at various ages by Moshe Agazai, Mosche Abebe, and Sirak M. Sabahat) finds a stable home with an adoptive French-Israeli couple (Roschdy Zem and Yaël Abecassis). The secular couple encourages his Jewish faith while defending him against the prejudices of their neighbors and the Israeli state. But Schlomo's deception only deepens when he falls for Sarah (Roni Hader), a white Jew, and must contend with her racist father. When he and Sarah marry years later, Schlomo must come clean about his identity if he is to find his place in the world and fulfill his mother's wish: "Go. Live and become."

It played and won awards at numerous international film festivals - notably, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Vancouver. It also won the Cesar for "Best Screenplay" - the French equivalent of the Oscars.

It will be screening at select Laemmle Theatres in L.A. - specifically the Music Hall, Town Center and Playhouse - from 6/27 to 7/3. Click HERE for showtimes at each location.

Here's the trailer:

Trailer Exclusive - 'RocknRolla'

A day after my initial post about the film comes its very first trailer. Unfortunately, only UK-based Empire Magazine was granted the opportunity to host it, and they smartly disabled the embedding feature, so no other website can embed the video locally (although I'm sure it'll turn up on YouTube shortly). Thus, you'll have to follow the link below to see glimpses of an orgasmic Thandie Newton, a jolly Idris Elba in some kind of funky motocycle head-gear, and Ludacris (who, by the way, is listed in the credits by his birthname, Chris Bridges - looks like he's following in Marky Mark's, I mean, Mark Wahlberg's footsteps). And incase you're wondering, the answer is yes, it undoubtedly looks like a Guy Ritchie flick, all the way! Whether that's a good or a bad thing depends on who you ask :o)

Here ya go:

Wednesday Links - Colored Girls, Will Smith Squared, Fingerhakeln, Hollywood Whitewashing, More...

(cue Isaac Hayes Shaft score)
Some items of interest...

- 'Colored' revival set for Sept. 8 - The Broadway revival of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf," starring India.Arie and produced by Whoopi Goldberg, will begin previews Aug. 19 for a Sept. 8 opening at the Circle in the Square Theater.
- Will Smith is in the Fluke Zone - The Fluke Zone is a place where a movie star can do no wrong. Audiences love you no matter what you do. Many stars fall out of the Fluke Zone when they lose touch with their fans. The trick is to stay in the Zone as long as possible. Many try, but few are chosen... there's only one star in the Zone: Will Smith.
- To Bavarian men, Fingerhakeln, or "finger wrestling" is no joke - To become a champion finger wrestler one obviously needs strength, but also good technique and the grit to put up with a fair amount of pain... However, according to one finger wrestler, the most important attribute is the size of one's finger. "You have to have a fat finger, so that the strap has a good hold."
- His latest effort, Hancock, is his most blatant attempt at courting our antipathy - after all, he is playing an alcoholic superhero who throws Frenchmen into space and, in one jaw-dropping scene, fires an innocent woman across his motor-home through the sheer force of his super-ejaculation. But is it even possible to dislike Will Smith? - One writer jovially tries tries to answer that question, and succeeds, jovially, of course.
- The world now has 10 million millionaires - The combined wealth of the globe's millionaires grew to nearly $41 trillion last year, an increase of 9 percent from a year before... That means their average wealth was more than $4 million, the highest it's ever been. Home values were not included in asset totals. (With numbers like that - $41 trillion - the first question that comes to mind is why are there still so many living in poverty?)
Is Hollywood Whitewashing Ethnic Roles? - In the realm of Hollywood, where artistic license is the rule and studios need to recoup the millions of dollars they sink into films, it's not uncommon for white actors to be cast in ethnic roles or for real-life stories to be "whitewashed" to make them more mainstream.
- After declining political advertising since its inception in 1981, MTV is reversing course.
The Viacom MTV Networks channel... says it will now take political ads - I'm sure the Obama camp is popping champagne bottle corks right about now!
- Some 40 percent of New Yorkers with multiple sex partners did not use a condom the last time they had sex, according to a health department study that polled 10,000 adults -
In a city that promotes its own condom, many New Yorkers, especially those with multiple sex partners, are still not using protection. Tut-tut-tut...
- And finally, more memorable words from our thankfully soon-to-be ex-president, Dubya -
Bush To Filipino President: "I Am Reminded Of The Great Talent Of The - Of Our Philippine Americans When I Eat Dinner At The White House." As one commenter said, "He sure must be blissful. Because he sure is ignorant."

