Saturday, April 26, 2008
Just when we thought issues pertaining to the race card were dealt a final deadly blow - and tucked away into the good night - another wild zinger zips out of the Barack Obama camp!
At media outlets around the Nation, the morning papers were running photographs of Obama sprinting about the basketball court, underscoring his vim and vigor at the tender age of 46 big ones!
Heh, judging by comments from the ring-siders, Obama put the competing players half his age to shame!
Some have scratched their heads and wondered why Oprah's good buddy hasn't capitalized on the athletic image, especially in view of the fact some whine that Senator John McCain is too old to run for President.
According to the Senator from Illinois, age is not an issue.
A bit of diplomacy on his part, perhaps?
And, when asked why there weren't any press junkets booked around his favorite past-time, the presidential candidate stressed that when he's on the court - it's his downtime - and one of those rare occasions when he is able to relax out of the political spotlight.
In view of a comment made by his Senior Analyst - on the heels of the Obama revelation - one has to wonder...surely that's not entirely true?
After all, in one of those jaw-dropping moments, the aide allegedly let is slip that the reason there were few photo ops - or in-your-face reports from the stands - was due to the fact there was some reluctance on the part of the Obama team to show the candidate playing a sport heavily associated with African Americans.
Oops! Someone put their foot in it...
Hoop nightmares, do ya think?
Well, fans of actor Wesley Snipes were a little stunned this week when charges of income tax evasion brought by the IRS - not only "stuck" - but appear to be bundling the action star off to the big house for three years!
Uncle Sam doesn't fool around when it comes to hanky-panky with tax dollar revenues!
No surprise, though.
Decades ago, everyone thought Al Capone was pretty much "untouchable" - a flim flam man - a teflon Don. In the final crunch, it was the undeclared ill-gotten gains - not the racketeering or the rum-running or illicit prostitution or slave trade - that done him in.
Even Leona Helmsley's mega millions couldn't save her from the slammer - and subsequently - daily stints in the head scrubbing out latrines and carting out the trash for allegedly writing off expenses which were disallowed.
Most are shocked by the severity of the Snipes sentence.
Mr. Swipes had no previous record (and no trouble with the Law previously) so - by most accounts - the star of a couple of blockbuster Hollywood films should have been given probation. After all, the felony charges were dropped, and lowly misdemeanours don't generally warrant such a severe slap on the wrist.
Was the bench-warmer who laid down the sentence a hangin' Judge?
Or, was Mr. Swipes another victim of a judicial system bent on sending a message to the American people: Don't cheat on your taxes?
On the other side of the coin, the prosecution and the government argued that Mr. Swipes was not just an "innocent" who inadvertently failed to report his earnings correctly or pay appropriate tax based on his earnings.
The lawyers who prosecuted the case stridently put forth the proposition that Swipes willingly got involved with a tax-deferral scheme which he knew was not legal or acceptable in the eyes of the IRS or the U.S. Tax Court.
In fact - Attorney General Nathan J. Hochman of the Justice Department - was quite emphatic in his statements to the press that Swipes was:
"A disciple of a tax defiance movement who understood his actions were illegal."
To add credibility to the Justice Department's argument, Hochman noted that the incidents of tax evasion did not occur in just one calendar year, but over several. And, that the failure to report earnings was not an "accident' - in the final analysis - in view of the documented evidence.
Swipes was not a victim of "jackals" who took advantage of his lack of knowledge about the intricacies of tax laws, he stressed to the swarming media who hovered in a fever frenzy outside the court environs this past week.
Although Swipes stated in a prepared release prior to sentencing that he was - idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, and a spiritually motivated artist unschooled in the science of law and finance - the comments fell on deaf ears.
In response to the criticism that the sentence was too harsh, Judge Hodges (who presided over the case) disagreed and noted for the record:
"He exhibited a history of contempt over a period of time for U.S. Tax laws."
"In my mind these are serious crimes," he concluded, as he passed the sentence.
After hearing the verdict, Swipes had no reaction.
Maybe, he saw it coming?
The crux of the case was a charge by the IRS that Snipes tried to defraud the IRS by by virtue of his deceitful efforts to collect 11.4 million in fraudulent income tax refunds. In addition, it was alleged (and proven) that he failed to file returns from 1999 through 2004, despite the fact he generated millions of dollars through career pursuits and investments during that time frame.
When Uncle Sam wants you - he gets 'ya - eh?
