December 20, 2012
By Adam Howard
Special to the NNPA from the SC Black News
“We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on us!”
Twenty years ago, Spike Lee made movie history. His epic biopic of the controversial and complex Malcolm X became a cultural touchstone, made Denzel Washington an A-list superstar and cemented his status as a true auteur to be reckoned with.
Yet the film’s path to the big screen was far from smooth and the movie’s eventual success was anything but guaranteed.
Hollywood had sought to adapt Malcolm X’s story since not long after his assassination in 1965. Legendary author James Baldwin even wrote a draft of the screenplay in 1968. But the subject matter and political climate during the ensuing decades prevented a Malcolm X movie from being made.
Eventually Norman Jewison, who directed one of Sidney Poitier’s greatest films, In the Heat of the Night, was tapped to helm Malcolm X’s story. Rising star Denzel Washington, who co-starred in Jewison’s A Soldier’s Story, was cast in the lead.
Although Jewison was a highly-respected, socially conscious filmmaker, there was widespread concern about a white director bringing the life of a black nationalist to the big screen. After a loud, growing chorus, led by Spike Lee, called for his removal from the project, Jewison stepped aside.
“If Norman actually thought he could do it, he would have really fought me. But he bowed out gracefully,” Lee said.
Once Spike Lee was installed as the director by producers he made no bones about the fact that this would be his “vision.”
“I’m directing this movie and I rewrote the script, and I’m an artist and there’s just no two ways around it,” Lee said. “But it’s not like I’m sitting atop a mountain saying, ‘Screw everyone, this is the Malcolm I see.’ I’ve done the research, I’ve talked to the people who were there.”
Yet Lee, no stranger to controversy himself, was also a polarizing choice for some.
An anti-Spike Lee rally was even held in Harlem led by black radical poet Amiri Baraka.
“We will not let Malcolm X’s life be trashed to make middle-class Negroes sleep easier,” said Baraka.
“Based on the movies I’ve seen,” he said in an interview with Newsweek, “I’m horrified of seeing Spike Lee make Malcolm X. I think Eddie Murphy’s films are better.”
Although Washington had portrayed Malcolm in an off-Broadway production to considerable critical acclaim, there were many who objected to him winning the big screen role because of his lack of resemblance to the real-life icon.
“In real life, Washington, who is about 6 feet tall and the color of mocha, bears little resemblance to the reddish-brown, 6-foot-4-inch Malcolm — a fact that has not gone unnoticed by many who knew the Muslim leader,” the New York Times reported in 1992.
It turns out complaints about the director and star were the least of the production’s problems.
Lee sought to make a truly epic film in the style of the previous year’s JFK or David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. This meant a 3-hour plus running time, elaborate period sets and international location shooting — which would include footage from the holy sites in Mecca.
However Warner Brothers, the studio financing the movie, was only willing to commit to a budget of roughly $30 million. When Lee began to go over budget there was a legitimate threat that creditors would shut the entire production down.
“The budget that we had for Malcolm X… everybody knew it was not adequate. We knew it, the bond company knew it. And Warner Brothers knew it,” Lee said during an appearance on Inside the Actor’s Studio.
Desperate, Lee sought out a who’s who of black America’s rich and famous to donate funds to save Malcolm X. Bill Cosby, Janet Jackson, Oprah Winfrey and Prince are just a few of the illustrious names who kept the film afloat.
“I called Magic [Johnson], he wrote a check. Then I called Michael Jordan, told him how much Magic gave,” quipped Lee.
With the movie now solvent again, Lee was able to complete the film as he saw fit and it hit theaters on November 18, 1992.
The movie performed solidly at the box office, earning $48 million domestically, and scored widespread critical acclaim.
The Washington Post‘s critic called Malcolm X “Spike Lee’s most universally appealing film. An engrossing mosaic of history, myth and sheer conjecture.”
In a rave review, film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “Watching the film, I understood more clearly how we do have the power to change our own lives, how fate doesn’t deal all of the cards. The film is inspirational and educational — and it is also entertaining, as movies must be before they can be anything else.”
Ebert would name it the best film of the year and one of the best films of the 1990s.
By Chelsea Battle
LAWT Contributing Writer
If you’ve ever strolled down the aisles on the 3rd floor of Macy’s at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, chances are you’ve passed right by The Museum of African American Art and didn’t even notice it. The truth is, it’s one of LA’s best-kept secrets.
Now, more than ever, is the time to do a double take as you exit the elevator near the museum entrance. Look for it! That is because LA’s hidden jewel is now showcasing one of its most interesting attractions ever: “The 90 That Built LA” exhibit.
