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Last year was celebrated as one of the biggest years in black cinema, if not the biggest. Such a year (with films like Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels' The Butler, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, and 42) culminated with 12 Years A Slave taking home the Academy Award for Best Picture. And now that 2014 is offically underway, one wonders if we can expect another big year for black films and black directors. Will there be room for more than just one film about the black experience at next year's Oscars?
Well the good news is that there are a number of exciting new projects set for a 2014 release. Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler will team up with Michael B. Jordan again for the movie Creed (a quasi-Rocky spinoff), and Spike Lee's highly-anticipated Da Sweet Blood of Jesus has completed filming and is set for a 2014 release. Although Oldboy flopped and his 2012 film Red Hook Summer left much to be desired, many of us still can't resist a good ol' Spike Lee joint.
One film that's also been getting lots of buzz is Justin Simien's feature debut Dear White People. First off, amazing title. And secondly, the film snagged Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Talent this year and their trailers and clips pretty hilarious:
Belles is another film we're excited about. The period piece, set in 18th century England, tells the complex story of mix-raced young woman raised in nobility. Amma Asante will direct the movie (her second feature film), inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle.
And although there is no release date yet for the new Lee Daniels movie (featuring the first gay action hero, played by Alex Pettyfer), the follow-up project to last year's The Butler has us plenty excited (along with his upcoming Janis Joplin biopic with Amy Adams). This year Daniels will also team up with his Precious lead Gabourey Sidibe again, along with Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson for a new FOX television series Empire.
Many other directors of color are on the rise this year and it's definitely a good thing. Here's hoping critics and audiences take note and embrace some of these great talents and their upcoming work.
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Just this past weekend, we watched Lady Gaga take up the normal-est task in the celebrity trade: playing host on Saturday Night Live. All the mainstream stars do it (just about). Even Kanye West can bridle his derision for all things tangible to stop by Studio 8H for a night of good fun. So, we thought, maybe this means an end to Gaga's oddball streak. Maybe she's setting to rest her bizarre, outsider art nature to become another Patti Page. That's what we thought. But then we saw her new music video, "An ARTPOP Film."
Yes, it's peculiar... but perhaps only at first glance. In fact, we'd wager that — following her gig on SNL — this is Gaga's attempt at "normal." If you look closely enough at each one of the many incarnations she inhabits in the video, you might find a spark of familiarity with an old pop culture mainstay. Maybe Gaga has traversed the catalogue of the American zeigeist, plucking out fan favorites and bringing them to life in "An ARTPOP Film" in hopes of, dare we say it, being just like the rest of us. Don't believe it? Let's take a look.
The video opens around the 20-second mark, after a brief spoken intro by Gaga.
:20 — Here we see Gaga as Kate Middleton, quite apparently. See? That's pretty normal! Kate marked the summit of our society's attention this past year with her pregnancy and the eventual birth of the Royal Baby. Good start, Gaga!:34 — And look, it's Walter White's HAZMAT suit! Breaking Bad has been, undoubtedly, one of the biggest talking points in television, and Gaga's just trying to get in on the conversation. She... doesn't appear to know how to wear the suit, but... it's something.:36 — And while you're doing AMC, here's some zombie teeth a la The Walking Dead. You've got this, LG.:37 — A montage of shots of Doc Brown from Back to the Future, complete with fraying hair and that gadget that was supposed to make him precognitive. Plus, a quick glimpse at :42 of what kind of reminds us of that episode of Friends where Joey wore all of Chandler's clothes. A timeless cinematic classic and the most popular show of the 1990s. Outstanding, Gaga!:44 — ... Is... is she covered in dirt? Wait, that is dirt, right? Okay... okay. Minor slip up, but I'm sure she'll get back on the horse.:46 — There, that's better! She's... rolling around in the dark in her underwear. Kind of like Susan Sarandon in Rocky Horror. Not exactly the epitome of cultural normalcy, but at least it's a movie, right?:47 — Um. Well. She's got the Walter White suit on again, but now she appears to have replaced her face with mop strands. Vaguely reminiscent of one of the Reavers from Firefly, but... no, that's just wishful thinking, isn't it?:53 — Here, Lady Gaga is a washing machine. Those are normal, right?:56 — Okay, so that's kind of like a football uniform, were it made of tattered rags and the innards of a mummified pharaoh. But can we give her points for football?1:04 — There! Singing! Just a human woman singing! Huzzah! Things are really turning ar...1:11 — God dammit, she's Big Gruesome from Wacky Races.1:20 — And that appears to be her attempt at one of our society's everpresent, hypersexualized body wash commercials. A jarring one.1:28 — W-what? Wait, pause the video for a second. What... what is she... is she a fetus? Inside the womb of a transformer? Is that some sort of commentary on the destruction porn cinema to which we are exposing our children?1:29 — Is that Lucy from Twin Peaks? Kind of. Kind of? We'll take it.Still 1:29 — A disembodied synthetic hand. Maybe she liked Lars and the Real Girl. Maybe she likes dismembering things.Still 1:29 — Um...1:30 — Are there bees?Still 1:30 — Oh good, it's Big Gruesome again.1:31 — I'd be more comfortable if you put that scissor down.1:32 — We may have overlooked a theme here. Scissors, wigs... is this Gaga's stab at getting in on the hairstyle craze to which we all adhere so devotedly?1:34 — Oop, no, now she's Big Gruesome strangling a pillow.1:36 — Oh, Gaga, no, please don't cry. I didn't... I didn't mean any of it. I loved Wacky Races. I love bees.1:53 — Oh, maybe that's a go at Orange Is the New Black!1:56 — Hey, Walking Dead again! And bowling!2:00 — And that's Tangela, the least memorable Pokemon! Slipping.2:02 — Pirate. Pirates are always relevant.2:04 — That's not anything.2:05 — Okay, turn off Walking Dead, Gaga. It's not even that good anymore.2:06 — Who is that? Janis Joplin? Benefit of the doubt!2:08 — I'm getting a Jon Heder vibe.2:09 — ...2:10 — Good, more stray body parts.2:12 — Kind of looks like Zadie Smith, doesn't it? Benefit of the doubt!2:14 — Let's go ahead and assume this is an homage to the early King of the Hill episode wherein Bobby practices kissing on a mannequin head from his cousin Luanne's hairstyling class. Because that would be preferable.2:16 — ...2:17 — I'm getting a Black Swan vibe.2:19 — UNCLE FESTER! THERE IT IS! A RECOGNIZABLE, WELL-KNOWN, FAMILY-FRIENDLY POP CULTURE CHARACTER! BOOM! WRAP IT UP, GAGA, YOU'VE DONE IT! YOU'RE DONE! CALL IT A WIN!2:20 — Aaand now you're hanging upside down like a black while rave lights flicker around you in a terribly unsettling fashion.2:23 — I don't feel good.2:24 — Well, we tried.
So it turns out that Lady Gaga does not achieve pop culture normalcy with her new video, "An ARTPOP Film." And in truth, we don't want her to. We don't need Lady Gaga to cater to familiarity or our established parameters. Her entire identity is in the interest of the new, her mission statement is to show us things and ideas that we haven't seen. Not everybody is on board with the result, but everybody should be on board with the effort — to be daring, creative, strange. To be herself. Bravo, Gaga.
And it's catchy, too!
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Stars including pop singer Pixie Lott and supermodel Jerry Hall turned out to support a fundraiser in honour of Amy Winehouse in London on Wednesday night (20Nov13). The late singer's parents, Mitch and Janis Winehouse, hosted the Amy Winehouse Foundation's third annual benefit, which raises funds for the charitable organisation set up in the star's memory following her death in July, 2011.
The Winehouse family was joined by celebrities including Lott, Hall, actress Barbara Windsor and JLS star Oritse Williams, who all had kind words to say about the tragic Back To Black hitmaker.
Williams said, "Amy was one of my biggest musical inspirations. I studied her albums when I was a kid so I had to be here."
Hall added, "She was so talented. What a loss," while Lott said, "I love anyone who's got a soulful, amazing voice and she definitely had that. My favourite song was Love is a Losing Game because of the amount of soul that's in it."
Veteran singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson heard Janis Joplin's rendition of his Me & Bobby Mcgee tune for the first time on the day she died 43 years ago. Kristofferson was among the celebrities who paid tribute to the tragic blues singer at her Hollywood Walk of Fame star unveiling ceremony in Los Angeles on Monday (04Nov13), and he performed the track that became her signature at the event.
He also recalled hearing Joplin's heartbreaking rendition of the song hours after learning she had died in 1970.
He explained, "Her producer gave me the record and it was pretty hard to listen to. I was listening to it at my publisher's office where we used to hang out, there was nobody there and I was playing it over and over again just so I could hear it without breaking up.
"It's really hard to say much about the stars and how much they mean; she means so much more to me than a star on a sidewalk."
Tragic singer Janis Joplin is to be honoured posthumously with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Kris Kristofferson and music mogul Clive Davis will join the Me & Bobby McGee singer's siblings, Michael and Laura, for the plaque unveiling ceremony on 4 November (13).
Country star and actor Kristofferson, who was a close friend to the blues singer, will perform a special acoustic version of Me and Bobby McGee, which Joplin recorded in 1970 just before her death.
Her star will be the 2,510th on the Walk of Fame.