Friday, April 25, 2008
There was a lot of brouhaha in the press over the past twenty-four hours over a pride of Abercrombie & Fitch models that turned up in back of Barack Obama when he chatted last night in Evansville, Indiana.
At the rally, a campaign volunteer allegedly approached the fellas to queue up behind Obama during the speech.
Pretty up the background? I wonder.
Because their T-shirts were scrawled with the A & F logo on their face, many wondered if Obama was rustling up a bid for some campaign cash from the high-profile retailer, or just lookin' to spruce up the Presidential hopefuls GQ-inspired man-about-town image.
Was it shrewd product placement or just a fluke?
Or, is the Senator going full steam ahead for the gay vote?
Fortunately, the young dudes didn't climb on stage, toss their T's, and show a little naked butt.
That stunt nearly landed Abercrombie & Fitch up on obscenity charges in another part of the Country in recent days.
Do you suppose Obama wears Calvin Klein underwear, too?
If you didn't make it down to the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival this weekend - then you have the option to take in a more cerebral event - the annual Festival of Books hosted by the LA TIMES at UCLA in Westwood.
Although the Festival is free, unless you park a few blocks away and are inclined to trek a bit on foot, parking will cost a staggering eight bucks. At the cost of gas today, maybe it would be wise to take the Metro or hitch a ride with a pal.
The Book fair has grown considerably over the years.
Amid the six outdoor stages of events to choose from, there will be music, cultural events, and cooking demonstrations.
A highlight will be a number of insightful panel discussions with celebrity hosts, readings by award-winning giants in the literary field, and book signings.
Some of the highlights include the following panel discussions:
Laughing in the Face of Death", with moderator Donna Rifkind (Panel 1011); The Literary Detective, with Sarah Weinman (Panel 1012); Death in Another Land, with Paula L. Woods (Panel 1013); Literature & Technology: Breaking the Mold, with David Kipen & Shelley Jackson (Panel 1021); Young Adult: Fantastic Fiction, with Jonathan Hunt (Panel 1022); Gay Talese with Tim Rutten(Panel 1032).
With 300 exhibitors on hand, you'd be wise to plan on spending the whole day. So, pack a lunch; or, trundle off to one of the trendy local eateries in Westwood when the old gut starts growling for grub.
For those without babysitters, two children's areas are sure to keep the young ones in tow enthralled with the world of make-believe, too.
Among the 450 or so authors to appear for in-depth discussions about their works, expect to mingle with keynote speakers like - Julie Andrews, Maria Shriver, Gore Vidal, Kenny Mayne, and Ray Bradbury - to name a few.
In fact, if you want to get a jump on the festivities, you may be inclined to take in tonight's event - the "Dinner with Authors" package.
The "28th Annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes" Award Ceremony is being held at Royce Hall at UCLA in Westwood.
Attending authors include the "Master of Ceremonies" - Gay Talese - in addition to Maxine Hong Kingston, Tim Weiner, and Sherman Alexie.
The cost of admission ($65.00 a head) includes dinner, a prime ticket for the Awards Ceremony, and a parking pass.
To attend the award ceremony only will run 'ya about 18 smackeroos.
Nifty idea, eh?
Tickets for the event are limited - so hurry.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Through some curious phenomenon, a bevy of bodacious babes have been posting requests to be my "friend" over the past couple of weeks on my profile at MySpace.
Gosh, they're all pretty and curvy and beckoning from afar.
How can I resist?
Without much ado, I usually stroke the "approve" button - at which point - in a flourish of silk, tender flesh, and flimsy undergarments, the seductive sirens sashay onto the site and sidle up to my regular cast of tried-and-true friends.
Sadly, on occasion, a sultry-looking lady is denied entry to my secret lair. In that rare instance, it's usually because a smoldering siren has uploaded a provocative still a little too on-the-edge of soft-porno, for a site I still bill as family entertainment fare.
At my blog, savvy surfers can view an animated video, guffaw at a political jibe, or peruse a movie review to fathom if the release is worth plunking down 10 bucks a head (popcorn and soda extra).
Curiously, after a few days, the harem girls slip away into the starry night - if only for an hour or two. Then, without warning, requests from a whole new batch of bodacious babes sizzle into my mailbox for another scintillating round of titillating visual theatrics.
It just occurred to me today - duh, I'm slow on the uptake, I guess - that perchance the seductresses have been pining for a little afternoon delight.
I prefer lovemaking when the moon is full and the passions run high just around midnight!
Temptress hints at naughty fun.
What would Freud think?