The 90 That Built LA is a free exhibit sponsored by the Los Angeles Urban League and Time Warner Cable. The league will use this project as a platform to celebrate not only it’s 90 plus years of service to the community, but 90 dynamic individuals who have helped to shape our fair city. From December 13 until February 28th patrons will be able to view an impressive collection of historical artifacts, artwork, and photographs chronicling the contributions of individuals who have helped to shape Los Angeles in the areas of entertainment, education, politics, and community development.
“For several years, the Urban League has dreamed of putting together this exhibit, but we could not make it happen until we had a committed partner, Time Warner Cable,” said Los Angeles Urban League Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Chris Strudwick-Turner.
“Like us, they saw the vision of what this exhibit could be and they have been with us every step of the way as a presenting sponsor to put this exhibit together for the community.”
Given the countless numbers of people who have dedicated their lives to making a difference, whittling the selection down to 90 was doubtlessly a challenge. At the exhibit’s grand opening last Thursday, project coordinators emphasized that there are certainly more than 90 individuals who have contributed to LA. However, having designated the number of spots, they made the decision to allow the community and project board members to choose the notorious 90. Some of the honorees include Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Councilman Bernard Parks, former mayor Tom Bradley, dance choreographer Lula Washington, community organizer Cesar Chavez, and Danny Bakewell, the publisher for the Los Angeles Sentinel.
It would be hard to come up with a reason to miss this exhibit. From Kwanza through Black history month this free, local exhibit will provide an in depth history lesson that you won’t find elsewhere. As you plan your visit, remember to grab a child’s hand and bring them along too.
Photos courtesy of Malcolm Ali
December 20, 2012
By Mark Kennedy
Some key figures who helped manage Michael Jackson’s career are teaming up to create a stage musical about the behind-the-scenes making of a superstar that producers call a cross between “Goodfellas” and “Dreamgirls.”
Producers Mark Lamica, Quincy Krashna, Jerry Greenberg, Raymond Del Barrio and Larry Hart will join forces to present “The Man,” a fictional show inspired by the rise of Jackson, Elvis Presley and Whitney Houston. The story will be told through the eyes of a manager.
“We want this project to be a compelling, gritty, entertaining tale, that tells the story of the price of fame in a new way,” said Lamica, who served as a partner with the late Frank Dileo, who was Jackson’s manager.
“The Man,” with a book by Lamica and Grammy Award-winning composer Hart, is expected to open in Las Vegas in the late fall of 2013. The show will have all original music and will follow the superstar from the 80s to 2005.
The producing team last combined to create “Larry Hart’s Sisterella,” a pop-rock update of the Cinderella fable that Jackson was an executive producer on before his death.
Greenberg was president of Jackson’s jointly owned record label with Sony Music for 11 years. Krashna is another Dileo partner who also worked with Jackson.
Lamica, in a statement, called the musical an “epic, music driven dramatic work” and said he is drawing widely from personal experiences. “This is a fictional template and story that, with some variation, fits a number of global celebrities,” he added.
Someone in the family is ready to give you something. Open yourself up to it. Home improvement –mental, physical and spiritual– is this week’s best theme. Seek the simple pleasures from a neglected hobby this week. Soul Affirmation: I love charming, positive head games.
How efficient you are this week! Your busy mind is focused on productivity and achievement. Both come easily to you, so take your advantage and press forward. Soul Affirmation: I see myself as a finisher rather than a starter this week.
Entertainment and companionship are high on your list of things to enjoy this week. Use your mental gifts to speed carefully through your work so that you’ll have more time for fun this week. Soul Affirmation: This week silence speaks loudest and truest.
Your only real caution this week is to watch your budget. Other than that, happiness remains the focus, as relationships heat happily up. Your family is very supportive and loving right now; let them meet your new admirer. Soul Affirmation: I speak my mind knowing that truth is my best defense this week.
Romantic daydreams may distract you from work this week; try to stay focused, but also enjoy your mental trips to romantic sunnier spaces. These images will inspire you to take action regarding a trip or get-together with your honey. Soul Affirmation: I let my dreams take over my mind to provide enjoyment.
Partnerships continue to be featured this week. This week is especially favorable for a fresh start or a new beginning for you in love. Avoid distractions at work this week and you’ll get much accomplished. Soul Affirmation: There is a funny side to everything I see.
Friendship remains highlighted; you may be attending a social event with good friends, or may be planning one. Whichever, it will be a very happy occasion. Be happy! You’ve got many loving friends. Soul Affirmation: Hope is a beautify jewel. I enjoy owning it.
You may find out this week that the project you didn’t really want to work on has been scrapped. That leaves you plenty of time to finish up the stuff you want to work on! Money concerns ease up. This week a romantic get-together will remind you of what bliss really is! Soul Affirmation: He who asks might seem foolish for a while.