And that's news to me... some anyway...

Vogue - The "Black Issue"

VOGUE Italia is set to release it's so-called "Black Issue" this week - essentially a copy featuring all black models within its pages - apparently a first for an internationally known, respected and influential fashion magazine like Vogue.

For those who aren't aware - this issue was created as a response to leading British photographer Nick Knight's statement earlier this year that the fashion industry is steeped in racism, and that black girls are "completely under-represented," calling it "shocking and atrocious," and emphasizing the importance of using black models and models of different ethnic backgrounds.

One response (the current issue of Vogue Italia) came from an unlikely source, Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia. Although Sozzani admitted that the issue might not be popular amongst some xenophobic Italians, but stating, "I don't care. I think it is not my problem if they don't like it – it's their problem."

In April, The UK Independent published a story titled, Black is finally in fashion at Vogue, which talks about Knight's accusations and Vogue Italia's response. You can read it in its entirety HERE.

The "Black Issue" of Vogue Italia hits newstands this week in Europe - specifically tomorrow. It should be released in the US soon after. Could be something of a collector's item, I suppose.

The image above is what the cover will look like - it'll be a fold-out.

Early Batman 'The Dark Night' Review

This is one film I'm looking forward to seeing this summer - probably more than any other summer blockbuster offerings. Tim Burton hooked me in 1989; Joel Schumacher killed whatever hopes I had for the future of the franchise in 1995 & 1997; and, thankfully, now Christopher Nolan has renewed my interest.

One thing that has always attracted me to this particular super hero is that, unlike many others, he's human - sans any super-human abilities like say, Super Man, Spider Man, Hulk, Fantastic Four, etc. He didn't get bitten by a radioactive spider, nor was he born on some foreign superior planet. He's a vulnerable earthling - albeit a wealthy one - who uses man-made technology, and his own physical agility to challenge the rampant villainy in his native Gotham city. So, maybe in that regard, he really isn't a super hero in the comic-book sense, but rather a masked vigilante of sorts, whose aim is to rid his city of the criminal element destroying it - not-so unlike maybe Dirty Harry, or Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, or almost every character Charles Bronson ever portrayed. He bleeds like I do, and he can die in the same ways that I can, yet he is unrelenting in his pursuits. That makes him all the more intriguing a character - to me anyway.

So, it brought me great joy to read the first full review of the film that I've seen anywhere (the film doesn't open until the middle of July) to find out that it does indeed satisfy all the hype that's been following it since the announcement of the sequel almost 3 years ago - at least, according to this reviewer. I'm sure there'll be some dissenters, but they won't deter me from purchasing my $12 ticket on that glorious day when the film opens in theatres in my wonderful version of Gotham, also known as New York City!

Here's are a couple of snippets from the
AICN review included below:

“The film feels more like a crime drama in a grand city scape than a typical comic book movie. It feels like Heat except Batman is Al Pacino and The Joker is Robert De Niro and just like in that film we have a great scene between Heath Ledger and Christian Bale across a table. There is also an element of a Greek Tragedy.. There is a vast sense of morality at play within the film.”

" Heath Ledgers performance of the joker is truly one for the books. A man of no remorse or morals who simply wants to see things burn... He is far from a caricature and has depth. The Joker is almost more of a terrorist than criminal. He is not motivated bymoney. He wants to see people suffer... Best supporting Oscar anyone?"

You can read the entire review HERE.

Architecture Is Sexy!