Coachella Music & Arts Festival...Prince headlines. Event signals bell-weather trends in music, fashion!
Thousands of music aficionados, heads, thrill-seekers, and a plain old hanger on or two will be descending on the desert this weekend to attend the annual Coachella Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California.
For the jaded, it was originally going to be a ho-hum event, featuring a line of bands trotting about the circuit ad nauseam in recent days.
But, when PRINCE signed on board to saunter onstage, word-of-mouth skyrocketed the status of the party fest to a must-attend event.
The buzz was boosted somewhat when the - Raconteurs, Vampire Weekend, and MGMT - started packing up their instruments for Coachella, too; a cultural odyssey that tends to signal bell-weather trends in music, fashion, and eclectic art circles.
Unfortunately for fans sorting out scheduling conflicts today - who opted to make last-minute plans to attend - the box office has given notice that all "day passes" are SOLD OUT.
Great for the Festival organizers, however. The cash is flowin' in.
But, there is ample opportunity to snatch up a three-day pass or two, while they last! Just surf over to - www.coachella.com - to book now or risk missing the best riffs west of the Rockies this party season.
The high-energy event is expected to be graced with the presence of many scintillating personalities from far-reaching quarters of the creative community. After all, music is a universal language that speaks volumes to all and from many walks of life.
If you're not a fan of PRINCE, there are other musical tastes for the discerning ear; for instance - the Verve, Portishead, the Breeders, Aphex Twin, and Kraftwerk - to name a handful of the sizzlin' hot few.
Off the Festival grounds high-powered industry-types - and social butterflies of all ilks - will be stalking the local party scene. And, for the adventurous, there are about a half-a-dozen prestigious red ribbon events to crash for those with the savvy skills to accomplish the feat.
For instance, GQ is hosting an affair at the Viceroy featuring DJ Sevigny. Meanwhile, Anthem Magazine takes a big splash with a pool party. And, an after-hours party crush will be held at Tokio Bar on Saturday night.
Also, A & T Mobile is tossing a soiree in an airplane hangar for those who want to land their social jet-setting wings. An open bar, DJ sets from Steve Aoki, and appearances by celebs like Carmen Electra may heighten passions a bit, if you're lucky to touch down on their runway.
Others jumped on the wild bash bandwagon this year, too - Filter Magazine, BPM Magazine, Paramount, and Spin Magazine - for instance.
For good reason...
According to Peter Hunsinger - VP at GQ Magazine,
"The people who come to Coachella go home and influence their peers and friends and work associates and family. They become the agents of change that every client wants to make a part of their marketing outreach. If you are not here, you are not there."
But, don't forget to go prepared. Three days in the scorching sun may wreck havoc in your life if you're careless about the harsh realities of arid desert life.
Be sure to pack your tote bag with ample bottles of fresh water, sunscreen (with an SPF factor of at least 15 minimum), a change of clothes in case the weather gets inclement, energy snacks, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap to prevent the intense rays of the sun from pounding on your noggin' with disastrous end results.
Party hearty, eh?
MGMT on stage...
Busy P to appear...
Raconteurs set may be viewed
10:05 pm PST / April 25th.
FRIDAY, APRIL 25
God-like electronic legend melts brains
The Stones of the ’90s reunited
Hardcore math-metal for digital mind-bots
Jack White gets his Petty on
Preppy indie-pop for collegiate cuties
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
The original Amy Winehouse, only better
Hipster-approved multi-cultural power-pop
Spazzy celebration of your inner geek
Hipsters heart Brooklyn's answer to M.I.A.
SATURDAY, APRIL 26
Best headliner since Radiohead. Purple reign!
Trip-hop pioneers make melancholy magic
OG disco robots rule the nation
U.K. turntable star = weekend’s top DJ
Super-fun backpack-hip-hop heroes
Ass-kickin' honky-tonk country pimp
Militant dance party with bombastic beats
Precious and precocious girlie-pop, awkwardly
Hot potty-mouthed Ed Banger babe
SUNDAY, APRIL 27
Love & Rockets
Post-Bauhaus high-octane speed-rock
Still better than your favorite rapper
Awesome atmospheric L.A. space-rock
Lush electronic waves of digital bliss
The Cool Kids
Retro Technicolor indie hip-hop upstarts
Druggy organic jam-rock—with girls!