Keep an eye on your budget this week, but also indulge your creative senses with the visual and the tactile. You might find yourself wanting to “feel” something new in your hands. Just the feeling may be enough; you don’t necessarily have to spend money to satisfy your artistic urge this week. Soul Affirmation: Happiness is my only goal this week.
Call early in the week and make a date so you can catch the person that you want to spend time with this week. An old love may turn up in your romantic mix, and romance will be very sweet if you rise above the temptation to remember why you split in the first place! Soul Affirmation: What I need to be is fully present inside of me.
Your vibes are calling to you this week to think fondly of all the love you are now giving and have given. Love itself makes you a better you. So act the fool and love with all your big sunny self. If things get stressful repeat your magic word to yourself: LOVE! Soul Affirmation: Freedom of mind is the greatest gift for me this week.
Some quiet time could fill the bill nicely for you this afternoon. You need some space to let your creativity spread out, so enjoy the moments of solitude and make your necessary phone calls later. Relax! Soul Affirmation: I let myself be the cheerful me.
By RYAN NAKASHIMA Associated Press
Nintendo is switching on a television service that transforms the tablet-like controller for its new Wii U game console into a remote that changes the channel on your TV and puts programs from the Internet just a few finger taps away.
The TVii service will debut in the U.S. and Canada on Thursday, the company said. That's a delay from previous plans to have the service available when the game console went on sale in North America on Nov. 18. The TVii service launched in Japan on Dec. 8.
The aim of TVii is to bring order to the hundreds of channels on regular TV and the thousands of shows and movies available through apps from Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Hulu Plus and Google Inc.'s YouTube.
It's the first time a video game console maker has integrated live TV controls in a device and could be the extra incentive needed for on-the-fence shoppers ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Nintendo Co.'s Wii U console has a unique controller — the GamePad — which is covered with joysticks and buttons and boasts a front-facing camera and 6.2-inch touch screen. The GamePad also houses an infrared emitter that talks directly to your TV or set-top box.
TVii scans what's available and offers you the option of watching a show, sports event or movie on live TV or through apps that connect to the Internet. By the end of March, Nintendo says that it will integrate TVii with TiVo so that it will be possible to program a TiVo digital video recorder through the game console as well.
"This is a way to get every member of the household to pick up the GamePad hopefully every day," said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America. "Hopefully this leads to a significant change in how consumers view and interact with their TV."
For years, home entertainment enthusiasts have had to grapple with a bunch of different controllers to work their televisions, set-top boxes, DVRs, disc players and game consoles. TVii has the potential to dispense with some of that hassle.
If you search for "The Walking Dead," for example, TVii will show you the next time it's on AMC and give you the option of buying previous episodes from Amazon or watching them on Netflix. If it's on now, you can change the channel from the GamePad. Users will be able to watch only channels they already get via antenna or through their TV provider, but search results will include all the options available, which could entice some people to upgrade their channel packages. Netflix and Hulu Plus require separate subscriptions that cost $8 a month each. TVii itself is free.
TVii also has a traditional channel guide and will recommend shows you might like based on favorite shows, networks and movies that you enter. Different users can have different profiles, and parental controls are included.
Nintendo hopes the service boosts sales of its console. About 425,000 Wii U units were sold in the first seven days on sale. That's faster than the rollout of Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 and Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 when they debuted in November 2005 and November 2006 respectively, although initial sales are often constrained by supply, not demand.
Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities said the TVii service puts Nintendo a step ahead of its competitors, but he expects Microsoft to close the gap next year with a next-generation Xbox that includes a TV tuner. Microsoft hasn't announced such a device.
"It gives them a head start. I think they should be congratulated on making this a truly multimedia device," Pachter said. "I don't think that advantage is going to last very long."
Nintendo has also added social networking features to its service. A team of curators will watch the top 100 shows on live TV and post details and a screenshot of important events, such as "a great shot in a basketball game or an unexpected twist in 'Mad Men,'" according to Zach Fountain, director of network business for Nintendo of America.
Users can then comment on these moments and have those posts show up on Nintendo's Miiverse network, as well as Facebook and Twitter if they choose. Users that express emotions could wind up with a sad or happy-looking Mii avatar.
Live sporting events such as pro or college football will also be accompanied by scores and play-by-play summaries on the GamePad's screen.
One problem with the service could be the GamePad's battery life. Nintendo says the controller can be used three to five hours depending on activity and screen brightness before it needs to be charged. But TV ratings agency The Nielsen Co. says the average American watches nearly five hours of TV per day. Heavy users may need to keep the controller plugged in to a wall socket, or buy a $25 battery pack that its maker, Nyko, promises will double the battery life.
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