"I don't know, but sometimes the best thing you can do for your career is die." Pop superstar Cher on the influence that Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin continue to have on music decades after their deaths.
Moviemaker Lee Daniels will be throwing himself into his Janis Joplin biopic project as soon as he's completed promotional duties for his hit new film The Butler. The project has been bouncing around Hollywood for the past decade and now Daniels is determined to get started on it with his leading lady Amy Adams after studying tragic singer Joplin.
He tells The Hollywood Reporter, "This is my next project for sure. I had no idea Janis Joplin was so smart - intellectual, even."
And he's convinced he's got the right leading lady to portray the boozy blues singer, in Adams.
Daniels adds, "She can sing her a** off."
If you judge only by her Oscar-winning performance in The Silver Linings Playbook, you might think that Jennifer Lawrence is well into her 30s. Her performance in David O. Russell's dramedy was so mature and compelling that it's hard to believe she's a mere 23. Yes, the Hunger Games star turns 23 today, Aug. 15, and we're pleased to celebrate what promises to be a long and varied future in the cinema. But what exactly do the coming years have in store for JLaw? After Catching Fire and the Mockingjay movies, and Russell's next picture American Hustle, where will Lawrence take her career? We have some suggestions — or wishes — for Lawrence's career.
23 Roles We'd Love to See Jennifer Lawrence Take
1) Kat Stratford in a 10 Things I Hate About You remake. If she can play 30-year-olds now, she can play high schoolers. And yes, she can manage a bitchface.
2) Jaina Solo, daughter of Leia and Han, in Star Wars VII. Imagine Lawrence levitating X-Wings, cutting up Tauntauns, and stopping by Tosche Station for power converters.
3) Ophelia in a Hamlet adaptation. She can do crazy, we've seen it.
4) At the center of her own Showtime series, a la The United States of Tara or Weeds — a loony young mom with a plot-defining secret.
5) Headlining a Victorian era period piece. Imagine the costumes.
6) Playing Elaine in a Seinfeld movie. Obviously, no one is ever going to make a Seinfeld movie. And if they did, they'd probably cast the actors who were actually on Seinfeld. But imagine it... just imagine it...
7) In a Wes Anderson movie, playing (as per Wes Anderson tradition) a dead-eyed, monotone, nihilistic femme fatale. We buy it.
8) Molly Ringwald's role in a Sixteen Candles remake. Sixteen might be pushing it... how about Twenty-One Candles? Not quite the same ring, but that gives us an idea!
9) Taking Sean Penn's role in a gender-swapping 21 Grams remake!
10) Playing Paul Rudd's daughter in a movie that stars Steve Martin as his dad and Dick Van Dyke as his dad. This is actually an idea that we've been working on for quite some time...
11) Remember My Boys on TBS? That show was pretty good, right? Well, if she was in it, it would have been awesome. Do that.
12) Cher's role in a Mermaids remake.
13) Julia Roberts' role in a Pretty Woman remake.
14) Faye Dunaway's role in a Chinatown remake.
15) Playing herself in a Charlie Kaufman movie about how, in "reality," she's a horrible Machiavellian sociopath.
16) Taking on a Ripley-like role in the follow-up to Prometheus.
17) Becky Sharp in a Vanity Fair adaptation.
18) Samus Aran in a Metroid adaptation.
19) Princess Zelda in a film adaptation of Ocarina of Time, which is incredibly necessary.
20) Janis Joplin in a biographical picture about her life and work.
21) Playing all five sisters in a black comedy about strikingly different quintuplets.
22) The verbose, death-obsessed heroine in a Woody Allen movie.
23) The 13th Doctor.
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One of Britain's leading Amy Winehouse impersonators is to perform for the tragic singer's parents at a fundraising event to mark the star's 30th birthday next month (Sep13). A special evening, in aid of the Amy Winehouse Foundation, will be held at a venue in Hampshire, England and the star attraction will be Laura Butler, who has received critical acclaim across Europe for her tribute act in honour of the Back to Black hitmaker.
Winehouse's parents Mitch and Janis will attend the event, dubbed Amy Winehouse's 30th Birthday Bash, on 13 September (13).
Winehouse died aged 27 from alcohol poisoning on 23 July, 2011.
A musical about the life of Janis Joplin is heading to Broadway this autumn (13). A Night With Janis Joplin will begin previews at New York's Lyceum Theatre on 20 September (13) after wrapping up a successful two-year tour of the U.S.
The concert-style show, featuring Mary Bridget Davies as the Piece of My Heart hitmaker, who died of a drug overdose in 1970, will be directed by Randy Johnson and produced in connection with the executors of Joplin's estate, according to the New York Times.
The production has received rave reviews since it premiered at the Portland Center Stage in Oregon in 2011.