Awesome '90s guitar army stargaze loudly
The blonde, non-cracky Amy Winehouse
Kid Sister w/A-Trak
Heavyweight DJ + emerging rapstress = sonic love
Trippy side of your pharmacist's stash
Dimitri From Paris
One of my new "friends" on MySpace is the band - LIVING DEAD.
That's the cool thing about MySpace.
On a daily basis with the deft tap of a few keys - the adventurous can mix and mingle, keep up with the social whirl, and connect with artists from relevant realms of creativity - music, dance, painting - you name it.
If you're in the Toledo (Ohio) hood area - or inclined to hop in your wheels and skedaddle down the highway a bit - you may want to take in the next concert by the "LIVING DEAD" at the Club Bijou on May 16th.
See, "promotional poster", below.
The band's credo,
"This is our time, We are tomorrow. Let's make this world become our own"
To die-hard fans, "Living Dead" not only exposes the truth, but conjures up salvation from within.
Without doubt, the band has created a sound and live performance all their own, which they assert is designed to smack the corporations and the fascist government empires in the face. From insightful politically-driven lyrics and imagery - to a screaming barrage of electronics, grinding rhythms, blaring beats, and shell-shocked musings - "Living Dead" delivers up an experience that cracks open skulls and pries open eyes, according to some.
To many, their wide-ranging style reflects a truly innovative and unique musical force to reckon with.
Formed in 1993 by naughty boy-band members Daniel Devill, Gabriel and Loki, the "Living Dead" has evolved through the years; eventually they solidified their lineup with the addition of leading edge musicians - Judas in 1999, Faust in 2002, and Six in 2006.
The band to watch-out for, LD has several EPs under their belt worth tunin' in to. And, the band just finished up licks on a double CD release, "Blind and Vision". A new sound recording is due out this year in 2008.
Based in Toledo, the rambunctious lads regularly play to crowds of 500 or more and have shared the stage with spot-lighters - Danzig, The Misfits, the Mindless Self Indulgence, The Agony Scene, Dope, and Dog Fashion Disco - to name a handful.
According to the band, their influences are far-reaching and include: The Beatles, The Doors, Black Sabbath, Glenn Danzig, Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, and Dead by 18.
Critics and fans alike excitedly note that "Living Dead" consistently gives a high energy performance with political and social commentary in front of a video backdrop.
A "Living Dead" performance is not to be missed!
Catch the Ohio concert if you can.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The evening was pregnant with possibilities...
In fact, the screening of "PART ONE" of "CARRIER" at the Director's Guild of America last night - to be broadcast in totality as a series by PBS (KCET locally) April 27th - May 1st - proved to be rife with bothersome jolts for the producers and unexpected moments of embarrassment for the Military brass in attendance.
The gala event started out festive, though.
When I strolled into the foyer at the DGA, I was struck by all the "suits" - PBS Executives - at the unveiling of the documentary on the USS Nimitz which KCET President & CEO, Al Jerome, was categorizing as a "landmark" project ranking right up there with the quality and excellence of former hits such as - "Hoop Dreams" and "Well-Founded Fear".
Liquor flowed from an open bar as a fleet of handsome young men clad in chic black outfits (slim well-built model/actor types) briskly circulated the room to replace the glasses as quickly as they were emptied. In addition, there were silver trays of scrumptious finger food - provided by top caterer Patina - to satisfy the most discerning palate before the curtain fell and the screen lit up.
Ah, and that's when the first glitch struck a negative chord.
Shortly after springing to life on the screen in the plush environs of the DGA, the documentary sputtered a bit, the screen went black, and a loud groan filled the theatre.
Judging by the boisterous behavior witnessed, a handful of servicemen - in civvies - were obviously among the industry-insiders. As filmgoers waited for CARRIER to restart, naughty comments like - "whose hand is that on my leg" - shot out from the dark recesses of the Theatre and broke the ice. At this point, nervous giggles swept through the darkened theatre as the production team struggled to salvage the night.
Unfortunately, when the screen sputtered to life again, the snafus persisted.
In fact, over the course of about fifteen or twenty minutes, the documentary - plagued by technical glitches - failed eight or nine times to start up on the silver screen before finally launching forward with success.
Fortunately, many at the preview were involved with the production, so they remained patient amid the brief chaos. Frankly, I thought it was ironic problems of a screening nature would surface at the DGA - of all places - what with all the state-of-the-art equipment available on the premises.
The documentary was shot on the USS Nimitz and is described by the producers as,
"A character-driven immersion into the high-takes world of a nuclear aircraft carrier."