I'll let you all in on a secret of mine: if I weren't a filmmaker, I'd probably be an architect. That's right! I've had this clandestine love affair with architecture for some time, and with recent developments, especially those in some UAE states, as well as in certain south east Asian territories, my attraction has grown even stronger. No worries, I'm not going to suddenly abandon film to pursue architecture, but one thing I've learned to do is to never say never. One of my sisters is an architect, and from what I've learned from her experiences, it's a challenging industry to get ahead in, especially in this country, where creativity and risk are often suppressed in favor of conformity. The rooms in a building don't always have to have 4 walls, nor does the building itself have to be shaped like a rectangle or a box with a pointy hat on top. Just as I'm sometimes the frustrated filmmaker, I think I'd be just as frustrated, and maybe even more so, as an architect.

But it's always such a thrill when I see images of the works of people I would call renegade architects like Zaha Hadid (the first female recipient of the Pritzker Prize - architecture's equivalent of the Nobel Prize), Rem Koolhaas (also a Pritzker recipient and owner of probably the coolest name that an architect could ever have - or should I say KOOLest), and Santiago Calatrava. Their creations are masterful, brave and inspiring. They challenge every notion of what the average human being probably thinks of when they consider the idea of a building structure.

There are other architects who also inspire and challenge, like David Fisher, whose rotating Dynamic Tower, is the world's first "building in motion." I don't know what the downside could be in bringing a structure like this to life, but I can't deny how intriguing an idea it is, whether you like it or not.

Watch the clip below. You can also learn more about the Dynamic Tower HERE:

Official Variety Magazine 'Hancock' Review!

This came in a little earlier than expected. I guess we can call it the first "official" review of Hancock.

Thanks to Sergio for the email heads-up!

Based on what the reviewer states below, the blog entry I posted about the film last week - the one with the spoilers - isn't too far off in accuracy and perspective. Also, this review agrees with the overwhelmingly negative sentiment amongst those who've already seen the film in some form.

Despite all of that, I still think the film will do well - or at the very least, it'll have a strong opening weekend. What it does after that depends greatly on word of mouth, because it will face some stiff competition in the weeks after its release from the likes of the next Batman movie and a few other notables. So, its opening weekend will be crucial.

Will it make its budget back? Probably! At an incredible $150 Million, it'll be a tall order, even for Will Smith. With marketing costs included, that number will likely be closer to $200 Million. But one thing Will has going for him is his popularity in foreign markets. So, even if the film flops in the States, it could do very well internationally.

Here's Variety's review by Todd McCarthy:

An intriguing high concept is undermined by low-grade dramaturgy in “Hancock.” This misguided attempt to wring a novel twist on the superhero genre has a certain whiff of “The Last Action Hero” about it, with Will Smith playing an indestructible crime-buster in a pointedly real-world context. Although it will inevitably open very large, this odd and perplexing aspiring tentpole will provide a real test of Smith’s box office invincibility.

The central idea of Vy Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan’s script -- of Smith’s John Hancock being an ornery, unwilling hero who escapes from his ordained role in life via booze and general cantankerousness -- is amusing and plausible enough to sustain the first section of the film. What the writers and director Peter Berg do with the concept in the end, however, is nowhere near sufficiently thought out, and narrative illogic and missed opportunities plague the film increasingly as it cartwheels through its surprisingly brief running time.

When the world-famous Hancock reluctantly swings into action -- he can fly at supersonic speed, lift any weight and is impervious to all weapons -- his drunken recklessness invariably causes more damage than it’s worth.

Although valuable to the police, Hancock has a bad name with the public for his destructiveness, impudence and all-around bad attitude; an adjunct to this is his foul language, which treads the very edge of PG-13 permissiveness and will no doubt catch many July 4 weekend kid-herding parents unhappily unaware.

As much in need of rehab as this week’s tabloid celebrity, the raggedly attired Hancock finds an eager savior in PR whiz Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman). Rescued from certain death by the rasty hero, Ray returns the favor by inviting him to dinner with wife Mary (Charlize Theron) and son Aaron (Jae Head) and announcing he’s going to remake Hancock’s image.