The USS Nimitz has participated in such operations as Desert Storm, supported combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and strengthened various United Nations initiatives.
To capture an up-close foray into the inner workings of the floating naval community, a 17 member film crew was imbedded on board for a six month tour. The adventure evolved into a challenging task as the production team sought to discern the ebb and flow of life on a carrier.
According to the Military Officers present, a decision was made to allow the cameramen to be "turned loose" on the ship, to effect a true log of the experience once the issue of their safety on board was properly addressed.
CARRIER was filmed in high-definition with a raw focus - and up-close personal look - at the Navy's role in the grand scenario.
The Executive producer noted that it was her specific intent to not only take an in-depth look at the crew's "high stakes environment" on a military carrier, but to also capture an honest reveal of the hierarchy from the top brass, down the pyramid, through the lower ranks of the common seaman.
"It wasn't about boys and their toys," she asserted.
In spite of that mission, some of the fighter-pilot footage does tend to be somewhat reminiscent of a handful of the striking exhilarating shots from the blockbuster thriller, "Top Gun". Here, it is the real deal, though.
To catch an unfettered glimpse into the heartbeat of the crew, the production team fervently "forged relationships" over the course of the voyage to facilitate that end. In the final analysis, the producers and their staff were able to put the crew at ease so the myriad tales were able to unfold without hindrance or falsity.
From the standpoint of the producers the relationship with their subjects amounted to an open and honest bonding over time. Bottom line, Mel Gibson's Icon Production crew came away with the impression that camaraderie had been struck which had proven to be fruitful.
However, when the spotlight turned on the military brass on the podium in the Question & Answer session - the three Naval Officers featured in the project - noted to a surprised audience that each had been reluctant to jump in full swing at first at the project's inception.
One officer had no qualms disclosing that he was initially quite a bit "skeptical of the press" because - in his own words - "They've misquoted statements in the past".
Well, I'll do my best here, Sir!
Another Officer was reticent about openly engaging with the crew and camera - but over time - was won over. What the heck, there's strength in numbers, eh?
In "PART ONE" - to air Sunday evening (April 27th) - CARRIER zeroes in on the first handful of crew members - an airman, a pilot, a cook - to be featured in the voluminous documentary.
But, over the course of the ten part series, CARRIER follows an enlarged crew core as they navigate their personal conflicts around their jobs, families, faith, patriotism, love, and rites of passage.
In particular, the producers stressed bold-faced efforts to focus the lens on the lower ranks - in particular - those from Middle America and the poor working classes in the Nation who made sacrifices in their youth to be a part of the military during an unpopular war.
A higher-ranked officer asserted on-camera that young people joined the forces because they wanted structure in their lives and "responsibilities". He assured the viewers - in an aside to camera - they get that experience in spades.
But the reasons for enlisting did not end there.
To some, the Navy was a gateway to a quality education; others, a golden opportunity to traverse the world in their prime.
Surprisingly, the mix - or cast of characters - was quite "diverse", noted moderator Huell Howser, with a tinge of surprise in his familiar broadcasting voice.
In fact, the host of "California Gold" - a popular PBS offering - couldn't sing the praises of the producers enough after taking the project in.
"I served in the military," he pointed out to a rapt audience. "This brought back memories - good and bad."
"But, you know, this was reality TV at its best. Unlike those shows where six people are stranded on an island somewhere," he quipped jovially.
Mr. Howser's assessments were right on the money.
The cheerful host was well-prepared as moderator, too. With Howser at the helm, the informative discussion about the Nimitz zipped along at a good pace. In addition, a handful of questions he posed, elicited in-depth responses that resonated deeply with the audience and offered up keen insights.
No, the producers did not have an agenda. Nor did the Military intend CARRIER to be a "recruitment" film.
But, as Howser astutely noted, CARRIER turned out to be a great promo for the Navy.
Personally, I found the production values striking.
A split-screen approach to some of the subject matter (a gimmick that has been unsuccessfully utilized in the past by less-competent filmmakers) not only appealed, but swept the story along in an engaging, captivating way.
The soundtrack was powerful - killer, man!
Tracks included - "All These Things That I've Done", Killers; "The Numbers", Leh-lo; "Trucktop Butterfly", Pump Audio; "Jedi", Melpo Mene; "World", Five for Fighting.
When I asked the producer if the trendy innovative music was part of the original vision for the project, or just a tool facilitated to handily tie-up a dynamic package, she noted that a lot of energy and thought went into that aspect of the doc.
"Music is a big part of the crew's lives. So, we quizzed them about their tastes, what they listened to off-duty."
There were a handful of provocative images, too, as the producers poked about in the private lives of crew members on board. No doubt, many viewers were in awe of a couple of the sailors who stood half-naked on-camera, flexing muscle, and showing off their ubiquitous designer tattoos.
Warts and blemishes were on display, too.
In one dramatic segment, a young woman is called up on charges of alcoholic abuse before Senior Officers; then later, the green recruit is forced to hold back tears, call home, and confide in her father the outcome of the ordeal.
When Howser asked Admiral Branch - Captain of the USS Nimitz at the time the doc was shot - if any directives were issued about taboo subjects, he stated matter-of-fact that there had not been any concerted effort to restrict filmmaker's access or to hold back the truth.
Surprisingly, the approach was not "monolithic" in approach either. Neither the Navy nor the filmmakers allegedly set out to give the impression that the Nimitz or the Navy was "one unified body" with all cogs fitting snugly in unison in the grand scheme of things.
In fact, there was a great diversity represented on celluloid (and an honesty) that impacted, bottom line.
I was just about to wrap up my notes when a man in the audience stood and asked an awkward question of the Admiral.
Apparently, in Episode 3 of the series, the issue of a "homosexual" relationship presents itself in the natural daily scheme of things.
The "Top Brass" was asked about the Military stance on the matter in direct relation to the controversial policy, "Don't Ask. Don't Tell".
Admiral Branch was quite emphatic that all the crew members on his ship were sailors first. Then, added, "I don't know how many are gay. Nor do I want to know."
He stressed that the "Don't Ask" policy was the "Law of the Land" - and basically - that was that. As long as the policy was adhered to, "no problem".
However, the producers noted that they felt bad when a couple of the "gay" crew members - in an environment that often allowed for Naval Officers to share with family - were left out in the cold and unable to participate in those moments.
"They weren't discriminated against, necessarily," added the producer. "But, we thought what transpired was unfortunate and sad."
Judging by the reaction of the Admiral, clearly he felt he had been stabbed in the back at this juncture. Ah, the treachery of Hollywood. Maybe there was someone with an agenda lurking about in the shadows somewhere?
Guess we'll have to turn in to Episode 3 to fathom the intrigues of a policy in the military which - to this day - elicits much angst and controversy.
In closing, I should like to point out that I was asked to spread the word that CARRIER will be screened on the Military Network this weekend so overseas forces - in addition to those with access to PBS and KCET in America - have the opportunity to tune in and watch this exciting high-caliber documentary which does justice to its subject matter.
For a virtual tour of the Nimitz: http://www.pbs.org/weta/carrier
Monday, April 21, 2008
Yeah, I'm one of those dudes who sneaks into the theatre with dark glasses and a baseball cap scrunched down over his face to avoid being spied whenever I take in the latest sequel of the popular fantasy adventure, Harry Potter.
I'm a closet-fan for the most part - but I guess I'm out now - eh?
This past week readers here and abroad were stunned when they learned that the author - J.K. Rowlings - hauled a fan into court in a bold-faced effort to obtain a "cease and desist" order to prevent the young man from encroaching on what she perceived as her exclusive right to creative property.
At issue is a learning guide a dedicated fan from Michigan - described as a mousy-looking middle-school librarian - had the audacity to conjure up so avid filmgoers could get a handle on key words sprinkled throughout the dialogue in the hit wide-screen series.
Gosh, I don't recall "Star Trek" aficionados ever ordering imagination police to Sci-Fi conventions around the Nation to prevent a wholesome exchange of ideas from springing forth - and in the process, just maybe - open up a door of understanding with the ultimate aim of shedding some light on the fictional literary works and their salient points.
In fact, when the alleged intellectual thief - Steven Vander Ark - testified on the witness stand earlier this week, he broke down in tears.
Rowlings, you big meanie!
You'd think that with all the big bucks bulging out of her mad money purse - the sales of books have made her one of the richest women on the planet (much to the chagrin of the big "O") - that she'd encourage new talent, lend a hand, or at least show some encouragement.
Curiously, in her defense, she lamented that it was her intention all along to publish a useful tool similar to that of Van Ark's.
A-ha, just as I thought.
The Wicked Witch of the Northeast is not jealous necessarily - just kickin' herself for not fathoming up the idea first with her little - um - wand.
But, her excuse does not hold water.