The strongman’s first step will be to submit to rehab and anger-management training, along with some prison time (although Hancock resists wearing an actual superhero outfit because it’s too “homo”). What he shortly does to two tough-talking inmates in the pen crudely literalizes the taunt about sticking your head where the sun don’t shine. Such vulgar goofiness is one thing in an Adam Sandler film, but doesn’t sit well in the rough-and-ready realism of Berg’s raw visuals, which grievously misapply hand-held jitteriness to material that demands more precise stylization.

The genre satire and numerous Will Smith moments, with the star throwing off the attitude-laden quips and looks audiences expect from him, carry the first half without too much trouble, in anticipation of where the film will go from there. Where it goes, unfortunately, is right down the tubes!

Read it all HERE.

You'll Never Work In This Town Again? - Part 2 - Theodore Witcher

I started this series almost 3 weeks ago as a sort of homage to those black filmmakers who enjoyed success (whether critically, commercially, or both) with their first feature films, and haven't been heard from since - a kind of "milk carton" alert you could say.

As I said in that initial post, I sometimes wonder what some of these filmmakers are doing today - whether they lost interest in filmmaking, whether they are indeed still productive, but are maybe creating work that I simply just don't know about; or whether they are putting their talents to work in other areas of the business. You can read that entire initial post HERE, where I started off by profiling Christopher Scott Cherot, the writer/director star of the 1998 indie hit, Hav Plenty.

I continue the series this week with a filmmaker whose one and only film is said to have helped start the trend of the so-called "buppie, urban" romantic comedies we saw in in the late 90s through the mid-2000s. Of course I'm referring to Theodore Witcher, and his 1998 forever loved opus, Love Jones.

I actually didn't see Love Jones until several years after its initial release - I'd say 2003/2004 - and I think that was to my detriment (and maybe the film's as well) because I had seen almost all the children it helped give birth to - I'm referring of course to films like The Best Man, Brown Sugar, Love And Basketball, Disappearing Acts, and some could even argue that my film, Beautiful Things belongs in that group). So, it felt dated. I tried to mentally place myself in 1997/98 when the film was initially released, hoping to embrace the zeitgeist of the time, so that I could maybe really understand the film's significance - at least as suggested by many cinephiles. But my attempts failed. That's not to say I thought it wasn't a decent film. I actually quite enjoyed it... but just not as intensely as others seem to have, or as I may have if I experienced its "novelty" in 1998.

But I suppose one can't deny that, what Boyz In The Hood did for "hood" movies in the early 90s, Love Jones did the same for "urban buppie romance" flicks of the late 90s through the early 21st century - a crown that I think Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It certainly could have worn in its day, but had very little follow-through to afford it such a title.

Even though I do wonder if we're giving the film too much credit for the trend it supposedly started, I think it's obviously made its mark on black cinema, given how much I read and hear it referenced by black cinema lovers alike, constantly showing up on top 10 lists and such. And it will probably continue to be referenced for years to come.

So, certainly not what I'd call a flawless film, but one that could have gotten me excited to see what the filmmaker would have followed it up with. Too bad he never quite took advantage and satisfied the hype that accompanied Love Jones after its release.

A Google search turned up very little on Theodore Witcher - mostly Love Jones mentions as one would expect. On his IMDB page, he's only other credit is as writer of a film called Body Count, also a 1998 film which starred a post-NYPD Blue David Caruso, Ving Rhames and Forest Whitaker. Nothing to get excited about, from all I read about it. Like Chris Cherot, I could only find 1 single picture of him - the one you see above. Granted I didn't search too deeply, meaning there might be some information about him online that I missed altogether. So, if anyone has any knowledge of Theodore Witcher's current whereabouts and dealings, please let the rest of us know. I'd like to have seen where his talents would have taken him - hopefully Body Count was strictly a paycheck job.