The films have been screening for years now. Wouldn't it have been wiser to print up a lexicon earlier on so fans could figure out the terminology when the "Harry Potter" films first splashed up on the silver screen?
No, if the truth be known, it's a flimsy excuse after the fact.
In my opinion? She was stewing at home lamenting to herself,
"Why didn't I think of that?"
Just lost another billion bucks, eh?
Notwithstanding, J.K. Rowlings may have erred in pursuing this matter in view of all the bad press she's been garnering, too.
RDR Books - which halted Van Ark's publication pending the trial - defended itself as a small publisher being intimidated by high-priced lawyers.
"The proposed book was meant to a helpful reader's reference guide," he clucked.
He elaborated further by underscoring similar publications were offered up for classics such as - Tolkien's, "The Lord of the Rings" and C.S. Lewis', "The Chronicles of Narnia."
The courtroom proceedings played out dramatically, heightened by all the theatrics of the legal wrangling, which tended to fizzle out in the aftermath.
A key issue for the Judge to consider in chambers?
Whether the the Harry Potter lexicon was sure to make a new and important contribution to Rowling's canon or simply amounted to a thinly disguised theft of her prolific imaginative yarns, the legal eagles argued.
So, a discerning Judge - with a keen eye to fairness - allowed both sides to parade in a team of experts to opine on the issues. Unfortunately, a lot of the testimony not only clashed and contradicted - but on occasion - became besotted with explorations of arcane Latin word roots that frequently confused all except the insightful Judge.
A UC Berkeley English Professor argued that the book offered remarkable insights into Rowlings' multi-layered prose. While the opposing side thought the defenses amounted to a lot of hogwash, since - according to Lecturer Jeri Johnson from the Exeter College - "Out of 2,437 entries 2,034 simply lifted information" - without much input, analysis, or the shedding of any insightful light on the subject matter.
Because the material was summoned up by way of Rowling's stellar imagination, defendant Van Ark astutely noted that it was precisely for that reason - the source of the imaginings - that he was forced to give reference directly to her material on occasion.
At the end of the day the Judge repeated his finding that he expected the issue could be resolved without the interference of the court.
But, on the issue of fair use and copyright, spectators to the fiasco were predicting the matter may go all the way to the Supreme Court.
J.K. Rowlings will have to face 9 Grand Wizards in that court of opinion!
Queen of Hearts being dubbed Queen of Clubs...
One of my favorite quotes of Truman Capote:
"It's a scientific fact.
For every year a person lives in Hollywood, they lose two points off their IQ."
Sunday, April 20, 2008
One way to get the attention of a film critic - or rustle up some curiosity at a prestigious Film Festival - is to prepare a slick promotional package to get you in the door.
In the case of feature film - "Yesterday was a Lie" - the effort paid off.
The expertly-crafted teaser - lovingly pieced together by the director James Kerwin - was a sure winner that was replete with still photos, production notes, bios, and a handful of bang-on reviews.
The comprehensive, eye-catching promo not only broke down the doors for Kerwin - but later - was obviously key in landing coveted Jury prizes at Film Festivals around the country.
"Yesterday is a Lie" is a curious celluloid hybrid; a cerebral Sci-fi thriller, starring a female in the role as a detective.
As Kerwin excitedly describes it, "Yesterday was a Lie is a film noir shot in classic black-and-white which uses the genre as a metaphor for the human psyche and the nature of reality."
The innovative writer - who has been hailed as a director on the edge of digital revolution - imagined Bacall playing Bogie (a female Noir detective) lonely and wandering the streets.
In a nutshell, the tale focuses on a world where the characters appear to be stuck in their pasts, unable to get over their feelings of pain and guilt.
"Everything turns out to be a manifestation, a projection of that," notes Kerwin.
At times, the plot gets a bit cerebral.
And, the storyline gets a little bogged down when it gets too talky, as a result.
One filmgoer complained she had difficulty fathoming the subject matter.
"Maybe, if they spoke a little slower," she giggled, when we struck up a conversation later in the lobby after the screening.
I consoled her - noting that the concepts about time and fathoming reality and the dream state - were not always easy to get a handle on even for those versed in philosophy and psychology.
Fortunately, I am a big fan of Carl Jung and studied his ideas about the collective unconscious.
In addition, my own fascination with "lucid dreams' led me on a journey which greatly impacted my own sense of perception in recent years.
For the most part, Kerwin got it right.
However, in respect to his notion about one of the themes of the film - symbols and their importance - I confess that his take on the subject matter was a bit off.
The mind is not overwhelmed by dreams; but rather, couches their messages in symbols for the upper levels of consciousness to decipher so that the dreamer is capable of fathoming their meaning without anxiety or shock to the mental or emotional states.
Although it wasn't mentioned in - "Yesterday was a Lie" - I note for the record that a person's "dream dictionary" (the symbols a sleeper facilitates in the dream phenomenon) is never foreign to the individual.
Dream symbols always speak in a language the subject understands.
For example, if a snake means evil to an individual, that is what the symbol will mean in the dream state.
Just like the mist-filled streets in this classy low-budget psychological thriller - the message is a little foggy, at times - with a bit of hocus-pocus and a large dollop of smoke-and-mirrors thrown in for good measure.
"Yesterday" proved to be elusive, mesmerizing, thought-provoking - and all-the-while - a visually-stunning filmic experience.
To achieve the unique look, Kerwin turned to Apple's color application software.
First, he collaborated with costumer designer Sara Catherine Curran and makeup designer Breanna Khalaf, who both paid particular attention to the use of color throughout principle photography (often using unconventional tones which would ultimately appear stronger in white and black).
Then - red, green, and blue color channels were manipulated for each shot - before the footage was de-saturated.
Later, subtle vignette and blur effects were overlaid to evoke the feeling of 1930's and 40's lenses and film stock.
At times, I found the effect a bit heavy-handed, and fake.
But, the adventure - for the most part - appeared to hold the audience within its thrall.
When I was introduced to one of the pretty actresses - Chase Masterson - my instinctive response was to note how pretty she was.
Ah, a classic case of "foot in mouth".
When I read her bio, I discovered that she was on Femme Fatale's list of 50 sexiest women!
Career-wise, she's no slouch either.
TV Guide online readers voted her the "Number One" Science Fiction Actress on TV.
In "Yesterday", Ms. Masterson (pictured above) exudes a sultry charismatic presence just right for the sensual role of a torch singer cum High Priestess with a "mystical" soul.
On occasion, camera angles and lighting did not flatter her, however.
Maybe my discerning eye as a former theatrical agent got in the way, nudging my perceptions as I peered into the glass darkly, in this instant case.
The financing for this independent film was downright intriguing.
The producers were a recipient of a Panavision New Filmmaker Grant.
In view of this, the production team landed the free use of a Panavision Sony Cine-Alta F-900 Camera for the project.
The financing was raised through Helicon Arts Cooperative, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit arts organization.
Helicon - according to their mission statement - is dedicated to the creation of cinema with inherent literary merit.
In addition to offering employment opportunities to underprivileged youths, they conduct seminars in schools to encourage students in development of film and theatre arts.
Clearly, the "Yesterday" script was a good choice right out-of-the-gate.
The idea was original, there were a number of technical challenges to overcome, and the mixed-genre was not the standard bill-of-fare by any Hollywood standards.
I expect that in this instant case, the students learned valuable lessons about film technique, as well as worthwhile ones in the areas of marketing in respect to the promoting and selling of Indie projects.
The prizes garnered later - Bronze Telly Award, Park City Film Festival Award, and Backlot Film Festival Award - were icing on the cake.
Director James Kerwin...
The Democratic debate sparked fury around the Nation this past week - the effects of which - are still being felt in various quarters.
The way moderators at ABC handled the televised squabble.
The heat is off the democratic candidates for a change as Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos cringe in the crossfire in the wake of the debacle.
Yes, I'm wearing a cheshire grin, ear to ear. Over the years, political pundit - Stephanopoulos - has been a little too "smooth" for my salt 'n pepper taste.
Disgruntled viewers on the war path have posted a multitude of negative barbs on ABC's Webbie News site.
Quite a gaggle of 'em have threatened to abandon ship and find trustier media shores elsewhere.
Bottom line: to many, ABC sunk to a new low and displayed a grievous lack of professional integrity. "Tabloid news," screamed others.
For the most part, the general consensus appears to be that ABC's news "story" was not fair or unbiased. And, many media critics underscored that the focus was off-kilter.
"Trivial and irrelevant," lamented some.
The tone? Flat, nauseous.
At a time when the ratings competition is fierce, the misstep by one of the network biggies was a windfall for others.
In fact, many rubbed their hands with glee on the sidelines and fell short of gloating on camera.
Rick Kaplan, an Execytuve News Producer at CBS said it best when he opined,
"It's never a good idea to irritate the audience."
Charles Gibson goes for the Debate, a sure thing?